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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership (Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See)

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections
Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers

 

Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See

We’re all aiming to put things into perspective given the shakeup of the climate change policy landscape.  It’s time for bold leadership, and to be the change we want to see.  Do we really think that other people are going to clean this mess up?  We all need to pick up the shovel, and when we do, real change will take place.  Actions drive change.

Imagine what would happen if scores of companies, government officials and university leaders dramatically raised the bar on their own climate leadership. It’s really not that difficult to create a marketplace and a policy landscape that changes the landscape considerably. 

Here are some ideas, that if you added up across numerous organizations, would become game changers:

LITTLE STEPS ALONG THE WAY

  • Big wins can also come from little projects.  Don’t lose the forest from the trees.  Identify tangible smaller projects that can demonstrate success and build confidence in climate preparedness efforts and the value they can play for your organizations.
  • Find champions.  You’ll be surprised to learn what forces might get behind your initiatives.  Step outside your comfort zone and examine whose interests intersect with your own.  Seek guidance.  Find common ground.  Propose ideas.  Activate champions who can reinforce your efforts and/or introduce them to new stakeholders.
  • Activate a culture of invested stakeholders.  Identify activities and issues that will galvanize a portion of your workforce.  Whether establishing green initiatives teams looking inward at your organization, or conceiving and driving volunteer efforts to support your surrounding community, the more engaged your colleagues and stakeholders are in these efforts, the more confident, supportive and adventurous they will be in your efforts going forward.
  • Build stakeholder, public and political will for solutions.  More than half of Americans and the overwhelming majority of the world support taking action to meaningfully address climate change.  But there is a small minority that vehemently opposes climate action.  The devil is in the details. If we figure out how to help those whom would be harmed by climate smart policies and activate those whom are indifferent, perhaps we can turn them into allies in this effort.
  • There’s No Good vs. Evil.  Making people or organizations out to be bad guys either turns them into enemies or makes them indifferent.  Neither is productive.  Let’s sit down and listen to each other’s concerns and find common ground to move forward.
  • Establish and align goals to leverage co-benefits and stakeholder priorities by developing sound metrics and achieving benchmarks for economic development, public health and other priority quality of life considerations.

BIG STEPS SHAKE THINGS UP

  • Establish bolder reduction goals with long-term and escalating trajectories.  There are numerous bottom-line beneficial opportunities awaiting organizations that drive sensible greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and materials management strategies.  The business case needs to extend beyond short-term gains.  Make bolder goals with transparent and aggressive glide paths so that stakeholders with long-term perspectives and decision-making process can get behind your efforts and adapt accordingly.
  • Mandate and provide climate preparedness training for key decision makers (not just environmental professionals) in your organization.  Civil engineers, facilities managers, architects, supply chain and procurement professionals, city managers, and infrastructure design and protection professionals are just a few of the key professions that can play a significant role in advancing GHG reduction, adaptation and resilience measures, thus ensuring that public and private sector organizations are well positioned to meaningfully contribute to efforts to slow down the impacts of climate change prepare for its implications.
  • Break down internal silos and establish collaborative leadership structures.  A vast range of professionals and decision-makers intersect with aspects of climate change.  This is particularly the case in large organizations.  Convene the key professionals, functions and departments and establish an ongoing collaborative leadership structure to assess vulnerabilities and opportunities and chart a collective strategic approach to responding to those considerations.
  • Consider your organization’s stance on policies and public affairs that intersect with climate change.  How is your organization positioning itself in the context of climate change?  How high is climate policy on your organization’s list of issues it addresses in the context of policy and public engagement?  Be bold, make it a top tier priority and keep it there consistently.  Sustained advocacy and public engagement is a critical tool toward affecting public and political will.
  • Think and act beyond your organization’s boundaries by forming collaborations with stakeholders and peer organizations.  The implications of climate change have no regard for organizational boundaries or jurisdictions.  Substantial opportunities to realize and achieve solutions await those who aggregate their interests and share resources.  Additionally, climate change and extreme events don’t respect organizational boundaries and jurisdictions. 

Remember, a chorus of these activities completely changes the landscape within your organization and outside its “fences.”  Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t built by one person.

These are just a few of the tangible action items we should all be thinking about.  The next few chapters of this blog series will hone in on opportunities for specific sectors and types of organizations.

Tags:  climate  Climate Action Plan  climate change  leadership 

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Framing Climate Change as a National Security Threat

Posted By Meaghan Bresnahan, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, July 31, 2014
At the National Security and Climate Change discussion in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, it was noted repeatedly that although many people may not yet realize it, climate change is impacting the world here and now. As Ian Kraucunas of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory stated, “We are already seeing an increase in certain types of events that are consistent with what [scientists] would expect from climate change, although we can’t attribute any one event to it.”

It is therefore vital that the United States, at the national and local levels, rapidly advances its adaptation and mitigation plans. As such, Kraucunas called on scientists to do a better job of informing decision making by targeting their scientific conclusions and putting them in context for legislators. The panelists further urged those active in the climate change discussion to frame it from a national security point of view.

Craig Gannett of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation noted that the definition of a national security threat has expanded to include massive disruptions caused by climate change. Climate change will increasingly lead to droughts, floods, wildfires, and sea level rise. These effects are going to be major stressors on already unstable nations, potentially increasing the likelihood that they devolve into conflict. Our military will provide aid for increasingly frequent and severe disasters, stretching our own resources even thinner. Domestic agricultural production is also likely to be negatively impacted, and transport may become more difficult and expensive.

Larry Phillips, the chair of the King County Council, summarized the issue elegantly: “Climate change threatens economic security, which is the foundation of national security.” Kraucunas further noted that “climate change is complicating existing threats to national security and raising new ones.”

The melting ice in the Arctic is creating one of those new challenges for the Navy. Commander John Marburger indicated that there will be a potential threat to global security as Arctic sea ice continues to decline and traffic through this newly opened route increases. However, he also stated that the Arctic provides the United States “a chance to get [adaptation] right the first time” through preparation, planning, and international collaboration.

Alice Hill, a senior advisor on the White House National Security Council, highlighted one of the United States’ most decisive efforts toward addressing climate change: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The plan’s three pillars involve mitigation, adaptation, and leading international efforts. The more success we have at the local and federal levels with the first two pillars, the better we will be able to address this evolving national security threat. Further, the longer we wait to take action, the more expensive it will be to combat the effects of climate change. To put it another way, Marburger stated, “disaster prevention is less expensive than disaster relief.”

Kraucunas concluded, “There are things we can do to avoid the unmanageable and to manage the unavoidable.” The sooner the United States initiates serious measures toward mitigation and adaptation, the more we minimize the threat of climate change to our national security.

Tags:  Adaptation  Climate Action Plan  National Security 

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Senate Reviews Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Posted By Philip Santiago, Association of Climate Change Officers, Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing Thursday, January 16, 2014 to review the President’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), the series of climate-focused Executive Orders that Obama announced in his speech at Georgetown University in June 2013.  The hearing included testimony from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, White House CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe.  Panelists fielded questions ranging from basic climate science to impacts of climate change and policy actions involved in the CAP.   

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the EPW Committee, began the hearing saying that "Climate change is a catastrophe that is unfolding before our very eyes,” and praising the move by the Obama administration for taking solid steps forward on the issue.  "It’s a moral obligation, it’s good for the economy, and it’s good for human health,” she added.  Democratic Senators including Boxer, Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Tom Carper (D-DE) made arguments in support of the President’s CAP and climate action in general.  Freshman Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) gave an impassioned speech focusing on social inequality and climate impacts on NJ cities and the poor.  Noting that polluting companies are not yet required to pay for the externalized climate costs of their businesses, Booker remarked "This idea of privatizing profits and socializing costs has got to stop.”  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke with urgency as well, noting the irrefutability of climate impacts his constituents are already seeing in Rhode Island.  "Our sea levels are rising, you measure that with a yardstick.  Our temperatures are rising, you measure that with a thermometer.”  

The hearing also contained much of the theatrics typical of bipartisan climate debate in Washington.  Republican Senators ran through standard predictions of economic gloom and doom, job losses and energy price increases.  These claims run counter to a 2011 report from the Office of Management and Budget demonstrating that every dollar spent on Clean Air Act compliance yields on average $4-8 in benefits.  Senator Boxer pointed out in response that many major corporations have expressed support for the CAP (including Nike, Symantec, Intel, Unilever, and Starbucks) and many view climate change as a substantial business opportunity rather than a financial burden.  Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was frequently combative — at one point yelling at Administrator McCarthy — particularly after Senator Whitehouse indicated that Sessions had cherry-picked his data in his attempt to deny that global temperatures are rising.  Sessions made claims that under the new proposed rules "the EPA can go into Americans’ backyards, get rid of their barbecue, and eliminate their lawnmower.”  Senators Sessions, John Barrasso (R-WY), and James Inhoffe (R-OK) also accused the EPA of "collusion with extremist environmental groups” to solicit positive comments on the proposed new rules to regulate emissions of new coal-fired power plants.   

A separate and much more sparsely attended afternoon panel included Bill Ritter, Director of the Center for the New Economy at Colorado State University and former Governor of Colorado, Dr. Dan Lashof, Climate and Clean Air Program Director at the National Resources Defense Council, and Dr. Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M.  Senate minority invitees included Dr. Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Kathleen Hartnett White, Director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank with funding ties to Koch Industries.  

In his closing remarks, Senator Whitehouse said "I urge you all to keep faith with reality, truth, and science.  Armor yourselves against the slings and arrows of the deniers.”

Tags:  Climate Action Plan  Congressional Hearing 

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