Letter to the editor: University of Iowa community, join the climate strike on Friday

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South East Junior High students hold a sign reading “Solar Schools” during the Iowa City Student Climate Strike, Friday, April 26, 2019. — Jason Smith/Little Village

By Massimo Paciotto-Biggers and Alex Howe, Iowa City

On Friday, Sept. 20, millions of youth around the world will lead schools, towns and countries in a global strike for climate action.

As Iowa City high school students, we invite you to join our town’s movement for climate action, and unite the University of Iowa with Iowa City’s new commitment to dramatically cut CO2 emissions, commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and immediately end the burning of deadly coal in the campus power plant.

It’s time for the University of Iowa to work with the city of Iowa City on the most pressing issue for our generation: the climate emergency.

This summer, UI students joined other Big Ten schools in declaring a climate emergency. That was great. Now it’s time for President Harreld and the university to make good on that promise.

As we all know, the International Panel on Climate Change released a report last year, setting a 12-year timeline for dramatic carbon reductions, in order for our generation to live on an inhabitable planet. That means we must all act now.

While some efforts on energy efficiency and recycling have been made, the UI still burns coal and has doubled the burning of natural gas in its power plant. It still relies on MidAmerican for electricity, nearly half of which is fossil fuels. The university also sprays toxic pesticides on campus grounds, runs diesel-fuel buses, and still lags behind other campuses for local food and most sustainability measures.

Many universities around the country are going carbon neutral. Most schools are already coal-free. It’s time for the University of Iowa to catch up. We urge you to join the Global Climate Strike to move in this direction.

Students can make a difference. Last spring, we joined with middle and high school students from around the world in the global climate strikes. For 12 straight weeks, we refused to go to school on Friday afternoons and organized a strike at the Iowa City Community School District building and at the City Hall in Iowa City. We held teach-ins, marches, and informational meetings. We testified at school board and city council hearings multiple times.

Our demands were clear: No more excuses, Iowa City — it’s time for our administrators and political leaders to step up and recognize the unfolding climate emergency, commit to the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) criteria for carbon reductions and launch a a real climate plan.

This summer, both the ICCSD school board and the city council of Iowa City committed to new climate plans that fall in line with the IPCC.

But to realize these plans, Iowa City needs the University of Iowa to commit to a climate accord that ends the burning of coal and natural gas in your power plant, and commits to 100 percent renewable energy and ambitious sustainability measures.

We hope you take up this challenge for our generation with President Harreld, and help us unite the University of Iowa with Iowa City’s climate plan.

See you Sept. 20 — from City Hall to the Pentacrest.

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