The Climate Change Imperative

Guest Blog by Richard Edelman, President and CEO, Edelman
Aug 11, 2014 5:00 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs
Richard Edelman is president and CEO of Edelman.

Originally published on on July 22, 2014

I went to the home of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, last night for dinner. Sachs, a Harvard classmate (one of those people you identified at age 18 as having superior intellect), has taken a leadership role in the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a coalition of academics, business and non-governmental organizations. SDSN released a white paper earlier this month called “Pathways to Deep Decarbonization,” a plan to limit the mean temperature increase to less than two degrees Centigrade, which was agreed to by major nations at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Sachs noted that earlier in the day the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that June 2014 was the hottest June since the start of records in 1880, 1.3 degrees warmer than the average of the 20th century and warmer than the previous record year of June, 2010. He noted that the current global trajectory is toward a four-to-six degree Centigrade increase in temperature by the end of the century; “The world is on a very dangerous path,” Sachs asserted.

Sachs is seeking a step-reduction in CO2 emissions. At present, the U.S. emits around 16 tons of carbon dioxide per person, China around eight tons, while the world average is around five tons per person. “We need to cut tons of carbon emitted per capita by around two-thirds by 2050,” he said. Among his ideas are a move away from carbon heavy fuels such as coal; use of renewable sources of energy with focus on solar and wind; carbon capture and sequestration into geological aquifers; mass electrification of motor vehicles; next generation nuclear facilities (France gets a large percentage of its power from nuclear); gains in energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings; a change in lifestyle patterns; and urban planning and reimagining of industrial processes (think of electric heating of metals instead of old method of smelting).

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Richard Edelman is president and CEO of Edelman. This article originally appeared in his “6 A.M.” column.