Adam Markham is executive director of Clean Air-Cool Planet, a climate advocacy group dedicated to helping the Northeast lead the way in halting global warming.

Monday, 21 May 2001

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.

Monday is one of the days I drop my daughter, Tessa, off at day care. I left her excitedly demonstrating to her teacher how the green frog she saw over the weekend hopped into a pond.

Then, coming to work this gray and chilly New England morning, I thought about the report that our intern, Adam Wilson, delivered to the office late on Friday. It’s a terrific piece of work — probably the most comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions done by any university in the country. It will lay the groundwork for a campus-wide global warming strategy. Together with the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Sustainability, we’ve been rushing to get it ready in time for the Senate Environment Committee field hearing Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) will hold at UNH on 30 May.

Slowing global warming is what Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) is all about. We’re a start-up organization, barely a year old, but already making a difference. We work in the Northeast to get people and organizations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. When CA-CP was founded, the thought was that climate policy was gridlocked in Washington, but a regional group could help move things forward by engaging people from all walks of life to show leadership by taking voluntary action.

Of course, this was all before President Bush decided to dump Kyoto, roll back efficiency standards for air conditioners, and lay out an energy policy centered on drilling, digging, and burning. Now CA-CP’s civil society approach to mobilizing people on climate change seems all the more necessary.

I feel like I’m at ground zero in the climate debate here in New England. Just a few weeks ago, Massachusetts’ acting governor, Jane Swift (R), became the first governor in the country to do what President Bush backed off from, introducing rules to force power stations to reduce carbon dioxide and three other pollutants. Before that, New Hampshire was the first state to design a voluntary greenhouse gas registry, which will eventually allow businesses and others to gain credit for early actions to reduce emissions. Energy technology companies are thick on the ground here, too, with fuel-cell manufacturers and solar businesses being particularly plentiful. This was the region that spawned the first industrial revolution in America and it may well be the crucible for another.

One of our partner organizations, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, recently calculated that the Northeast would be the world’s eighth largest emitter of greenhouse gases if it were a country. The 39 million of us who live in the region have a real responsibility to do something about the problem. It’s CA-CP’s job to get more people involved in solutions to global warming. With a full-time staff of three, and two interns, that’s quite a challenge.

As we do most Mondays, we kicked off the day with our weekly staff meeting. Turns out it’s going to be a busy week and I’m glad you’ll be with me to hear how it goes. Tomorrow, we are hosting a meeting of towns in the Cities for Climate Protection program, and on Thursday, we have an all-day workshop with some of our board and advisors to finalize CA-CP’s communications and outreach strategy. We also have to prepare for next week’s board meeting. Throw in some fundraising, a public lecture, new partners to approach, and two reports that we need to launch, and you get the idea.

My second meeting today dealt with one of those reports. We’ve been putting together a series of case studies showing how people all over the Northeast are already showing the way by cutting emissions. The report, “Cool Solutions to Global Warming: 24 Success Stories from the Northeast,” will be published on 5 Jun., and today we are working on a press strategy. We decided to tailor press releases for each of the eight states we’re working in to showcase the local climate champions. For example, in New Jersey we’ll talk about the state park that’s found a way to use geothermal energy, while in Connecticut we’ll highlight the utility that exchanged thousands of halogen torchiere lamps for safe and efficient compact fluorescent models. One of my favorites is the Shaw’s Supermarkets case study. Shaw’s signed up as our first formal partner last December, and we are working with them on half a dozen new projects, from energy efficiency to public education. It’s pretty exciting to be working this closely with a regional company that has $4 billion in annual sales and more than 4 million customers every week.

Then it was off to Kingston, to have lunch with the president of Northland Forest Products — the company from which we purchased Forest Stewardship Council-certified sustainable timber for our office furniture. Northland has a great story to tell about an investment to save energy. They replaced their old kiln-drying motors with a variable speed system, and the investment paid for itself in 18 months. Less energy used and less carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere is their approach, thus proving that energy conservation is not just a “personal virtue” as Dick Cheney would have us believe.

Back at the office after lunch to work on the agenda for our communications strategy meeting and start preparing a talk I have to give in Boston tomorrow night.

Talk to you soon.