U.S. higher education and global climate change: An exploration of institutional factors that affect greenhouse gas emissions
Author(s): Luba Zhaurova
Program Name: Master's degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
Institution: Tufts University
Urban Studies and Planning
Publication Date: January, 2008
Paper Type: Masters Thesis
In this study, I explored the differences between greenhouse gas emissions of different colleges and universities in the U.S.A. and analyzed some of the factors that might explain these differences. I collected and analyzed a non-representative sample of 96 greenhouse gas emission reports, gross square footage, institutional wealth, and other characteristics of public and private not-for-profit colleges and universities. 84% of these institutions were American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) signatories.
First, I found that both research activity and institutional control of colleges and universities in my sample were strong predictors of the institutional greenhouse gas emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) and were interacting with each other in a complex fashion. Secondly, I found strong positive correlations between total revenues (institutional wealth proxy), gross square footage, and greenhouse gas emissions.
A major limitation of this study was greenhouse gas emissions data accuracy as methodology used to collect and calculate emissions by colleges and universities is not yet standardized.
Higher education institutions have a unique role as learning laboratories and potential climate leaders. Further research could be used to identify and develop case studies from which other institutions (both academic and non-academic) could learn about successful strategies used to move toward the carbon neutrality goal.
Keywords: Global climate change; greenhouse gas emissions; higher education; colleges and universities; institutional wealth; gross square footage; climate neutrality.
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