Dean Gus Speth on an Environmental 100-Day Initiative for the next President
James Gustave "Gus" Speth, is the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy
From 1993 to 1999, Dean Speth served as administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Insti-tute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Throughout his career, Dean Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize. Publications include The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment; Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment; and articles in Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Environmental Science and Technology, the Columbia Journal World of Business, and other journals and books.
Topic: A 100-day environmental initiative for the next president.
Gus Speth: There's a group called the Presidential Climate Action Plan, PCAP. And our goal there is to develop ideas for a new president on the climate issue. And in part, what we really believe has to happen is that the new president has to put the-- this issue as a first 100-day imitative. There's a real risk because it's a difficult issue. It's going to be a time consuming issue that if it gets postponed into that second or third tier of actions after healthcare and other things that it will take time, and then pretty soon we will be running up against another election cycle. And somebody will come along and say, "Well, you know, this is just to hot a potato to," pardon the pun, "to take up at this time," and so we need to get it done quickly. And the other reason for getting it done quickly, of course, is that we have an increasing amount of information coming from the scientific community that suggest that we really don't have anymore time. When I was in the Carter Administration we did three reports on global warming. And we called, at that time, for a major effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now this was 30 years ago, and very little happened. We had time, we didn't act, we blew it, now we have no time. And you have some very notable climate scientist like NASA's Jim Hansen saying that we should be capping the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million, a number we'll probable hear a lot of about. Well, we're already at 380 parts per million. So, you know, we need—- if Jim Hansen is right, we've already gone through a threshold that we should not have passed. And we need to find ways to take the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as well as stopping the buildup, which would among other things, necessitate either no more coal plants or coal plants that insisted on this carbon capture and storage, the sequestration of the carbon coming out of the use of coal.
Recorded on: 3/23/08
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