In the fight against climate change, the term “net-zero emissions” is often used by government leaders and CEOs as they discuss ways to reduce their impact on climate change. But what does it mean? IUPUI’s Amrou Awaysheh, who leads the IU Business Stainability Lab, says “zero emissions” means emitting no greenhouse gases, but “net-zero emissions” gives these leaders a bit more wiggle room. He says it’s like balancing a checkbook, with the country or company cutting most of its emissions through efficiency and clean energy, and then offsetting the rest by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or eliminating emissions elsewhere. Companies can also claim net-zero emissions by taking advantage of buying carbon credits. Awaysheh says an example of this would be a US company who pays to protect forests in South America. That company could then subtract the trees’ negative emissions from its own emissions and say that its operations are “net-zero.” He says other carbon credits support sustainable development projects, such as installing wind or solar power in poorer countries. However, carbon credits, Awaysheh says, also draw criticism because they allows companies to continue generating greenhouse gases, which trap heat near Earth’s surface. When the concentration of greenhouse gases get too high, it fuels global warming. To keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the United Nations says the world needs to reach net-zero emissions by about 2050. While several countries, including the US, have pledged to meet this goal, a recent analysis by the UN found each country is falling so short that even if every pledge is met, temperatures will still rise about 2.7 degrees Celsius this century. Companies, Awaysheh says, are increasingly under pressure from governments, activists and their customers, as well as some powerful investors, to cut emissions. How can we tell if a company is taking its responsibility seriously? Awaysheh says a company that announces a net-zero target of 2030 can’t wait until 2029 to take action. There needs to be a consistent trajectory of improvements in energy efficiency and clean energy, and not just promises and carbon offsets, he says.
In other news, as teachers have returned to their classrooms this fall, some for the first time since the pandemic began, creating welcoming environments for students has been more important than ever. Determining where desks should go or class procedures and expectations are all important decisions that impact what happens in the classroom, says Indiana University Kokomo assistant professor Sarrah Grubb. She is helping School of Education students examine the research behind classroom management and the positive impacts of building classroom community. Teachers have a lot of power in shaping the classroom climate, Grubb says. By sharing with the students and developing relationships and partnerships, they can create an environment where students feel not only included, but experience true belonging in what goes on every day, which can motivate children to engage in learning, she says. Building community also provides room for differences (cultural, racial, ethnic, cognitive) to strengthen learning experiences. Grubb says in preparation for student teaching next year, her students are examining their own beliefs about what teachers should do and considering research and case studies to determine what they want to do in their own classrooms. New teachers need to think about why they believe what they do and whether those beliefs are best for students in this moment or if something else should be considered, she says. It is important for teachers to realize that they communicate at all times through their actions, arrangement of space, and procedures and expectations, Grubb says.