John C. Topping
This book is the result of a remarkable conference that marked the 20th Anniversary of the Climate Institute. The Washington Summit on Climate Stabilization had two principal objectives — to provide an accurate picture of the risks that climate change might accelerate past the point at which humanity and ecosystems could reasonably adapt, and to outline the beginnings of a public—private partnership to pioneer in comprehensive, pro-active Climate Protection Strategies that might provide humanity and other living things breathing room.
Key to the success of the International Leadership Alliance for Climate Stabilization, which is a public-private partnership that the Climate Institute has stimulated, is a broad-scale recognition of the international and intergenerational equity issues posed by climate change. The International Leadership Alliance draws on these ethical concerns to link leaders in vulnerable island nations and states or provinces of more populous nations with research institutions, universities, religious groups, voluntary carbon offset groups and corporations that share an interest in climate protection.
The seed money for the Summit came from the Evergreen Foundation whose benefactor, Bert Kerstetter, has been at the forefront of efforts to examine the ethical dimensions of global environmental issues. Bert Kerstetter's generosity has enabled his alma mater, Princeton University, to develop innovative programs in ethics and to enhance its own sustainability practices. The Climate Institute's Chief Scientist, Michael MacCracken, the driving force behind our 19 September 2006 Science Symposium and also an alumnus of Princeton, contacted Bert Kerstetter, who arranged for the funds to enable us to organize what proved to be a rarely matched presentation by world class scientists of the increasing risks of large-scale disruption posed by climate change. The Evergreen Foundation has also generously provided resources as we have sought to distill the Summit's message for a broader audience.
For the content of Sudden and Disruptive Climate Change: Exploring the Real Risks and How We Can Avoid Them, we are indebted to the authors of the individual chapters, whose biographies are provided in the list of contributors, and to two remarkable editors, who both served on a pro bono basis. Mike MacCracken was a driving force behind the US National Assessment on Climate Change, served on the synthesis team for the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, and on the author team for Sigma Xi/UN Foundation report, Confronting Climate Change: Managing the Unavoidable and Avoiding the Unmanageable. A few months before finishing his four-year term as President of the International Association on Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Mike had the almost unprecedented distinction of having a page and a half of his affidavit on risks associated with climate change quoted and relied upon by Justice Stevens in the US Supreme Court's majority opinion in the historic case of Massachusetts v EPA. Frances Moore, a 2006 summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College working as an intern with the Climate Institute, served as co-editor. Fran has a remarkable grasp both of paleoclimatology and of climate change in the Arctic. At the same time she was serving as co-editor, she also prepared papers available online at our website www.climate.org: Putting Climate Change in a Geological Context: Are Models Under-predicting Future Changes in Sea Level? and Debunking Urban Legends of Climate Change. The first article collects evidence from the last major deglaciation that suggests it resulted in rapid rise in sea level around the world, while the second eviscerates arguments advanced by climate skeptics that human influences on climate are minimal and that all or most observed climate change is attributable to natural factors.
In addition to Bert Kerstetter, we are grateful to several individuals, families and organizations whose generosity and foresight made it possible for the Climate Institute to celebrate its 20th Anniversary as the world's first environmental organization focused on climate protection. We are especially grateful to our board member, Jason Elliott, and the entire Wyly family for general support funds in 2006 and 2007 that have been crucial to our success. Sam Wyly, a pioneer in computer software and communications revolutions, brought this same insight to green power marketing as he spearheaded Green Mountain Energy. As the Keynoter of the Seattle Summit on Protecting the World's Climate convened by the Climate Institute in April 2000, he set out a vision of the information revolution as a model for a potentially sweeping transformation of the global energy system. Seven years later, Sam Wyly's vision seems to be shared by industrial and financial leaders in the US and abroad, and tens of billions of dollars worth of clean energy investments are made each month. Through the Communities Foundation of Texas, Michaels Stores, and other groups with which the Wyly family has been associated, the Climate Institute has received vital and generous support over the past eight years.
Another family, the Thomas H. and Barbara W. Gale family of Eastern Shore, Maryland, has played a similarly vital role. Tom and Barbara Gale were instrumental in funding the Symposium on Climate Change for United Nations Missions organized by the Climate Institute in June 1988, and provided crucial seed money for the Cairo World Climate Conference convened by the Climate Institute in December 1989. Their daughter, Wendy, was the Climate Institute's first intern and about 150 individuals, including her sister Jennifer, from over two dozen nations, have followed in Wendy's footsteps. Tom and Barbara provided vital support first through the William Bingham Foundation and, in more recent years, through the Thomas H. and Barbara W Gale Foundation.
Melinda Kimble has also played a vital role in our success, even before becoming Vice President for Programs of the United Nations Foundation. As a senior official of the US Department of State she had the vision to see the value of what was to become the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII). The United Nations Foundation has been a major supporter of GSEII as well as a sponsor of the Washington Summit. Support from Rockefeller Brothers Fund has also been crucial to GSEII's success, and for this we are especially grateful to Michael Northrop.
Additional support for the Washington Summit came from firms that have had little previous linkage to the Climate Institute, but that have in the past few years, embraced an energy transformation goal akin to that advanced by the Climate Institute. Especially notable is Goldman Sachs, which has begun to invest billions of dollars of its own funds into renewable energy and efficiency ventures. We were pleased to recognize Goldman Sachs and its Managing Director, Alan Waxman, who is spearheading his firm's energy transformation effort, through a Financial Stewardship Award presented at our 20th Anniversary Dinner. We also deeply appreciate the support of Toyota Motor Company and its Vice President Josephine Cooper, who spoke at the Summit on Toyota's success in commercializing gas/electric hybrids and in marketing fuel-efficient vehicles and who, on behalf of Toyota, accepted the Climate Institute's Transportation Leadership Award. We very much appreciate the participation and sponsorship of BP and congratulate them for their first place ranking among major multinationals on climate protection in the 2006 CERES ratings, an achievement for which they were recognized at the 20th Anniversary Dinner. We are also grateful for the sponsorship of the PG&E Corporation and would like to thank their CEO, Peter Darbee, and President, Tom King, who have both been working to vault their firm into leadership in clean energy.
We deeply appreciate the generous sponsorship of the Casten Family Fund and the brilliant presentation ofTom Casten, who has been both a very successful builder of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) facilities and a persuasive advocate of steps to remove regulatory barriers to such innovations. We appreciate the generous co-sponsorship by Glitnir, an Icelandic bank that has emerged as the world's leader in geothermal energy financing, and the Icelandic Tourist Board. We also would like to thank Duraflame, the leading manufacturer of firelogs, for their sponsorship, which has helped us to publish this book, and also congratulate them for the steps they have taken to transform their firelogs to a carbon neutral basis.
Several other institutions that provided tangible financial support and informational materials also deserve recognition. These include ICF International, a pioneer in greenhouse emissions inventory methodologies and a driving force behind the Green Lights and Energy Star programs; thanks especially go to Michael Barth who spearheaded ICF's first work in climate protection. We were delighted to have the sponsorship of Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) and the participation of its Founder and Chairman, Stan Ovshinsky, who has been aptly described as 'the Thomas Edison of clean energy', and its Vice President, Nancy Bacon, who has made ECD a real factor in clean energy policy formation in the US. The US Geothermal Energy Association also provided welcome sponsorship. We are grateful for the sponsorship of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and would like to congratulate its Chairman, John H. Noel, for receipt of the 2007 Conservation Award of the Daughters of the American Revolution. His speech accepting this award before 3500 attendees in Constitution Hall on 30 June 2007 was one of the finest talks ever given on the need for the US to act on climate change; it drew a standing ovation. We also appreciate the generous support of the Summit by Bill Nitze, Lee Huebner, Michael Brewer, Hal Rabner, Hans and Sabrina Weger, Robert Raymar, Scott Sklar, Devra Davis and Dick Morgenstern, and Paul and Ellen Hoff.
Deep thanks are also owed to several US and international leaders whose messages evoked hope that we might act effectively to avert some of the potential high-end disruptions of the climate and society. John Ashton, British Special Ambassador for Climate and a Member of our Board of Advisors, noted efforts of Her Majesty's Government to explore the risks of irreversible damage from climate change and to take decisive steps to limit UK greenhouse emissions. Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman Emeritus of the Climate Institute and a driving force behind Global Environmental Protection efforts for the past three decades, discussed international actions that might buffer humanity against some of the most adverse effects of climate change. President Olafur Ragmar Grimsson of Iceland mesmerized us with his insightful description of how Iceland leveraged its clean energy transformation to move from being the poorest nation in Northern Europe to become one of the world's most prosperous nations.
The Summit also engaged US political leaders, despite the fact that it was occurring just as Congress was wrapping up a contentious and busy session. On 20 September, a large crowd assembled at 8 am to hear from two of the most thoughtful US legislators: Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, now Chair of the Energy Committee, and F. Sherwood Boehlert of New York, Retiring Chair of the House Science and Astronautics Committee, and a spearhead of the Summit's success. The Climate Institute's Board Member Claudine (Schneider) Cmarada, Member of the House of Representatives from Rhode Island from 1981-1991, during which time she was the leading House champion of action on climate protection and renewable energy, organized that session. One came away from this discussion with the distinct impression that the US was near a political tipping point on climate change. A strong congratulatory joint letter from Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and Arizona Senator John McCain was distributed at the 20th Anniversary Dinner attended by Wisconsin Congressman Thomas Petri and a number of Congressional staff and numerous other conferees.
Bringing the Summit to fruition took a tremendous amount of organizational work. Alexis Sloan Nussbaum was the driving force behind the Summit, working tirelessly from early 2006 and in a remarkably insightful and professional manner and with quite modest resources to make the Summit a success. Working beside her with the same diligence and resourcefulness was Lina Karaoglanova, who served as Summit Registrar. Nine remarkably talented and industrious interns worked under their skillful direction. Erin Frey, Harvard 2008, worked closely with me developing the Summit Background Paper adapted to be Chapter 16 in this book. Holly Johnson, MIT 2007; Joe Roy-Mayhew, MIT 2008; Susie Chung, Dartmouth 2007, and three graduate students — Nalin Srivastava, a former Indian Forester studying at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Mariam Ubilava, a Muskie Fellow from the Republic of Georgia and graduate student at Evergreen State University; and Marie-Claire Munnelly, a student at the Bren School at the University of California Santa Barbara, all did wonders, editing Climate Alert, preparing the 20th Anniversary Report, helping prepare the Summit website, recruiting potential attendees, coordinating with speakers, procuring in-kind donations and more. Even before their arrival, Nina Rinnerberger, an Austrian national studying at American University, was preparing the Endangered Islands Campaign website; she recently has been chosen as Director of Operations and Director of our Intern Program. Starting just before the Summit, Courtney Wilson, a student at Hobart and William Smith, provided crucial assistance at the Summit and subsequently.
Several other Climate Institute staff and close allies played a key role as well. Nasir Khattak was the driving force behind the launch on 20 September of the International Leadership Alliance. He also oversaw successful workshop sessions on 18 and 21 September at the Climate Institute. Jack Werner oversaw the Registration Tables at the Summit and was assisted by Rob Arner, Courtney Wilson, Susie Chung and Holly Johnson, the latter three all Climate Institute interns. Ata Qureshi, who played a key role in the Climate Institute's success for nearly a decade, led our efforts to recruit embassy participants and did this with spectacular results. Nina Robbins and Sam Sherer provided sage counsel throughout our Summit planning.
Luis Roberto Acosta produced what was ultimately to prove the greatest single breakthrough at the Summit — the invitational letter from the Director of Mexico's Astrophysics Institute for the Climate Institute to build a High Altitude Climate
Observatory atop Sierra Negra, about 15,000 feet above sea level in a science park housing a radio telescope. Carlos Diaz Leal skillfully arranged for Televisa to provide extensive coverage of the Summit. For several days, the Summit was one of the two leading stories on Mexican television, along with their hotly contested presidential election. Our thanks also go to several US groups for publicizing the Summit — especially the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (Carol Werner, Fred Beck and Leanne Lamusga) and Worldwatch Institute (Darcey Rakestraw).
We are also grateful to several individual honorees for getting the 18 September opening Workshop on Climate Communications off to such a great start. Susan Joy Hassol, recipient of the Nancy Wilson Memorial Award for her work on many fronts — writing the Synthesis Report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, writing the script for the HBO movie, Too Hot Not To Handle, etc. - described how to communicate with full effect, as did fellow Award Winner, Karen Coshof, producer of the widely acclaimed movie The Great Warming. Karen has gone on to organize a US-Canadian Coalition for Climate Action from this great film.
Two high points of our 20 th Anniversary Dinner were the great anecdote about our first Science Award Winner, Roger Revelle, by Robert Corell, recipient of our First Revelle Memorial Award, and a stirring tribute to our beloved Climate Alert Founding Editor, the late Nancy Wilson, by Mark Goldberg, our Vice Chairman. With Nancy's determination we may yet achieve climate stabilization.
Was this article helpful?