UC system welcomes collaboration with Biden administration on climate change action

Photo of Joe Biden signing a bill
The White House/Courtesy
According to UC Berkeley professor of international sustainable development Maximilian Auffhammer, a partnership between the UC system and the federal government to combat climate change could lead to more effective policies. Auffhammer emphasized his hopes for the research funding to go toward researching how human systems could be impacted by climate change. (Photo by Adam Schultz under CC BY 2.0 .)

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With a new presidential administration in place, the UC system is now welcoming further collaboration with the federal government to take action against climate change.

According to a press release from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, released Monday, UC President Michael Drake has prioritized climate action in the past, but the system now anticipates partnering with President Joe Biden’s administration in combating the issue.

UC Berkeley professor of international sustainable development Maximilian Auffhammer, whose research focuses on environmental economics, said this partnership could lead to smarter policies and closer communication between Biden’s administration and climate change experts. He added it could also result in significant climate change research and development funding, leading to more projects for faculty members and students.

“I think California’s public universities have tens of thousands of brilliant faculty, hundreds of thousands of brilliant students,” Auffhammer said. “If you count the national lab system, it is hard to think of a group of universities that has a deeper bench than what we have here, especially on climate change.”

According to Auffhammer, though the majority of research funding goes into looking at the physical climate, very little goes toward researching the impacts climate change could have on aspects such as human systems and biodiversity. To Auffhammer, studying these could lead to researchers finding the right actions to resolve climate issues.

The UC system is currently working towards a goal of achieving 100% clean electricity and carbon neutrality by 2025, according to the press release. These, among other efforts, have resulted in the university collectively lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% since 2013.

“If this partnership does both force the UC to go to 100% clean energy faster and motivates the federal government to work on it a little bit faster, that would be really useful,” said Nikita Chigullapally, coordinator of the 100% renewable energy campaign at the UC Berkeley chapter of CalPIRG.

This is especially important because experts have said the world may never be able to reverse the effects of climate change if people do not act now, Chigullapally noted.

She added the partnership shows the Biden administration taking action, which in turn sets an example for the rest of the world and could result in more discovery and innovation.

“The challenges we face are daunting, but at UC we know what collective determination and dedication can accomplish in the battle against climate change,” Drake said in the press release. “I look forward to a new era of partnership with the Biden administration as together we confront the global threat of climate change while seeking new opportunities.”

Natalie Lu is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @natalie_c_lu.