September 30, 2019

Sustainability council discusses climate change on campus

university of louisville

By Byron Hoskinson —

The University of Louisville’s Sustainability Council hosted members of the city government as they spoke about the local-level effects of climate change and potential solutions for those challenges in the Ekstrom Library Sept. 26.

“This is an overwhelming issue when we look at the impacts. But it is absolutely something we can work together to change,” said Cara Pike, executive director of climate access.  

As part of the metro government’s Prepare Louisville initiative, officers of the advanced planning and sustainability office held a forum and workshop to raise awareness about these impacts and strategies to reduce effects in Louisville. Their goal is to increase the city’s resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. 

Pike said that while Louisvillians should be prepared to deal with the effects of rising average temperatures and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, community-wide efforts to reduce carbon emissions could substantially mitigate its impacts.  

The impacts of rising temperatures may be the most immediate to human health, especially within cities, according to data from the office’s presentation. Temperatures in major urban areas have stayed approximately 1.5 °F hotter than their surrounding rural areas over the last 50 years.  

According to the sustainability office’s Louisville Urban Heat Management Study, “Global and regional temperature projections find that intense heat waves will be far more common in the coming years. By the end of the century, researchers project 150,000 additional heat-related deaths among the 40 largest US cities, including Louisville.”  

In 2019, there have been 72 days above 90 °F so far, according to data from the NWS. 2019 has the 5th most above-90 °F days for any year since 1872, and the year isn’t over. 

Pike said rising temperatures will also lead to increased electrical outages, which can be particularly devastating to medically-sensitive communities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and childcare centers.  

Lauren Heberle, director of the center for environmental policy and management, said that we need to be particularly conscious of vulnerable communities when discussing the ramifications of these impacts. She pointed out that the negative impacts of poor air quality are disproportionately borne by children, who may face lifelong conditions as a consequence of constant exposure to unclean air in their developmental years.  

The event also sought to generate solutions from a diverse cross-section of the public.  

“We have to embrace intersectionality. A lot of ideas come from different places,” Pike said. “While we don’t need to reinvent the wheel in Louisville, we can draw ideas and inspiration from other cities, other places.”  

Students and residents can submit their concerns and ideas about local sustainability issues to the Prepare Louisville online survey, available on their website.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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