Climate Conference Addresses Tough Issues, Offers Solutions, Fails to Mention One

Anna Zawisza : Wednesday May 1, 4:57PM

“If you’re not working on climate change, you’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” John Powers, our Founder and Board President likes to say.  He’s right.  No other single issue of our time has the power to affect all systems on Earth and wreak havoc on our communities, environment and economy the way this one can.  We’ve already begun to experience events associated with climate disruption – from 100 year droughts and floods, to massive storms and bizarre weather (today May 1st, it’s snowing in Denver while it’s 100 degrees in Texas).

Last week in San Francisco, nonprofits, foundations, governments and businesses working to address climate change came together to share strategies, ideas and solutions to combat this issue.  I’d like to share my three main takeaways from the conference:

  • Forget Peak Oil
  • Fight Keystone XL
  • Fulfill Your Role in the Movement

We’ve heard about Peak Oil since at least the 70s.  And while that was true back then, new technologies that even Exxon failed to predict, are allowing us to extract hydro-carbons from anywhere and turn them into products like diesel, propane and gasoline.  With these new technologies, we have over 500 years of “oil” remaining – I use the quotes because this is unconventional oil that wasn’t in the picture even 10 years ago.  These sources are more carbon intensive, harder to extract (think deep water drilling or tar sands) and more difficult to move to markets around the world…..

Which brings me to Keystone XL and other proposed projects that will move this unconventional oil so that it can be turned into products which will then be combusted and release more carbon into our atmosphere than conventional oil.  The experts are telling us that this new oil MUST stay in the ground.  What we have to do is prioritize the sources from least harmful to most harmful and make sure that the unconventional oils (oil sand/bitumen, oil shale/kerogen and others) stay where they are.  That’s why the fight to stop Keystone XL is such an important one.  The oil from the tar sands in Canada is highly carbon intensive and cannot be extracted if we are to have any fight left on climate.  Please see’s information about the Keystone XL.

And now on to the third and final takeaway – to join the climate movement in any way that fuels your passions.  Are you into local food? Energy efficiency? Alternative vehicles? Saving our snow? Stopping Keystone XL? Greening business practices? Spreading the word? Protecting forests? There are countless ways to be involved but this movement needs more immediate attention, more diversity and it needs you!

Finally, one issue that didn’t come up during the climate conference – soils and desertification.  You may not be aware of the magnitude of this problem (I wasn’t)  but our soils are desertifying, releasing more carbon and methane (an even more potent greenhouse gas) and accelerating climate change.  Alan Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist, has the greatest hope for us in our fight against climate change that I’ve seen in years.  I cannot possibly do it justice so I urge you simply to watch his TED talk on the subject.

We owe it to our children and their children to do something today.  The world’s scientists are united in their voices that carbon emissions are the biggest contributor to climate change and those carbon emissions are our doing.  Stop. Read and learn more. Find your passion. Do SOMETHING.


Author Bio:

Anna manages programs at the Alliance and also serves as the Deputy Director. She is responsible for advancing sustainability by increasing awareness, creating tools that accelerate progress and activating Colorado’s sustainability network. She is committed to working with people of all backgrounds and from all sectors of society in order to create a greater collective impact on sustainability. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Anna spent 12 years in the student loan industry focused on sales and marketing. She earned her B.S. in Management Science at SUNY Geneseo in 1994 and completed her M.B.A at Webster University in 2003. Anna’s passion for sustainability grew out of her love of the outdoors – she skis, hikes, camps and spends as much time as possible in the woods.

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