The Johns Hopkins University will aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by its operations and seek to become a driving force in the development of solutions to climate change, President William R. Brody announced.
"Johns Hopkins is eager to rise to this immense challenge," Brody said in announcing the university's policy in an e-mail message to students, faculty and staff. "We must forge new knowledge, use that knowledge to develop and implement solutions, and pass along that knowledge so that our students will have the necessary tools to help solve our problems."
Brody cited what he called "near-unanimous agreement in the scientific community that the emission of greenhouse gases caused by human activity" is causing global warming.
"I believe that sustainable solutions to the global climate change problem will require both changes in individual behavior and cultural changes," he said. "Johns Hopkins will take a leadership role in discovering both practical and innovative changes and will promote their adoption."
Brody said the university will set an example through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions derived from university operations. Although he said the pace of reductions will be determined by such considerations as the availability of new technology and costs, he said that the pace will be timely and that the university's vision is carbon neutrality. Johns Hopkins' contribution to solving some of the issues of climate change is also part of the grander vision. The university's new policy calls for Johns Hopkins to leverage its strengths in science, technology, public health and public policy to help find solutions to climate change on a global level. The university also wants to reach out to the Baltimore- Washington region to offer expertise and assistance on actions that can help reduce the carbon footprint of the entire area.
Another key element of the policy is Johns Hopkins' recognition that student involvement will be essential to successfully executing all of the university's strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To help implement the new policy, Brody will form a President's Task Force on Climate Change. The task force's charge is to develop within one year a comprehensive climate strategic plan and to create an interdisciplinary working group of experts who will focus on innovative and novel approaches related to climate change. In addition, the task force will seek to partner with state and local governments within the greater Baltimore-Washington region on climate change efforts.
The task force will lead an effort to determine the university's "carbon footprint," both current and projected. Among other proposals, the task force will look into the feasibility of making existing and planned facilities more energy efficient, increasing alternative fuel use, adding climate-related courses to the curriculum and entering into collaborative efforts with the community and other schools.
The committee, which has yet to be appointed, will consist of both university personnel and non-Johns Hopkins members.
James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration, said that because of the enormity of the issues, the committee will likely break into several subcommittees focused on specific tasks. McGill said that the groups will begin their work in September.
McGill lauded Brody's vision. "President Brody is committed to the development of thoughtful, fact-based, effective actions that faculty, staff and students at Johns Hopkins can undertake to address the serious matter of climate change," he said. "The issues are deep and complex, involving technology, science, health and politics. The committee will determine how best to bring Hopkins' special resources to bear on the problems. The committee will also develop a set of proposed actions for Johns Hopkins to take."
Brody noted that, in many ways, Johns Hopkins' work on climate change has already begun. Last year, Brody convened the Johns Hopkins University Sustainability Committee, a 16-member group to head a university-wide effort to greatly improve Johns Hopkins' environmental profile. The committee, chaired by Davis Bookhart, manager of energy management and environmental stewardship in the Office of Facilities Management, provides a unifying voice for environmentally conscious and clean energy-focused initiatives such as the use of biodiesel fuels, solar power and recycled storm water.
In May, the committee released a series of recommendations on addressing climate change that included the development of a strategic plan for the university.
Earlier in 2007, Johns Hopkins was instrumental in bringing Flexcar, a car-sharing program that uses low- emission hybrids, to Baltimore. The program, started with four cars on the Homewood campus, began in March and was so successful that the university has decided to double the number of vehicles.
On a national front, Johns Hopkins and a dozen other major universities — including the Ivy League institutions, Stanford, the University of Chicago and MIT — are exploring a collaborative effort. To date, a climate-focused working group has been formed to share ideas and develop solutions.
Bookhart, a member of the inter-university working group, said that he is excited and optimistic about the role Johns Hopkins will play in the effort to address global warming. "I simply can't overstate how important it is that we've taken a strong and public position on climate change," Bookhart said. "This may be the most critical issue facing this generation of students, and they will deal with effects of climate change in one form or another throughout the entire span of their careers."
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