Dear President Coleman,
I’m writing on behalf of the newly formed student organization, Students for Clean Energy. We’re committed in our resolve to see the University of Michigan begin the transition from coal and natural gas to cleaner sources of energy. We believe the University’s current Climate Goal for 2025 — a 25-percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — is inadequate. In the scope of the University’s Sustainability Initiative, which we praise you for undertaking, we would like to see a commitment that upholds the very maxim for what is sustainable. Having no publicly-stated plan to end reliance on coal and natural gas is the reason for our concern.
This past Friday, renowned author, journalist and leading environmentalist Bill McKibben spoke on campus. His presented “350: The Most Important Number in the World.” The presentation’s title refers to the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This number is widely agreed upon by the world’s leading climate scientists as the maximum allowable level necessary to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. Currently, the atmosphere holds close to 397 parts per million of carbon dioxide. It will take a concerted global effort to decrease carbon emissions, and the University of Michigan must do its part. After all, we are the “leaders and best.”
We cannot afford to continue our reliance on coal and natural gas at the University of Michigan. Sustainability is a global paradigm and our local actions reverberate across the globe. According to the Clean Air Task Force, fine particulate matter found in coal pollution is responsible for more than 13,000 annual deaths in the United States alone. The University of Michigan purchases a substantial amount of coal power from Detroit Edison each year. A sustainable University should not be linked to this energy source with its grave public health consequences.
Please consider our message. A sustainable University of Michigan must strive for 100% clean energy.
Christopher Takahashi is the president of Students for Clean Energy.