Shared from the 6/12/2019 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

OSU’s Sustainability Institute leads climate change research, teaching


At the recommendation of its Sustainability Institute, the Ohio State University has joined 47 other higher education and private sector entities, including General Mills, Microsoft and Unilever, in asking the Trump Administration to support, and the U.S. Senate to ratify, the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect earth’s ozone layer.

The Montreal Protocol has led to the phaseout of various ozone-depleting substances. While carbon emissions rightfully occupy the majority of the discussion driving climate change, there are other even more potent greenhouse gas emissions that need to be addressed. Among them: hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs for short. The Kigali amendment, which went into effect this January with ratifications from 65 countries, adds HFCs to the list of substances that countries work together to reduce.

For many years, HFCs have been used as a cooling agent in refrigerators and freezers. Thankfully, American manufacturers have incorporated alternatives that do not have the same climate impact into more energy-efficient product models. This represents multiple benefits: less harmful air emissions, while saving energy costs.

We are pleased by the bipartisan support for the Kigali amendment in the U.S. Senate, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s role in 2016 in urging the U.S. delegation to negotiate and adopt a strong amendment. We urge Brown and Sen. Rob Portman to continue these efforts and vote to ratify the Kigali amendment if the president submits it to the Senate for its advice and consent.

For our own part, Ohio State is implementing a program to replace freezers that store research samples, such as College of Medicine medical samples, with more-energy-efficient models that do not contain HFCs.

At the same time, we continue to address climate change through research and education efforts. We recognize we need to do more as a leading institution if our students are to inherit a planet that they and their families can flourish in for generations to come.

Last month, we announced that Ohio State will be a founding member of the 2020 Midwestern Higher Education Climate Summit, expected to be the largest meeting of Midwestern universities focused on mitigating the effects of climate change and moving to a 100 percent clean-energy economy.

And earlier this year, we launched the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State. Ohio State has multiple colleges and academic units providing education with impact and pursuing critical research on the many sustainability challenges faced by our communities. The institute will cultivate multidisciplinary research and support learning opportunities to develop solutions to some of our most pressing social issues influencing and affected by climate change: sustainable energy; healthy land, water and air systems; and smart and resilient communities.

For many years, Ohio State researchers have led the world’s understanding of and solutions for the changes we are experiencing across the globe. Take, for example, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center’s efforts to collect, analyze and maintain ice cores from around the world, providing long-term understanding of earth’s climate. Given that some of the locations Byrd has studied no longer exist because they have melted away, this foundational work is nothing short of heroic.

In addition, Professor Rattan Lal was recently awarded the prestigious Japan Prize for his groundbreaking research on how agricultural lands could sequester more carbon in the planet’s soils, which would improve soil health and benefit agricultural productivity to feed a growing global population.

In addition to supporting research on pressing sustainability challenges, the Sustainability Institute’s work includes advancing new on-campus solutions to test how big goals, such as operating as a carbon-neutral university, can be accomplished in a manner that is aligned with providing an affordable education.

Certainly, Ohio State’s Comprehensive Energy Management Partnership is bringing new expertise and financial resources to the university to more efficiently meet our energy demand. This partnership with the global energy company ENGIE and financial partner Axium Infrastructure is helping the university lower our long-term energy expenses to put those financial resources back into the university’s academic mission.

Students from across the globe have entrusted the Ohio State University to deliver the learning opportunities that will propel them into successful careers and leadership positions post-graduation. While we help students build the educational platform they will launch from into the world, we also want to demonstrate a commitment to the health, well- being and success of our students long after they leave our campus.

Kate Bartter is the executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State.

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