To the Butler University Board of Trustees:
Butler University prides itself on being a progressive institution. From its abolitionist roots to the student body’s emphasis on the “Butler Way,” our community strives to be one of inclusion, social responsibility, and forward thinking. In accord with the university’s emphasis on social justice, climate change is a social justice issue. The social cost of carbon, which encompasses the economic and social damages that result from GHG emissions, is a crucial consideration.
"A recent U.S. government study concluded, based on the results of three widely used economic impact models, that an additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2015 would cause $37 worth of economic damages. These damages are expected to take various forms, including decreased agricultural yields, harm to human health and lower worker productivity, all related to climate change.
But according to a new study, published... in the journal Nature Climate Change, the actual cost could be much higher. 'We estimate that the social cost of carbon is not $37 per ton, as previously estimated, but $220 per ton,' said study coauthor Frances Moore, a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources in Stanford's School of Earth Sciences." Source: Stanford University News, Jan 12, 2015
Based on Moore’s estimate, Butler University will shift $8,438,980 in social and economic damages onto others as a result of its GHG emissions in 2020. Moreover, each year that Butler fails to enact substantial climate action, these avoidable social costs will continue to be incurred. By failing to take responsibility for our greenhouse gas emissions, we displace the social burden of carbon onto the most vulnerable populations, often BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities who have long lived in less desirable areas due to deeply ingrained systemic racism. These so-called “sacrifice zones” enable wealthier (and often white) communities to transfer the consequences of their own greenhouse gas emissions onto other groups of people. As a predominantly white institution, Butler University must acknowledge the social implications of its GHG emissions.
In 2012, President Danko committed to carbon neutrality at Butler by 2050 and to reducing GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and 15% by 2020. However, a 2020 report showed that net GHG emissions saw a 33.00% net increase between the 2011 baseline year and 2020. Although Butler acquired new buildings on South campus during this period, which in part explains an emissions increase, it is clear that climate action is not occurring at the pace merited by the extreme circumstances we face.
In addition, an integrated sustainability effort across campus will make Butler a more appealing environment for current and prospective students, staff, employees, and visitors. Many of the measures necessary to achieve this are already outlined in the Butler University Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (BUSCA) 2020 addendum, which recognizes the severity of the climate crisis. The planned measures include improvements in food sourcing, greenhouse gas reductions, waste and land management, transportation, and water usage, among others. If made a university-wide priority, these already-defined measures will enable the advance of Butler’s carbon neutrality deadline to 2030. Many of these measures, such as improved bicycling infrastructure and tree diversity, also have secondary benefits that will make campus a more enjoyable place.
The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation. As Butler students, we take pride in attending an institution that leads with its values and strives to overcome its shortcomings. We demand urgent climate action based on the measures outlined in the 2020 BUSCA addendum, with the ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. This goal is quite feasible; institutions much larger than Butler, like Arizona State University, have already achieved carbon neutrality.
Butler has the capacity to become a leader in sustainability among Midwestern universities. With courage and proactivity rather than complacency, we can take responsibility for our share of the climate crisis by becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
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