Higher Education's Role in Adapting to Climate Disruption

June 30, 2011
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Second Nature recently convened the Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee, composed of ACUPCC presidents and other experts in higher education and adaptation.  The Committee will evaluate the role of higher education in ensuring that society is equipped to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate disruption – such as rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, prolonged droughts, more flooding, etc.

Pedestrians scurry on Library Mall as inches of torrential rain deluge the UW-Madison campus, causing nearby streets and walkways to flood. Photo: Jeff Miller

The Adaptation Committee will develop a white paper, to be released later this year, that looks at how colleges and universities are adapting their own physical plant, and in what ways they are incorporating adaptation into their education, research, and community engagement activities.

We have completed a (very) preliminary scan of current climate adaptation initiatives, and are looking for more examples — particularly of actual projects or plans for the campus physical plant upgrades that are in direct response to new or expected impacts driven by climate change. Also, if your institution has courses, research initiatives, or community engagement projects focused on climate adaptation we would love to know about them as well.  Please share any examples you are involved with or know about in the comments and/or send to Georges Dyer at gdyer@secondnature.org. 

Here are a few examples we’ve been able to find so far:

  • North Carolina State University: NCSU Water Restriction/Drought Action Plan (pdf) – In response to severe droughts, NCSU has set up high efficiency washing machines, low-flow showerheads & toilets, and installed water catchment systems across campus.
  • University of Hawai’i at Manoa: (1) Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy – The Center is involved in planning & infrastructure projects that address adaption and hazard mitigation strategies for the University and Island communities. (2) Adapting to Sea Level Rise and Coastal Erosion – To address coastal hazards and shore evolution, Dr. Chip Fletcher has been working with different Hawaiian counties to “modify coastal construction setback lines.”
  • University of Puerto Rico at Humacao: Stormwater Management Program (pdf) – To reduce potential pollutant discharges, the program is establishing a construction site storm runoff control system as well as a post-construction storm water management system.
  • University of Southern California: The Urban Ocean Program (Sea Grant) – Amongst a variety of initiatives, the program hosts Coastal Hazard Planning and Sustainable Coastal Planning programs which increase resiliency to lower human, development, and natural vulnerability.

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