Plan for Addressing Climate Change Charts a Path for New President

Diane Carman — former Denver Post columnist, now director of communications for the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, home of the Presidential Climate Action Project — explores solutions to the continuing global warming debate in this guest commentary exclusive to Colorado Confidential. So much time has been lost. So much coal and gasoline burned, so many poorly insulated buildings constructed and inefficient vehicles sold.

When scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their final report on Nov. 17, their sense of urgency was palpable. Human-caused climate change is advancing rapidly, they said. Time is of the essence. There’s none left to waste.

Slowing and reversing the stark threats of climate change “are the defining challenge of our age,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said upon release of the November IPCC report. “The world looks to our climate brain trust to educate, inform and guide us.”

Nearly a year ago, members of an extraordinary climate brain trust from across the country began working to do just that. Their goal was to develop a plan to give the next president a running start on addressing the complex challenge of global warming.

This was not meant to be a political tool or a vanity project for quirky enviros. It was conceived as a cold-eyed, audacious agenda for the next president of the United States.

The Presidential Climate Action Plan is rooted in hard science, rigorously nonpartisan and dedicated to good public policy.

It calls for a transformation of the economy to create jobs and support innovation. It outlines how to convert the vast federal programs and subsidies that support outdated technologies to incentives for the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. Its goal is to restore the United States to the leadership position on climate action around the world.

Born in the tradition of old-fashioned grassroots democracy where political power rises from the people, PCAP offers the next president a blueprint for climate action unencumbered by demands from special interests. Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart and Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc. (one of the most successful green companies in America), are PCAP’s co-chairs. It is headquartered at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, but its reach extends across the nation and beyond.

Its advisory board includes Theodore Roosevelt IV, chair of the Pew Center on Climate Change; Adm. Richard H. Truly (Ret.), former NASA administrator; D. James Baker, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Inc.; Professor David Orr from Oberlin College; and others.

The PCAP effort is based on three overriding themes — security, opportunity and stewardship — and has been embraced by a broad spectrum of concerned Americans. Some have donated money; others have given generously of their time; still others have shared their guidance and expertise.

Its proposals range from revolutionizing the nation’s farm economy to overhauling the operations of the country’s largest energy consumer — the federal government — to make them carbon-neutral.

The plan includes research on the policies of international development banks and recommendations for restructuring loan policies that overwhelmingly support old, polluting fossil fuel-based industries.

Soon it will include an analysis of the constitutional powers of the president, including what measures will require acts of Congress and what can be accomplished rapidly by executive order.

As news about PCAP has spread, discussion of climate issues has exploded on the web. On Tuesday alone, the PCAP website at received 35,000 hits, and blogs from Dot Earth at the New York Times website to the Huffington Post have been humming this week as the debate intensifies.

For all of us, this heightened awareness is good news.

The PCAP team is eager to work with presidential candidates to help develop climate-change policies. Nothing will persuade them to make this issue an election-year priority quite like urging from the voters.

The Pew Research Center and other polling groups have found that the strongest support for action on climate change is found among younger voters. As Hart says, “Young people get this.”

But surveys by Yale University and others have shown that more and more voters of all ages are coming to the realization that energy independence, a sustainable economy and respect for the planet are essential in the quest to achieve a lasting peace. PCAP will continue to energize the debate.

Efficiently, renewably and sustainably, of course.