Last Chair Records's Climate Action Contribution
About Last Chair Records's Climate Efforts
Human-induced increases in greenhouse gases, especially CO2, are the main drivers of recent global warming. Sound public policy and successful climate change mitigation and adaptation require scientifically validated assessment of current and future climate impacts.
This position statement (1) summarizes the scientific basis for the consensus among earth scientists that human activities are the primary cause of recent global warming; (2) describes the significant effects on humans and ecosystems as greenhouse-gas concentrations and global climate change reach projected levels; (3) provides information for policy decisions guiding mitigation and adaptation strategies that are designed to address the current and future impacts of human-induced climate change; and (4) recommends opportunities for GSA members to advance understanding of climate change.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
Government, educational, and private sector organizations, individually and collectively, should address the following adaptation and mitigation challenges:
Efficient use of Earth’s energy resources—The economic cost of future adaptation efforts should be reduced through investments to improve the efficient use of Earth’s energy resources. The need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and rates of climate change should be considered in the context of costs to global and national economies, and impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of humans and ecosystems.
Future climate change—Comprehensive local, state, national, and international planning is needed to address challenges posed by future climate change. Near-, mid-, and long-term strategies for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change should be developed, based on studies of previous environmental changes and on predictive modeling.
Adaptation—Sustained, public investment in climate-related research is needed to (1) improve our understanding of how climate change affects society at all scales; (2) formulate adaptation measures; and (3) improve our ability to assess the response and resilience of natural and human systems to past, present, and future changes in the climate system.
Education—Although the public is increasingly aware of recent climate change, its present-day effects, human causes, rates of climate change, and possible future scenarios are more poorly known. Formal and informal education efforts at all levels are needed to extend and improve broad understanding of the causes and impacts of global climate change.
International collaboration—Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change will require sustained coordination among Earth’s nations. Open communication and collaboration are necessary and should be promoted.
The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicines1,2, the National Research Council3, the U.S. Global Change Research Program4,5, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change6 that global climate has warmed recently in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), and that human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of rapid warming since the middle 1900s, while other natural factors contribute, at most, only marginally.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than it has been for at least three million years4. Global warming by ~1 °C since 19002,5 is consistent with decreasing northern hemisphere snow and ice, ongoing rise in global sea level, and numerous records from ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments, boreholes, cave deposits, and corals5,6. Diverse measurements and proxies, including land- and satellite-based measurements, indicate rapid warming, such that global mean temperatures today are at their highest in 1700 years, while the rate of sea-level rise is the fastest in 2,700 years4-6.
Tangible effects of recent climate change are already occurring4,5, and a continuing upward trend in greenhouse-gas concentrations will result in increasingly significant impacts on humans and other species by the end of the twenty-first century. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and mitigation of future impacts through global reductions of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources.
If no effort is made to stabilize emissions, CO2 concentrations will reach three to four times pre-industrial levels by 2100, and Earth will warm by 2.6 °C to 4.8 °C compared to 1986–2005 temperatures4-6. These changes will substantially alter the functioning of the planet and lead to (1) continued shrinking of Arctic sea ice, with effects on native cultures and ice-dependent biota; (2) decreased summer water supplies in mountainous areas; (3) increased evaporation from soils and stress on crops; (4) extreme precipitation and high-temperature events; (5) longer and more intense fire seasons; (6) severe insect outbreaks in vulnerable forests; (7) acidification of the global ocean for tens of thousands of years, with accompanying likely extinctions; (8) compromised economic and national security because of accelerating decay of infrastructure and increased human conflict and displacement; and (9) fundamental changes in the composition, functioning, and biodiversity across ecosystems. Sea levels will rise significantly, affecting densely populated coastal regions, inundating farmlands, and dislocating large populations; 15%–40% of the anthropogenic CO2 “pulse” may stay in the atmosphere for more than a thousand years, extending the duration of global warming and its effects on humans and other species4-6.
Opportunities for GSA and GSA Members to Help Implement Recommendations
To facilitate implementation of the goals of this position statement, the Geological Society of America recommends that its members take the following actions:
Become technically informed through recent peer-reviewed syntheses of climate-science research, and through meetings, workshops, symposia, etc., that address recent advances in climate science.
Help educate the public, both formally (primary, secondary, and higher levels of instruction), and informally (museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, etc.). Actively engage and collaborate with organizations seeking to promote climate change education.
Participate in outreach activities to explain the science of climate change, for example, in community schools, discussion groups, meetings with community leaders and congressional staffs, GSA’s Congressional Visits Day, op-ed articles, and/or online forums. Support organizations that seek to mitigate and adapt to global climate change.
Discuss with businesses and policy makers the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as opportunities to transition to low-carbon energies and to implement energy efficiencies.
Actively engage and collaborate with other science and/or policy organizations in recommending and formulating national and international strategies to address approaching impacts of anthropogenic climate change.
Take advantage of the accompanying list of references for a current scientific assessment of global climate change.
New Climate Actions Last Chair Records Commits To Take:
Commit to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutant Emissions
Short-lived climate pollutants—such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons—are powerful climate warmers many times more potent than CO2 over their lifetimes. Because they are short-lived in the atmosphere, actions to reduce these super pollutants can have substantial, near-term climate, agricultural and health benefits and are an essential complement to CO2 reduction strategies. Policy-makers can announce regulatory or voluntary approaches to drastically reduce SLCPs, such as developing methane strategies or adopting rules on use of warming HFCs. Organizations can commit to engage with suppliers to provide training, conduct pollutant inventories, and establish systems for tracking, measuring, and monitoring these types of emissions. Analysis shows that SLCP emissions can be cost-effectively reduced by an estimated 40-50 percent by 2030.
Policymakers, companies and organizations are encouraged to accept the #SLCPChallenge of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which calls for ambitious action on SLCPs. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards reduction, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.
Commit to Remove Commodity-driven Deforestation from Supply Chains
Restoring our forest’s ability to store carbon on a global scale is a critical and cost-effective climate mitigation solution. Making a commitment to eliminate deforestation means setting targets to assure key commodities in your supply chain (like palm, soy, beef, paper and pulp) are from deforestation-free sources. An ideal target could be to establish a disclosure and reporting plan for your supply chain and/or conversion to 100% deforestation-free commodities by 2020.
Commit to Reduce Climate Impacts of Packaging and Reducing Waste
There are many ways to reduce the climate impact of packaging including reducing materials (i.e., “source reduction”); replacing virgin materials with post-consumer recycled content; replacing traditional plastics made from fossil fuels with biopolymers; re-designing packaging to be more compact and therefore efficient for transport and storage; using biodegradable packing materials; and recycling at end of the packaging’s life to name just a few practices.
Commit to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy
While individual organization action is necessary, local and federal government action is also needed to reach global climate goals. Your organization can have a critical voice in advancing public policy. A commitment to responsible engagement in climate policy means that your organization commits to supporting public policy to: promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; increase investment in a clean energy economy; support climate change adaptation, or put a price on carbon.
Commit to Building Climate Resilience in your Community
By committing to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, companies and institutions can secure their operations and supply chains and conserve natural resources that are stressed due to climate change. While there is much a business can do within their community, primary among these options is reducing water usage. Organizations can commit to increase their own water security through a range of actions, including installing water-saving devices, capturing rainwater for onsite uses, and recycling grey water. Or just commit to get engaged with your community in resilience planning.
Commit to Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Transportation
Organizations making a commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation should consider practices such as measuring transportation greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets, switching fuels, optimizing the efficiency of shipping operations, and reducing transit- and travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses can develop a green transportation action plan to map the movement of goods to market and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Organizations can buy hybrid and electric vehicles within their own fleet, and can reduce the footprint of their workforce through incentivizing public transportation, installing EV charging stations, promoting telework, and locating near transit centers.
Commit to Increase Your Use of Renewable Power
Increasing your percentage of renewable energy sources is a key component of reducing overall GHG emissions. Installing onsite renewable generation, like solar panels, is a good long-term strategy if possible. But renewable energy can also be procured through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), renewable power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and in some locations from retail electricity providers or local utilities that offers a high percentage of renewable power. Also consider becoming an EPA Green Power Partner.
Commit to Increase Energy Efficiency
Most companies begin by assessing energy usage or performing an energy audit to identify opportunities to increase energy efficiency throughout their facilities and operations. Energy reduction targets can be framed as either absolute reductions or reductions that are normalized per unit of production, such as per tons shipped, per dollars of revenue produced, or other relevant business metric. Some examples of commitments that can be taken include:
- Conducting an energy audit or request a meeting with your building owner to explore scheduling an audit
- Upgrading HVAC system to a more efficient model
- Upgrading lights in your office/facility to LEDs
- Upgrading insulation and windows
- Replacing appliances in your office with Energy Star-rated models
- Instituting a company policy of turning off lights other electronics when not in use.
Commit to Understand and Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Understanding your GHG emissions is the first step to making measurable reductions in those emissions. The EPA provides an overview report and CoolClimate Network provides a simple tool for “low emitters” to better understand sources of emissions, as well as how to use that information to set reduction targets. For this commitment, it is as simple as committing to complete a greenhouse gas inventory for your business or oganization, but in the future your inventory can be used to make a commitment to set a specific goal, such as “reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2025.
Integrate Climate Change into Portfolio Analyses and Decision-Making
Commit to integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities in portfolio analysis and decision-making processes through one or more of the following:
- Analyzing and assessing climate change-related risks and opportunities (e.g. through carbon footprinting, scenario analysis).
- Making commitments and setting targets (e.g. to carbon footprint reduction, to enhanced portfolio resilience, to decarbonization, including via the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition).
- Investing in low carbon investment funds and other products (e.g. low carbon indices, climate-aligned bonds).
Commit to the Natrual and Working Lands Challenge
The natural systems upon which we depend are essential to life and critical for reducing the impacts of climate change on our communities. These systems are also under threat from human activity and climate change. Maintaining the resilience of natural and working lands is an important part of any GHG emission reduction strategy. It is also important to securing the well-being of communities, economies and ecosystems. Actions that secure and enhance the “carbon base,” such as land conservation, restoration, and improved management, also support watersheds and food systems, improve air quality, protect against urban heat islands and sea level rise, and preserve the beauty and function of natural areas and parks. Those that accept the NWL Challenge should commit to securing natural and working lands as a resilient net sink of carbon. This will take different forms for different actors. For example, local, sub-national and national jurisdictions might take a broad approach like that of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Landowners and managers may wish to focus on restoration and implementing climate-smart practices on their own lands. Businesses may look at their supply chains and customers as potential partners, and incorporate natural and working goals into their own climate change commitments and strategies.
The U.S. Climate Alliance States commit to taking actions that will reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration in forests, farms, rangelands, wetlands and urban greenspace, and integrating these pathways into state GHG mitigation plans by 2020. The Natural and Working Lands Challenge calls on other states, cities, nations, tribes, businesses and others to make the same commitment within their organizations. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards this challenge, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.
Areas For Collaboration
We are interested in collaborating on the following:
- Encouraging more aggressive state energy efficiency policies
- Improving efficiency in existing buildings through real estate transactions
- Supporting building thermal decarbonization and electrification
- Aggregating demand for electric vehicles with other actors
- Encouraging more aggressive state targets for electric vehicles and GHG standards
- Promoting increased charging infrastructure
HFC Phase Down
- Encouraging states to adopt policies to phase out HFCs on an accelerated timeline
- Promoting greater participation in voluntary programs to phase out HFCs
- Collaborate on climate and clean energy action, and to advocate for stronger climate policy at the local level
- Enacting policies and programs that cut fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production
- Scaling initiatives to reduce methane from livestock and increase production of on-farm renewable energy
- Supporting adoption of state-level policies to reduce methane from upstream and midstream oil and gas operations
- Supporting implementation of methane leak detection technology and processes in aging infrastructure
- Developing in measurement and monitoring systems to target efforts and track progress
- Encouraging states to adopt incentive programs for forest management, tree cover expansion, and soil health
- Promoting science-based targets for GHG emissions and removals in agricultural supply chains
- Aggregating demand for renewable energy with other actors
- Encouraging more aggressive state renewable energy policies
- Supporting states, cities, and utilities in decarbonizing their energy supply