Energy, Climate, and UNC's 1 million sq. ft. expansion: Hearing Nov. 13th




The Town of Chapel Hill passed a Development Plan for UNC's Central Campus in 2001 under the OI-4 zoning ordinance. Two modifications have been requested and granted since that time.

Now UNC has submitted Development Plan Modification No. 3. This proposal includes over a million square feet of additional buildings on campus.

There are many reasons for concern about such a large amount of additional building on the campus. Two that stand out are traffic and energy, particularly as related to our increased awareness about the seriousness of climate change. State taxpayers and citizens of Chapel Hill and surrounding areas will be living with the traffic and carbon emissions consequences of this proposal for many decades. Both Chapel Hill and UNC have committed to reducing carbon emissions. New thinking about making this plan efficient and sustainable will enable us to lay the groundwork for meeting and even exceeding the carbon reduction goals.

Please join us in proposing that the Chapel Hill Town Council delay approval of this plan until safeguards are in place to deal with the increases in traffic and a detailed carbon reduction plan relating to these new buildings.

We ask you to join us in calling for IN PLACE SAFEGUARDS BEFORE APPROVAL.

For more information call:
Alison Carpenter (SURGE)-960-6886
Pete MacDowell (NC WARN) – 968-9184
Joyce Brown – 929-7781



UNC and the town of Chapel Hill are not the only entities within this community that have commited to the reduction of greenhouse gasses. The county, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, along with Chapel Hill, OWASA, and UNC are currently inventorying their GHG emissions as part of their partnership in ICLEI. The Climate Change Committee, consisting of elected officials and citizens and technical staff, should have the community inventory completed by December so that they can begin setting targets for improvement in the spring. The plan will come before the public before any benchmarks are locked in.

After discussing the petition with Alison Carpenter at SURGE, I must apologize for my criticism. Alison told me the comments were motivated by the desire to have UNC follow up on its agreement for carbon reduction that both UNC and the town made last year, from Alison's presentation to the council:

"We applaud both the Council and UNC for joining the Carbon Reduction Program and would like to see a more detailed set of objectives by which the Town and UNC plan to approach the greenhouse gas reduction milestones. It will be crucial that these milestones are maintained and that implementation of these targets begins now, rather than later. The UNC plan for a million square feet of new development is a prime opportunity to initiate measures immediately that begin to work toward the 60% carbon reduction goal for 2050. "

I now see this is not a general plea for carbon reduction but a call for UNC to put into practice a policy UNC has agreed to follow. It should not be applied to other developments. In fact, in the past, SURGE asked about other developments and was told that the council has little control over residential developments to reduce carbon emissions. They can recommend but not mandate (as I understand). SURGE has asked the council about other developments!

Now, please excuse me as I pull my foot out of my mouth.

The efforts of individuals are appreciated and set a good example to follow. I think it will take a concerted effort of many individuals and organizations to change construction practices, housing costs, mass transit and energy generation/use. Has NC WARN and SURGE addressed energy and transportation issues for developments in CH/C or Durham (I am assuming they have addressed Carolina North)? I honestly don't know.

From the post that started the thread it sounds like UNC is the major cause of our traffic/energy problems. I don't think UNC should be the only place for improvement. I do agree there is room for improvement at UNC. I support sustainability requests for UNC developments (including this 1 million sq ft and Carolina North). However, I don't think UNC should be the exclusive recipient of these requests. NC WARN and SURGE should expect no less from other developments, schools, businesses and individuals and ask elected officials to encourage sustainability in a similar manner (if they haven't already).

Marc, folks have called on local developers to be more "green", to provide more affordable housing, etc. For instance, I've been quite concerned - for many reasons - on RAM's proposed Hillsborough St. 335 unit condo project. The ecological, social and traffic impacts, by my analysis, have been woefully underestimated.

Couple differences that frame the UNC issue.

One, "we have met the enemy and they are us". UNC is using our citizen resources - tax dollars and land - for this buildout. Given this, it makes sense we'd like to see the best possible return on those resources. A return calculated with criteria based on values above-and-beyond typical business motivations.

Two, this is additional buildout on top of an already incredible 5 year building spree which, at least initially, fitfully/sporadically followed "green" principles and which inadequately dealt with transit/transportation issues.

Three, we're dealing with UNC's recalcitrance in dealing with earlier transit/transportation missteps.

Four, as noted, this fairly large footprint fits within a greater context - campus as a whole. It's a major addendum.

What I find troubling is the significant concern about UNC expansion without the equal concern over development of other businesses or residential housing. If a petition for reduced polution, carbon emissions and energy use in new developments has been presented to the council, my apologies for missing it.

If you are concerned about the effects on traffic and energy use from a UNC project, you should also be concerned about the development of northern Chapel Hill and Carrboro. A million square feet consititutes maybe 500 houses/condos/townhomes/apartments with probably 2 vehicles (on average) each and more trips than 10 each business week. And around here, only people who live and work in CH/C can easily take advantage of bus transportation (although there is some access to RTP).

So, let's call on UNC to be a leader in efficient energy use and reduced impact on the enivronment. Let us also then quickly step in line and do the same.


Phenomenon such as increased hurricane activity have been attributed by some to global warming and yet look at this hurricane season. Or the rainy summer following an early spring drought. This summer's weather just didn't behave as a model of 'global warming' would have predicted. However, it was still unpredictable--making climate change a more descriptive term and one that can't as easily be brushed aside when complex systems do not respond predictably based on a narrower hypothesis. It's always better to stick with broad observations until your data is irrefutable.


I believe both global warming and climate change are appropriate terms in context.

Global warming refers to greenhouse gases raising the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere.

Climate change is the manifestation of this phenomenon.

One term describes a mechanism and the other the effect. These terms are not interchangeable; neither term is more "accurate"; they are intricately related.

But I understand your point that melting polar ice caps and unusually cold winters in Guatemala are phenomena easier understood as climate change than global warming.


You have not proved your point. I wish you had because I would love to think this stuff is bunk.

Too bad wishing it wasn't true doesn't make it untrue.

Well said, Daniel Siler! I agree we need to conserve our resources, but not based on some global warming terror threat.

I am not arguing that we have no impact on our environment, that would be silly. How much is another matter entirely. The earth is a really big place with a lot of different forces acting upon it.

The report? Blowing the global warming horn based on this temperature data "satellite measurements of sea surface temperature (SST) since 1982 (5), and a ship-based analysis for earlier years (6)."

I flip the switch when I read that. Inconsistent means of data collection.

Or, this: "and partly subjective estimates of data quality problems " which does not give me warm and fuzzy feelings.

I could go on and on but there is no point. The report and therefore its conclusions is junk, IMO.


I'm sorry, buddy, in the article you referenced I wasn't able to find much that said today's global warming is not human-induced. I saw some discussion that as a result of some feedback effect early climate change predictions might have been initially overreported, but nothing to say that it is over-reported now.

Maybe you can point out to me the part you feel is salient to your argument?


John might not be such a bah-humbug about the issue if it was termed as climate change instead of global warming. 'Climate change' is more accurate IMHO.

You may also be interested in 2004 article in Science reporting that concern for global warming is the consensus of every scientific group whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter. Those groups include the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In a study of 928 peer reviewed studies, exactly none disagreed with the consensus position.

Author Naomi Oreskes responds to a critic of her study here.

I suppose the question I have is why not change our habits just in case we are causing devastating damage to our planet?

The up front costs to cleaning the pollutants would be rational to industry if they realized that their share holders had more to gain from being able to breath (without worrying about carcinigens and tons of nastiness) than from a three percent bump in their stock price.

So, why not let's be careful?

Wouldn't you err on the side of caution, so long as the fix wouldn't hurt anything else? As far as it being a waste of money, well, it's not your money, jmk. Since the power producers effect the public health with their emissions, they have a responsibility to keep those emissions as clean as possible (not as clean as may be fiscally prudent). That way, if there IS a problem and the folks at Scientific American haven't been able to nail it down, then maybe we havent' gone quite so far down the path toward self-destruction.


Okay, read ALL of this:

and digest it then we can talk.

Should have read: "I will happily give you many, many more than that supporting the concept of human-induced global warming and climate change, all of them from respected scientific journals."

Email me and I will provide the information, this blog is not the place....

"...if you bother to read the actual studies all this bunk is based on, global warming is a real stretch."

Really? Please give me the citations to 10 "actual" studies in the last 5 years debunking the global warming phenomenon. I will happily give you many, many more than that, all of them in respected scientific journals.

I promise to read them if they exist.

Wikipedia? Oh, please! Not exactly a scientifically accurate source of information.

We will never know what would have happened if we did nothing for Y2K, but if I charged a bunch of money to review programs, I sure wouldn't admit that it was unnecessary.

Sadly, in my 25+ years of reading Scientific American, it has become less "Scientific" and more "American" so yes, I even take its writings with a large grain of salt. As I said before, if you bother to read the actual studies all this bunk is based on, global warming is a real stretch.

You are welcome to believe what you want, as unfortunately many others have. There are a lot of other real problems (starvation, war, AIDs) that are real and solvable. Expending money and effort on Global Warming instead is a real tragedy.

So, Wikipedia is totally wrong about Y2K? It was blown out of proportion by the popular press, but did require significant effort to fend off. From what you say, no computer programming had to be fixed at all since it didn't exist?

Scientific American is totally wrong about global warming? Or is that the "popular press" too?

Do inform us then!


Y2K wasn't fixed, it didn't exist. But a lot of people made money on the threat.

You don't see the link because you believe the popular press and do not read the science behind the bunk. If you read the actual scientific studies and data, it would indeed paint a different picture. But alas, that does not sell newspapers nor stike panic in the heart of the general public.

The Y2K problem was caused by lack of computer programming foresight, and was fixed by manipulating 1s and 0s. Global warming is a runaway train that threatens life on earth, and is substantiated by the world's scientists. I don't see any relationship at all.


Maybe if they built a nuclear power plant on campus that would offset the carbon emissions. Sounds like a great idea to me!

Global warming, brought to you by the makers of Y2k.


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