Climate justice in higher education: a proposed paradigm shift towards a transformative role for colleges and universities

Clim Change. 2023;176(2):15. doi: 10.1007/s10584-023-03486-4. Epub 2023 Feb 9.


Moving beyond technocratic approaches to climate action, climate justice articulates a paradigm shift in how organizations think about their response to the climate crisis. This paper makes a conceptual contribution by exploring the potential of this paradigm shift in higher education. Through a commitment to advancing transformative climate justice, colleges and universities around the world could realign and redefine their priorities in teaching, research, and community engagement to shape a more just, stable, and healthy future. As inequitable climate vulnerabilities increase, higher education has multiple emerging opportunities to resist, reverse, and repair climate injustices and related socioeconomic and health disparities. Rather than continuing to perpetuate the concentration of wealth and power by promoting climate isolationism’s narrow focus on technological innovation and by prioritizing the financial success of alumni and the institution, colleges and universities have an opportunity to leverage their unique role as powerful anchor institutions to demonstrate climate justice innovations and catalyze social change toward a more equitable, renewable-based future. This paper explores how higher education can advance societal transformation toward climate justice, by teaching climate engagement, supporting impactful justice-centered research, embracing non-extractive hiring and purchasing practices, and integrating community-engaged climate justice innovations across campus operations. Two climate justice frameworks, Green New Deal-type policies and energy democracy, provide structure for reviewing a breadth of proposed transformational climate justice initiatives in higher education.

PMID:36785806 | PMC:PMC9909666 | DOI:10.1007/s10584-023-03486-4


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