So far this winter, UNH has seen four days of curtailed operation, massive icicles, and impassible snow drifts. According to WMUR, this February was the 2nd coldest month on record and the 3rd snowiest month on record! Nor’easters and blizzards have bombarded UNH nearly every week, bringing with them seemingly endless amounts of snow and freezing temperatures. While watching the news during one such storm, I witnessed one man remark: “so much for global warming!” as he struggled to shovel out his car amidst feet of snow. In fact, climate change is now the scientifically correct term used to describe changes in Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gas emissions from activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) exacerbate climate change. It may be hard to believe, but this winters’ increase in extreme precipitation events is actually caused by climate change.
Contrary to the original term “global warming”, climate change doesn’t necessarily imply that the entire globe will experience an increase in temperatures. Rather, climate change causes shifts in temperature and precipitation. Different areas may experience different degrees of changes; for example, some regions of the world may see an increase in floods, whereas others may suffer from intense droughts. In New Hampshire, we are seeing changes in both temperature and precipitation patterns. Climate Solutions New England has conducted many studies on these shifts.
In Southern New Hampshire, average annual minimum temperatures have increased from 1895-2012. Average maximum summer temperatures have also increased, and are predicted to continue increasing over time. Extreme precipitation events have increased since the 1960’s as evidenced by data from several New Hampshire towns, including Durham. Furthermore, federal expenditures for weather-related disasters and emergencies such as floods and ice storms have increased dramatically since the 1980’s.
So what is UNH doing to address climate change? Many things! UNH has a Climate Action Plan called WildCAP, which “describes policies and projects the university has undertaken-and new ones it can consider- to meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 en route to climate neutrality by the end of the century”.
WildCAP has several categories and related actions. One of the major categories is Transportation. UNH has the largest transportation system in the state of NH! About 25% of GHG emissions from UNH are from transportation. Have you ever wondered about the “EcoCat” label emblazoned on many UNH vehicles? If you see the EcoCat label, then the vehicle uses clean technology or alternative fuel, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Reducing emissions from transportation is one of the goals of WildCAP.
Another major category under WildCAP is Behavior and Culture. One of the goals under this section is to improve waste and recycling signage. All of the waste and recycling units outside of the residence halls recently received new labels, clearly displaying what items belong in each. Smaller units are also being relabeled in other campus buildings. Recycling and minimizing contamination from non-recyclables in the recycling units is very important-if there is too much contamination, the whole load of recyclables may not be accepted. Another crucial aspect of behavior and culture is energy use. Many daily activities such as air conditioning consume lots of energy, so being aware of and reducing how much you are using is great!
It doesn’t take huge changes in behavior to make a positive difference. There are many easy things you can do here at UNH to help reduce climate change! Here are a few:
• Utilize the many diverse public transportation options available to you, such as Campus Connector, Wildcat Transit, or Amtrak Downeaster.
• Try carpooling with a friend to reduce single-passenger vehicles driving to and from campus. You can save money, save the hassle of parking, and enjoy company! Learn more about the carpooling program at: http://www.unh.edu/transportation/programs/carpool.htm
• When it gets warmer, use a bicycle to travel around campus. It’s great exercise, fun, and environmentally friendly!
• Try using a green power strip, such as a Smart Strip, to help reduce power draw and wasted energy from plug-in appliances, lights, and chargers.
• Turn your lights off whenever you leave your room and unplug any chargers you aren’t using!
• When shopping for new dorm supplies, look for energy star lightbulbs, laptops, and printers which are much more energy efficient.