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NMU could lead region, state on carbon neutral plan

Northern Michigan University has long been cherished as an institution that affords its students, staff and faculty a wide array of academic and research opportunities in a pristine location that offers a wealth of natural beauty and chances to recreate.

However, a changing climate threatens to alter our way of life in the Upper Peninsula and the world. And time is running out to address the core of the climate-change issue: greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change warned in 2018 that the window to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees C will close in 2030 — just nine years from now — meaning leaders at all levels need to work rapidly and collaboratively to reduce net carbon emissions.

Due to this, we were pleased to hear Ryan Stock, a professor in NMU’s School of Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, penned a letter to NMU President Fritz Erickson urging the administration to make NMU net-carbon neutral by either 2030 or 2050.

The letter, signed by 1,069 NMU-affiliated individuals, endorsed by 25 institutions, with six separate letters of support, was submitted to Erickson and the NMU Board of Trustees in February.

The letter acknowledges going carbon neutral “may seem like a herculean task” but is well worth the “moon-shot” effort this undertaking requires.

We agree.

A commitment from NMU’s administration to go carbon-neutral by 2030 or 2050 would be transformational for the university, the community and the planet as a whole. NMU could serve as a leader and an exemplary regional model in the fight against climate change by implementing a carbon-neutrality plan that could serve as a blueprint for other universities and large institutions.

It could also draw valuable new students and faculty members while encouraging innovation and leadership in addressing climate change.

And now is the perfect time for NMU to join the growing state, national and global efforts to go carbon neutral.

For example, the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative is “galvanizing a global consortium of institutions like Northern to commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050,” and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan aims to make Michigan fully carbon-neutral by 2050, according to the letter.

Organizers told the Journal that Erickson and the board are currently considering the initiative but have not yet made a final decision on the plan or the specific steps for implementation if approved.

The plan has our full support here at the Journal, as we recognize the urgency of fighting climate change and the tremendous value of NMU’s influence on the community, state, region and nation.

It will be critical for proponents of the plan and NMU leadership to further detail the specifics of how this plan will be implemented, as well as the direct fiscal and climate impacts. These details will show the public — and other large institutions — that such an undertaking is feasible, possible and will offer a significant return on investment.

We urge Erickson and the board to continue seriously considering this plan while engaging with stakeholders and the community, as NMU is a regional leader that has the power to make a profound difference on a global scale.

If this plan is adopted and implemented, it could be remembered for generations to come as a critical action that helped sustain life, livelihood, health, and the environment in our area and beyond.

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