A Climate of Change

February begins under less stormy conditions than the torrential rain that pummeled L.A. and other cities across California in January, causing mudslides, flooding, and road closures. But with extreme weather events more likely with human-induced climate change, the forecast ahead isn’t sunny. Recognizing this climate crisis, UCLA is reducing emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy and developing a pathway to decarbonization.

When carbon emissions run amok, it leads to extreme weather events worsening. Rising emissions are associated with changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that large storms, like the ones that hit across our state, are expected to worsen in frequency, intensity, and impact with human-induced climate change. With this critical challenge affecting California today—and the potential to further cause damage, with the worst impacts felt by our most vulnerable communities—UCLA is taking action.

While UCLA’s base of operations has grown, adding millions of square feet to the campus footprint, the equivalent of thousands of houses, there has not been a parallel increase in greenhouse gas emissions. By using less energy and renewable sources, combined with other efforts, including greening the campus fleet, UCLA lowered its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels almost a decade ago in 2014, achieving this goal set for 2020 six years ahead of schedule.

The climate section of UCLA’s Sustainability Plan delves into decarbonization efforts on campus in the area of energy, from solar panels on campus to a major Renewable Rate agreement with our utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Energy conservation is crucial for reaching carbon neutrality and a very effective way to achieve carbon reductions.

An example climate project setting UCLA on the path to a clean energy future is Facilities Management’s Smart Buildings & Labs Program. The program was created to improve energy conservation in campus spaces. Retrofitting light fixtures with LEDs that require less energy to operate than incandescent, fluorescent, and other types of lighting is one way this initiative is expanding energy efficiency. Other program efforts include modifying outdoor air to meet the temperature and humidity requirements of indoor environments to reduce energy use, and in laboratories, one of the highest energy use spaces on campus, replacing older, less efficient equipment with newer models.

The UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge tries to set the tone through campus wide, interdisciplinary action that meets the needs of our external partners and surrounding communities in fair and equitable ways. For example, the initiative continues to coordinate researchers and LADWP to work toward equitable solutions to reach 100% renewable energy in Los Angeles, and it just recently launched its Transformative Research and Collaboration (TRACtion) programming. The first two years will focus on Transportation, in partnership with the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, marshalling a roadmap forward for the region by the effort’s conclusion.

Bruins looking for bright ideas to save energy can start here. Other energy-saving tips include switching to energy-efficient appliances and unplugging devices you aren’t using. Using less hot water also reduces energy consumption.

Students, faculty, and staff can also aid in energy conservation on campus by alerting Facilities Management to any issues they spot. These could be flickering lights indoors or outdoor lights on during the day, leaking water fixtures, and rooms in campus buildings that are too hot or cold. All Bruins can report issues using the UCLA 311 Mobile App or by filling out a Facilities Service Request online.

Starting this year, in collaboration with other UC campuses and with funding support from the state, UCLA will undertake a major decarbonization study and address climate resilience through a UC-wide justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion-centered resilience planning project. Stay tuned for opportunities to provide feedback on these efforts and weigh in on updates to the climate section of the UC-wide Sustainable Practices Policy. And if you’d like to join us in engaging in sustainability, drop an email to sustainability@ucla.edu.