Neil Kapoor | Penn should create a climate school

Last year, two major universities, Columbia and Stanford, announced the creation of new schools dedicated to solving the climate crisis. It’s time for Penn to do the same. (Right) HarshLight // CC BY 2.0

Credit: Kylie Cooper

While the past year wasn’t already a roller coaster, Mother Nature seemed to have her own agenda: to make a clear appeal to Americans not to forget about climate change. California burnt, Flooded texas, Louisiana sank, and Alaska melted.

Despite the lingering climate atrocities, there is cause for hope. In the past year, two major universities, Colombia and Stanford, announced the creation of new schools dedicated to solving the climate crisis. It’s time for Penn to do the same.

To eliminate a straw man, Penn’s effort to become carbon neutral is commendable. It is also totally separate from the creation of a new climate school. At this point, committing to going net-zero is the bare minimum for a large organization. Penn needs to think bigger and be more ambitious than that.

To clarify, universities such as Columbia and Stanford have not established climate schools because they lack climate innovation and public policy research. In fact, like Penn, they are quite at the forefront of these areas, from carbon capture to precision Agriculture.

Columbia and Stanford are creating these schools because they recognize the practical reality of the climate crisis: As much as anyone would like it to go away, it won’t. It’s only getting worse, and the weather is running out of. These universities understand that with their talent and resources, they have an obligation to intensify and accelerate research and development in scientific and policy disciplines to address the climate crisis.

How was Penn able to create a climate school? First, check out Columbia and Stanford – no need to reinvent the wheel. As Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger Noted, its new school will draw on professors, departments and research centers in engineering, medicine, the arts and humanities. He also said that Columbia – and I would bet Penn, too – would not start from scratch; on the contrary, the university is building on existing progress to tackle the climate crisis.

Second, Penn should consider our strengths. Departments of basic sciences directly related to climate – such as chemical and biomolecular engineering, materials science and engineering, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, physics and biology – should be involved in part of collaborative efforts to understand the nature of climate change. The participation of Wharton’s Business, Climate, and Environment Lab could send the message that climate change is inextricably linked to market forces and that solutions must involve businesses. With their current focus on climate and sustainability, the Aquatic Center, Kleinman Center, and other similar institutes that exist seem to be natural partnerships, and environmental and entrepreneurial student groups should also be consulted for levels of interest. The deans and leaders of Penn’s many schools must come together to make this a reality.

Third, Penn should form an orderly process to resolve this issue. For example, at Stanford, “Throughout the fall and winter, a 30-member Blueprint Advisory Committee (LAC), which includes faculty from the seven schools and five policy institutes, met to design the structure of the new school, education programs, thematic initiatives and engagement activities. . ”

Colombia created a working group “to explore what more the University should do with regard to climate change”. The president of Columbia wrote in his ad: “In addition, in concrete terms, would our efforts be significantly reinforced by the creation of a school dedicated to these subjects? The task force’s response to this question was yes, as was mine, and as was the unanimous vote of the university administrators at our recent June meeting. [2020] Meet. ”It’s hard to imagine a mandate stronger than that.

Penn must not get bogged down in college bureaucracy. We cannot let excessive bickering, politics, or just dragging our feet slow us down. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – Penn must recognize that a new school will evolve and improve as mistakes are made, but doing nothing can no longer be an option.

To be clear, the Penn administration deserves praise for putting us on the zero carbon path. This does not change the fact that this is fundamentally a question of leadership. If other big universities can do it, so can Penn. We must not view the climate as a huge burden. On the contrary, as the President’s Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry puts it, the climate crisis is the greatest economic opportunity the world has seen since the industrial revolution. Why should Penn be missing when we could be the clear leader? It is also a chance to distinguish ourselves in the service of a greater good.

In addition to Kerry, nobel laureates and other experts issued a “call to action” to tackle the climate crisis in April this year. They included policy, mission-driven innovation, education, information technology, finance and business, scientific collaboration and knowledge as key areas of action. Penn leads in all of them.

To be completely lucid, creating a new school or a centralized institute would be a major challenge. Still, we should be lucky that two large, similar research universities have started this journey – proof that it makes sense. Penn should now follow their lead and do the same.

NEIL KAPOOR is a sophomore engineering and Wharton student studying computer science and finance in Palo Alto, California. His email is [email protected]du.

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