Why I Work on Climate

After three decades as a climate advocate, I’m excited to have joined the Heising-Simons Foundation, late last year, as the director of the Climate and Clean Energy program. I am honored to lead a team of extraordinarily dedicated and passionate experts.

We are at a decisive moment in our fight to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Scientists warn us the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. We must act now with ambition to create a cleaner, more equitable, and prosperous future.

The change we need is possible.

My time as an environmental advocate, first at the Union of Concerned Scientists and then at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has taught me that transformative change can be driven by setting ambitious goals, creating a shared vision, and building broad inclusive coalitions.

Twenty years ago, I worked with a small band of climate insurgents to pass the nation’s first global warming pollution standards, called The California Clean Cars Law. This ground-breaking California law led to a doubling of national fuel economy standards and catalyzed a global electric vehicle revolution. Our work to zero-out tailpipe pollution brought together a diverse set of stakeholders – equity, environmental justice, labor, business, and others.

Unfortunately, the devastating impacts of climate change are here now, and it’s happening even faster than scientists thought previously. Higher temperatures are driving more intense storms, heat waves, flood, and droughts. Last year, climate-related disasters caused a staggering $145 billion in damages in the U.S. alone. More than 4 out of 10 Americans lived in a county impacted by climate-related disasters.

We have no time to waste.

To spur the change we need, the Foundation’s grantmaking will continue to prioritize advancing policies to decarbonize the biggest emitting sectors in the U.S. The Foundation will support a broad and inclusive set of organizations necessary to build a powerful movement, and to ensure the benefits of the clean energy transition are shared by those communities that are most impacted by our fossil fuel dependency.

The challenges are enormous, but I believe there is ample reason for hope.

Over the past decade, action across the globe will reduce the warming trajectory from 4 to around 2.4 degrees Celsius provided that nations fully follow through with their climate commitments. Clean energy costs have plummeted faster than predicted, with wind and solar now being cheaper than new coal or gas plants. Finally, a powerful climate movement has been built that is broader and more inclusive than ever before.

And above everything else, this surging climate movement is what gives me hope for the future.

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