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Carbonfund.org and National Geographic Society (NGS) have been partners in the fight against global climate change since 2009. Our relationship with NGS is managed by Mr. Hans Wegner, Chief Sustainability Officer at the Society whose leadership in the sustainability realm has been an inspiration to everyone at our Foundation.

In 2011, Han’s leadership with the NGS “Green Team” led to his team receiving our For People and Planet award in the “Media” category for their efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (C02) emissions.

These efforts included reducing emissions from their operations by 80% with an additional goal of reducing emissions from their magazine paper and printing materials supply chain by 10% by 2015. The team has succeeded at numerous other efforts from obtaining Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Gold Status for their headquarters building to compost and recycling programs in their cafeteria.

Since the origin of our relationship, with NGS, the Society has been a key supporter of several of our projects including the Purus REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project in Acre, Brazil, and the Native Species Reforestation Project in Panama to offset the Society’s respective travel and office emissions.

We had the opportunity to speak with Hans on his impressive 41 years at the National Geographic Society and his broader work in the sustainability realm.


1.      Please describe your current role as Chief Sustainability Officer at NGS and what lead you to that position?

 I came to the Society in 1973, with a background in commercial printing. I came here to work in one of the photographic labs, compiling film for wall maps for 1.5 years and subsequently became responsible for the production and then the manufacturing of the Magazine. During that time I also handled all paper purchasing for the Society so I became very conversant with the issues related to paper manufacturing and the paper market. I took particular interest in learning all I could about the environmental impacts of all aspects of paper making; from seedling in the ground to recycling of old paper products. I took great pride in working with our paper suppliers to make sure they abide by or exceeded all applicable environmental regulations.

In 2006 I headed up a group of concerned NGS employees who felt we as an organization could do more to reduce the impact our operations had on climate change and to raise our collective awareness of our responsibility to conduct our business sustainably. Our groups focused on measuring the carbon emissions that we as a company were responsible for, including those emitted on our behalf by our suppliers. We knew we had to know our corporate carbon footprint, not only in the aggregate, but by product line or service sector so we could have a roadmap for the remedial actions we wanted to take. On the basis of this information, we made our buildings carbon neutral, achieved LEED-EB Gold status for our complex, and certified our campus as Energy Star rated and implemented many energy saving features.

On the basis of our success, I was designated Chief Sustainability Officer in 2009.

2.      How did you get started in sustainability work? Who or what inspired you to go into a career in sustainability?

I have always had an inclination to try to be environmentally responsible and I like to think of myself as acting on what I know to be true. This is what led me to set environmental policy for our paper suppliers when I was handling paper purchasing for the Society, implementing a requirement to use best forest management practices, to exceed the guidelines of the Clean Air and Water Acts. In the mid 1990's I became increasingly convinced of not only the fact of climate change, but the reality that it was human activity that was causing this phenomenon. Additionally human activity was consuming finite natural resources at obviously unsustainable rates. I was of course aware that the Society was publishing or producing related stories in our Magazine and TV productions on these subjects so the problem was not a lack of public awareness of the issues but rather a problem of failing to act on what we know. I felt compelled to make a difference and to act, so I began talking to people and knew there was a critical mass of my colleagues who felt strongly, wanted to help, and were willing to volunteer their time to make a difference. That led to the formation of the GoGreen Committee (Now Green Team) which has been meeting monthly since late 2006 and is leading the sustainability initiative at the Society.

3.      What personal accomplishments in the sustainability realm are you most proud of? 

I would have to say being instrumental in starting the sustainability initiative at the Society and thereby creating an awareness that we as an organization and as individuals could and needed to do more than we were. 

As to specifics: 1) Focusing our efforts on knowing our carbon footprint and focusing our efforts at reducing that that footprint by eliminating waste where we found it and thereby eliminating the cost of that waste. 2) Setting and then achieving the goal of becoming a carbon neutral facility and qualifying our Buildings for LEED-EB Gold certification. 3) Doing the most comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) ever done on a Magazine in cooperation with our paper and printing suppliers. This was completed in 2009. 4) Convincing the Society to become a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) driven company in 2012. 5) Committing the Society to the idea of offsetting our scope III carbon (all indirect emissions except for purchased electricity, heat and steam). To date, we have reduced our scope III by over 20% since 2008.

4.      What are you currently working on in the sustainability realm?

We are working with our suppliers of printing and digital media storage to document their emissions on our behalf and to look into renewable energy for those emissions. We are working to achieve carbon neutral status for everything we do, and to send zero waste to landfill. My goal is to have sustainability become part of the culture of the Society.

5.      What is your personal biggest sustainability challenge?

Changing behavior at our company and getting more companies to start addressing climate change. Behavior changes are hard. Energy has always been cheap in the US, and the challenge is to change that perception and get people to change their behavior and use less. The other challenge is for all of us to personalize climate change and take responsibility for that change. At the end of the day each of us must make a commitment to change if we are to solve this problem. We all have the tendency to wait for someone else to start. Don't wait for someone else. You do it. Each of us can start today by: not leaving lights on, shortening the showers we take, using mass transit, recycling everything we can, etc.

6.      What is going to be the biggest challenge for sustainability in the next 20 years?

Complacency on the part of most of us. Dependence on someone else to do the job for us. Ignoring the noise from the fossil fuel industry to say everything is OK when it is clearly not. A Congress that is divided to the point of dysfunction, so no federal leadership is possible. The naysayers that persist in trying to say that this is not a problem, and it is bad for the economy to address this issue. The fear mongers who wish to use this issue to divide us rather than to say here is a challenge we can unite on and fix.

7.      For the next generation of environmental professionals, what advice would you give?

You do not have to be an expert. Read and act on what you know. Make the business case that waiting is paramount to throwing money away and that America cannot compete with clean economies around the world. Make the business case that inaction, or little action, is far, far more expensive and costly to jobs and prosperity than the most drastic actions we take today.

8.  How did Carbonfund.org help you achieve your sustainability goals?

Carbonfund.org has been able to find projects for us to help us offset our use of natural gas to heat our buildings and use in our cafeteria. It has also helped us find projects that offset our business travel. My question to any offset provider has always been: Can you get me a two 'fer or three 'fer? By which I mean I am looking for projects that not only reduce carbon buildup in the atmosphere by adding sequestration capacity, but does doing so expand the habitat for an endangered species (either flora or fauna) in an area, thereby enhancing the possibility of that species' survival? So I am always interested in finding projects that have multiple benefits with the primary one being carbon emissions reductions. So far, Carbonfund.org has done a really good job finding such projects for us.

9. Why did you choose to work with Carbonfund.org?

In keeping with the idea of sourcing locally, I liked that Carbonfund.org is in fact local to Washington DC metro area. I also like the fact of Carbonfund.org being a not-for-profit, as I believe that addressing climate change should not be a profit driven undertaking. That is not to say that we should not do business with for profit entities, it is just that if not-for-profit is an option; that is my preference so we can put more dollars into emissions reductions.

Published in carbonfree blog

One cup of premium loose leaf tea inspired Beth Johnston to get into the tea business, and environmental responsibility drives the company’s commitment to organic teas, sustainability practices and Carbonfree® business operations. 

“Conserving our planet’s precious resources has always been a personal concern for me. With our continued expansion, both importing and shipping customer orders, I felt a further responsibility to take it on corporately,” says Beth Johnston, Founder and CEO.  “We had been looking for an effective way to offset the impact Teas Etc. has on the environment but also wanted to give our customers the choice to offset theirs. We did our homework, looked at a couple of different options and decided that Carbonfund.org was the right partner to help us meet our goals.”

For the seventh consecutive year, Teas Etc. is offsetting its own carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org by supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. In an effort to generate greater awareness about sources of carbon emissions, Teas Etc. offers customers the option of offsetting the carbon footprint created by shipping their orders.  To date, Teas Etc. and its customers have neutralized the same quantity of emissions as would be sequestered by almost 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.

Teas Etc is has provided premium quality award winning teas and modern accessories to wholesale and retail customers for over 15 years.   The company is USDA certified to package and to distribute organic products, and has a complete line of organic teas.  In addition to their tea line, the company manufactures the innovative, award winning Tea Traveler® that allows tea drinkers to enjoy loose leaf teas on-the-go.  The company opened in 1998 with its headquarters in Palm Beach, FL has an office in Nanjing, China and a permanent show room at AmericasMart in Atlanta, GA.

In addition toCarbonfree® operations,Teas Etc. supports a local recycling program, utilizes recycled paper goods, biodegradable packing materials and chemical-free cleaning products.   Their ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, high quality products and excellent customer services confirms Teas Etc. as a leader in responsible online premium loose leaf tea retailing and wholesaling.

Published in carbonfree blog
Friday, 08 November 2013 12:27

Seven Years CarbonFree® Matters More to MWW

Seven years into its long-term commitment to environmental leadership, MWW is achieving great things towards its goal to do its part to make the world a better place.  MWW, one of the nation's top mid-sized public relations firms and one of the ten largest independent agencies, is recognized for its work in consumer lifestyle marketing, digital marketing and social media, corporate communications, and visual branding. 

MWW is also dedicated to reducing its global warming impact, improving quality of life and US energy security. Since 2007, MWW has led by example, committing to being CarbonFree® in partnership with Carbonfund.org.  Over the past seven years, MWW has reduced the carbon impact from its business operations, totaling over 19 million pounds of CO2 mitigation, which is equivalent to the electricity use of 1,291 homes for one year through support of Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy and forestry projects. That's also equivalent to the emissions from over 20,058 barrels of oil consumed or taking 1,797 cars off the road for one year. 

“Our work in corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship is some of the most important we do,” emphasizes Michael Kempner, MWW President and CEO.  “MWW remains firmly committed to doing our part to protect and preserve the environment, and we are pleased to continue our seven-year partnership with Carbonfund.org, a leader in carbon reduction and offset solutions. We challenge our peers in the industry, as well as our clients and partners, to join with us in this important work, or to adopt their own programs to help bring about a clean energy economy.”

Employees at MWW give back through Good Matters, a company-wide Corporate Social Responsibility program, which enables employees to support local charities and other causes that are close to their hearts. Each year, team members can take advantage of eight hours of paid time off to volunteer for an organization of their choice.  These collective efforts have defined MWW’s commitment to corporate citizenship, for the environment, community, employees, and their clients.   Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with MWW in helping to make the world a better, cleaner place to live. 

Published in carbonfree blog

Last week our planet reached a scary milestone for carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas.  The average carbon dioxide reading exceeded 400 parts per million at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) on the island of Hawaii for the 24 hours that ended at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, May 9, 2013.  Earth hasn’t had this much carbon dioxide concentrated in the air for at least three million years, which is before human life on the planet.

This should be a wakeup call that major and potentially catastrophic global weather changes are coming and a sign we’re not doing enough to tackle climate change.

We’ve seen carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million in the Arctic last year and even in some hourly readings at NOAA’s MLO.  However, this is the first time we’ve seen the average reading for an entire day exceed that level.  Carbon dioxide levels do rise and fall along with the seasons.  As foliage grows over the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, 10 billion tons of carbon will be pulled out of the air.  But it’s only a temporary pardon in a situation that’s becoming direr by the moment.

We simply must invest in alternative energy technologies and begin curbing our dangerous global appetite for fossil fuels.  Otherwise, the time will come soon where no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.

The official target to limit the damage from global warming is 450 parts per million (PPM), which is generally agreed to be the maximum level compatible with that goal.  Our relentless, long-term increases in carbon dioxide emissions are likely get us to 450 PPM in well under 25 years.  The time to slow down global warming is dwindling quickly.  Twenty five years may seem like a long time, but our planet is huge.  It will take more time than that to right the ship.

Not every country has agreed to set binding emissions targets, either.  Unfortunately, the United States count among those shirking their responsibility.  Now greater efforts are necessary, and are all but impossible without severe economic disruptions.

Can we live on a planet that is warmer and wetter?  Probably, but billions of people are going to suffer as we make the transition.  It’s a better plan to lower our carbon footprints and speedily move to no and low carbon energy sources.  The price is going to be high either way, and it’s only getting steeper as we hurtle towards the point of no return.

Published in carbonfree blog

For immediate release

 

With Earth Day (April 22) fast approaching, it is time for all of us to evaluate how our daily activities affect our planet and see what we can do about it. As of April 22, Solosso, a premium custom clothing company that lets you design your own eco-friendly custom dress shirts online, launches an initiative to plant a tree for every shirt sold, thus taking their operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative. “As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions,” says Jan Klimo, Head of Business Development at Solosso.

The initiative is executed through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, a non-profit organization leading the fight against global warming by collecting and investing funds into high-quality carbon offset projects resulting in real carbon emission reductions, such as reforestation.

As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions. 

Jan describes Solosso’s partnership with Carbonfund.org: “We’ve been partners with Carbonfund.org for over three years now, completely offsetting our carbon footprint with their help. As of this year’s Earth Day, we are excited to go the extra mile and turn our operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative by planting a tree for every shirt we sell. As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions.”

Plant a Tree initiatives are popular among a range of business, such as Dell, Baby Check List, Global Basecamps, or Euroloan to name a few. Money funneled into reforestation projects has an obvious positive environmental impact all over the world. Linda Kelly from Carbonfund.org explains: “Tree-planting projects benefit the environment, the atmosphere and the local community, by creating jobs in the tree-planting activities and maintaining the ongoing forest management. The tree-planting projects we support are numerous and geographic locations are worldwide. Some of our tree-planting projects are in the US, but the majority are in India, South America and Haiti.”

With Carbonfund.org’s portfolio of carbon-reducing projects worldwide, carbon offsetting is available to any individual, business or organization. 

What are you or your business doing to help achieve a zero carbon world?

Published in press releases
Friday, 08 March 2013 13:43

Global Energy Focus on Renewables

Those of us living in the United States can easily get wrapped up in the domestic energy picture, but it is important to stop and take a look at how renewables are doing in other countries too.

If you peruse a list of countries by 2008 emissions, the top emitter of carbon dioxide is currently China, followed closely by the U.S.  China accounts for 23.5% of world emissions, and the U.S. is responsible for 18.27%.  However, the good news is that China’s renewable-energy industry is currently on the upswing due to supportive government policies and generous subsidies; so much so that they’ve achieved the height of the world’s wind and solar industries.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Everything is made in China.”  The U.S. does import many goods from China, but a report released this week titled, “Advantage America” analyzed trade between the two countries in solar, wind and smart-grid technology and services in 2011. 

The analysis, by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Pew Charitable Trusts, showed $6.5 billion in renewable energy technology and services traded between the U.S. and China.  But the U.S. sold $1.63 billion more to China than it imported. 

It’s good to see both countries making such strides in renewable energy.  Oftentimes, the countries are perceived as being in competition with one another, but a more accurate picture would be that they are interdependent.  The bottom line is that both countries should be doing as much as possible to focus on renewables, especially considering they’re the top two carbon dioxide emitters on the planet.  And the global interest and investments in renewables doesn’t stop there.

Saudi Arabia, a country with the world's second largest oil reserves, is beginning a green revolution.  This week, Saudi King Abdullah revealed ambitious plans to develop renewable energy programs that will produce 54,000 megawatts of electricity by 2032 as part of a strategy to save 1.2 million barrels of their oil per day for export.

King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care) is a strategy paper set up by King Abdullah in 2010 to develop alternative energy sources so the country won't have to burn millions of barrels of oil a year on power generation.  KA-Care outlines the preliminary phases of the kingdom's agenda for its energy future and focuses on thermal solar, photo-voltaic solar, wind, geothermal and waste-to-energy.  Much of the desert landscape in the Persian Gulf is well suited to solar energy production; a fact that has not escaped the Saudi’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The UAE, with 8% of the world's proven oil reserves, has also embarked on a major renewables program, which focuses on nuclear and solar energy production.  By taking a look at the global energy picture, we see that even those countries with vast fossil fuel resources recognize the finite limitations of their reserves and the importance of investing in sustainable energy projects, which is great news in the fight against climate change.  Every country on the planet contributes to global warming, and every country will have to do their part in order to pave the way to a sustainable energy future.

Published in carbonfree blog

Most of the time, we do not take into account the complete costs to producing or consuming a good or service.  This is because we focus on the explicit costs.  For example, if we were to bake a loaf of bread, we would take into account the cost of the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, milk, and butter.  Perhaps we would even calculate our labor time to make the dough and the cost of running the oven, but would we account for the carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere for the delivery truck that delivered the baking supplies?  How about the CO2 emissions from the power plant burning fossil fuels to generate the electricity to run the oven?  The problem is that we are not required to bear the full cost of production.  Some of the costs to bake that loaf of bread were shifted to society as a whole. 

Even if we did not bake the loaf of bread ourselves, we’re still shifting costs to society as a whole just by consuming it.  Our cars burn gasoline to drive to and from the grocery store, and regardless if we walked or biked, gasoline was likely also burned to deliver the bread to the grocery store in the first place.  Sure the delivery truck paid for the gasoline, but many companies do not pay for the carbon emissions their operations generate.

We need to make some drastic changes to avoid the ills of global warming, which we are beginning to see affect our daily lives, but the logistics of transforming our world’s energy system can be intimidating.  The first thing we need to do is get off fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources.  Easier said than done, I know.  It will be a complex and time-consuming process converting power plants, vehicles/transport systems, homes and commercial buildings.  Unfortunately, time is not on our side here.  We really need to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. 

So then the question becomes how can we transition the world’s energy infrastructure to sustainable sources by mid-century?  One of the ways suggested is to implement a tax on CO2 emissions that begins low and gradually increases.  There should be no mystery either about how much and at what intervals over time the tax will rise.  Then people, businesses and governments can plan their fossil fuel exit strategy.

The revenues the carbon tax generates should be directed into subsidizing renewable energy innovation and overhauling energy infrastructure. 

Ideally, the carbon tax should be global.  Again there are logistical challenges to this climate change solution.  The key is that we need a systematic and practical process.  Isn’t it time we started taking responsibility for the full costs of production and consumption?  Society is bearing the cost as a whole, and society as a whole needs to be part of the solution.

Published in carbonfree blog
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 11:00

Rising Sea Levels and Sustainable Desalination

Depending on where in the world you live, it might be easy to forget that the environment is more than just the air we breathe or the land under our feet.  It’s important to keep in mind that the oceans also are being affected radically by climate change.  The oceanic problems are too numerous to list.  However, this week we are taking a closer look at one issue that people in different parts of the planet face, rising oceans as the polar ice caps melt and more saltwater.

Those of us that live in the United States might not be aware how rich we are in freshwater sources as say countries in the Middle East that are very arid environments.  Obviously those countries have other resources that we lack, but water is essential to life.  Our planet may be covered in a great deal of water, but much of it is unusable to humans in its natural state because of the high salt content. 

Did you know that salt is expelled from seawater when it freezes?  Although some brine is trapped, the overall salinity of sea ice is much lower than seawater.  So the seas are rising as previously permanently frozen parts of the planet melt.  This means that not only is there more water, but it’s becoming salty as it melts.

Desalination is any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water.  Unfortunately, it is quite an energy intensive process.  Last week, a new renewable energy desalination project was announced in Masdar, Abu Dhabi, which is in the United Arab Emirates.  The project seeks to transform seawater into useable, freshwater on land by building a commercially viable and renewable energy-powered desalination plant by 2020.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region of the Middle East is comprised of the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman.  The GCC formed in 1981 and uses about half the world’s desalinated water. 

Of course, accessing renewable energy is not the only impediment to sustainable desalination.  Another effect of global warming is oceanic acidification that contributes to massive algae blooms.  These algae blooms can shut down a desalination plant.  There are other unwanted components that might be present in seawater such as radioactive material from warships and nuclear power plants which would need to be removed before the water could be used safely.

Despite other lingering issues, it is still worth asking the question, “Can these enormous desalination plants powered by renewable energy help mitigate some of the issues we face from rising sea levels?”  The answer is, “Every bit helps.”  But don’t start thinking it’s a magic bullet since none exists.  We still all need to do our parts in reducing our carbon emissions and footprints.  However, it is good news that desalination can be a sustainable and environmentally responsible industrial solution and worth noting that low cost, low impact renewable energy technologies do exist.

Published in carbonfree blog

The United States is one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world.  What can our country do for the good of the planet with this role?

One thing the U.S. federal government does every few years is engage hundreds of experts to evaluate the impacts of climate change, now and in the future.  The resulting National Climate Assessment report, which was recently released, showed that America's current efforts to reduce carbon pollution are too little to avoid dangerous climate change.  Last year President Obama announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks such as minivans and sport utility vehicles.  Let’s build on this historic progress to limit carbon emissions.  There are several ways that the president and federal government can make a real difference in the fight against global warming.

The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool that our nation’s leaders could be leveraging more fully.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with using the Clean Air Act to issue rules to reduce greenhouse pollution.  This farsighted law has reduced damaging air pollution for forty years, saving many lives.  The EPA has already used it to protect public health and welfare from six extensive and harmful pollutants including: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead.  Now is the time to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by setting a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has also proposed higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants.  These standards need to be fortified, finalized and implemented posthaste.  Why stop with power plants?  There are other places where higher greenhouse gas emission standards can be successfully applied to help save our planet such as oil refineries, cement plants, and even the airline industry.

Another way to help the environment would be for President Obama and the State Department to decline approval on the Keystone XL pipeline, which proposes moving oil down from Canada through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast.  There are no guarantees that the pipeline won’t spring leaks.  Furthermore, there is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels.  Denying approval would show that America is committed to transitioning away from a dependence on fossil fuels.

Of course, it’s not all up to the federal government.  We can all do our parts to speed the transition to a clean energy future.  First we can encourage our elected officials to take the climate change actions recommended above.  Second we can reduce our own carbon footprints.  Consider lowering the heat or air conditioning depending on the season, using a clothesline, rake, hand mower and other manpowered devices, composting, forgoing meat at least one day a week and riding a bicycle.  Lastly, we can all find simple ways to be part of the solution such as planting trees and offsetting remaining carbon emissions.

Published in carbonfree blog

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed this week that 2012 was officially the warmest year on record in America’s contiguous 48 states, based on 118 years of temperature records dating back to 1895.  Despite this fact, news coverage of climate change actually declined in 2012.  According to The Daily Climate, worldwide climate coverage decreased by two percent between 2011 and 2012, which represented the fewest number of published stories since 2009.

Last year the US was experience droughts in more than just rainfall.  During the presidential election there were accusations of a “climate silence” until Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast in the days leading up to the election.  In President Obama’s acceptance speech he said, “We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

However, President Obama’s statement has not reassured everyone that he and Congress are going to make any meaningful efforts to tackle carbon pollution and climate change.  In fact, the League of Conservation Voters and a coalition of 70 environmental organizations recently wrote an open letter to President Obama, which encouraged him to spotlight climate change during his second term.  A quote from the letter includes, "Cutting carbon pollution at home and rejecting dirty fuels will establish America’s leadership and credibility, enabling [President Obama] to create clean energy jobs in the United States while forging an effective international coalition to cut global carbon pollution."

Whether or not President Obama and Congress heed the global warming warning signs, the bright spot is that local governments are undertaking real strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change right now.  ICLEI USA, a network of local governments working to address climate and sustainability challenges, recently highlighted 20 communities across the continental US that are leading the efforts to plan for the future and respond to extreme weather.  Some particularly prominent examples by local governments include:

  • Atlanta, GA – Urban heat island effects worsened by hotter seasons. Addressing the problem with a climate action plan, including cool roof/pavement standards and 10,000 new planted shade trees.
  • Chicago, IL – Responding to extreme heat and flooding with the milestone Chicago Climate Action Plan and the most installed green roof square footage in the country.
  • Eugene, OR – Ravaged by major wildfires and mega-dry conditions.  Mitigating these issues by increasing water conservation, reducing hydroelectric power demand and planting drought-resistant trees.
  • Miami Dade Count y, FL – Known as the most vulnerable city in the world to sea level rise as demonstrated by severe flooding.  Urban planning now addresses sea level rise and disaster response, and they’re also investing millions in flood mitigation projects.
  • New York, NY – Suffered $19 billion in damage from Superstorm Sandy.  Taking positive action with a $2.4 billion green infrastructure plan, restoring barrier wetlands, and initiating a climate risk assessment requirement for new developments.

It’s wonderful to see these steps being taken towards a more sustainable future.  It would be even better if federal leadership ensues, taking their cues from local governments.  Media silence or not, climate change is here and further delayed action will only result in catastrophic results.  The time is now to secure a low carbon global economy and thereby the planet for current and future generations.

Published in carbonfree blog
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