Americans and Climate Change: Signs of action
"Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action" (PDF) is a report synthesizing the insights of 110 leading thinkers on how to educate and motivate the American public on the subject of global warming. Background on the report here. I’ll be posting a series of excerpts (citations have been removed; see original report). If you’d like to be involved in implementing the report’s recommendations, or learn more, visit the Yale Project on Climate Change website.
Below the fold is the second half of the introduction to part one, which notes a few signs that change may be underway.
SIGNS THAT ACTION IS ADVANCING
References to various success stories underway are interspersed throughout this report, in part to caution against duplicating them and also to suggest that they be built upon and augmented wherever possible. Before starting in, however, it is worthwhile to highlight in one place a few examples of the range of climate change action underway today in the United States. This is intended to be illustrative, not comprehensive. It should hearten those committed to bridging the gap between science and action. Then we can fasten our seatbelts and plunge, together, into the maw of the problem and discuss how best to address it. Here are some highlights:
The U.S. Senate approved a resolution on June 22, 2005 (by a 53-44 vote) resolving that: "It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory market-based limits and incentives on greenhouse gases that slow, stop and reverse the growth of such emissions…." Bipartisan legislation is now being crafted along these lines, and a conference on Capitol Hill is planned for April 2006 to assess the options. (Prospects for near-term action in the House of Representatives appear less promising.)
Mayors of 219 U.S. cities, representing 43.7 million Americans, have pledged to meet city-level goals consistent with the Kyoto Protocol, by signing the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, an initiative led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.
The Ad Council, which produced one of the highest-recall advertisements of all time in 1971, popularly known as "The Crying Indian," launched in late March 2006 a major TV, print and radio advertising campaign on climate change, in cooperation with Environmental Defense and the Robertson Foundation. It will focus both on the urgency of the issue and on providing steps that individuals can take to conserve energy and lower their emissions.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The Governors of seven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2005 to create a regional cap-and-trade plan to reduce emissions from power plants. RGGI will also provide credits for emissions reductions achieved outside of the electricity sector
Fox News aired a 1-hour special in late 2005 that played against its conservative reputation entitled: "The Heat Is On: The Case of Global Warming." HBO will air in April 2006 a global warming special entitled "Too Hot Not to Handle." Turner Broadcasting System took on the Herculean task of making global warming funny in a 2-hour comedy special called "Earth to America," which aired in November 2005. The CBS Series 60 Minutes did a segment on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment in February 2006.
In June 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger committed to reduce California’s greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. California passed the first law in the nation to cut automobile emissions of greenhouse gases (22 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2016), though an automaker legal challenge is pending. New York adopted the same standard on November 9, 2005, and other states are following. In February 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission announced plans to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s power plants. California, Washington and Oregon are cooperating on a strategy to reduce GHG emissions called the West Coast Governors’ Global Warming Initiative.
Other state action.
Twenty-eight states now have climate action plans, including nine with statewide emissions targets. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have mandated that electric utilities generate a specified amount of electricity from renewable sources — known as Renewable Portfolio Standards.
Scores of U.S. companies continue to make and execute commitments to reduce greenhouse gases through a variety of governmental and NGO-based voluntary programs and registries, ranging from the Chicago Climate Exchange to the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, with 41 members representing $2 trillion in market capitalization.
Investors managing over $2.7 trillion in assets and coordinating their efforts through the Investor Network on Climate Risk released a 10-point action plan on May 10, 2005, calling on U.S. companies, Wall Street firms, and the SEC to provide investors with comprehensive analysis and disclosure about the financial risks presented by climate change.
Civil society is increasingly active on climate change, ranging from the diverse Apollo Alliance coalition on clean energy to the 25 x 25 initiative to develop farm-based sources capable of supplying 25 percent of U.S. energy by 2025. The new Evangelical Climate Initiative issued a "Call to Action" in February 2006.
Energy Action, a North American coalition of 30 student and youth clean energy organizations, was recently launched. Among other activities, Energy Action is advancing the Campus Climate Challenge, a grassroots effort to secure emissions reductions on over 500 high school and college campuses.
Rethinking oil dependence.
There is a growing convergence between those who are concerned about the security implications of U.S. oil dependence and those focused on reducing oil use to mitigate climate change. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush added his weight to those concerned about America’s current energy use by saying that America is "addicted to oil" and calling for increasing research into alternative energy sources. The President has, however, continued to oppose regulation of greenhouse gases domestically and engagement in international negotiations to cap emissions.
Encouraged by this range of progress, we now proceed to discuss some of the key challenges still ahead, and ways to address them.