Taking urgent action to combat climate change & its impacts is the purpose of Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG 13). This goal strives to strengthen resilience & adaptability, implement policies & plans, & increase capacity for change.

Actions, stories, & resources related to SDG 13: Climate Action as told in the 2021 Auburn University and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals report, & then expanded on below, illustrate Auburn’s impact. For an overview highlighting our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), please visit


Taking urgent action against climate change and its impacts is essential to building a sustainable world for everyone. Severe weather and rising sea levels affect everyone, but marginalized people groups and the poor are disproportionately affected. If climate change is left unchecked, the consequences will be ecosystem destruction, food and water scarcity, and conflict.

Auburn University engaged with Goal 13 to a moderate degree across teaching, outreach, and research activities from 2019- 2021. Most of Auburn University’s engagement with Goal 13 is through its teaching, with no less than 48 courses offered from 2019-2021. Auburn University’s mission is to improve the lives of people in its community, state, nation, and world through education, research, and service. Because the climate crisis is a global issue, any action to remedy the effects of climate change has a global impact, which aligns with Auburn University’s mission to have a positive impact on a local and global scale. Climate action is an effective and lasting way to have the positive impact Auburn University desires on every scale.

View the 2021 report titled Auburn University and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for an overview of Auburn’s contributions to all the SDGs.

Actions at Auburn

While many climate-related courses focus solely on the forces that drive climate change, ENVI 6100 students learn about these driving forces for the purpose of understanding the ultimate consequences of climate change. The class addresses the changing climate and applies these changes to different ecosystems, inquiring about how climate change impacts flora, fauna, and diverse biospheres. ENVI 6100 assesses the potential future impacts of climate change by looking at past and present climate crisis consequences. The focuses of ENVI 6100 are the consequences of climate change rather than climate change itself, giving students perspective on why climate action is an urgent matter. ENVI 6100 is offered through the College of Agriculture.

Hurricaine image from space sdg Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Individuals sitting next to a stream

The International Center for Climate and Global Change Research (ICCGCR) features the collaborative efforts of the Colleges of Science and Mathematics, Agriculture, Engineering, Liberal Arts, and the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. The ICCGCR fosters a space for interdisciplinary research as pertaining to climate change and includes publications from a wide range of colleges. The ICCGCR also develops various graduate courses related to climate change and its relationship with ecology. Director of the ICCGCR, Dr. Hanqin Tian, was nationally ranked in 2021 as among the world’s most influential climate scientists.

Facilities Energy Management (FEM) monitors electricity, gas, and water usage of campus buildings to lower energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. FEM’s Energy Reduction Strategy, a key climate-related initiative underway at AU, is a collection of aggressive energy reduction goals. The strategy has resulted in the metering of nearly every building on Auburn’s campus, tracking data to identify leaks and other issues. FEM uses a building commissioning, recommissioning, and retro-commissioning program to improve and upgrade building mechanicals to ensure safe, efficient, and optimal operating conditions. FEM’s outreach includes relationships with community partners to support students through mentorship, guest lecturers, and tours of renewable energy plants and solar arrays.

Facilities Energy Management winning a Spirit of Sustainability Award
Climate Awareness for Young People class sdg Photo courtesy of Dr. Chandana Mitra

Dr. Chandana Mitra of the College of Sciences and Mathematics visited Auburn High School to educate and create awareness among high school students about climate crises and their impacts. Dr. Mitra and a graduate student in the Department of Geosciences presented on climate change and the impacts of urban growth on local climate, including the Urban Heat Island effect. The high school environmental science class engaged in hands-on experiences by taking measurements with infrared thermometers and hydrometers. Educating high school students about climate change is important for raising the next generation of climate actioners and increasing awareness among young people’s peers and families.

Dr. Susan (Shufen) Pan is an Associate Professor and Director of the GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment at Auburn University. She has more than 20 years of experience in geospatial analysis, ecosystem modeling and remote sensing applications. Dr. Pan’s research program aims to Monitor, Assess and Predict the impacts of climate change and other environmental stresses on ecosystems and people, and provide geospatial solutions for enhancing ecosystem resilience to environmental stresses. Dr. Pan’s research projects have covered a range of topics such as climate change and land use impacts on terrestrial productivity, water resources, natural disasters and ecosystem resilience, and water-food-energy nexus across many regions of the world including North America, Asia and Africa.

Aerial photo of a community
Scientists studying climate change sdg Photo courtesy of School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

In his paper, “The terrestrial biosphere as a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,” College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment’s Dr. Hanqin Tian and his colleagues examined the balance of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in the land biosphere and the human contribution of these gases to the biosphere. The terrestrial biosphere sequesters atmospheric carbon dioxide, thus mitigating climate change. But the human transformation of the land biosphere has caused a large amount of methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Dr. Tian’s research reveals for the first time that human activities have transformed the land biosphere to act as a contributor to climate change.

People & Stories

The Song of the Taiwanese Trash Truck

| Guest Posts, SDG12, SDG13, Updates | No Comments
by Jesse Teel Taiwan had the unfortunate nickname “Garbage Island.” Trash polluted the environment through littering and burning. Mountains of waste rotted in the streets. Taiwan initiated a waste management overhaul and the last two decades have seen a transformation to a clean, largely litter-free country.   The waste and recycling…

Director’s Corner: What we can learn from “Earthrise”

| Director's Corner, SDG13, SDG15 | No Comments
The Gift of Perspective Created on December 24, 1968  “To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold.” Archibald MacLeish,…

Director’s Corner: What should college graduates know about sustainability?

| Director's Corner, SDG13, Updates | No Comments
“…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” Albert Einstein First off, there is no consensus on an answer to the question posed in the title of this column.  I sure don’t pretend to have a complete answer, but I do…

Sustainability in the Core Curriculum

| Guest Posts, SDG13, SDG4, Updates | No Comments
by Becki Retzlaff Photo credit: Becki Retzlaff An important part of getting an undergraduate education is the core curriculum. The core curriculum helps Auburn maintain its accreditation, makes sure that students have basic knowledge of a variety of subjects, draws different parts of their education together, and provides a well-rounded…

Academics Assessment: Auburn University’s Stars Report

| SDG13, SDG4, STARS, Updates | No Comments
by Randy Martin, Office of Sustainability Thousands of students attend universities and colleges for primarily one purpose, academics. Academics serve as the backbone of an institution. There are many things that people do and participate in tangentially to classes, but at the root, the university experience is in the classroom.…

Explore the SDGs & AU