Penn State conference tackles reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On April 11, more than 70 Penn State staff, students and faculty members attended a conference on Penn State’s greenhouse gas emissions at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. According to conference organizer Jonathan Brockopp, the goal was “to begin imagining a workable plan to achieve zero effective emissions by 2050.”

Brockopp, associate professor of history at Penn State, explained that “Penn State has an obligation toward our students and our community to model ethical leadership in a warming world.”

Keynote speakers for the conference were Rob Cooper, director of energy and engineering for the Office of Physical Plant, and Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president for the Office of Physical Plant.

Participants represent a broad cross-section of the University community, including representatives from the colleges of Liberal Arts, Arts and Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Business, Engineering, Schreyer Honors College and Penn State Law, in addition to staff members and some community representatives.

Workshops at the event included topics such as retrofitting, investing and promoting existing technologies for alternative energy production, encouraging greenhouse gas reductions, coordinating with partners and the community, and exploring the components of climate disruption. Participants were split into groups to address questions that included: How can we maintain quality education while using less energy, how can we cooperate with ongoing community initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the entire Centre Region, and what should be done with current technologies, including renewable energy?

Denice Wardrop, director of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, remarked, “Penn State is already a leader in greenhouse gas reduction,” pointing to the University’s plan to cut emissions 35 percent, compared with 2005 levels by 2020. Aiming for zero effective emissions is just a continuation of that pledge.

Penn State is the home for several renowned climate scientists and a leader in research on alternative energy. Brockopp said, “With all these great scientists, and with our University’s commitment to ethics, it is only natural that we would want to be on the cutting edge of finding solutions to this problem.”

“Addressing the challenge of significantly reducing our emissions is the right thing to do, but that does not mean it will be easy,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas Jones.

Sponsors for the conference were Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, the Rock Ethics Institute, and the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs.

For more information on sustainability efforts at Penn State, visit sustainability.psu.edu.

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Last Updated April 21, 2014