Environmental Defense Fund Pursues a New Path Forward on Climate Change
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
As the new Congress takes office, great opportunity exists both for innovations in climate change-related policy proposals and in public engagement about the problem. Yet it's been very discouraging to see most of the discussion, focus, and organizing centered on the perceived need to "defend climate science" against deniers and to provide more rapid, more accurate technical information to decision-makers, the media, and the public. The faulty assumption behind these efforts appears to be that until there is widespread agreement on the science, policy action can't take place.
Yet this gets the challenge backwards: Until new policies are introduced which can gain bi-partisan support, are easily understandable, perceived as credible, and translate into clear benefits, there will always be challenges to climate science. Get the policy right, and the debate over the science will go away.
In contrast to the current rapid-fire efforts to "defend climate science," a largely overlooked, but deeply promising new direction was recently outlined at the Huffington Post by Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund. The goals and broad strategies fit very closely with the plan I outlined the day after the Mid-term elections, which would involve investing in a new communication infrastructure in key battleground states leading up to the 2012 election, an infrastructure that brokers partnerships, gives voice to public preferences, and that identifies and communicates about a range of possible policy solutions at the national, regional, and local levels.
Excerpts from Krupp's plan at Huffington Post with my emphasis added:
If we are going to de-carbonize our economy, we have to de-polarize the politics surrounding the conversation. It is worth remembering that no major environmental law has ever passed without substantial bipartisan support. This has always been the case -- but the incoming Congress is a fresh reminder that bipartisanship must be the foundation of future progress.
In short, while being more aggressive and vigorously fighting to achieve critical emissions reductions, we -- the environmental community -- must be more open. Our response to this political problem must be to engage more widely and listen more carefully, not dismiss or belittle those with whom we disagree.
We will have to reach out to new partners, make new allies, and engage new constituencies. We have done so with a large part of the business community, and we will learn to do so with others.
We cannot expect that the public will support change without understanding the reasons for it. But we cannot browbeat our way to a broader understanding of the science behind climate change and the benefits of taking action. We need to start with the real problems people face in America today - from jobs and energy security to clean air and water -- and work with them to find answers to those problems and the common challenge that faces all of us.
Fortunately, even in this difficult year, there is a path emerging that will allow us to begin to solve climate change, and there is a foundation upon which to build.
In order to continue to make progress, a new openness to different solutions will be essential. For our part -- long standing advocates of a cap and trade approach -- we need to accept that whether policies are cap and trade or something else is less important than whether they collectively provide a clear guarantee that emissions go down. More broadly, every entity looking for solutions to climate change will need to embrace flexibility and creativity in their policy approaches.
We will be guided by three principles as we work toward our pollution reduction goal:
In the long run we believe the path forward will be built from a continuing focus on solutions, and an aggressive approach combined with willingness to find new answers to the challenges we face. We must listen as well as speak, though speak we must. When we take this approach, we can seek out and work with people across the political and cultural spectrums with different approaches to solving our energy or climate challenges, and we can travel the path forward, together.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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