A CLIMATE CRISIS CREATED BY HUMAN ACTIVITIES currently threatens the health of all lifeforms on the planet that we serve to protect. Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), principally carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) from energy production, transportation, industry, food production, waste, and landfills, are predicted with high confidence to continue to warm the planet. Consistent with that trend, each of the last four decades have been warmer than the previous one.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ONGOING CARBON EMISSIONS outlined in the Sixth Assessment Report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), include extreme weather events, ocean warming and acidification, the melting of sea ice, coastal flooding, megadroughts, degradation of ecosystem health and biodiversity, and the collapse of agricultural systems. These will fuel food insecurity and famine, mass displacements of people, and numerous public health threats.
THE CLIMATE CRISIS WILL DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACT PEOPLE, ANIMALS, AND THE ENVIRONMENTS of the Global South, especially Africa and the Middle East, despite their minimal contribution to carbon emissions. Climate change in these regions will impact Indigenous people, women and girls, historically marginalized, and lower-resourced populations. Within the U.S., the EPA predicts that human vulnerability will be highest among coastal communities, minority populations, people over 65, laborers and industries exposed to heat (e.g. farm laborers), and citizens without high school diplomas. As such, the climate crisis is a crisis of environmental justice.
VETERINARIANS, VETERINARY CLIENTS, AND ANIMALS will also be negatively impacted, including animal health, welfare and productivity, agricultural and food systems, veterinary practices and medical outcomes, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and the accelerated transmission of zoonotic disease.
THE SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA IS COMMITTED TO GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY based on the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Carbon emissions must be urgently reduced to achieve these goals, such as reducing poverty, with equitable outcome. The School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is committed to ensuring that our campus operations are 100% carbon emissions neutral by 2042 or sooner as expressed in the University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn) Climate and Sustainability Action Plan. Importantly, all technologies currently exist to stabilize global temperatures to < 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels; further, if current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Pledges are fulfilled, scientists have predicted that temperatures will stabilize to <2.0oC increase, protecting Earth from devastating consequences. The mitigation strategies needed by countries and organizations are summarized clearly by the IPCC’s Working Group 3; it is incumbent on us to understand how we can make our own contributions to lowering emissions over the next decade.
SCHOOL-LEVEL OPERATIONAL AND ACADEMIC GOALS WILL BE ESTABLISHED IN 2023 by a working group at Penn Vet under the guidance from Penn's Environmental Innovation Initiative and Penn's FRES Sustainability Group. We will first take stock of our current GHG emissions. Consideration will be given for emissions from energy sources, inefficiencies, medical supplies, transportation, food, waste and water management, and farming (livestock husbandry, fertilizer, etc.) practices. Our academic goals will include efforts to bolster research, education, and engagement with local community members, governmental agencies, and the business community to innovate new solutions and build awareness about the climate crisis in our region and beyond.
WE WILL BUILD OUR CLIMATE ACTION PLAN ON A SYSTEM OF ACCOUNTABILITY, in the spirit of NDCs. As modeled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), we will strive to maintain transparent tracking and communications, bolster ongoing learning and innovation, introduce incentives to reducing GHG, participate in advocacy, and provide regular updates to guidelines and practices to our communities.