When it came to climate change in 2020, BU talked the talk. And it walked the walk.
In a year of devastating wildfires and hurricanes and unprecedented global temperatures, and as climate change increasingly threatened global health and well-being, Boston University’s School of Public Health emerged as a leading force for research, education, and impact on climate and health.
A growing number of students are pursuing careers in climate and health. And the world is increasingly demanding more expertise in those fields. It was amidst those developments that SPH launched a climate and health program focused on research, and started offering a Master of Science in Population Health Research: Climate and Health. The aim of the collective effort is to focus just as much on the health risks and dangers of continued climate change as on the benefits of aggressive climate action.
“Not just doom and gloom,” said Gregory Wellenius, professor of environmental health, who was recruited to BU from Brown University in 2020 to launch the climate and health program. “This is about think, teach, and do—we are really doubling down, focused on research, teaching, and action. We want to train the next generation. This is one of the biggest problems facing the future and we need a workforce trained to take on those challenges.”
Research from the new program has started. One new study looked at how many people die from extreme heat; another studied hurricanes and why they appear to trigger an increase in preterm births among women.
If the SPH work is walking the walk, BU is talking the talk with its own strategic plan.
The massive Center for Computing & Data Sciences under construction on Comm Ave will be the University’s first building completely free of reliance on fossil fuels.
Also, the BU Wind renewable energy project, a wind farm in South Dakota, went live in early December 2020, a huge component of the University’s Climate Action Plan, which has set the ambitious goal for BU to be carbon neutral by 2040. BU will buy wind power for 15 years and resell that power for use in the midwestern United States.
Jonathan Levy, chair of environmental health at SPH, called climate change “one of the key topics of our time.” He said, “BU needs to be engaged in this, and to practice what we preach. It’s an incredibly important direction for the school, the University, and the world. It’s an exciting time.”