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University at Buffalo to tackle global environmental issues

Jason Briner
University at Buffalo geology professor Jason Briner conducting climate change research in Canada.

A new institute designed to tackle complex environmental issues across the globe has been launched in upstate New York. This month, the University at Buffalo announced the launch of the RENEW (Research and Education in Energy, Environment, and Water) program.

Alexander Cartwright, vice president of research and economic development at the university, says an emphasis has been placed on assembling an interdisciplinary and unbiased team to tackle controversial issues.

“It’s very important that we have an unbiased group looking at the scientific facts of what is really going on, and then contributing to new knowledge that will improve society,” Cartwright says.

“For instance, without even thinking about global climate change, one thing is for sure- that we do need to think about as a society how we deal with some of the effects related to storms in general. How do we better protect the infrastructure? How do we prepare for those types of events? I think everybody would agree that we need to be looking at that. We need to think about energy. We need to think about water. We need to think about the environment. ”

The institute will include 100 faculty members from across the university and the aim of the project is to tackle global issues right here in upstate New York.

“We hope, you know, that what really comes out of this is substantive research that contributes globally to the future of the world," Cartwright explains. "I think that is what we’re trying to build, a world class institute that can be a thought leader throughout the world, that’s where we’re headed.”

The RENEW program will receive $15 million in university funding over the next five years. The University at Buffalo is currently conducting an international search for a director of the institute.

Cartwright says as an independent, academic institution, the university is well placed to assemble a team which can tackle issues around preparedness as well as prevention.

“We’ve seen major changes in weather, we’ve seen the impact directly in New York state of what could happen with various super storms," Cartwright says. "How are we going to be prepared? What is our emergency response system? You can extend much of this out into making sure that we put in place the right types of buildings, the right types of infrastructure around our boarders, protecting our water, protecting the shores of our state.”

The RENEW institute will work on academic research as well as solutions which can be brought to the commercial market.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail