Michaela Brew / Sun Senior Editor

Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the graduate school, addressed the graduate school's recent accomplishments in partnership with GPSA Monday.

October 25, 2016

GPSA Evaluates Options for Achieving Carbon Neutrality

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The Cornell Graduate and Professional Student Assembly discussed options for achieving a carbon neutral campus by 2035 with members of the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group at its meeting Monday.

As of this fall, the University has provided a substantive report outlining new solutions to reducing energy demands and cutting net carbon emissions to zero. The Student Assembly and the Employee Assembly also discussed the report at their meetings last week.

“If we are going to look at options for achieving climate neutrality, we have to consider both the costs and the benefits of different paths to carbon neutrality,” said Sarah Brylinsky, the sustainability communications and integration manager of SLCAG.

The updated report provides three tools to achieve climate neutrality: an adoption of the social cost of carbon, a new measurement of upstream impact from natural gas and an outline for a quadruple bottom line, according to Brylinsky.

Brylinsky explained that the quadruple bottom line, a qualitative analysis of the potential effects of climate neutrality on “prosperity, people and the planet,” has been updated to include an analysis of its “purpose.”

“To reach climate neutrality is important to our higher education mandate,” Brylinsky said. “We have the opportunity to share, research and create new ways of thinking and to share these with the world, to both learn and demonstrate on campus.”

Brylinsky added that engagement from the entire community is critical from a conservation standpoint, encouraging sustainable behaviors that reinforce investments in energy efficiency on campus.

“I could build the greenest building in the world, but if you occupy it and do not know how to use it, or you do not have sustainable behaviors, then we are not using that building to its maximum capacity,” she said. “We are not being smart about our investment.”

SLCAG encouraged members of the Cornell community to attend an open forum on Oct. 31 in Goldwin Smith Hall to discuss future developments of the carbon neutrality initiative.

“I think the University community strongly feels that there is a real opportunity for this initiative to work,” Brylinsky said. “To work not only for us, but as a solution that has global warming impact potential for other institutes who can implement similar energy technology.”