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Green Teams Program Resources - Energy & Climate Change


Energy use is the largest driver of Penn State’s greenhouse gas emissions and it costs over $20 million annually to provide heat, air conditioning, electricity and hot water to our buildings and fuel for our vehicle fleet that make our daily work possible and comfortable. The University has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent since 2005 through energy efficiency, installing equipment for Combined Heat and Power, awareness programs, investment in renewable energy and switching to more fuel efficient vehicles.

Penn State's Physical Plant works consistently to improve buildings' efficiency and welcome the actions that our faculty, staff, students and visitors can take to avoid energy use. The resources below can help you and your peers understand the impact that energy use has on climate change, both in our individual decisions, as well as with large scale operations. It would be best to view these resources in the order in which they are presented as the early ones give a broad overview of energy, alternatives to fossil fuel use, the relationship of energy use to climate change, and information about daily changes or practices that can be applied in your own life to reduce energy use.


Many people think that climate change and global warming are interchangeable but in reality they are not. Global warming references a temperature change over an extended period of time. Most commonly, people associate global warming with the average 2° F increase since 1880. 

When thinking about climate change it is important to remember that it includes a broad range of changes occuring throughout the world and right here in Pennsylvania. These include metrics that are not as readily visible for some people, depending on where you live or your knowledge of natural resources. Some of these include rising sea levels, melting mountain glaciers, melting ice capsules and shifts in agricultural prosperity patterns. These natural occurrences rely on specific global temperatures to be intact and without them, the natural occurrences are forced to alter. 

Pennsylvania is the fourth largest carbon dioxide emitting state in the nation with more than 37% from the electric power sector, 28% from transportation and 21% from the industrial sector. The residential and commercial groups produce the remainder. The impacts of climate change on our state are visible and predicted to expand. From worsening air quality, warmer temperatures, expanded flood damage and agricultural losses to the growth of vector-borne diseases, such a Lyme Disease. According the the PA Department of Environmental Protection which is required to assess potential impacts, our counties are expected to get warmer and wetter, with “ average rainfall and extreme precipitation continuing to increase 8 to 12 percent, particularly in winter and spring, while average temperature rises at least 2.7° F.” (DEP 2020 Climate Change Impact Assessment) These impacts disproportionately impact low-income and minority residents of our state, from the effects of pollution and extreme heat on health to displacement from severe weather conditions. Existing social and income inequalities are exacerbated by climate change.

There are solutions and actions that each person can take. The global Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint with targets to address the social, economic and environmental challenges presently facing humanity and to build more equitable, just, and healthy communities.  Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse Global Warming and suggests seven main areas in which the human population can target to reverse global climate change. These main seven areas are energy, food, women and girls, buildings and cities, land use, transport and materials. Below are descriptions of some of these sectors that most directly relate to us as individuals and how alterations in our practices with them can play a role in climate change and global warming. Following the descriptions you can find some resources to help you further grasp these bold concepts as well as allow you to see how you as an individual can fit into solutions.






Energy Resources by Type


Earth: The Operators' Manual

An operator’s manual helps keep your car or computer running at peak performance. Earth science can do the same for the planet. To illustrate the evidence and the way forward, host Richard Alley takes viewers on a High-Definition trip around the globe, from New Zealand to New Orleans, telling the story of Earth’s climate history and our relationship with fossil fuels.

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