What You Can Do to Combat Climate Change

This Earth Month, CSU experts share practical ways to make a difference.


While caring for our planet should be a year-round endeavor, Earth Month presents an opportunity to recommit to that goal. The CSU is dedicated to working toward a more sustainable future across its campuses, with a systemwide Sustainability Policy and sustainability goals first adopted in 2014 and recently updated in March 2022. Faculty members also engage in research and advocacy work to raise awareness around clim​ate change and combat its effects—from reducing the carbon in our atmosphere to curtailing environmental pollution to building resilient communities.

Hear from a few CSU faculty members on how we can do our part to protect Mother Earth, and learn about their climate change work​.

Jessica Castillo Vardaro, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, San José | Department of Biological Science

Advice: Contact your elected officials. 

To understand how one critter is adapting to climate change, Dr. Castillo Vardaro backpacks miles through the mountains to study the resident pikas (small, hamster-like mammals) of Nevada’s Great Basin—an area that is drier, hotter and at lower elevation than their typical habitat. She conducts genetic analyses on the animals’ fecal samples to see how they’re responding to a rapidly changing environment, findings that could be applied to other species. The Animal Welfare Institute recently awarded Castillo Vardaro the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award for her unintrusive research.

Patty Oikawa, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, East Bay | Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Advice: Electrify your life. 

For Dr. Oikawa, combating climate change requires mitigating its causes, not just adapting to its effects. Her studies focus on carbon sequestration—that is, the amount of carbon plants can remove from the atmosphere and store underground via photosynthesis—in wetlands and grasslands. The research could help expand these habitats, increasing their ability to reduce atmospheric carbon, a major contributor to climate change.

Seeta Sistla, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, San Luis Obispo | Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

Advice: Recognize the need to make changes that minimize your climate impact. 

With research sites ranging “from the Arctic to the tropics,” Dr. Sistla examines how climate change affects the ecology of soil, which is responsible for carbon storage, water purification and plant growth. In Arctic regions, she specifically studies how wildfires and a warming climate are changing carbon cycles and raising the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from tundra soil—which stores about twice as much as currently contained in the atmosphere.

Eugene Cordero, Ph.D.

Professor, San José | Department of Meteorology and Climate Science

Advice: Reduce your meat, especially beef, consumption. 

Dr. Cordero dedicates much of his work to educating students and the public about how to fight climate change. At San José State, he’s helped develop courses focused on climate change and conducted research demonstrating that students who took a class adopted more sustainable practices in the long term. In addition, he created the Green Ninja curriculum, which teaches science and engineering to middle school students through the lens of solving environmental challenges.

The CSU’s Carbon Goals

On March 23, 2022, the CSU Board of Trustees approved revisions to the university’s Sustainability Policy, which seeks to reduce its carbon emissions through on-site renewable energy generation, water and waste management, sustainable energy procurement and more. The revisions modernize the language in the policy, formalize the use of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) benchmarking tool and introduce components related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Finally, the carbon emissions goals were updated to align with state law, namely those with 2020 deadlines. These include reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80 percent below by 2040, as well as achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

Outside this policy, the CSU seeks other ways to find climate solutions that will benefit the state, nation and world. The new CSU Journal of Sustainability and Climate Change—an open source, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to climate change research—recently published its inaugural issue. In addition, the annual, student-led This Way to Sustainability Conference at California State University, Chico highlights the challenges and solutions to the climate crisis, while a new Systemwide Faculty Learning Community for Climate and Justice Education between CSU faculty and the nonprofit Strategic Energy Innovations will develop climate literacy material to incorporate into coursework. 

Discover more ways CSU experts are working to mitigate climate change.