May 13, 2013
The Aquarium of the Pacific hosted three sessions of its Aquatic Academy in February 2013. Experts in the fields of climate science, oceanography, conservation, policy, and ecology shared their knowledge and experience with attendees. This faculty made assessments of whether or not we are facing an environmental cliff and made recommendations for averting such a cliff.
After presentations by speakers and discussion periods, Aquatic Academy participants compiled the plan below. It sets forth a strong consensus view of the most effective and important actions to decarbonize society and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Action Plan to Avoid the Environmental Cliff
1. Launch a broad public education campaign targeting people of all ages.
This campaign should be formulated for use by schools, the media, informal education institutions, and other venues. The content of the campaign should be tailored to various audiences and regions, making it relevant and personal. It should also communicate the urgency of addressing climate change. A critical element in an effective global educational campaign is to provide greater educational and economic opportunities for women. This is the most effective way to stabilize population growth.
2. Shift the present U.S. energy mix toward zero-carbon-emissions energy sources.
Starting immediately, alternative and renewable energy sources should be incorporated into the mix nationwide. Different locations will have different energy-source options, but they include hydrothermal, solar, wind, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Construction of conventional coal-fired power plants should cease. Specific financial incentives should be used to encourage the shift.
3. Conserve resources.
Individuals, communities, institutions, commercial enterprises, governments, and the nation as a whole should conserve energy, materials, and the energy needed to produce them and to process resulting wastes by reducing consumption, enhancing reuse and recycling, and developing new technologies for processing.
4. Overhaul the nation’s transportation system.
Increase public transportation and make private transportation more energy efficient. Improve gas mileage by decreasing the weight of vehicles, increasing gas engine efficiency, and increasing the use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Promote walking, bicycling, and telecommuting.
5. Develop and implement new standards for commercial and residential buildings.
New and existing buildings should be subject to ambitious requirements for energy efficiency. Provide tax incentives for owners of older buildings to retrofit their buildings to make them more energy efficient. Promote innovative and sustainable design for new construction.
6. Develop an ecologically responsible food system that promotes health.
Shift to locally grown foods and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices. Promote healthy diets that reduce consumption of red meat.
7. Redesign cities with an emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency.
Implement sustainable urban planning that incorporates high-density commercial and residential districts, public transit, bike paths, urban gardening, green spaces, and low-water-use landscaping. Make it possible for people to live close to where they work.
8. Promote national and international cooperation to address climate change.
The United States should become a positive role model for reducing carbon emissions. It should cooperate with other nations to set targets and achieve reductions in carbon emissions worldwide.
9. Increase funding for research and development, and encourage exploration and evaluation of bold initiatives.
Promote development of sustainable renewable energy sources to make them more efficient and more economical. Increase funding for research on carbon capture and storage technologies. Foster a community of innovative ideas for curbing and adapting to climate change, but insist on caution in how new ideas are implemented.
10. Get personally active by becoming an advocate for avoiding the environmental cliff.
Support elected and appointed officials and organizations in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Use print and social media as platforms to spread the word about environmental issues. Build social networks dedicated to integrating and adapting to climate change. Become a well-informed advocate for sustainable change.