University endorses climate change letter to world leaders

Penn State was one of 37 international universities that signed a letter drafted by the International Universities Climate Alliance

Penn State was one of 37 international universities that endorsed a letter drafted by the International Universities Climate Alliance that urged world leaders to protect humankind from climate change. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State endorsed a letter drafted by the International Universities Climate Alliance urging world leaders, specifically G20 leaders, to protect humankind from climate change. Penn State is one of 37 universities from around the world to sign the letter. The Climate Alliance represents the leading international research universities in climate science.

“To help address the challenges of climate change, there’s an urgent need to integrate sustainability in all we do at Penn State," said Penn State President Eric Barron. "That’s why I’m proud Penn State has endorsed the Climate Alliance’s Declaration to the G20 Leaders. And I’m proud of our sustainability work in everything from agriculture to business models to the arts and humanities. We recognize that climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our world. We also know that the probability of discovering solutions for climate change is far greater if we work together."

In the letter, the alliance advises leaders “to heed expert advice, to act with urgency, and to prioritize investments strategically” when it comes to climate change. It also calls for the nations of the world to decarbonize the economy and to build a climate-resilient world for future generations.

G20 nations represent 85% of global gross domestic product and nearly 80% of global CO2 emissions, according to the letter. Additionally, G20 members consume 95% of the world’s coal and more than 70% of its oil and gas.

Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research, said Penn State looks to continue its role as a leader in climate science.

“Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources remains a key priority in our strategic plan,” Weiss said. “Climate change is an exigent challenge that must be addressed through research, facilities, funding and partnerships. At Penn State, we are advancing climate science, developing climate solutions and tackling climate risks, including financial and health risks. I am continually amazed at the research being conducted across our colleges and campuses. We have been leaders for decades in all aspects of climate research, and our expertise is acutely critical at this time.”

Erica Smithwick, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography, is an associate director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment. She said addressing the threats caused by climate change is best accomplished through collaboration, among universities and with society.

“Penn State has distinctive strengths in climate research and the capacity to empower our students, faculty and partner communities to discover and implement solutions,” Smithwick said. “Given how complex the climate challenge is, universities, especially a place like Penn State, are uniquely poised to contribute integrated solutions.”

Smithwick added that attending to climate change-related issues of justice, health, business innovation and energy transition can best be accomplished through the research-education-outreach mission of a land-grant institution like Penn State.

Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment, said we are at an important crossroads when it comes to climate change.

“While the situation is dire, we now know that we can reverse climate change,” Richard said. “Energy efficiency, renewables, carbon-smart farming and sustainable forestry are already cost effective. These and other solutions are proven strategies that not only reduce atmospheric CO2 but also create jobs and can reinvigorate the economy. Investments in innovation and implementation of these solutions provide a path to a sustainable future.”

The Climate Alliance is an international organization that provides a central hub for universities to share the latest climate research with the public and enable greater collaboration between leading research teams, supporting global leaders, policy makers and industry in planning for and responding to climate change. Penn State has been a member since 2019.

Last Updated January 18, 2021