JMU's Commitment to Climate Science and Environmental Sustainability

dusk on east campus

In light of recent events regarding the Paris Climate Accords, some individuals have inquired about James Madison University’s stance with regard to issues of sustainability and climate change research.  The university’s commitment to science and evidence-based policy is unflinching. Our work in these substantive areas is strong and will continue. And the university takes its responsibility to advance science literacy as an essential part of engaged citizenship very seriously. 

First and foremost, climate change is a scientific issue, not a political one. The science is sound, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear, and the conclusions are supported by a strong consensus among climate scientists and experts. The impact of human activity on the pace of climate change is well supported scientifically and thus, ought to drive coordinated efforts by communities, industries and nations to mitigate impact and slow the rate of change. This is an issue in which the civic involvement of scientists is most powerfully exemplified: the scientific community has the singular ability to contribute valid scientific information to important discourse about our global future. The university will continue to do its part to participate actively and collaborate with other institutions and organizations in this important work.

We also believe that it is the civic duty of a public university to advance science literacy as essential to graduating educated and enlightened citizens who will lead meaningful and productive lives. Among the many ways JMU carries out this civic duty, here are but a few…

What’s more, Madison has an established Environmental Stewardship Action Plan, and signed the Talloires Declaration years ago along with 500 other universities in 50 countries committing themselves to environmental sustainability in higher education.

The university’s demonstrated awareness of our global responsibility to the environment has produced an impressive list of recognitions: from our inclusion in each of the Princeton Review guides to green collegessince 2010, and our STARS Silver rating (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) from the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) to the nation’s first renovated residence hall to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, there can be no doubt that others acknowledge that we take our responsibility to the environment seriously.

Of late, the university has been increasingly called upon to make public statements or sign petitions and pledges regarding the latest uproar garnering national headlines. Maybe it’s because our country seems to be more divided than ever politically. The university does not take sides in political disputes, as that does not advance the mission of the institution. In fact, it can further divide us.  The university’s mission and primary responsibility remains, instead, to foster and perpetuate a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives. For this reason, the university will focus its attention on developing statements and policies that reflect its educational mission, rather than joining petitions or pledges that other organizations might draft for their own purposes.    

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