The Personalities Behind Climate Change
Emilia Hungerford reveals the faces who are making a difference.
Dr James Hansen
Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies n Adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University
Dr James Hansen is arguably one of the most renowned climate scientists of our day. Having brought the subject of climate change to the world’s attention back in the 1980s, he has been presenting his findings about the threats of climate change through scientific papers, congressional hearings, conferences and books ever since. Hansen developed one of the first computer models to predict the impact of rising CO2 levels on the Earth’s temperature, and his research has led him to believe that we must reduce atmospheric CO2 to 350 parts per million (ppm) in order to avoid future disaster. (Atmospheric CO2 is already at 385ppm and increasing by about two ppm each year due to the burning of fossil fuels.) He argues that if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels and reduce other man-made greenhouse gas emissions, then our future will be beset by droughts, heat waves, forest fires, extinction of 20 per cent of the earth’s species, rising sea levels and cyclonic storms. Hansen’s ‘clean energy solution’ lies in nuclear power and the development of Generation IV nuclear power plants. These ‘fast’ nuclear reactors utilise more than 99 per cent of the fuel and can ‘burn’ nuclear waste, thus solving the nuclear waste problem that concerns so many.
Green Gift? Book: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.
Campaign: 350.org, a campaign to popularise the view that the best target for atmospheric carbon content is 350ppm – much lower than previously thought. www.350.org
US Energy Secretary n Nobel Prize-winning physicist
Steven Chu calls for a ‘clean energy revolution’ in America, which he believes will not only help mitigate climate change but also decrease US dependency on foreign oil, create jobs and ensure American economic competiveness in the future. He believes that America has the opportunity to lead the world in a clean energy revolution, which will provide the US energy requirements but in a clean and sustainable form. Chu proposes to incentivise greater private investment into clean energy and use the profit motive to encourage the development of these technologies. Chu was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997 and directed the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory before being appointed by President Obama as the twelfth Secretary of Energy.
Green Gift? For his work at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and his contribution to the influential InterAcademy Council report Lighting the Way Toward a Sustainable Energy Future and the National Academy’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future; and the National Academies’ ongoing study, America’s Energy Future. www.interacademycouncil.net
American consultant n Experimental physicist n 1993 MacArthur Fellow n Active in energy, resources, environment, development, and security in more than 50 countries for 35 years
Amory Lovins, widely considered to be one of the world’s leading authorities on energy efficiency, is a passionate advocate of energy efficiency as a ‘win-win’ strategy to help save our planet while at the same time saving money. Lovins set up the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which looks at how, through innovative technologies and design, we can use the planet’s resources more efficiently to help make the world a more secure, just, prosperous and life-sustaining place. According to its website, RMI ‘works with businesses, communities, and organisations around the world in three interconnected practices: the built environment, energy and resources, mobility and vehicle efficiency and incorporates a unique blend of whole-system thinking, integrative design, end-use/low-cost analysis, and an interdisciplinary knowledge of advanced technologies and techniques.’
Green Gift? Book: Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution is a blueprint for a new economy. The book describes a future on the verge of a new industrial revolution in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, allowing companies to improve their bottom lines and help solve environmental problems at the same time.
Co-founder and Director of Forum for the Futuren
Former chair of the Green Party n Former director of Friends of the Earth n Former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission
Jonathon Porritt has been dedicated to environmental issues ever since the 1970s, when he was an early chair of the Ecology (now Green) Party. In 1996 he established Forum for the Future (FFF), which is now the UK’s leading sustainable development charity, employing some 70 staff and maintaining relationships with over 100 partner organisations, including some of the world’s leading companies. Out of the many projects FFF has been involved with is Marks & Spencer’s Plan A campaign, which aims to make Marks & Spencer the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. In 2000 Porritt received a CBE for services to environmental protection.
Green Gift? Books: Capitalism: As if the World Matters, in which Porritt argues that environmentalists must embrace an ‘evolved, intelligent and elegant’ form of capitalism. See also Globalism and Regionalism and Living Within Our Means.
Initiative: Forum for the Future.
Founder and former CEO of Microsoft n Philanthropist
If Bill Gates were granted just one wish for the future, it would be to find a clean, economical, renewable energy source capable of satisfying the world’s increasing energy needs. In doing so, we would not just help stop the progress of climate change, but also alleviate much poverty. At this year’s TED Conference, Gates spoke publicly for the first time about his belief that addressing climate change will require massive investment in innovations aimed at creating the ‘energy miracles’ that will enable us to reach zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.
Green Gift? Website: The Gates Notes, a wonderful online resource of articles focused on the issues and ideas that Gates is passionate about, many of which – such as global poverty – he addresses through his charitable foundation. www.thegatesnotes.com
Former UN Secretary-General n
Nobel Peace Prize-winner
Since leaving the UN, Kofi Annan has continued to press for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. In 2007, Annan was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African led partnership working across the continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. Over the past 15 years, food security and the livelihoods of Africans has been in decline. During this time, the number of Africans living below the poverty line has increased by 50 per cent. The solution lies in creating a ‘new African Green Revolution’ that recognises small-scale farming as being the key to increasing production. By providing farmers with the tools and resources to increase productivity, instilling fairness into Africa’s agricultural system and putting the environment and sustainability at its heart, AGRA believes it can help pull many millions of Africans out of poverty.
Green Gift? Initiative: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. www.agra-alliance.org
Lord Nicholas Stern
Climate Economist n Chairman of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Lord Nicholas Stern is best known for his groundbreaking Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (2006), commissioned by Gordon Brown, detailing the costs and benefits of dealing with climate change. Stern and his team concluded that the costs involved in switching to a low-carbon economy, however daunting, represent a mere fraction of the costs that would arise from allowing climate change to proceed unabated – in other words, early and decisive action will cost humanity far less in the long run. While he admits that there is still much that we need to understand in terms of both the science and economics of climate change, Stern believes that we do know enough now to be reasonably clear about the risks and the time scale for effective action, and he is optimistic about our ability to tackle this singularly important issue.
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