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ASU joins UC3 coalition to tackle climate change issues

February 6, 2018

13 leading universities will work to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future

Arizona State University is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities that will help communities achieve their climate goals and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future.

The group, called the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, includes distinguished universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico. The universities have committed to mobilizing their resources and expertise to help businesses, cities and states achieve their climate goals.

Formation of UC3 was announced today at the Second Nature 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, being held in Tempe.

Original members of UC3 are: ASU; California Institute of Technology; Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey; La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; The Ohio State University; The State University of New York (SUNY) system; The University of British Columbia; The University of California system; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Maryland, College Park; The University of New Mexico; The University of Toronto; and The University of Washington.

Among initial specific UC3 goals are:

Cross-sector forums: Every UC3 institution will convene a climate change forum in 2018 to bring together community and business leaders, elected officials and advocates. Forums will be tailored to meet local and regional objectives focusing on research-driven policies and solutions to assist various communities.

Coalition climate mitigation and adaptation report: A coalition-wide report, to be released in late 2018, will synthesize the best practices, policies and recommendations from all UC3 forums into a framework for continued progress on climate change goals across the nation and the world.

All UC3 members have already pledged to reduce their institutional carbon footprints, with commitments ranging from making more climate-friendly investments to becoming operationally carbon neutral in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Under2MOU for subnational climate leaders. 

“While college and university campuses across the country are, in aggregate, responsible for only about 3 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the U.S., we are educating 100 percent of our future political, business and social leaders,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “This fact alone places significant accountability on higher education and its leaders to take action.” 

UC3 was formed at the request of the University of California system and its president, Janet Napolitano. 

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Former Arizona governor and current University of California President Janet Napolitano raises a few issues her schools face at the announcement of the creation of UC3.

“The University of California system is thrilled to partner with this group of preeminent research universities on an issue that has long been a major strategic priority for all of our institutions,” Napolitano said. “No one is better positioned than we are to scale up research-based climate solutions.”

Harnessing the unique resources and convening power of member institutions, the coalition will work to inform and galvanize local, regional and national action on climate change. Coalition members will bring to these efforts a critical body of expertise in areas including advanced climate modeling, energy storage systems, next generation solar cells and devices, energy-efficiency technologies, biofuels, smart grids, regulatory and policy approaches, etc.

“The research university has played an important role in creating new knowledge, convening thought leadership, and serving as long-term community members,” said Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature. “By applying these strengths to locally relevant climate challenges, we see transformative potential for accelerating climate solutions in these locations in a way that couldn’t happen if the institutions and sectors continued to act on their own.”

Crow added Arizona State, which established the first freestanding School of Sustainability in the U.S. in 2006 and had the first degree program, has several other projects that focus on dealing with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and limiting future emissions.

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ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the announcement of the creation of University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, at the start of the closing plenary at the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit at the DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix-Tempe, on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

These efforts include:

• ASU is working to reach its commitments to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from building energy sources by 2025, and from all sources by 2035. Between 2007 and 2017, ASU reduced emissions per on-campus student by 46 percent.

• ASU has one of the largest university solar installations in the U.S., with 88 solar installations — more than 82,000 photovoltaic panels — that generate 24.1 MWdc, which, combined with ASU’s off-site solar fulfills 30 percent of ASU’s electricity needs.

• ASU has a power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service at the Red Rock Solar Plant near Picacho Peak, Arizona. The agreement allows ASU to secure solar power from the plant during a 20-year span and adds approximately 29 MWdc to ASU’s solar generating supply. 

• ASU researchers, led by Klaus Lackner in the ASU Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, are developing a device that removes carbon dioxide from the air for re-use or sequestration.

• The Center for Carbon Removal, in partnership with ASU and several other research institutions, launched a new industrial innovation initiative to develop solutions that transform waste carbon dioxide in the air into valuable products and services. The Initiative for a New Carbon Economy is focusing on rethinking the climate challenge as a new economic opportunity, and figuring out how to reuse carbon in real, valuable and lasting ways.

• ASU researchers have developed a software system called Hestia that can estimate greenhouse gas emissions across entire urban landscapes, down to roads and individual buildings. The software provides high resolution maps identifying CO2 emission sources in a way that policymakers can utilize and the public can understand. Hestia can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring.

Top photo courtesy pixabay.com

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It's 'the life of the mind' for ASU professor

ASU prof Tirosh-Samuelson was an early advocate of social embeddedness
Can't understand history of the West without Judaism, says ASU prof.
February 6, 2018

Passion, outstanding achievements in Jewish intellectual history earn Hava Tirosh-Samuelson Regents' Professor honor

It might sound contrived, given her area of expertise, but to ASU Jewish studies Director Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, a career in academia is like a secular version of a religious commitment.

And when students approach her with the idea of applying for graduate work in history, she tells them so.

“I say, well, you have to think about going into it like going into a convent, or going into a monastery,” Tirosh-Samuelson said. “It’s a life commitment. It’s not something you can do cavalierly.”

To be sure, no one could accuse her of such a transgression. For more than four decades, Tirosh-Samuelson has happily lived what she calls “the life of the mind,” and it is every bit as sacred to her today as it was when she began it.

“There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than discovery, understanding and insight. The feeling that comes with deep understanding, when you say, ‘Wow, I really understand it, I really see something that I didn’t see before,’ gives deep satisfaction,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, and that passion has not abated. Actually, it is probably stronger now than before.”

That passion, along with her outstanding achievements in her field of expertise, Jewish intellectual history, were recognized when Tirosh-Samuelson was named as a Regents’ Professor by the Arizona Board of Regents in November.

Born and raised in Israel, she knew from a young age that she was destined to be an intellectual. Though she showed promise in other areas, such as athletics, music and dance, she always found herself drawn back to books, words and ideas.

After high school, Tirosh-Samuelson spent three years in the Israeli army, as is customary for all citizens of the country, and had her first brush with the joys of teaching while training officers. Soon after the army service, her appetite for scholarly pursuits brought her to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she did as she advises her students now and committed herself fully to a life in academia when she chose to pursue a doctoral degree.

Her dissertationon an Italian Jewish philosopher and mystic from the early 16th century opened her eyes to the importance of interdisciplinarity. In it, she argued that philosophy and mysticism should not be seen as diametrically opposed, but rather, as complimentary and cross-fertilizing one another.

She brought that idea with her when she came to the U.S. in 1977 and taught first in the history department at Columbia University and later in the departments of religious studies at Emory University and Indiana University.

“My PhD was in philosophy rather than history or religious studies,” Tirosh-Samuelson said. “So from the very beginning of my academic career, I realized that intellectual growth means you don’t say no to a new topic, or a new discipline, or a new way of looking at things.”

She also didn’t say no to sharing knowledge with the public. In 1998, one year before she came to ASU, Tirosh-Samuelson delivered a keynote speech at the annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies in which she advocated for civic engagement of Jewish studies scholars.

“[Being a scholar] isn’t just about thinking in the privacy of your office,” she said, because “intellectual life impacts culture. What we think has social ramifications. So scholars have an obligation to be involved in the community outside the academy, to teach outside the classroom as well.”

At the time, it wasn’t a popular opinion, and she received a lot of criticism from detractors who believed that civic engagement threatened scholarly objectivity. Perhaps it was fate, then, when Michael Crow joined ASU in 2002 and his vision of social embeddedness as a function of the university aligned so well with her own.

“I think my vision was vindicated,” she said, not only at ASU but in higher education in general. Back in 2012, the U.S. Department of Education made an appeal to colleges to make civic learning a priority, and several, including Cornell and Duke University, have since put forth initiatives to do so.

But ASU was definitely a trailblazer on that front, Tirosh-Samuelson noted, as it is on many others, something she feels has allowed her to do things she couldn’t have done elsewhere. Thanks to the university’s early adoption of cross-disciplinary inquiry, she was able to put together the first faculty seminar on science and religion in 2003, which still exists under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

Another area she foresees ASU taking the lead in over the next few years is environmental humanities. (The university’s new dean of humanities shares that sentiment.)

“It’s very exciting to be in a university that sets scientific, cultural and social trends,” Tirosh-Samuelson said. “We shape the conversation in many ways. ASU has superb faculty. The intellectual quality is very high here. And that’s true of the students, too.

“There is something very distinctive and unique about the spirits of ASU. I feel very proud and glad to be part of it.”

Over almost 20 years at ASU, she has honed her expertise in three main subject areas in addition to Jewish intellectual history: religion, science and technology; religion and ecology; and women and gender in philosophy. She has written widely on each topic from the perspective of an intellectual historian, exploring what they teach us about the meaning of being human.

Ten years ago Tirosh-Samuelson founded the Center for Jewish Studies at ASU, which serves as both a research operation, bringing together experts across disciplines, and an outreach operation, hosting guest lectures, exhibits, book and film talks and more.

“There is no town-gown division here,” she said of the center’s work. “My intellectual community is not just the ASU community, it’s the world community,” which she added is relevant to people in Arizona.

In 2012, Tirosh-Samuelson began work on what she characterizes as a legacy project: the “Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers,” a snapshot of Jewish thought in the second half of the 20th century. Each of the first 20 volumes focuses on a different Jewish philosopher. The final volume, which she is currently editing, serves as an overview of the entire library.

“I hope it will inspire others to continue to engage with the questions [the Jewish philosophers] have raised and help lift this conversation among both Jews and non-Jews,” she said.

“Jews and Judaism matter because you can’t understand the history of the West without them. So to study about Jews and Judaism is part and parcel of being an educated person and a concerned citizen. And it goes way beyond just knowing about the terrible things that happened to Jews in the Holocaust.”

This semester Tirosh-Samuelson is teaching an independent study course that allows her to have personalized, one-on-one discussions with her students. If past pupils’ experiences are any indication, it’s not an experience they’re soon likely to forget — Tirosh-Samuelson still receives letters and emails from students she taught as far back as her time at Columbia in the 1980s.

“My students always enrich me,” she said. “They always tell me something I don’t know, or bring up a perspective I haven’t thought about.”

And finding new ways of thinking is one of Tirosh-Samuelson’s favorite things.

“Ideas to me are exciting, they are intellectually beautiful and they keep me young,” she said. “I’m never bored. Never. Because there are always more books to read, more people to get to know, more ideas to think about, and more problems to address. … And I want to infect my students with that kind of desire for life-long learning.

“Being a college student is not about drudgery; it is not about just fulfilling some obligation to get a diploma. … Students don’t understand that the time they have in university is the most precious time they will have in life. So my advice to students is: Enjoy being here, love what you study and learn as much as you can.”