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Letter to the editor: prioritize reducing carbon emissions

May 3, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

Dear Editor,

It is now firmly established that human activity is the cause of global warming. The temperature’s rise is extraordinarily rapid and is accompanied by acidification of our oceans, which threatens the habitability of the Earth. The poorest among us will be the hardest hit. We can’t undo the warming that has already happened, but our actions—both collectively and individually—will determine how much more warming will occur.

As an institution in the service of the common good, Bowdoin has a responsibility to limit its carbon footprint.  As such, Bowdoin’s administration, faculty, students and staff must be stewards of the planet. The College’s investments in solar arrays on and off campus, the energy efficient Roux Center and the super?insulated new dorms are all good steps toward this goal.

However, the community needs to continue to ensure that new structures are built only when necessary and have the lowest possible carbon emissions. Low carbon buildings are good for the planet and good for the College’s long term well being. College buildings are long?lived and over time, low carbon footprints save money.

Despite this, the proposed expansion of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center lacks a solar component. Mills Hall is still being designed, but there is not yet evidence that it will be a low carbon emitter. Low carbon footprints should be a given for every new structure and included in their design and budget.

Thanks to former President Mills’s leadership, Bowdoin is carbon neutral, now and forever. But this was only achieved by purchasing carbon offsets–we are buying the right to pollute from others who have chosen not to. Going forward, every fossil?fuel kilowatt?hour we will use to heat a building costs the College twice: We have to buy it from the power company, and we have to buy an offset.

At this moment, while we are in the planning stages of multiple buildings, we must avoid locking ourselves into high emissions and high costs. We urge everyone at Bowdoin to prioritize reducing carbon emissions and to hold the College to the highest standards of planetary stewardship. It would be particularly unfortunate if a building named for the president who led Bowdoin toward carbon neutrality would instead take the College further away from that goal.

Mark Battle, associate professor of physics

Laura Henry, associate professor of government

Ta Herrera, professor of economics

Bruce Kohorn, Linnanean professor of biology and biochemistry

Madeleine Msall, professor of physics

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One comment:

  1. Linda Kelly says:

    Fully validated and verified voluntary carbon offsets are not produced by “…those who have chosen not to pollute”. Instead, these projects are large, formal and professionally-managed projects that fall into three categories: energy efficiency/new technology development, forestry/land-based preservation and restoration, or renewable energy projects, all reducing or sequestering carbon emissions. These projects must be dependent upon the financing from the sale of validated and verified carbon offsets, based upon the project’s measurable and third-party professionally verified reduction/sequestration of carbon emissions, on the voluntary market in order to meet international standards for validation. Until Bowdoin is able to eliminate all energy usage – from buildings, from staff, faculty and student travel including commuting, from mailings, and from shipments to and from the institution – the only way to achieve full carbon neutrality is through the purchase and retirement of properly validated and verified carbon offsets, supporting projects that are reducing and/or sequestering measurable quantities of carbon emissions.


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