State of the Planet Conference: Act Now

E-mail this post

Remember me (?)

All personal information that you provide here will be governed by the Privacy Policy of More...

Personal Recounts from the 2-day State of the Planet Conference:

The message was clear despite very convoluted and challenging questions of whether sustainable development is in fact feasible. The answer: We have reached a point where we are uncertain of it, but we must move forward and act quickly - not alone, but together. Not as a country, but as a world, because global issues know no boundaries. Scientists were calling for 5 years of a seemingly complete 180 degrees in policy, in carbon control, etc. for it to make a difference in the 10 years that we have before the world undergoes great change due to the human-induced climate.

In gen
eral, for those who have worked closely with the government, the message was dire. Disillusionment was strong. For those who tended to work more with students, with young people, the message was more optimistic. The disparate nature in pessimism vs. optimisim was a time-scale issue. Those who worked with government understand that we must act now....not wait 10 years for all the spectacularly able social entrepreneurs to get their MBAs and build their companies and NGOs. It was a strong call-to-action to everyone there, young and old, man and woman. But the important point was made: the people here are the ones that know that. We need to get a whole mass of public that isn't there to move with us.

Preeminent scientists, economists and officials from around the world spoke on issues of climate change, poverty, disease, financial markets, government, alternative energies. "Pressure the government for proactiveness, not reactiveness," "better journalism in mainstream press," "move more markets," "more science at a more rapid pace," "governmental mandates to curb carbon emissions." Those were some of the themes that came across the radar. One man, Joseph Romm, Executive Director for the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions made the eerie statement that CO2 will drive all environmental policy (ideally) in the near future" if we are to see salvation. He made the statement that Hydrogen cars may be the future, but not until way in the future, like 2050. Biofuels will not be a strong market. There are too many barriers. Over the next 20 years, policy in transport has to be efficiency.
Why? He gave 7 barriers to alternative fuels
  1. High first cost for vehicle
  2. Storage
  3. Safety and liability
  4. High fueling costs
  5. Limited fuel stations
  6. Not a cost-effective pollution reducer (i.e. ethanol from corn is a high-intensity crop_
  7. Tough competition from hybrids, which have already established themselves in the marketplace
"The world energy system is like the Titanic," stated Romm after having genuinely standing up in front of the many young people in the audience and saying, " wish we could have done more, so this wasn't on you."

interesting, you know, if we in fact, listened to Jimmy Carter's precautionary tale of energy back in April of 1977 ("The President's Proposed Energy Policy. 18 April 1977. Vital Speeches of the Day. Volume XXXXIII No. 14. May 1977. pp. 418-420). If we were more of a proactive society, the world wouldn't be in such dire straights. One thing is for certain, we need strong leaders, and a strong President to step up to the plate, who fully understands the issues, who can take the heat and make world change....after all, we are deciding the fates of not just the voters, but for all the non-voters throughout the world (and I'm not just talking about the people on the planet)... Throughout the 2-day discussion, I was experiencing a series of incredible highs-and-lows. Within 30 minutes, I was able to write my speech for SBN's April 20th talk because I was so inspired, but as of yesterday, I just felt so helpless, pissed, and then invigorated again. I even called my mother, which I never really do unless I'm so extremely irked (and then usually get more pissed after talking with her, confessingly). It is an internal maelstrom. It makes you look at the big picture, makes you look at your own work with both insignificance and significance to the larger picture. Makes you wonder how much more you can push. Makes you want to prioritize as much as possible. It is the fuel for what passion is made out of. And you can't only help but wish it was the same god-damn passion that drives others.... SUMMARY of speakers:
SPEAKER 1. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (you may have also seen his "Into Africa" movie with Angelina Jolie on MTV not too long ago)

"Sustainable development is one of the most neglected topics, but one of the most central themes...if we are to bequeath the earth to the next-generation."
"We break down the lumbering term of sustainable development as the following: "Development" as improved material conditions (food, water, shelter, transport, communications, technology) and "Sustainable" as environmental sustainability. Five sixths of the world do not live in sustainably developed conditions. 1 out of 6 (1 billion) live in extreme material deprivation. We must narrow the gap between rich and poor with continuing material well-being withou undermining ecosystems and the physical system of the planet. The issues, as we see them, are finally reaching the centrality that it finally needs (Time Magazine see current issue of "Be Scared. Be Very Scared." and 60 Minutes episode 19 March 2006 with Jim Henson, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NY Times, etc.)...."

"Every major ecosystem is under threat. It should be the #1 talked about issue. Our ecosystem is facing profound effects. It is at the core of our survival...Both the Carbon cycle and Nitrogen cycle, once natural processes are now dominated by antrhropogenic intervention. We are on an unsustainable trajectory. Global climate change is one that we are talking about. It affects the biophysical systems - pathogens, pests, precipitation, ability to grow crops, acidification of oceans, massive dire consequences of corals, fisheries, and other ecosystems."

"The world is not staying where it is. We are not staying where we are. 6.5 billion people now, 9 billion by mid-century."

"Helping global poverty will HELP, not hinder. There will only be a 6% increase in carbon emissions if the poorest is lifted out of their poverty. We can tkae 71% of the wood fuels down to 17% and take pressure off of biomass. We need a massive security, humanitarian, and environmental point of view to move that."
"Those who say it's the end of oil, in one sense is not right. Good news is that we won't run out of fossil fuels for centuries, but bad news is that we won't run out of fossil fuels for centuries...We need to decarbonize our energy. We need a sustainable energy system...We also need new ways to grow food - both marine and terrestrial - most deforestation right now is for arable land."

"The basic problem is that we have no politics. We are fighting all the wrong wars..."
"The gap between science and politics is too significant. We will require massive improvements in science and technology if we want 9 billion people living on this planet in a sustainable, safe way. Science has to be at the center of this. We need a government to adsorb the science of it. Right now, they have to interface to act between science and policy. Our politicians don't have the expertise. It is NOT a major unsolvable, but it is a major solvable problem."

"There is no such thing as a superpower anymore. No definition for it. Ability to solve these problems is only solvable at global levels of cooperation. Global solutions are real. The U.S. can't lead this. We need international harmony. We need institutions to look after the future."

"We need a deeper understanding of science. It is our pathway to survival."


SPEAKER 2. Steven E. Koonin, Chief Scientist, BP - "Mobilizing Research and Ingenuity for the World's Needs"

"There are 4.5 trillion barrels of oil left at reasonable prices. One billion will be needed over the next 25 years." BP is investing a bit in solar and biofuels, but it will be largely focusing on oil still and...nuclear...which is a bit scary.

SPEAKER 3. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations - "Needed Reform to International Economic Governance for Development"

"Only 4% of economic growth only goes down to people who live on < $2/day ....How is this sustainable development? How can we begin to do sustainable development with financial deepening?"

"Middle income countries have tried to break free of financial liberalization and away from the IMF...Trade development usually follows development, not precedes it. Premature trade liberalization undermines economic capacity."

"Only five countries will benefit from trade liberalization: Brazil, Argentina, India, China and Vietnam. The three former from agricultural trade liberalization, the two latter from manufacturing trade liberalization."

SPEAKER 4. Rajendra K. Pachauri, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute; Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Evolving Institutional Structures for Sustainable Development: Connecting Macro Policy with Grassroots Action."

"Some societies and governments that can't adsorb science get and remain static in the state of development."

"The battle for peace has to be fought on two fronts. The first is the security front where victory spells freedom from fear. The second is on the economic and social front where victory means freedom from want. Only victory on both fronts can ensure a world of enduring peace." - US Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, 1945 at the San Francisco Conference on the United Nations.

Some Downsides of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • Energy is missing in the MDGs
  • Consideration for natural resources, what are the MDGs ecological implications?
  • Technological development and innovation not included
  • Human resource development
  • Upward flow of knowledge and experience
Some Downsides of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

"Extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grand-children, but our time." - Jeffrey Sachs

Introduction to TERI. It is The Energy and Research Institute which designs renewable and affordable products and services to the members at the BOP (bottom of the pyramid). They focus on designing programs for local conditions with local capacity.

"Democracy must in essence, therefore, mean the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic, and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in hte service of the common good of all." - Mohandas Gandhi

SPEAKER 5. Eric V. Schaeffer, Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, "Environmental Enforcement in Market-based Economies."

"We are oging to have theory in war with the facts..."

"Leadership inspires some form of idealism."

"99.9% of companies in the U.S. are waiting for regulation. Even the companies that have made initiatives are very timid...Why is climate change an issue? Because it is the capacity of absorbing Carbon and greenhouse gasses."

Kaiser did a poll showing that American's think we give 20% of our federal budget to foreign aid. When asked what they think we should be giving, they remarked "10%," even though in reality we only give less than 1% of our budget to foreign aid.

"The end of poverty can be more linked to social movements, like civil rights, end of slavery, anti-colonial movement, etc....not a technical issue."

SPEAKER 6. Abby Joseph Cohen, Partner and Chief U.S. Investment Strategist Goldman, Sachs & Co. "Capital Markets at the Crossroads"

SRI is gaining both momentum, but it is under a new acronym: ESG which incorporates "Environmental, Social and Governance issues." And for the first time in history we are seeing a big movement go from niche to mainstream. For investors, it's not just about the environment, but also concern about fiduciary responsibilities.

"Environmentally sensitive investing is cognizant of both risks and opportunities. Investors are looking at investments that they should be investing in, not avoiding."

In graphs, it shows that SRI funds have topped out to 2.29 trillion in total assets in the past 3 years. Why is that? Well, it's because it has taken on a new form which is ESG.

ESG broke out of SRI and was at 600 billion in 2003. By 2005, it had $2.7 trillion in total assets.This is 15% of the U.S. Stock Market. Momentum can surely be built from this level. (Source: Social Investment Forum Foundation)

"Pension fund managers must focus on providing strong return for plan participants."

"We work by the "Eco-Efficiency Premium" - may be increasing as more investors focus on these characteristics and they are more appropriately priced in the financial markets."

Acorrding to the Social investment Forum, 200 SRIs are present dedicated to mutual funds as of 2003.

SPEAKER 7. Joseph Romm, Executive Director, Center for Energy and Climate Solutions "Climate, Coal and the Car of the Future"

I cannot say how much Joseph has reiterated what I think all young people are thinking. A strong energy policy needs to be enacted by a strong administration with balls of steel who understands what it means to be human. The energy policy needs to be at the core of the agenda. Not only that, it needs to be connected to values, to morals. It needs to feel "human," and not like science. "We understand that this is the most stringent cut-back on energy in history, but a governmental mandate needs to be enforced and alternative programs need to be put in place...our children...your children...will thank us." - Summer Rayne

"Sustainable development is a lot like teenage sex. Everyone says they are doing it, but they are not. And those that are, aren't doing it really well."

Is sustainable development feasible? YES!
Is it going to happen? Probably Not.
Why not? We are not trying.
What does unsustainable development look like? Post-Katrina

"Ten more years of inaction = Greenland melts = 20+ foot sea level rise."
"Twenty years = West Antarctica melts = 20+ more of sea level rise."

By 2100, US is 9 degrees warmer on average.

Hansen 4/05 in Science: "There can no longer be genuine doubt that human-made gases are the dominant cause of observed warming."

"By mid-century we will need to cut energy emission by 60-80% by current levels."

"That means we need to use 1/4 less fuel. This is what needs to drive energy policy and it is not even in the agenda!"

Coal plants CANNOT be built. By 2011-2020, 500 more will be build. By 2021-2030, 670 will be built. Carbon released in the atmosphere will be the same amount as when we started burning it.

The political agenda needs to deal with COAL and CARS

Coal Strategy:
- Minimize new coal plants
- Replace coal with renewables
- Coal gasification and carbon capture
- Must have a CO2 price soon

Car strategy:
- Fuel efficiency needs to be concentrated on for the next 20 years
- Need low CO2 in alternative fuelds
- Focus on the best alternative fuels that minimize infrastructure

NEED GOVERNMENTAL MANDATES! Business cannot solve the problem.

Hydrogen in cars? Forget it! Not until 2050 or never. Fuel economy is more plausible.

The 7 Boundaries to Alternative Fuels
  • High first cost for vehicle
  • Storage
  • Safety and liability
  • High fueling costs
  • Limited fuel stations
  • Not a cost-effective pollution reducer
  • Tough competition: hybrids

"We must have low-carbon fuel by 2020."

"Cellulosic ethanol - a prius on 85% ethanol will get 300 miles per gallon. But corn to make the ethanol is too intensive of a plant and GM's "Yellow Go Green" Campaign is a laugh."

"Plug-in hybrids have 1/2 emission of gas."


Joseph Romm speaking to a group of my peers: "Your generation has to be relentless. We have asked the general public to be as savvy on climate change issues as a scientist...That isn't right, but that's what our world has come to now...We need a radical NGO partnership with business or we are going to end up where we are heading...CO2 will drive environmental policy. Brazil has done it because of a mandate. We need a mandate for renewable energies...The world energy system is like the Titanic."

SPEAKER 8. Joel E. Cohen, Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Populations, Rockefeller University; Professor of Populations, Columbia University; Head of the Laboratory of Populations, The Earth Institute of Columbia University and Rockefeller University. "Education in Developing Countries"

"We live on 1 planet, but 2 different worlds. In poor countries, the GNP per person is $26,320. In poor countries it is $4,450."

"One child difference per woman means means around 3 billion more or fewer people by 2050. This is larger concentrated in poor countries."

There has been a huge shift in numbers and age competition. "This decade is the end of youth in humanity. Pretty soon there will be more old people on Earth than young."

"We are all biogeochemists...Humans are now the major contributors to the global Nitrogen cycle and the Carbon cycle."

"100-115 million children of primary school age are NOT enrolled in a school. That is 1 in 5 children."

"250-300 million children of secondary school age are not enrolled in school."

"It will cost somewhere between $34-$69 billion to send all kids to school."

"Communism will collapse if you lie about economy. Capitalism will collapse if you lie about ecology." - Lester Brown.

0 Responses to “State of the Planet Conference: Act Now”

Leave a Reply

      Convert to boldConvert to italicConvert to link



  • From the frontlines: Tracking the latest news, updates, and projects of Summer Rayne Oakes

E-mail me SRO News

Preview | FeedBlitz

Social Bookmarking

previous posts



ATOM 0.3

View blog top tags View blog authority