Nearly 200 CSU faculty sign pledge to act on climate

Julia Rentsch

Nearly 200 Colorado State University faculty members have added their names to a statement pledging to act on climate change — and more are signing on nearly every day.

The brief statement, only about 250 words in total, states in part: “We are part of the overwhelming consensus that has provided the scientific evidence for and affirms the seriousness of human-caused climate change. We stand for scientific research, reasoned inquiry, and verifiable facts.”

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Two CSU professors were inspired to create the pledge just before Christmas after seeing a similar statement made by faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder as well as hearing news that the Fort Collins government was on the verge of signing a letter to President Donald Trump in support of climate action.

Nearly 70 mayors of cities across the U.S. have signed the Letter from Climate Mayors addressed to President Trump, which emphasizes the importance of addressing climate change. Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell became a signatory Jan. 3 after City Council unanimously voted to join.

But, the mayor was initially hesitant to sign due to a recommendation against it from the council’s Legislative Review Committee in December, the Coloradoan reported. Troxell said he preferred to focus on what action Fort Collins was taking alone to reduce its environmental footprint.

After hearing of the mayor’s deliberation on the issue, Michelle Betsill, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, and Julia Klein, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Sciences and Sustainability, said they saw a need to make the consensus among CSU faculty on the issue of human-caused climate change clearly articulated and more visible to the public.

“It just sort of struck me that there was this really big disconnect between what was going on here at the University and some of the decision-making within our own community,” Klein said.

CSU professors from a variety of colleges and departments, both science-focused and not, quickly accepted the idea. When Klein and Betsill presented the letter to City Council at the regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 3, Betsill said the pledge had around 70 signatures.

“This was a few days before Christmas,” Betsill said. “Nobody was around but people — I think we hit on something. There were a lot of people who were like, ‘Yes, we need to do this.’”

Klein said that creating the pledge was an opportunity for CSU faculty to help city decision-makers by contributing their expertise.

“I think increasingly, as a scientist, you want your research to be socially relevant, you know, getting out of that ivory tower,” Klein said. “So we all want to be able to make that connection and conduct science that is in service of society and useful to our stakeholders both within the city and around the world … I think (council members) really appreciated that we could lend them our expertise and help contribute to their process.”

The pledge has not, however, landed in the inboxes of all members of CSU faculty. Klein said they have been told that they cannot use the email list of all CSU faculty until the pledge gets approved by the university Faculty Council.

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CSU’s public relations-run news site, SOURCE, has also declined to publish news about it, citing concerns over the pledge’s political nature.

According to Mike Hooker, CSU’s executive director of public affairs and communications, public relations staff do not post about petitions, pledges or other documents looking for signatures except in cases where university policy is impacted.

In an email to the Collegian, Hooker wrote that the political nature of the pledge is articulated on the School of Global Environmental Sustainability’s website.

In part, this reads that the letter is addressed to “to the President-elect, the President-elect’s campaign vow to ‘cancel’ the Paris climate agreement, and his subsequent nomination of several high-level Cabinet appointments who question the science of climate change.”

Betsill and Klein said that the pledge shows consensus between experts, all of whom conduct scholarship that plays into different aspects of assessing the vulnerabilities caused by climate change, in addition to the solutions to it.

“So, it’s not just about the science of climate change, it’s really about people’s values and environmental justice and ethics, and it really does hit all of the disciplines that we offer at CSU,” Klein said.

Collegian Editor-in-Chief Julia Rentsch can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @julia_rentsch.