Published September 15, 2022
Roll up your sleeves UB, your to-do-list is about to grow.
That message, delivered Wednesday by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Center for the Arts, centered on a key part of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act: fighting climate change.
It’s work for which UB, a flagship of SUNY, has a long and impressive resume. From helping to expose toxins buried at Love Canal to current efforts aimed at reducing carbon emissions and predicting sea level rise, UB is poised to play an ever greater role ensuring the nation’s path toward a more sustainable future.
“The work that is happening here,” Harris said of UB and the greater Buffalo area, “is very exciting and really a model for our country.”
Speaking in the atrium of the Center for the Arts before a crowd of roughly 150 students, faculty, staff and dignitaries, Harris extolled the virtues of the bill and its potential to quell the threats of wildfires, drought, flooding and other disasters through widescale adoption of electric vehicles, solar and wind energy, and other green technologies.
“Our administration has invested billions of dollars to boost clean energy production. That means building thousands of new wind turbines and massive solar farms like the one I’ve seen on this campus,” said Harris, who prior to her remarks toured The GRoW Clean Energy Center at UB and adjacent Solar Strand.
Such investments, Harris said, will “create millions of good-paying jobs. Jobs for STEM students, like those I met today who will design the next generation of clean energy technology.”
Harris also said that “poor communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of toxic air and water pollution” for generations and that bills like the Inflation Reduction Act must be grounded in environmental justice and equity to help reverse these trends.
The vice president also spoke directly to UB students in attendance and told them there is still much work to be done cutting emissions and protecting the planet for generations to come.
“This, students, is where you come in,” she said. “In your classrooms, in your communities, you are leading us forward. As a nation and as the world, we are counting on you.”
She noted the array of disciplines — chemical engineers creating more efficient solar panels, architects designing more sustainable communities, planet scientists studying sea level rise, epidemiologists studying public health — needed to stem the wide-ranging consequences of climate change.
“So, the next time you are up late studying in Capen library and President Biden and I tell you, as we will in many ways, that we’re counting on you, know that we stand with you, and we’re so proud of you, and so proud of what you are doing now and what you will continue to do.”
One of those students was Srikrithi “Sri” Krishnan, who introduced Harris at the event.
A first-generation American who grew up in Williamsville, Krishnan received bachelor’s degrees in public health and psychology from UB in May. She is now enrolled in UB’s MBA/MPH program — a decision she came to after witnessing environmental and health disparities on a visit to India.
“I am pursuing my goals in public health at a time when the climate crisis poses the most dangerous public health threat of all,” she said. “That’s why I’m so excited that the Biden/Harris administration is tackling the climate crisis head-on.”
President Satish K. Tripathi, who provided welcoming remarks, said the university was “deeply honored” to host Harris and have the opportunity to showcase how UB is working to “mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change.”
“From our disciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship on materials sciences, water systems, greenhouse gases, glacial ice sheets and food systems, to our vanguard academic degree programs in fields including sustainability leadership, to the significant progress we have made toward achieving carbon neutrality on campus by 2030, UB is a nationally and internationally recognized and ranked higher education leader in sustainability research and practice,” Tripathi said.
UB efforts to address climate change include establishing in 2014 the UB RENEW Institute, which includes some of the world’s foremost experts on sea level rise; materials scientists who are developing technologies to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from buildings, vehicles and other sources; and environmental scientists who are devising new strategies to monitor how air and water pollution affect the health of humans and wildlife.
UB is also a global leader in higher education for climate action. The university was ranked No. 1 in the world in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal pertaining to climate action, according to the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.
Moreover, the university’s climate action plan, called 10 in 10, has put UB on a path to achieving climate neutrality by 2030.
Also speaking at the event was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; Doreen M. Harris, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; and David Turk, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
“The University at Buffalo is a leader in sustainability and this is a fitting location to discuss the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Brown, who noted Buffalo is taking steps to ensure that it’s ready to be a climate refuge where people can avoid the worst effects of natural disasters.
Higgins said Buffalo is “very, very well positioned to disproportionately take advantage” of the Inflation Reduction Act. He added that UB is a “great institution that has a history of pushing out innovation.”
So exciting to have the vice president come to UB and commend our sustainability work!
Sharlynn K. Daun-Barnett