Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line
At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions
Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists
‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam
‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6
The unseasonably warm winter’s day is no longer quite so pleasant a surprise.
Students strolling through the Yard this month have gazed up at an unblemished blue sky, charmed by a still sunlit Cantibrigian February. But as we reintroduce short sleeves and outdoor study sessions to our day-to-day routines, we realize: We are basking in the warmth of our planet withering.
This is the trick of climate change. One day, it’s in the double-digit negatives; the next week, it’s in the 60s. The misinformed are distracted by the thermometer’s rise and fall while a much fiercer story — the fundamental altering of our planet’s atmosphere — forges forward, unabated. We miss the burning forest for the trees.
Here is the forest: Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s accelerating. Nine of the top ten hottest years on record in the contiguous United States have occurred in the last quarter century. The world has just exited its hottest decade since thermometer-based observation began. With global average temperatures rising at 0.32 to 0.55 degrees per decade since 1979, the current decade is poised to be our new hottest.
From many vantage points, these statistics seem abstract and far-off. But each further inch the proverbial thermometer rises touches millions of lives. With one metaphorical inch, thousands of acres of ancient California redwoods are blazed to ash. With another, more than 30 million people in Pakistan watch their homes get pulverized by raging floodwaters. A third inch, and natural disasters dig 2 million premature graves, leaving behind millions more who will never again smile back at their loved ones.
Do not tell us it’s just an inch. Today and tomorrow, climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces — perhaps the greatest it has ever faced. How we respond is civilization’s toughest test.
Our world runs on carbon. Accordingly, decarbonization is a uniquely multifaceted problem, touching every country and every sector. Harvard, with its fingers spread across dozens of academic fields, is especially well-positioned to unravel this issue.
Most immediately, the University should mobilize the full extent of its colossal research capacity to kickstart a once-in-a-generation interdisciplinary campaign dedicated to devising partial answers to the climate crisis. Harvard must encourage collaboration of scholars across fields — from policy experts to environmental scientists, from economists to engineers — to investigate reducing emissions and curbing the impact of our already-immense carbon footprint.
The University itself must fund this research, instead of relegating these costs to private polluting financiers, a practice that leads to biased results. Harvard has no shortage of departments to fund and issues to prioritize, but the urgency of the climate crisis should echo in administrators’ minds as they make tough but critical funding decisions.
Although research may represent the highest-impact opportunity for a school like Harvard, the University’s efforts toward sustainability cannot be left at the lab. Sowing sustainability into the very fabric of our campus life, with greener buildings and more accessible recycling, is vital too.
A complete embrace of sustainability requires grappling with the particular nature of the climate crisis: It is overwhelmingly caused by large corporations, but exerts a disproportionate impact on poorer people and countries in return. By more closely integrating climate change into curriculum and making climate-oriented career paths accessible and appealing through the Office of Career Services, Harvard can train the next generation of citizen leaders, policy-makers, and private sector executives in climate change solutions.
Still, we each have an essential personal responsibility to read about climate change, learn to refute disinformation, and mobilize in environmental justice efforts. Restricting our climate strategy to broad, structural criticisms of corporate malpractice is just as misguided as hoping recycling alone will revert the alarming increase of temperatures worldwide.
Most tragedies happen in an instant moment: one second invisible, the next devastatingly real. Climate change isn’t like that. It creeps up on us. It simmers and boils us like frogs in once-tepid water. Today, an unseasonably warm day should sound a screeching cry to do everything in our power to change. By the time 60 degree weather is seasonable for February, it will be far too late.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
Have a suggestion, question, or concern for The Crimson Editorial Board? Click here.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.