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Posts Tagged ‘University of Maine’

By Misa Saros, A2C2 IGERT Program Coordinator, University of Maine
(This article appears in the December, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerThe University of Maine has launched a new National Science Foundation sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) – the first of its kind to focus explicitly on adaptation to abrupt climate change (A2C2).  The A2C2 IGERT is a partnership between the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) and is focused on the need to adapt environmental policies and management strategies to meet the social and ecological challenges caused by abrupt climate change events.  The program is funded by a five-year, $3 million award from the National Science Foundation, and will support the research of 24 Ph.D. students in Earth sciences, ecology, economics, anthropology and archaeology. Their research will focus on the effects of abrupt climate change on global security, ecosystem sustainability, and the integrity of economic, social, political and ideological systems.

Abrupt climate change (ACC) refers to the surprisingly rapid and dramatic shifts in regional and global climate that have occurred numerous times during Earth’s history, but which have only been well documented and appreciated by the scientific community over the past several decades.  Although the phenomenon of ACC is well established scientifically, is not widely understood by policy makers, planners, or the general public.  The A2C2 IGERT therefore features a novel training program that emphasizes equal participation by the natural and social sciences and fosters enhanced understanding of the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems in response to ACC.

The primary goal of the A2C2 IGERT is to train a new generation of scientists who possess the skills and attitudes needed to meaningfully address the environmental and social challenges of ACC.  In addition to conducting collaborative interdisciplinary research, A2C2 students will participate in policy and management internships with international groupsJoint-2-309x400, federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private corporations.  In so doing, they will become experts and leaders in their fields, understanding the dynamic relationship between the environment and the security of humans in response to ACC, says Dr. Jasmine Saros, associate director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and the principal investigator on the project. The program is also designed to train leaders and experts who will make significant professional contributions in facilitating a paradigm shift in the way that policy makers and managers conceptualize climate change, so that the threats and opportunities associated with rapid shifts in regional and global climate are explicitly acknowledged in societal planning.  In other words, we hope our students will ultimately persuade planners and managers to rethink their assumptions about how Earth’s climate has functioned in the past, and to reexamine their ideas about how this surprisingly temperamental system might respond to current and future levels of human influence and disruption.

The A2C2 IGERT also hopes to challenge the commonly held view that the past 11,000 years –during which human civilization arose – has been a period of remarkable climate stability.  In light of the best and most contemporary scientific evidence that we possess, this notion of global climate stability during the rise of civilization appears to be deeply flawed, since we now know that numerous ACC events occurred during this time.  Although these events were certainly milder than those that occurred in the more distant past, they were nonetheless quite dramatic by modern standards and were more than adequate to severely disrupt a variety of civilizations and ecosystems by way of extreme and prolonged drought, dramatic sea ice expansion, increased storminess, and increased frequency and magnitude of freezes. We also know that numerous societies failed catastrophically during these events.  We believe that the lessons learned from investigations into these events are of clear value to contemporary societies, since rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will likely create the persistent, looming threat of abrupt and highly disruptive climate shifts in our future.

The good news, of course, is that although many societies collapsed during periods of abrupt climate change, many others found ways to flourish.  We should therefore resist the temptation to view ACC events in an apocalyptic light; although they present significant challenges to societal well-being, they also present a wide variety of opportunities for societies that can find ways to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.

UMaine is very excited to have received this IGERT award, the third in our university’s history. The IGERT program is now the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary graduate training program, and is well aligned with the ACUPCC’s goal of curricular transformation.  IGERT strives to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, by facilitating greater diversity in student participation and preparation, and by contributing to the development of a globally-engaged science and engineering workforce. Since its inception in 1998, the IGERT program has made 215 awards to over 100 leading universities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. IGERT has provided funding for nearly 5,000 graduate students.

To learn more about the A2C2 IGERT at UMaine, please visit our program website or contact Misa Saros, A2C2 IGERT Program Coordinator, at misa.saros@umit.maine.edu.  General inquiries can also be sent to a2c2igert@umit.maine.edu.

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By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature

The last few months of 2011 were full of important sustainability news and events relevant to Second Nature’s work and the ACUPCC.

Dr. Mary Fifield, President, Bunker Hill Community College

The ACUPCC Regional Collaborative Symposium, hosted by Bunker Hill Community College in November, was a big hit with very positive feedback from the evaluations from the participants.  One of the highlights was a panel of presidents including Paul Ferguson (University of Maine System), Mary Fifield (Bunker Hill Community College), Gloria Larson (Bentley College) and Jonathan Lash (Hampshire College). A summary of the symposium by Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate at Second Nature can be found here.

Furthermore, Second Nature released a white paper on the role of higher education in addressing adaptation, or ‘climate preparedness’ to unavoidable climate disruption which will occur because of our inability to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the last 20 years.  It was developed under the guidance of Professor Jim Buizer (University of Arizona, IPCC member and Second Nature Board Member) with some of the best adaptation experts in the country.

"Women swim through contaminated water in the low-lying Asian country of Bangladesh." (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace UK)

Despite what the public is hearing about climate change and the dismal international results at the Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa in December the science is saying that the problem is growing at an unprecedented and scary rate and the tipping points are appearing much sooner and are much more worrisome than when the IPCC came out with its big report in 2007.  The impacts, already being felt around the world and in the US, will be greatest on the poorest people and people of color. The important report released by the International Energy Agency in November underscores the urgency of the challenge – 5 years to make significant changes to reduce emissions.

Although initiatives like the ACUPCC are growing in recognition and success, national and international progress has fallen short. This short video says it all.  Anjali Appadurai, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa the conference on behalf of youth delegates.  Her words spark the powerful feelings of impatience felt by the youth of the world, and those in developing countries who are in desperate need of funding for adaptation against the already damaging impacts of climate change.

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The University of Maine receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award for Climate Leadership. Award recipients were recognized at the 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Summit in Washington, DC on June 23rd, hosted by George Washington University.

President Robert Kennedy, Vice President for Administration and Finance Janet Waldron, and Executive Director of Facilities and Planning Elaine Clark – along with faculty, staff, and students – are all active participants in the University of Maine Sustainability Alliance, which has been responsible for the development of the university’s climate action plan. The office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance also coordinated the creation of the award-winning and sustainability-focused campus master plan. UMaine’s senior administration is currently working to harmonize the implementation of these two plans and to create an overarching sustainability plan to guide university decision-making and development.

UMaine is proud of several new graduate programs that will provide its students with exceptional opportunities to become environmental leaders. These include the Sustainability MBA and an M.S. degree (and undergraduate minor) in Renewable Energy and the Environment which will take advantage of the tremendous Offshore-Wind Laboratory that will be completed later this year. The University also offers an M.A. in Global Policy, with a concentration in International Environmental Policy. UMaine is confident that these programs (along with its Student Innovation Center) will create a dynamic community of learners focused on renewable energy, sustainability, and innovation.

During 2009-2010, UMaine received nearly $50 million in external funding to support sustainability-related research. In addition to creating solutions to environmental problems in Maine (Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative), UMaine researchers are working to deepen the understanding of climate change (UMaine’s Climate Change Institute), and to develop new technologies that will catalyze significant change in the renewable energy industry (UMaine’s Offshore Wind Laboratory and Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative).

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The latest issue of DownEast Magazine includes a great article called An Education in Green Living about education for sustainability efforts going on at Maine’s colleges and universities.

The article notes that fifteen Maine institutions have signed the ACUPCC – that’s about half of all of Maine’s the colleges and universities, and they represent about 75% of the students in the state.

The following schools are highlighted in the article (listed here with links to their pages on the ACUPCC reporting system): Unity College, College of the Atlantic, Bowdoin College, University of Maine, University of Maine at Presque Isle, Colby College, and the University of Southern Maine.

The article highlights Unity’s solar road trip, UM Presque Isle’s wind turbine, Bowdoin’s LEED certified hockey rink, UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, COA’s Sustainable Business Program, and many other exciting initiatives going on in the State.  Read the full article here.

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