ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The fight to stop climate change will only intensify in the years to come. Grand Valley State University’s Geography Department is leaning into the fight with a new emphasis offered in its bachelor’s program.
The university offers a special degree on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resiliency planning. The program officially launched in 2019, adding a new group of courses focused on climatology, sustainability and land-use planning.
Elena Lioubimtseva, a professor at GVSU, said a few students have already graduated with the new emphasis and she expects it to grow quickly in the years to come.
“This is really something that everybody needs right now. I think there is definitely a huge market for our students who graduate (with this degree),” Lioubimtseva told News 8.
Even though it launched three years ago, the climate change mitigation emphasis is already the second-most popular program in GVSU’s Geography Department.
“There is already a growing number of businesses, municipalities, all levels of the government from local to federal who understand that we need to know how to adapt to climate change and how to plan climate action,” Lioubimtseva said.
That includes Michigan. Over the last two years, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer launched the Council on Climate Solutions and worked with several state departments to shape the MI Healthy Climate Plan. The final draft was released last week, laying out the state’s plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050 while pushing our economy to focus on renewable energy.
The primary focus of the program is understanding the difference between climate change mitigation strategies compared to adaptations.
“There is a growing understanding that mitigation and adaptation are not the same,” Lioubimtseva said. “We are mitigating climate change the best we can by reducing carbon emissions and by increasing carbon sinks. But it’s still not enough to protect us from all the harms that have already happened because of climate change. And we are learning how to adapt to climate change, how to live with all those negative inputs for some time and take advantage of them.”
The bachelor’s program includes four core programs, five emphasis courses and a series of electives on top of the general education requirements. The full catalog of courses is available on the university’s website.