12 July 2007

Global Climate Change: Seizing the Day on Climate Change

What do we need to do to take action on climate change in the current climate of heightened awareness? A session I organized at the ELP/NJIT Climate Change Conference, "Emerging Leaders, Emerging Solutions" tried to address that question.

The panel, "Seizing the Day: What We Need to Do to Take Advantage of Climate Change Awareness and Move to Action," fostered a robust conversation moderated by Eugene Linden, whose book Winds of Change is one of two essential books on the issue (the other is Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers).

Baruch Fischhoff from Carnegie Mellon kicked off our discussion after Eugene's insightful remarks. He identified a clear need for more social science research on the issue and its frame. He also reminded us that it is more difficult to achieve cognitive mastery over the "solution space" than the awareness of the problem. In addition, I found his remarks on the personal nature of choice to take action very insightful, as was his reminder that if people feel they are being manipulated or taken advantage of awareness of the issue may be hard to sustain.

Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate.org suggested that we need to pay attention to the way the issue is framed and avoid allowing the frame to be changed from a science discussion to a "freedom of speech issue." This was one of a number of valuable insights Gavin offered from the trenches of the science "debate."

Trina Chattoraj Mallik of The Climate Group offered her perspective on the nature of conversations and innovative solutions coming out of the corporate sector. Especially valuable were her insights on how corporations are now viewing this issue as a strategic growth opportunity and the importance that will play in the future.

Gary Guzy from Marsh took a look back at the "radical enterprise" of "environmental and public health protection," drawing on his experience at the EPA under Clinton and his coming of age during the era of proliferation of important protections and laws. He also took stock of the corporate environment where the climate change has moved from compliance issue to a C-suite opportunity.

Finally, Jacky Grimshaw highlighted the impacts at the municipal and national level as cities and communities seek to set baseline data to measure progress on reductions. In particular, the Center for Neighborhood Technology's efforts to develop technology to help cities collect and track their data.

The bottom line? We need a variety of approaches from a variety of sectors and partnerships to define and implement solutions, we need to demonstrate how choices don't have to be onerous, and we need a more scientific approach to how we make choices about solutions for which we need more research and less intuition.

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