Category Archives: Climate Change

Climate Leadership on the Water

On an unusually hot summer day on the Seattle waterfront, 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow Alex Adams welcomed 13 high-schoolers from the Woodland Park Zoo’s Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (Seattle Youth CAN) program to step aboard the Sally Fox, one of King County’s Water Taxis, and learn about climate change and careers in the maritime industry. This event marked the kick-off of a new County program, called The Floating Classroom, which Alex started to broaden outreach to students of all ages and backgrounds and inspire strong leadership at all levels to confront climate change. The program also introduces students to internship and job opportunities in both King County and the region’s maritime industry. This event marked the culmination of Alex’s Jackson Leadership Fellows project.

Seattle Youth CAN students were greeted by Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, who praised the group for their commitment to climate action, and advised them to be thoughtful in how they pursued their future careers, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparedness,” he said. “Always work hard, learn as much as possible, and be ready when an opportunity comes your way.”

Students then learned about King County’s climate actions from Alex and other county staff who highlighted some of the actions and steps we can all take, such as taking public transit, conserving resources like electricity and water, and preparing now for the changes we’re already seeing in our region, such as warmer, rainier winters, longer heat waves, and stronger storms and flooding.

“Climate change is a problem that isn’t going away soon and we need smart young leaders like you to help develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt,” Alex told the group.

After a tour of the Water Taxi’s state-of-the-art navigation system, the Seattle Youth CAN students had a group discussion about the qualities of leadership and how each of them, while still young, could be climate change leaders in their communities and among their peers. Students were given copies of The Nature of Leadership book, which was written to commemorate the life and work of Senator Henry M. Jackson and to remind prospective leaders to be inquisitive, visionary, open, honest, diligent, pragmatic, and determined when pursuing their interests. Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, joined the group for the discussion.

Students then took a roundtrip ferry ride to West Seattle, where they cooled down on the upper deck and enjoyed lunch on the open water.

King County will continue The Floating Classroom program and use the Water Taxi as a versatile educational platform to add new community value, introduce or advance career pathways, and increase climate literacy in the next generation of leaders. We are pleased that Alex’s Fellows project will endure beyond his program year.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Overcoming Uncertainty to Take Climate Adaptation Action

The Jackson Foundation has been supporting the Climate Conversations series since 2015. The series brings together diverse stakeholders from local government, utilities, consulting and engineering firms, and academia, and provides a space to discuss research, needs, lessons, and opportunities around climate change resilience in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. We are pleased to share this post written by Emily Wright and Nora Nickum from Cascadia Consulting Group.  Nora is a 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow.

Many communities know that climate change is going to bring impacts; depending on where they are, those could include more heat waves, droughts, or rising sea levels. Yet those planning for climate change inevitably face a common predicament: uncertainty about exactly what’s to come and the effectiveness of different adaptation actions. While scientists have improved modeling techniques to better project how precipitation, temperature, and other climate drivers will change in the coming decades, the accuracy of projections diminishes as we look further into the future or at a finer geographic scale. We just don’t know exactly what will happen with policy and with human behavior down the road, and how that will translate into emissions—and then into climate change impacts. For some, this uncertainty can seem like a major roadblock to making decisions about what to do.

Enter Jennie Hoffman, a climate change adaptation specialist who helps agencies and organizations overcome this kind of analysis paralysis. Jennie, the Founder and Principal of Adaptation Insight, gave a presentation on August 16 as part of Cascadia Consulting’s Climate Conversations series. This series, now in its third year, is co-sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and Seattle Public Utilities.

Jennie Hoffman

Jennie says that even before you can deal with uncertainty, the first challenge is to carefully frame your problem. As singer-songwriter Ani DeFranco put it, “If you don’t ask the right question, every answer feels wrong.” Framing the problem should include, among other things, identifying what’s wrong with the current situation, what triggered the desire to make a decision, and the place and time frame over which the decision-maker wants to achieve a specified goal. Explicitly considering the time frame at this stage helps create the space to factor in how future changes in climate would affect the outcome, and the costs and benefits of different courses of action over time.

The second challenge, then, is understanding the uncertainty you’re facing. What information are you uncertain about, and does it actually affect the decision you need to make? Sensitivity analysis tools like Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART) can help decision-makers consider how much reducing scientific uncertainty would actually improve their pending decision and where to prioritize investing in obtaining better information. Similarly, value-of-Information analysis can help to determine how much is worth spending.

Climate change considerations can arise in many points in the decision-making process, from framing the problem to determining objectives, alternatives, consequences, tradeoffs, and uncertainty. Jennie demonstrated that the science is important, but it is more critical to some decisions than it is to others. When analyses around decision sensitivity or the value of information demonstrate that additional information could really change the decision, organizations can point to that to justify investing in specific, targeted research to reduce the uncertainty. In many cases, decision-makers can move ahead with efforts to build resilience—which grow more important by the day—with the information that is available.

Emily Wright and Nora Nickum, Cascadia Consulting Group

A Business Case for Climate Action

We’re very pleased to highlight a guest blog today from Nora Ferm Nickum, a 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow, about her project this year.  Her work emphasizes the importance of climate action in the Pacific Northwest and what businesses can do to seize the initiative. -Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Nora Ferm Nickum

Climate change is a massive challenge that requires public policy answers at all levels of government, but also widespread action by the private sector and within our communities. For my Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellow project, I sought to learn about how businesses here in the Seattle area are helping to tackle this challenge. I interviewed ten businesses across a range of industries, from retail and recreation to construction and health care. Throughout, there was a common thread that climate change action is not only a necessity, but also an opportunity. Steps that reduce emissions can save costs, attract customers, and demonstrate leadership.

I heard stories from businesses that are leading change in their industries. For example, Fremont Brewing pilot-tested a biodigester that turns its spent grain into methane and then electricity. There are systems like that available for very large established breweries, but not small ones. Fremont’s goal is to show that it is feasible—and that there is demand—so that manufacturers will recognize the market opportunity and create systems that can work for smaller breweries.

Srirup Kumar of Impact Bioenergy explains how the biodigester works. Photo credit: Impact Bioenergy.
Concrete pour. Credit: Sellen Construction.

Meanwhile, Sellen Construction worked with a local concrete supplier to figure out the carbon content of more than 80 types of concrete, so that they could choose lower-carbon options in their projects. They made this information freely available so that other companies can also make informed choices and lower their impact.

Virginia Mason learned that the use of just one kind of inhaled anesthesia—desflurane gas—was alone responsible for nearly 5% of the hospital system’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Using desflurane for one hour of surgery has been estimated to have the same climate change impact as driving a car for as much as 470 miles. The anesthesiology team determined last year that outside of a few neurological cases, alternatives could be used that cost the same, provided the same benefits for patients, and had a lower environmental impact. Now, this kind of anesthesia is used 90% less often at Virginia Mason than it was before.

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort’s new lot is free for cars with four or more people. Photo credit: Stevens Pass.

I also heard stories about actions that are replicable and easy—both for other businesses and for us as individuals. For example, Stevens Pass Mountain Resort incentivizes skiers to carpool, and bus drivers to not leave their buses idling all day. Rick Steves’ Europe teaches classes about how to travel light, and doesn’t sell large suitcases. Less weight on the plane means less fuel is burned.

Tom Douglas Restaurants uses seasonal produce, including from their own farm in Washington State. Buying local produce cuts down on emissions from transportation.

Staff bring local produce from Prosser Farm to one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants. Credit: Sarah Flotard.

Additional stories—about innovative steps being taken by companies like Boeing, NBBJ, and Microsoft—can be found in the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Bright Green in an Emerald City report released last fall.

Senator Jackson was a pragmatist and a problem-solver. He cared about the environment—he played a leading role in the conservation and energy legislation in the 1960s and 1970s—and he also sought to promote economic development in our state. He recognized that those goals need not be contradictory. Washington businesses can learn from his vision and legacy, and from the actions being taken by businesses—like those highlighted here—who recognize that there is a business case for climate change action, and plenty of room for innovation to expand the solution set. I appreciate having had the opportunity through this leadership fellowship to explore this issue more deeply.

Nora Ferm Nickum is a 2017 Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellow and a Senior Associate at Cascadia Consulting Group.

National Security through a Climate Lens

Lukas Haynes, Executive Director of The David Rockefeller Fund, recently spent two days in Seattle at the Jackson Foundation’s invitation to speak to the community about climate security – the intersection of climate concerns with national security.  This issue, which the Jackson Foundation has been working on for several years, has gained national attention due to climate-related conflicts and international events like the Syrian civil war and the desperate water shortage in Yemen.  The David Rockefeller Fund and the Jackson Foundation share a mission to place climate security on the agenda of policymakers as well as other philanthropic partners.  Lukas Haynes generously gave his time to this cause in a packed visit here.  We featured him at a private breakfast with both classes of our Jackson Leadership Fellows, at a learning lunch for our Board of Governors, with graduate students at the University of Washington, and before a capacity crowd in partnership with the World Affairs Council.

Lukas Haynes, center, in a selfie with Jackson Leadership Fellows

The Jackson Leadership Fellows, many of whom feel passionately about climate policy, were interested to hear about Lukas’ journey toward his focus on climate security.   With a background in international relations and experience on Madeleine Albright’s speechwriting team on the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, Lukas made the connection early on between national security and climate change and its impact on people and nations.  He has long advocated using the military’s voice to gain the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, a strategy that the Jackson Foundation also utilizes.  “This is THE key bipartisan issue,” he said.  Lukas urged the Jackson Fellows to step forward on these issues as well as others they are committed to, “Don’t wait for your seat at the table; we need your leadership now.”

To a broader audience assembled for a panel discussion on climate security, the Foundation and the World Affairs Council highlighted the consequences for our nation and the world of the issue.  Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, moderated a panel that included Lukas Haynes, Vice Admiral (ret.) Robert Parker, United States Coast Guard, and scientist Ian Kraucunas of Pacific Northwest National Labs.  Craig asked the panel to address how connecting the dots between climate and national security has the potential to impact the arc of this debate, bring in a new audience, and help shape policy.  Lukas emphasized that “the more one spends time learning about the implications of a changing climate on national and homeland security, the more urgent it becomes to develop appropriate policy at a local, state, and national level – both near term and over the horizon.”  Admiral Parker agreed, noting that there was substantial research and science that has been compiled both in the civil sector and in the military as to the climate security nexus, but “the work done regarding climate change and its impact within military intelligence has not been shared and disseminated well because of the politicization of this area.”

Panel from left: Craig Gannett, Lukas Haynes, Vice Admiral (ret.) Robert Parker, and Ian Kraucunas

The politics of climate and climate security were an ever-present backdrop to the two days of discussion.  Craig Gannett voiced guarded optimism that movement at the “sub-national” level – such as the Pacific Coast Collaborative efforts by Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia to unify and play a leading role despite happenings at the federal level – provides some hope to move us forward.  Admiral Parker added that despite whatever obstacles to progress exist, “the awakening of citizens is a silver-plated lining.  We have an obligation as citizens to learn.”

Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, sets the scope of the discussion

The Jackson Foundation emerged from two days of intensive discussions on this issue reenergized and dedicated to continue to target its resources to highlight climate and national security connections – a topic squarely within the Jackson environmental and defense legacies.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Jackson Fellows Benefit from Jackson/Phillips Fund

In recognition of Larry Phillips’ leadership on growth management, natural resource protection, water quality, transportation, and climate change, the Foundation created the Jackson Leadership Fellows – Larry Phillips Fund for Climate Change and the Environment. The fund supports Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellows with an interest in fostering bipartisan solutions in the fields of climate change and the environment, reflecting issues of significance that defined Larry Phillip’s career in public service.  We’re pleased that we can further support the goals and objectives of the Jackson Fellows through this fund tied to climate and the environment.

Last year we awarded funds to two of our Jackson Leadership Fellows, Laura Stewart and Tamara Power-Drutis.  As part of her project, Laura developed a video that captured the issues and interests of under-represented voices in Seattle’s climate and environmental justice sector. Building on the video’s success, Tamara (Crosscut Media) and Laura will use the funds to broaden the video’s audience utilizing Crosscut Media’s 1.2 million readers, KCTS 9 broadcasting, and ethnic media partners in a series of follow-up interviews and articles.

Alex Adams

This year we’ll provide funds to three of our 2017 Fellows – Alex Adams, Connor Birkeland, and Amarpreet Sethi.  Alex received $500 to attend the Green Transportation Summit and Expo (GTSE), which is the region’s premier fleet modernization and alternative fuels event.  This conference’s focus on alternative fuels and wide variety of vehicle types will help expand his knowledge and understanding of the quickly changing electric vehicle and fuel markets in the Pacific Northwest.  From attending last year’s conference, he was able to develop an alternative fuel calculator to show emissions resulting from fuel choices, which led King County Metro Transit to transition to 5% locally sourced biodiesel.

A $500 award to Connor will support his travel to California to learn about clean energy financing models tied to property there and apply them  in Washington State. His Jackson Leadership Fellows’ project focuses on Property Assessed Clean Energy as a financing model for low- to medium-income individuals. Currently Washington State lacks renewable-energy financing programs for those with lower incomes, despite the fact that installing residential renewable energy systems would allow for less-costly energy bills.

 

Amarpreet Sethi

Amarpreet received $500 to attend a conference organized by the German Chamber of Commerce that relates to her project, which looks at buildings that are developed with the health and well-being of their occupants in mind.   Amarpreet is researching European examples and will showcase practical ways to develop top-performing buildings in the U.S. that meet a higher standard of health and well-being for the users. The purpose of the research is to inspire developers to think differently, to begin setting higher goals and values for energy performance, and to consider the impact the building has on the user’s health.

Our Fellows are making connections in their communities, in other states and regions, and even internationally to help them do their work — and improve our society.  The Fellows program is designed to support them — through mentorship, networking, training, and by providing additional opportunities to dig into their areas of interest.  We believe that the Jackson/Phillips Fund is one important way of enhancing the Fellows’ experience.  Learn more about the Jackson Fellows and the Jackson Fellows/Phillips Fund.

 

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

 

Security & Climate Change: A West Coast Perspective

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a one-day symposium put on by The Center for Climate and Security, The San Diego Foundation, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.  The goal of the session was to raise awareness and build a community of practice around climate security issues as they affect the West Coast, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific.  This was interesting for me as the Foundation has convened similar gatherings of experts and public officials here in Puget Sound, which shares with San Diego a strong military presence, an awareness of the closeness of Asia, and an enduring commitment to the environment and climate.  The Jackson Foundation has been working to highlight the voices of our nation’s military – which recognizes that its mission is threatened by a climate changed future – in the ongoing discussions at the political level about climate risks regionally and globally.

This forum also featured high-profile military experts such as General Ron Keys (USAF-Ret) , Rear Admiral Yancy B. Lindsey (Commander, Navy Region Southwest), Rear Admiral Leendert Hering Sr. (USN-Ret) and others who spoke to the importance of managing climate change risk for U.S. national security.  “We are mission driven,” in General Keys words.  “The military needs to respond to the known and likely risks we face.”  The climate concerns have a tremendous capacity to impact our nation’s national security, from contributing to sea level rise at U.S. military installations, to threatening food and water security at home and abroad, to displacing populations in harm’s way from extreme climate events.

In a panel that I moderated, we were joined by Congressman Scott Peters, U.S. House of Representatives 52nd Congressional District, who emphasized that he believes that concern for climate is a bipartisan issue and should be one where consensus can be reached for the good of the nation.  He also underlined the impact on his own district of climate issues happening now as well as in the years ahead.  “For San Diego, climate issues are real and are impacting us today.  We can’t afford to be complacent,” Congressman Peters said.  He is working closely with regional leaders, including Kevin Faulconer, the Mayor of San Diego, who opened the forum.

The value of sessions such as these – be they in San Diego, Washington, DC or Seattle – is that they have the power and leverage to inform a broad audience of political leaders, community nonprofits, government agencies and military personnel  on the need to address strategic climate risks at a regional as well as a national level.  They also get at the very real challenges facing the U.S. military at our Pacific-facing military installations and communities up and down the West Coast.

The Jackson Foundation plans to continue these discussions in order to highlight climate and national security ties with an eye to helping shape federal, regional and local responses to climate risk and resilience opportunities in the decade ahead. Senator Jackson was prescient in his time in foreseeing security challenges to the U.S. that encompassed energy and environmental concerns.  This work continues squarely in that vein, in that it represents the best of the Jackson tradition of being in the vanguard on critical environmental and national security policy.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Water: The Front Line of Climate Change

We’ve been busy this fall, with events on both coasts touching on issues from civil liberties, national security and terrorism (with the Kennan Institute); to the global migration crises and human rights, and its impact both in Washington State and internationally (a Jackson School conference); to “Water and Security in an Uncertain World” with the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

I’ll focus in on one of these provocative sessions today.  In the packed half-day, public and private event on water security on the East Coast in October, the Jackson Foundation joined with the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program to address what Foundation President John Hempelmann termed “the close intersection of climate change, national security, and water.”  Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary for Defense and a current Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow, concurred and called water “the front line of climate change.”

The two sessions assessed the risks to water security globally and explored responses to both ongoing problems and short-term water crises.  Lieutenant General Jeffrey Tailey (ret) lamented that “many people are indifferent to water security, which often takes a crisis to make us respond adequately.”  When asked how to generate both interest and policy progress to ensure greater action on water security and water rights, Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator, U.S. Agency for International Development, talked of generating a long-term strategy:  “You need to tell a story to engage people.  We haven’t been delivering a narrative.”  This approach could also help interest a U.S. President or Congress in taking more decisive action.

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Roger-Mark de Souza, Ken Conca, and Sherri Goodman speaking on Panel I: Risks and Responses

Foundation Vice President Craig Gannett noted in remarks seconded by many that the U.S. has historically – even in Senator Jackson’s day – not done well in water management in its own backyard.  “We are not a great model for the world,” he cautioned, even as this program focused primarily on international water concerns in regions such as South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and often on America’s leading role in the water management field abroad.

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Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President

Ken Conca, American University Professor, raised the need to extend robust human rights protection to people advocating for water rights:  “Water is one of the real fulcrums for multiple goals – rights and democracy,” he stressed.  Sherri Goodman highlighted the reverse side of the importance of water: “Water can be a source of strategic instability,” exacerbating international conflicts and worsening human rights violations globally.

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Klomjit Chandrapanya, Doris Kaberia, and Sandra Ruckstuhl speaking on Panel II: Water Spillovers: Regional and Sectorial Effects

Roger-Mark de Souza, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at Wilson, in closing the session, sought to pull together the threads of policy suggestions from the discussion.  He reiterated that major national reports, including the September 2016 Presidential Memo on Climate and Security, as well as the World Bank 2016 Climate Change Action plan, had raised to the highest policy levels the links between climate, security and water.  It is through gatherings such as this that water, climate, and national security will continue to be assessed and pushed forward to the front burner of the policy world.

We’re excited that our programming is diverse, and this program on water, climate and security concerns keeps us focused on critical policy issues that matter to the Jackson Foundation.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

 

Jackson Fellow promotes key Jackson legislative legacy

Andrew Lewis Andrew Lewis, one of the 2016 Jackson Leadership Fellows, chose for his project to analyze and write about an important Jackson achievement – the Land and Water Conservation Fund – addressing both its significance and its future funding and standing in Congress. As a recent graduate from the UC Berkeley School of Law, Andrew felt naturally drawn to legislation close to the heart of the Jackson legacy. Andrew has always been heavily involved in Washington State politics – starting at the early age of 14 as an intern in Washington State Senator Patty Murray’s re-election in 1994! His legal interests include environmental law, so he was attracted to the battle over the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s future. Senator Jackson introduced the original Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act at President John F. Kennedy’s request. For over 50 years, the Fund has contributed resources to parks, wild spaces, recreation areas, and the natural heritage of our country. A small portion of oil and gas royalties funds the LWCF, as Jackson intended it to do, making the funding source smart economic and environmental policy.

Andrew’s paper, published in the Ecology Law Quarterly in spring 2016, explains the history of the LWCF and its purposes, namely “to preserve, develop and assure accessibility to outdoor recreation resources for the American people.” To do this, Congress authorized a $900 million annual appropriation to fund the LWCF. Historically, however, while the Fund has received resources, it has never received the full amount intended by the legislation. Andrew shows the LWCF’s success in driving conservation and economic growth despite its dwindling funding from Congress over the years.

Most important, Andrew describes the current state of the LWCF as “tenuous.” Congress gave the Fund a temporary, three-year extension and an appropriation of $450 million. Foundation President John Hempelmann mentored Andrew and provided him with careful editing as well as a big-picture political perspective on the legislation. Both John and Andrew expressed relief that the Fund’s life has been extended, but they are concerned about its future.  Andrew outlines options currently under discussion in Congress – led by Washington State leaders – that would provide permanent funding for the LWCF.

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John Hempelmann, Foundation President, with Brett Phillips and Andrew Lewis

The paper does an excellent job of clearly assessing the past and future prospects of this important piece of Jackson’s environmental legacy, and the protection of our nation’s natural resources. Bravo to Andrew for his excellent piece and for landing an article in a prestigious law journal – all while finishing law school.

 

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

“If we want justice, everyone’s voice needs to be heard.” Why Climate Equity Matters

I had the privilege this week of attending the first screening of a remarkable film made by two young people, Laura Stewart and Julian Kane.  Laura is one of our Jackson Leadership Fellows, and the film was her project for the Fellowship.  Julian is a graduate student at Antioch University.  The film, “Our Story:  Climate Justice and Environmental Justice,” showcased over twenty people from our community here in Puget Sound, voices that are not often heard in the debate and discourse on climate and the environment.  Laura’s intent in creating the film was to bring to the front of the table those communities disproportionately impacted by climate.  She interviewed leaders and activists at environmental, labor, and educational organizations who collectively raised the climate justice flag and conveyed a deep sense of urgency.  Laura and Julian were both brimming with enthusiasm and pride – as they should be – for the film that they created, for the stories they illuminated, for the discussion that their work engendered.  “We are two young people of color, and we just did it,” Laura proclaimed.

Laura Stewart, Roger-Mark De Souza, & Lara Iglitzin
Laura Stewart, Jackson Leadership Fellow,  Roger-Mark De Souza, Wilson Center, and Lara Iglitzin

The film is inspiring, in part because it is made by and gives a megaphone to many young people, often people of color, finding allies in their efforts to save the planet from climate warming.  It is also a call to action for all of us who want to see communities of color empowered.  Short interviews in the film include Running Grass, from the Three Circles Center, Jourdan Imani Keith, from the Urban Wilderness Project, Aiko Schaefer with Front and Centered (Communities of Color for Climate Justice), and Sudha Nandagopal, from the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment.

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Roger-Mark De Souza, an expert on democracy, environmental security, climate and international development, and a frequent Jackson Foundation partner through his role at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., moderated a lively and thoughtful discussion with those present.  “What side of history do you want to be on?” one of the participants asked the film audience.  “We have an obligation to chart a cleaner future” for ourselves and our children, another argued.  The film also stimulated a broader dialogue about privilege, elites, and diversity.  Audience members felt the film should be seen widely, and Laura agrees.  She is urging people to share it on social media and take ownership of it so it can be viewed as much as possible.  There is also talk of a lesson plan, as early viewers felt that the film speaks in an accessible manner for young students.

We are proud of our Jackson Fellow Laura Stewart – she has made a film that will get people talking, and acting, on climate justice.  Congratulations!

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

China’s Energy Crossroads

Earlier this week, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the National Bureau of Asian Research launched NBR’s 2014 Energy Security Report at an event entitled “China’s Energy Crossroads:  Forging a New Energy and Environmental Balance.”  The event in Washington, DC, attracted a large, diverse, policy-oriented crowd with a particular interest in Asia-Pacific affairs and China’s growing energy demands.

Admiral Blair and John Hempelmann
Admiral Dennis C.  Blair and John Hempelmann, Foundation President

Admiral Dennis C. Blair, former United States Director of National Intelligence and member of NBR’s Board of Directors, started the day with a note of optimism on a few fronts:  one, the recent joint announcement by the U.S. and Chinese government outlining steps each country will take to reduce carbon emissions and the warming of the global climate.  This “bright spot” in U.S.-China relations, as another speaker referred to it, will provide leadership to other major countries on climate change politics.  He also emphasized that the Chinese middle class, increasingly vocal and unhappy about air and water pollution in China, is being heard by Chinese political elites and is contributing to a sense of urgency about the need to act on China’s environmental challenges.

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Panel on China’s Energy Policy and Its Impact on U.S. – China Relations

I was struck at the event by the monumental nature of the challenge that China faces today, and the truth in the title – a crossroads – and its implications not just for China, but for the world.  China no longer has the luxury – to the extent that it had it at all – of focusing primarily on growth without regard to environmental consequences.  It must face the results of its laser-like intensity to grow the economy.  The good news is that China’s political elites are well aware of this now.  The more difficult part is figuring out how to deal effectively with all the myriad problems this poses:  to the healthcare system, to China’s regional partners and global allies and rivals, to domestic political concerns within China, to its military and strategic thinking as it seeks to reinforce its current energy resources and explore new avenues beyond fossil fuels.  China’s energy demands continue to be a driver of both foreign and domestic policies and a spur to innovate.  Its decisions will impact America, other regional powers in Asia, and beyond.

Mikkal E. Herberg and Li Bin
Mikkal E. Herberg, NBR and Li Zhidong, Nagaoka University of Technology

NBR’s 2014 Energy Security Report discusses these interconnected concerns in a series of highly readable, policy-oriented briefs intended to inform policymakers, energy specialists and Asia-watchers.  Free copies of the report are available here.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director