Thursday, January 28, 2010

As Planet Continues to Warm, Mason Takes Action

By Colin Bennett

Earlier this month Mason's Office of Sustainability published its first Climate Action Plan for the school. Essentially, the goal of the plan is for Mason to reach climate neutrality by 2050, not a moment to soon as NASA announced last week that 2009 "was tied for the second warmest since 1880." Moreover, "In the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year on record." In fact, according to NASA, the last decade was the warmest decade on record.

According to Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "There's always interest in the annual temperature numbers and a given year's ranking, but the ranking often misses the point." He says that El-Nino and La-Nina are responsible for annual variability in global temperature, but he continues, "When we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated."

Today, as the nation debates the merits of President Obama's State of the Union Address and Congress continues to drag its feet on climate legislation, Mason is hard at work on reducing its climate emissions. According to the climate plan, Mason's target for reaching climate neutrality by 2050 will be via an at least 80% reduction in emissions with the remaining greenhouse gases that the school is responsible for to be offset through an appropriate offset strategy. Technological advances and appropriate policies will reduce the universities climate footprint substantially; however, a significant component of the plan calls reaching out to the Mason community. Specifically, in order to reach the goal every individual at Mason will need to do their part.

A newly formed Climate Action Team overseen by Mason's Office of Sustainability will help with the out-reach efforts around campus. The team will be responsible for helping to organize climate related events, offering presentations on Mason's climate commitment, and disseminating climate messages throughout appropriate venues. Most importantly though, the Climate Action Team will be responsible for getting members of the Mason community to sign the Mason Climate Pledge.

Signers of the Mason Climate Pledge commit to helping Mason achieve climate neutrality with "actions as simple as turning out lights when leaving a room and powering down computers when not in use". To date, almost 1000 people from Mason have signed the pledge, becoming Mason Climate Champions by doing so. With hope, and the dedication of the Climate Action Team, at least 50% of the Mason community will sign the pledge and become a climate champion by this time next year.

This image is a five year global temperature average from 2003 to 2007. Red represents above average temperatures.

Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

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