NRDC President: “Stamp out our carbon footprint - in our lifetime”

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jenny Powers, 212-727-4566, jpowers@nrdc.org, or Elizabeth Heyd, 202-289-2424, eheyd@nrdc.org

NRDC President: “Stamp out our carbon footprint - in our lifetime”

NEW YORK, NY - In an assertive bid to put the brakes on the fossil fuel pollution driving global climate change, NRDC President Frances Beinecke has called for the United States to stamp out its carbon footprint—to become carbon-neutral—in our lifetime.

A veteran of four decades on the front lines of environmental advocacy, Beinecke issues the call to action and lays out a visionary plan to achieve the goal in her forthcoming book, The World We Create: A Message of Hope for a Planet in Peril, released today by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.          

“It is time for us, as Americans, to state as a national goal that we will strengthen and accelerate our efforts to clean up our carbon pollution, invest in energy efficiency and shift to renewable power so that, within our lifetime, we will become a carbon-neutral nation that no longer contributes to climate change,” she writes. “That means we will reduce our reliance on coal, gas and oil. We will cut our carbon footprint. And we will protect and restore our forests and wetlands so that we offset every pound of carbon pollution we produce by adding to our natural capacity to absorb it.”

It's no pipe dream. We can reach the goal in our lifetime, Beinecke notes, and she shows how we can accomplish it.

“The objective is clear and achievable,” she writes. “It will focus our priorities and organize our resources around a new vision for our future. It will put millions of Americans to work in good-paying jobs that can't be sent overseas. It will make our companies more competitive, our country more secure and our children more healthy and prosperous. It will restore American leadership on the global imperative to address climate change. It will strike a powerful blow against the central environmental challenge of our time and help avert global economic and humanitarian catastrophe. And it will send the message to future generations that we will honor our obligation to leave this world in better shape for them than it was left to us.”

The World We Create opens with a clear-eyed look at the environmental damage we're doing and the risks we’ve incurred through fossil fuel production.

Deepwater drilling is turning rich ocean waters into industrial zones. Fracking has brought the oil patch to the American backyard. We’re destroying broad swaths of the great boreal forest of Canada for tar sands and blowing up entire mountains in West Virginia for coal.

She then details, in authoritative yet accessible prose, the damage we’re doing by burning these fuels, pumping so much carbon pollution into the atmosphere that we have literally altered the global climate system.

Taking the reader from an Iowa farm to the Arctic sea ice, Beinecke shows how climate change is imposing enormous costs on us today, endangering our health and imperiling our children’s future. Then she calls on the country to take action now—by hitting fast-forward on efforts to clean up our carbon pollution, invest in energy efficiency and shift to renewable power—to avert climate, economic and humanitarian catastrophe tomorrow.

“We know we can shrink our carbon footprint, in other words, to less than one-fifth its current size by 2050,” she writes in her book, citing hard analysis from respected authorities like the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations.

“But we have to act much sooner,” she writes. “Our own history tells us we can, our children's future demands that we must.”

 In this book, readers also learn that:

  • Of every dollar spent in the United States, eight cents goes for oil, coal and natural gas, endowing powerful industrial polluters with enormous resources they use to help anchor our future in the dirty fuels of the past. That's nearly double, by the way, what we spend to educate 50 million children in our public schools grades K-12.
  • Fracking operations nationwide have contaminated and blasted into the ground at least 750 billion gallons of water, enough to cover the states of Delaware and Rhode Island with water nearly a foot deep.
  • The fracking industry is producing $700 million worth of oil and gas in our country every day. It has the resources to do everything possible to reduce needless risks to our communities, environment and health. In far too many cases, though, that isn’t happening, and the public is bearing the costs and risks.
  • At the same time, a clean energy revolution has begun. In the three-year period from 2011-2013, wind and solar power accounted for 44 percent of all the new electricity generating capacity built in our nation. 
  • Over the past 35 years, we’ve cut our energy use in half, as a share of our economic output. We can save even more in the years ahead. We’re on track to roughly double the gas mileage our new cars get by 2025, and we can do even better than that.
  • Some 3.4 million Americans make their living each day helping to create a more sustainable future by doing things like building renewable power systems, improving public transit options and developing the next generation of energy efficient cars, workplaces and homes. They’re helping to prepare our economy for success in the fast-growing global market for the clean energy solutions of tomorrow.
  • And we’ve arrived at a hopeful moment of national convergence. We have a president who understands the stakes for the country, a widening business community that grasps the opportunity for prosperity and change, and a new generation of environmental stewards is united around the need to act.

For those reasons and more, Beinecke believes we can stamp out our carbon footprint in our lifetime, strike a blow against climate change and lead the way for international efforts to contain and counter this global threat.

“The modern environmental movement exists for one purpose,” Beinecke writes. “We're here to change the world, to create a place where our environment is treated as the single most important physical asset we share, because that’s exactly what it is. That’s when we’ll begin to care for the natural systems of the Earth as if our very lives depended on them, because they do. That is not yet the world we live in. It is the world we must create.”

In this book, she shows how we can do that.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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