“We’re running out of time to realistically make the reductions necessary to avoid the worst impacts and we need to act now,” Paul Mathewson, staff scientist for Clean Wisconsin, said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third part of the Sixth Assessment Report “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change“ April 4.
The Working Group III report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress, examines the sources of global emissions and assesses the impact of national climate pledges in relation to long-term emissions goals.
“I think this report is the clearest warning yet that we are at a crossroads,” Mathewson said. “Climate scientists have been warning about this for years and the longer we delay, the harder it is going to be to limit warming to a level that avoids the worst impacts.”
The report said that average annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2010-2019 was the highest in human history, but the rate of growth has slowed.
Mathewson said we’ve made some progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions but not enough.
“If we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and limit warming to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit then we need immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Mathewson said.
The report also said that limiting warming to around 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030. The global temperature will stabilize when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero – for 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s and for 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the early 2070s.
“Every single aspect of the report is concerning,” Chelsea Malacara, Marquette’s sustainability & energy management coordinator, said. “It revealed that even if all emissions ceased today, we will still be experiencing the negative impacts of a rapidly warming planet for the next 30 plus years.”
The report said reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the full energy sector will require major transitions. It suggests a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, the deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers and energy efficiency and conservation.
The IPCC said there are options in every sector to halve emissions by 2030. Cities and other urban areas, like Milwaukee, offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions, such as better urban planning, introducing electrification and providing more green spaces.
Marquette Board of Trustees approved an updated investment policy March 24 for the university endowment with new socially responsible investing and sustainability language that strictly prohibits direct investments in public securities whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels.
“It was wonderful to hear that Marquette updated the endowment policy to prohibit any new direct investments in fossil fuels,” Miriam Schwabe, president of Students for an Environmentally Active Campus, co-founder of Fossil Free Marquette and a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. “I think it would be wonderful if we continued in this transition through some direct changes on campus as well.”
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System gave Marquette a score of 36.76/100, which is a Bronze rating for comprehensive sustainability achievements. Marquette’s previous STARS rating from 2013-2016 was a 51.18/100, which is a Silver rating.
“At a higher education institution, certainly the prioritization of climate action is needed at the leadership level, yet students, employees, alumni and donors not only have a voice in that. We are key to making our community climate resilient and sustainable,” Malacara said.
Marquette received a 2.17/8.00 for greenhouse gas emissions in the 2022 STARS report as well as a 2.73/6.00 in building energy efficiency, a 1.57/4.00 in water use and a 0.75/10.00 in hazardous waste management.
The 2022 report also found that Marquette had emitted 50,000 tons of carbon emissions for “imported” electric and thermal energy.
In the 2013 report, Marquette received a 1.68/14.00 in greenhouse gas emissions reduction, a 1.24/8.00 in building energy consumption, a 3.23/7.00 in water consumption and a 1.00/10.00 in hazardous waste management.
“Building a sustainable and thriving community is so much more than just recycling or reducing resources. It is about building a system that is resilient, equitable, just, healthy and ecologically thriving for all beings,” Malacara said. “When we all take personal responsibility for the role we play in building and contributing to that kind of system, that’s when the magic happens.”
Marquette is working toward getting hybrid squad cars for the Marquette University Police Department, enhancing opportunities for bicycle use, pursuing renewable energy initiatives, creating sustainable building standards and continuing the Sustainability Internship Program.
“Marquette has a lot of work to do in terms of sustainability,” Schwabe said. “The STARS program offers wonderful ideas on how to create a sustainable campus in many areas, including in the dining halls, landscaping, dorms, curriculum and more. I would love to see Marquette take some more initiative in these areas.”
This story was written by Bailey Striepling. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.