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Utah State University Carbon Neutral By 2032: A Faculty And Student-Led Effort

Utah State University with a backdrop of mountains and a foreground of green trees.
Utah State University

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions are the most significant driver of global climate change. Utah State University is making changes to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral within the next 13 years.

"So back in 2007, President Albrecht committed us to go carbon neutral by 2050," said Patrick Belmont, a professor in the department of watershed sciences at Utah State University. "And we’ve done a lot to try to reduce our greenhouse gas emission but we’ve also been expanding at the same time and so basically our carbon emissions have remained at about 100,000 tons per year since 2007." 

In October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also known as the IPCC, released an updated report on climate change including future risks.

Joshua Johnson is the diversity vice president for USU’s student association.

"Soon after the IPCC released their report in late October, stating that we have 10, 12 years before we’re completely out of the chance to fix our global warming crisis," Johnson said. "So that report came out and there were a lot of students that were in panic about it."

Influenced by this IPCC report, faculty and students at Utah State University decided the carbon neutral by 2050 is not soon enough.

Faculty formed the greenhouse gas reduction steering committee and students formed another group called the student sustainability task force. Together these committees are leading the drive to make Utah State University more sustainable and achieve a new goal of being carbon neutral by 2032.

There will be small and big changes as Utah State implements diverse solutions towards carbon neutrality from installing LED lights to reducing air travel.

"I think the goal is to reduce as much as possible, as quickly as possible," Belmont said. "One of the other things is that we reduce overall air travel, air travel is a huge part of the problem. A round trip flight from Salt Lake City to Washington DC  and back creates about 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per person on the flight."  

Through the support of faculty and students across the university, Belmont and Johnson hope to make the best local changes for Utah State with global impacts to combat climate change.