The Effect of Temperature on U.S. Sustainability Policies: Economics or Politics?

By Megan Topham and James Howard Johnson.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study analyzes the effect that temperature intensity versus political environment has on higher education institutions’ tendency to implement sustainability policies, conduct a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, commit to a measurable reduction in GHG emissions, and realize actual reductions. The data used in this article comes from responses to four questions in the “College Sustainability Report Card 2010” selected to illustrate the differences between policy making and actions taken by colleges and universities in regard to their GHG emissions. All surveyed U.S. schools responding Yes or No to any of the four questions were included; Canadian schools in the survey were excluded. The authors recalculated heating and cooling degree days using the methodology described in the Report Card survey instructions because the respondent-supplied data appeared faulty. Asking respondents to supply this data was a flaw in the Report Card methodology.

The results of our analysis indicate that schools with a sustainability policy and GHG emissions inventory tend to be located in areas with a milder climate, whereas schools that have committed to and realized GHG emissions reductions tend to be located in harsher climates, implying that the economic benefits of reducing GHG emissions is a motivating factor. The analysis is limited because the Report Card is not representative of all academic institutions in the U.S., and the reliability of the self-reported data is questionable. Further study might expand this dataset to include all U.S. higher education institutions. Our study does not take into account any energy cost data which may provide a more solid foundation for understanding the link between temperature intensity, sustainability policies, and the GHG emission reduction plans of colleges and universities.

Keywords: University Assessments, Sustainability, Environmental Policies, Climate

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.335-346. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 772.487KB).

Megan Topham

Director of Operations/Graduate Academic Advisor, Fort Worth Center, The University of Texas at Arlington, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Megan Topham is the Director of Operations for the University of Texas Systems’ UT Arlington Fort Worth Higher Education Center and is the Graduate Advisor/Faculty for the MS sustainability program. She managed and coordinated the renovation of the historic Santa Fe Freight Station, home of the UTA/Fort Worth Center. Extensive efforts were made to maintain the historical nature of the building while incorporating sustainable features that minimized energy consumption and noise pollution. The entire historic building was repurposed for higher education with the support and cooperation of two historic commissions. She has extensive experience in the implementation and management of university sustainability practices and programs; and was appointed by the President of the University to chair two prominent sub-committees of the University Sustainability Committee. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Information Systems from the University of Texas at Arlington. Additionally she is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning and Public Policy with a specialization in sustainability.

James Howard Johnson

Director of Downtown Development/TIF District, The University of Texas at Arlington, Fort Worth, TX, USA

Jim Johnson is a graduate of Texas Christian University and holds masters degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (Latin American Studies) and University of Texas at Arlington (Real Estate). He serves as development director for a non-profit downtown advocacy organization. He has served on various boards in the City of Fort Worth, Texas, advising the city on parks, zoning and development design standards. He currently serves as Board Chair of Samaritan House, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support services to persons with HIV/AIDS. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Public Policy with an emphasis on Sustainability at UTA.


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