Today, NASA Climate Expert Dr. James Hansen addressed students, faculty and community members outside of the campus's coal-fired steam and power plant. Dr. Hansen who heads NASA's research institute on atmospheric and climate change, urged UNC administrators to stop burning coal at the facility. Already the plant burns 100,000 tons of coal annually, that makes it the largest emitter of Co2 in Orange County. Dr. Hansen's argument focused on the idea that the U.S. needs to reduce its coal consumption sooner rather than later, and that universities should lead the way.
That last line is the most important, "universities should lead the way." UNC is one of the country's leading bastions of higher learning. If the university wants to remain on the cutting edge of education, then it can not only teach from the classroom, but also by example. They must show students that what they learn from within a textbook can not only be applied to the world, but also the power plant down the street.
Unfortunately, educating tomorrow's leaders may not be enough. Dr. Hansen stressed that it's imperative we begin today. He called coal, "the dirtiest fuel on the planet", but pointed out that "If we phase out coal over the next 20 years, we can solve the problem." Student activists from the Sierra Club's Coal-Free UNC Campaign hope that Chancellor Thorpe will heed this advice. Already the Chancellor has created a Energy Task Force to examine the campus's co-generation power plant.
This campaign has only begun, continued pressure from students, alumni and community members will be critical in the coming months. As always, if you would like to lend your support below you can find links and contact info.