An Important Conversation on Climate, National Security, and the Independence of the Intelligence Community with Dr. Rod SchoonoverRead Now
By Ariana Cepulis and Lukas Lehmann
Until three weeks ago, Dr. Rod Schoonover was a Senior Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US Department of State.
In his position at the State Department, Dr. Schoonover was responsible for analyzing potential national security risks posed by climate change. In early June, Dr. Schoonover prepared written testimony on the security implications of climate change for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, only to have his testimony blocked from reaching Congress by the White House because it did not align with the administration’s views on climate science. At the last minute, Dr. Schoonover was given clearance to give a five minute summary of the testimony, but the testimony was never entered into the official record.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Schoonover chose to resign.
Which brings us to last Tuesday afternoon when Dr. Schoonover spoke for the first time since his resignation at the World Resources Institute regarding his departure from civil service and the consequences that omission of his testimony will have on the integrity of the intelligence community.
When asked about the national security implications of the politicization of the basic fact of climate change, Dr. Schoonover responded, “Our national security rests on scientific integrity. When we weaken our scientific base, we weaken our information base.”
As is becoming increasingly clear, climate change has far greater and more alarming political and economic consequences than just the increasing regularity of extreme weather events. Shifts in weather patterns fundamentally alter the ecological systems in the biosphere that have shaped our societies and our world economies. For instance, if temperatures continue to rise, we will not just experience more heat waves and witness sea levels rise as the ice caps melt; the impact will be felt through the depletion of fisheries, the spread of disease carrying organisms, and changes in agriculture. As such, Dr. Schoonover advocates for “broadening out from a weather centric aperture” and instead recognizing the deep socioeconomic consequences of a changing climate. It is as a result of these fundamental political and economic repercussions that climate change is a national security issue.
Nevertheless, Dr. Schoonover seemed optimistic regarding the recent advancements of climate science and its increasing ability to effectively convey the heightened likelihood of extreme weather events that we are experiencing due to climate change.
When asked if the US was prepared for the threat of climate change, Dr. Schoonover replied, “Arguably, no country is ready for the full slate of climate-related risks.”
Well, it’s time to get ready.
Written by: Lukas Lehmann & Ariana Cepulis
As the temperatures continued to rise this past Thursday afternoon, Members of Congress and business leaders gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building to discuss the economic ramifications of climate change. Just as the House was adjourning for an August recess, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis began its hearing.
The panel providing testimony represented a variety of actors involved in mitigating the risk of climate change related disasters. Among them: Paula DiPerna – Special Advisor to the “CDP”, Francis Bouchard – Head of Sustainability at the Zurich Insurance Group; Garvin Jabusch – Chief Investment Officer at Green Alpha Advisors; and Jay Walker – Executive VP of Commercial Landing at South Louisiana Bank and President of the Morganza Action Coalition.
The hearing kicked off with an impassioned call-to-action from Chairwoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) in which she warned of the $1 trillion in climate-related risks that our country faces and declared that building a clean energy economy “must be the future.”
Castor’s opening remarks set a tone of urgency for the remainder of the hearing. One concern about the securities market in particular came from Jabusch of Green Alpha Advisors, who noted that many of the companies listed in the S&P 500 and other indices are either contributing to and/or not mitigating the effects that climate change will have on future business operations. He suggested that since so many people have bought into indices without considering this risk, the economy was essentially running on “auto-pilot.”
Francis Bouchard from the Zurich Insurance Group also raised alarm about the future of the insurance industry. According to his data, 2017 and 2018 were the costliest years to insure property due to the natural disasters that occurred during that time. He went on to say that current rates of insurance do not adequately reflect what will follow in the coming years. As the risk of disaster rises, so will rates, said Bouchard.
While much of the testimony brought to light the cost of the damages our country has already fronted ($312 billion in extreme weather costs in the US last year alone, according to Bouchard), there was also a feeling of optimism as business leaders shared the solutions that were working for them and the opportunities for growth looking into the future. Jay Walker of Morganza Action Coalition discussed the success of levee construction in Louisiana that has helped to prevent flooding in coastal communities. Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance Group’s Bouchard supported Walker’s advocacy for resiliency funding with a claim that for every dollar invested in natural disaster mitigation, five dollars are saved.
By the end of the hearing, an almost unanimous consensus seemed to be reached after Ranking Member Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA) posed the following question: “Do you believe the federal government is doing a good job with regards to resiliency and adaptation?” Their answers:
Although policy suggestions differed among the members of Congress and business leaders, there was unilateral agreement that climate change is leading to increased environmental catastrophes and that the potential economic consequences are enormous. Something needs to be done.
The participants all were echoing a similar call — It’s time for the federal government to do more to protect people from climate change.
Vacation season is here, and with it comes all of the joys of visiting new, exciting places or perhaps even your old favorite places – time alone or with friends and family, shopping, new food, and simple relaxation.
As you plan your trips, we want to highlight some great products for your packing list that will make your vacation a little more sustainable. Each tip is easy to implement, reduces your carbon footprint, and saves you money along the way!
Reusable Water Bottle – For any trip you may take, consider bringing a reusable water bottle. All those plastic bottles add up, and it is unnecessary pollution when you can just bring your own bottle and refill as needed. If you have ever flown on an airplane or visited a museum, you know that liquids are not always allowed through security. Rather than just throw your water bottle away and buy a new one on the other side, simply take a reusable water bottle. This way, you can empty it before a security checkpoint and refill it after. That’s one less plastic water bottle in use, and one less drink you have to buy.
Solar Chargers – Whether your vacation will include camping, long car rides, or days at the beach, a solar charger is must-have. With a solar charger, there is no need to worry about saving your phone battery or finding a connection to electricity – all you need is the sun! How many times have you wandered around an airport or bus terminal looking for a wall outlet to charge your device? With a solar charger, all you have to do place the charger in the sunlight, plug your device in, and go! It’s perfect for vacations with prolonged hours outdoors and ensures that your devices are fully charged for whenever you may need them. The best part is there are no operating costs- no need for maintenance, batteries, or electricity.
Compostable Products – For those who are camping or are planning to take a longer vacation, we understand the desire to want to cook for yourself rather than go out. But before your reach for those paper plates, consider buying products that are more eco-friendly, such as compostable plates or utensils. Unlike plastic products, compostable materials are able to completely break down in the environment. It’s a simple switch that helps the environment and involves no real price difference from buying the plastic alternative.
Shopping Tote – If you are planning to do a little shopping on your next vacation, a reusable tote bag is a necessity. Rather than amass a collection of single-use plastic bags from every store you visit, just bring your own bag! With a reusable tote bag, you can feel good about your purchases with the peace of mind that you are cutting down on your use of plastics. This is especially helpful for areas with a bag tax as it can save you a little money with every purchase you make!
With these products, you can give yourself the peace of mind that your travel is making a difference, both for the planet and for your wallet! Safe travels!
Why Solar is a Must-Have for Camping
Summer is upon us, which means everyone will be gearing up for one favorite summer activity: the family camping trip! What better way to enjoy the warm weather than to get outside, connect with nature, and spend time swatting flies with friends and family?
As you begin to pack up the sleeping bags and stock up on trail-mix, consider bringing along some solar-powered products to make your camping trip easier, cheaper, and better for the earth! And who knows, it may spark a heated conversation or two with your MAGA-hat-wearing brother-in-law as well. Here are some of our favorite solar-powered products that you can take with you on your next outdoor adventure:
Barrington, Bristol and South Kingstown Launch solar campaigns
Providence, R.I., – Representatives from the Office of Energy Resources (OER), the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the non-profit organization SmartPower joined with municipal leaders today to announce the three communities that will participate in the Fall 2017 Solarize Rhode Island program.
“Riding on the heels of the tremendous success of Solarize’s spring round, we are excited to have the towns of Barrington, Bristol and South Kingstown join us for the new season,” said Carol Grant, Commissioner, Office of Energy Resources. “This will be the second round of participation for all three towns, which is a testament to the effectiveness of this program and shows that town leaders and residents are enthusiastic about doing their part to build a clean energy future in RI.”
“The expansion of Solarize RI provides a great opportunity for residents and small businesses to lower their energy bill, while at the same time ramping up the state’s green energy efforts,” said Rhode Island Commerce Corporation President Darin Early. “Lowering energy costs and accelerating the use of green technologies are key components in our strategy to bettering the business climate and quality of life for all Rhode Islanders.”
Three new municipalities were selected through a request for application process to participate in the Fall round of Solarize – Barrington, Bristol and South Kingstown will be kicking off their programs on October 27th and residents in all three municipalities can sign up to participate in the program starting immediately. Municipal representatives from each community and their chosen installers will be present for a kick-off event at the Kingstown Free Library on October 26th at 1pm.
“Now more than ever it’s important to Solarize,” said Brian F. Keane, President of SmartPower. “Each day we are seeing the tragedies of climate change as our fellow citizens grapple with the results of major hurricanes and wildfires. Solarize offers each of us an opportunity to be a part of the solution while helping our own communities and our own households.”
Solarize Rhode Island is a community-based outreach campaign that seeks to increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity in participating communities through a competitive tiered pricing structure that increases the savings for everyone as more home and business owners sign contracts. Now in its third year, Solarize Rhode Island, a partnership between the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER), the Commerce Corporation, and the non-profit marketing firm SmartPower, has led to more than 595 residents and business owners in 15 municipalities signing contracts for small-scale solar electricity systems.
In addition to Rhode Island residents and businesses signing up for Solar, the campaign educates hundreds and even thousands more Rhode Islanders about the economic and environmental benefits of solar electricity, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies.
Barrington, Bristol, and South Kingstown ran successful Solarize campaigns in 2015 and 2016 resulting in over 100 new solar installations combined.
“The Town of South Kingstown is excited to be participating in its second round of the Solarize Program.” said Stephen A. Alfred, Town Manager, “We felt this program was extremely successful during our initial participation in the Fall of 2015. This new round of Solarize will raise awareness of opportunities to adopt renewable energy systems on residential and commercial properties and provide local citizens with additional cost savings.”
Kate Weymouth, Vice President of the Barrington Town Council stated: “The Town of Barrington is pleased to be part of the second round of Solarize RI, the first round was a great success with 45 contracts signed. We are eager to work with the employee owned, RI-based solar installation company, Sol Power, and look forward to increasing the number of Barrington households with solar energy capabilities.”
“The Town of Bristol is excited to be selected to participate in the next round of the Solarize Program.” stated Town Manager, Steven Contente. “This partnership with the RI Office of Energy Resources is a great opportunity and gives residents easier access to renewable energy. This is Bristol’s second time to be selected and we look forward to seeing continued interest in the program by our residents.”
Upcoming events, open houses and information tabling in each community will be scheduled in the coming weeks. For more information about these events, to sign up or find out more about Solarize RI contact Malinda Howard or Karen Stewart at: 401-215-3285 or go to www.solarizeri.com.
About Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources
The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) is the lead state agency on energy policy and programs. OER’s mission is to lead Rhode Island to a secure, cost-effective, and sustainable energy future. OER works closely with private and public stakeholders to increase the reliability and security of our energy supply, reduce energy costs and mitigate price volatility, and improve environmental quality. www.energy.ri.gov
About Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is the official economic development organization for the state of Rhode Island. The Commerce Corporation’s mission is to work with public, private and non-profit partners to create the conditions for businesses in all sectors to thrive and to improve the quality of life for our citizens by promoting the state’s long-term economic health and prosperity. The corporation manages the state’s Renewable Energy Fund, which provides grants and loans for renewable energy projects with the potential to make electricity in a cleaner, more sustainable manner, while stimulating job growth in the green technology and energy sectors of Rhode Island’s economy. www.commerceri.com
SmartPower is the nation’s leading non-profit social marketing firm dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Named the “Best Non-profit Marketing Firm in the US”, SmartPower’s mission is to help Americans make smart energy choices by creating on-the-ground campaigns that engage the public and generate measurable energy actions. www.smartpower.org
Brian F. Keane, SmartPower Founder, is recipient of John Merck Fund’s Highest Award
Boston – Brian F. Keane, President of the nonprofit clean energy organization, SmartPower, was awarded the $50,000 Frank Hatch “Sparkplug” Award for Enlightened Public Service by The John Merck Fund today. The award is granted annually to an outstanding leader whose work embodies extraordinary creativity, dedication, and foresight.
“Brian’s vision, energy, and passion exemplify the purpose of the Sparkplug Award,” said Serena H. Whitridge, Chair of The John Merck Fund board, in presenting the award. “SmartPower’s unrivaled success in helping to mainstream clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to the American people has changed the consumer and environmental landscape in ways once thought simply unimaginable.”
The Fund, one of the original funders of SmartPower, created the Frank Hatch Sparkplug award in 2006 to honor its longtime former chairman, Frank Hatch. Ms. Whitridge is Frank Hatch’s daughter.
“Fifteen years ago The John Merck Fund – and specifically Frank Hatch – helped create SmartPower,” said Keane. “To me Frank Hatch has always been a political leader, an environmental hero – and a personal mentor. And now, to receive this award in Frank’s name is beyond humbling. It is, of course, personally and professionally gratifying. But beyond that I accept this award as a legacy of Frank Hatch’s dedication and life’s work. And to be sure, we will in turn rededicate ourselves to continuing Frank’s work and the work of The John Merck Fund.”
Brian Keane and his wife Kate Sawyer Keane are contributing the award to SmartPower.
“The work of Brian Keane and SmartPower is a testament that big and bold ideas can be put into action,” said Ms. Whitridge. “When the experts said clean energy could never be cost competitive with conventional energy, SmartPower went and proved it could be. The experts said Americans would never want to buy solar energy for their homes, they said clean energy and energy efficiency could never be mainstreamed and embedded into American culture. Look around you – hybrid and electric cars, solar power, and Nest Thermostats are everywhere. Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Brian F. Keane.”
SmartPower is based in Washington, DC, and works in communities from coast to coast helping American consumers embrace clean energy and become more energy efficient.
Scituate High School, North Kingstown High & Deering Middle School Named Energy Champions
Students at Scituate High School, North Kingstown High and Deering Middle School were honored this week for their winning videos in the “Rhode Island Video Challenge”!
This week, in recognition of their winning videos, SmartPower and National Grid presented the three schools with a sign proclaiming them a Rhode Island Energy Champion. And National Grid provided a monetary award of $500 for Deering Middle School, $1000 for North Kingstown High and $2500 for Scituate High School to be used in sustainability measures on the campuses.
Students at these three schools submitted creative and engaging videos demonstrating the ease of finding four ways to reduce energy use. Check out their videos below:
More than 10,000 votes were cast by thousands of Rhode Islanders, all helping raise the bar on energy efficiency awareness.
Huge congratulations to our 2015 Video Challenge Winners!
Scituate High School Submissions
North Kingstown High Submissions
Deering Middle School Submission
Charleston newspaper Editorial promotes Solarize “Bargain”
Interactive Charts Show Exponential Growth During Solarize
Connecticut is one of the fastest growing solar states in the nation — showing huge growth in residential solar since the launch of “Solarize Connecticut”. The CT Green Bank has tracked the rise of solar in the state and recently released a huge interactive data set that shows the stunning growth in the industry.
After just 3 years you can see the impact our solarize campaigns have had on the state’s total solar installations. Check out these charts…and see the dramatic growth for yourself.
Solarize CT has installed 2,188 systems for a total of 17.1 megawatts of solar energy capacity installed, based on preliminary results. To put all that in context, the CO2 emissions we saved are the equivalent of replacing 384,922 incandescent bulbs with CFLs, keeping 1.7 million gallons of gasoline from being burned or stopping 15.8 million pounds of coal from being burned.
But click on the link and check it out for yourself. And let’s Solarize!
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