Pat Brown Award Keynote

July 18, 2017

President Janet Napolitano gave the keynote address at the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance, Pat Brown Award Dinner in Olympic Valley, CA, July 18, 2017. Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Thank you, Wally, for that wonderful introduction! And a big thank-you to the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance for the invitation to speak here tonight.
I am deeply honored to accept the Pat Brown Award on behalf of the University of California. It’s especially meaningful because the bond between Governor Pat Brown and the University goes way back.
It was Pat Brown, of course, who signed the California Master Plan for Higher Education into law in 1960. The Plan lays out the functions and responsibilities of each of California’s public higher education segments: the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges. At the time, the Governor called the Master plan, “the most significant step California has ever taken in planning for the education of our youth.” That Plan continues to guide our work to this day.
It was during Pat Brown’s eight years in office that the University of California also established three new campuses—UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Cruz—significantly increasing the University’s capacity to educate the next generations of Californians.
I’d like to think that Governor Pat Brown would be proud of the progress UC has made in the last 57 years.
We opened another campus in Merced in 2005—the first major American research university of the twenty-first century, and the first UC campus in the San Joaquin Valley.
We’re educating more California undergraduates than ever before, creating life-changing opportunity for tens of thousands of students each year.
UC faculty and researchers have won a total of 62 Nobel Prizes.
Across the University, groundbreaking research is conducted every day in almost every field imaginable.
And we are “going green,” in a big way.
I am thrilled that the ongoing efforts of our faculty, researchers, students, and staff to protect the environment are being recognized today through the Pat Brown Award.
We at UC have been focused on environmental sustainability for many years, at every level of the University. And it’s no coincidence that the work of California’s public research university is in sync with the goals and values of our state’s leadership. Another Governor Brown—Jerry Brown—is mightily resisting efforts to weaken environmental protections, and we stand with this Governor Brown in the fight to protect our planet from the consequences of climate change.
Our faculty members and researchers are helping the state, nation, and world to better understand climate change, and to combat its damaging effects. Their work is informing public policy and public discourse on this global threat. In 2015, UC unveiled a report on 10 scalable climate solutions that drew from the work of 50 UC faculty members and notable experts across multiple disciplines. The report has helped UC foster partnerships that will inform and influence climate policy and research priorities.
Meanwhile, our students have been some of the most outspoken advocates for climate solutions and policy changes. In fact, students at eight UC campuses have gone as far as charging themselves additional fees for Green Initiative Funds, which generate more than 1.5 million dollars in annual funding for student-led sustainability projects.
And our staff have embraced University programs to reduce food waste and energy use. In 2015, they participated in the Cool Campus Challenge, a friendly competition that encouraged participants to form teams and take personal actions to reduce the University’s carbon footprint—actions like unplugging electronic equipment when it’s not in use, or going paper-less at a work meeting.
This longstanding, University-wide commitment to sustainability—demonstrated by actions as small as turning off a light, and as impressive as inventing energy-efficient blue LED light bulbs—is what led me to launch the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative. The initiative represents the University of California’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in our operations by 2025. When we accomplish this, we will be the first major research university system to do so.
Meeting this goal won’t be simple or easy. But one of the hallmarks of the University of California is tackling big, complicated problems, and identifying solutions that can be replicated not only in our state and nation, but all over the world. And climate change is arguably one of the most—if not themost—difficult challenges our society faces today. We’ve already begun to see its impacts on issues such as global health, food security, water resource management, immigration patterns, and transportation infrastructure.
Addressing such a monumental problem is a moral imperative. It is our responsibility as today’s leaders to preserve a thriving planet for future generations. But we also know that doing so makes business sense, and common sense. At UC, for example, energy efficiency projects have resulted in 200 million dollars in net savings since 2004.
So, while some people portray the fight against climate change as a detriment to the economy, California has shown that we don’t have to pick sides between environmental stewardship and economic vitality, between breathing clean air and creating good jobs, between preserving our natural resources and nurturing our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. As my former boss, President Barack Obama, said in a speech here in Tahoe last summer, “the choice between our environment, our economy, and our health is a false one. We’ve got to strengthen all of them together.”
The Pat Brown Award recognizes achievements that best exemplify the mission of the Council, namely, balancing environmental and economic needs and goals. So, I’d like to spend a few minutes tonight telling you how the University of California is addressing climate change in ways that strengthen the environment, the economy, and the health of our communities, together.
At UC Santa Cruz, they are doing so with pink greenhouses.
Now, we’ve known for some time that greenhouses can solve a number of pesky farming problems, but they have remained largely out of reach for farmers because of their high cost—both the cost of installation and materials, and the cost of cooling, heating, and lighting the greenhouses. Now, a new solar technology developed by Physics Professor Sue Carter is changing that.
Professor Carter and her research team were recently studying luminescent solar concentrators, which use a fluorescent dye to absorb light and make solar panels significantly more efficient. As Professor Carter would tell you, no such system is perfectly efficient—there is always light that doesn’t get used by solar panels. But in the case of thesesolar panels, the professor and her team noticed something was different: the rosy-colored light being lost from the panels wasn’t energy wasted; it was fuel. The light emitted was exactly what you would see in commercial grow lamps for plants.
That’s when Professor Carter came up with idea of placing these solar panels on greenhouses, and dramatically reducing their energy costs. Her idea grew into a company called Soliculture, whose product is catching the eye of growers here at home, and beyond.
Food producers in Canada—who struggle with a short growing season and high electricity rates—are expressing interest in the Soliculture technology. And in California’s Central Valley, where keeping crops cool is the name of the game, Professor Carter’s invention offers multiple benefits for farmers: they can use the solar panels to power swamp coolers for their crops, and they can take advantage of the panels’ distinctive magenta color to keep greenhouses cooler and eliminate the need for blinds.
Soliculture’s CEO put it simply: these new solar panels generate “more power, more produce, more profit.”
Sometimes, however, we power positive change by consuming less, rather than by generating more. That’s the case at our nation’s hospitals, including UC’s five medical centers.
At UCSF, anesthesiology resident Nicole Jackman wanted to find ways to improve hospital anesthesia practices. Specifically, she wanted to encourage doctors to be more prudent with their use of anesthetics. That’s because anesthetics—in addition to inducing sleep in patients—are also potent greenhouse gases. Once they are exhaled by patients, these gases move through a hospital’s ventilation system to the outside air. Aside from the environmental benefits, Jackman estimated that moderating the use of anesthetics could save about one million dollars per anesthesiologist over one’s career.
To explore the issue, Jackman applied for the UC President’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Fellowship Program. The program funds undergraduate and graduate student projects that help UC inch closer to its carbon neutrality goal.
Jackman’s effort to reduce the use of anesthetics without adversely affecting patients could result in exciting advances: it has the potential to limit hospitals’ greenhouse gas emissions andsignificantly reduce their anesthesia costs.
And at UC Riverside, researchers are focused on anothertype of gas—the kind emitted by decomposing organic waste from agriculture, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants.
That doesn’t sound appetizing, does it?
The good news here is that this gas is a renewable energy source. In fact, experts estimate that California could produce enough renewable gas each year to replace 75 percent of the smog-producing diesel fuel used by vehicles across the state. And, as an added bonus, the renewable gas can be stored and delivered through our existing infrastructure.
The possibilities presented by renewable gas are incredibly exciting: it could help California significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable transportation, and create more “green” jobs. That’s why UC Riverside recently partnered with the Southern California Gas Company to launch the new Center for Renewable Natural Gas.
The Center is the first academic establishment in the country dedicated to the study and applied research of renewable gas technologies. Specifically, the Center will focus on studying topics such as high-yield renewable natural gas production, technologies that can increase renewable gas use in heavy-duty trucking and other transportation, and potential sites for renewable gas production projects.
But perhaps the best illustration of the economic, environmental, and community benefits of combatting climate change lies just a few minutes’ drive from here.
Lake Tahoe thoroughly impressed Mark Twain, who headed west with his brother shortly after the Civil War broke out. In his 1872 book “Roughing It,”the young writer exclaimed that, “Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator…. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe.”
Today, Lake Tahoe remains deeply ingrained in the California identity. Many of us have experienced the Lake’s stunning beauty, and breathed the same crisp air as Mr. Twain. Millions of people visit the Lake Tahoe area each year to swim, ski, snowboard, camp, hike…
… or sit by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book.
No judgment…
Those idyllic days by the lake translate into real jobs, and real dollars spent. They translate into critical tax revenue for local municipalities and for the State of California.
So, when we see those ubiquitous “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumper stickers on cars driving on every major freeway in California, and, when we hear warnings from UC Davis researchers that the effects of climate change are negatively impacting Lake Tahoe, we should easily recognize that addressing climate change—on a local level, and on a global level—makes all the business sense, and all the common sense, in the world.
The motto of the University of California is “Fiat Lux,” or “Let There Be Light.” It serves as a graceful end note for speeches like this one. To you, tonight, however, let me amend it to this:
Fiat Viride, or, “Let There Be Green.”
Thank you!