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Snapshot Columns

Vanessa Warheit

California's Dirty Secrets

October 20, 2019

By: Vanessa Warheit

People often say that California is a leader in the climate movement — but we still have a lot of work to do to earn our climate cred. While it's true that the Golden State has made a lot of progress on demand-side solutions (think: electric cars, municipal composting, solar panels), the rest of the world needs to know that California has some dirty secrets. We're still pumping oil & gas out of the ground at a terrifying rate; and we're still investing our public pensions in the companies that are engaged in this reckless behavior. Both of these things are already losing us a lot of money — and they are poised to cause catastrophic losses.

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Catherine McVay Hughes

A Greener FiDi — Make Way for Lower Manhattan: Shared Streets Project

July 02, 2019

By: Catherine McVay Hughes

In March 2019, the Financial District Neighborhood Association (FDNA) released Make Way for Lower Manhattani (MW4LM), a vision to make the Financial District greener by making its streets and sidewalks cleaner and safer for the people who live and work there. This first-of-its-kind study was then incorporated into NYC's Earth Day 2019 announcement "ONENYC: Mayor DeBlasio Announces Transportation Measures to Increase New Yorkers' Mobility: The City has identified locations to implement its Bus Action Plan to increase bus speeds 25% by 2020, help more businesses receive off-hour deliveries, and explore new pedestrian zones in Lower Manhattan."

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Richard Leigh

Living Better Electrically

May 03, 2019

By: Richard Leigh

Avoiding Extinction

The Extinction Rebellion is right! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C report is right! Human civilization will be unalterably diminished or even wiped out by climate change, not this year, but if current practice continues, during this century. What is to be done?

The solution is blindingly obvious and known to all: stop using fossil fuels. Other steps may help, like constraining biological methane emissions or moving towards permaculture (agriculture that embeds carbon in the soil) or removing CO2 from the air, but those steps are add-ons. They will only help if we stop extracting and burning fossil fuels, and the IPCC's best estimate is that we must do that, globally, by 2045 to 2055 if we are to have a reasonable chance of holding the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. (We used to talk about 2°C, but it has become clear that the near-term impact on low-lying real estate, like in Bangladesh, Brooklyn, and Mar-a-Lago, will be too much too soon in this more relaxed 2°C case.) I'll stop now, but you can look all this up on the IPCC's web site.

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Genevieve Guenther


March 01, 2019

By: Genevieve Guenther

The summer of 2018 was very hot. Record-breaking temperatures baked the planet, inspiring nearly 130 reports about the heat on US network television. It would seem that every one of those reports should have discussed the heat's link to climate change, considering the scientific fact that climate change made the heatwave five times more likely. But only one segment even mentioned the words "climate change."

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Robert Muldoon

Building Operator Training In The Time Of Climate Change

January 02, 2019

By: Robert Muldoon

Among the potential leaders of our climate change era are the operating staff of the many thousands of buildings across New York City. As the main energy users and biggest greenhouse gas emitters, NYC buildings consume over 70% of our total energy and therefore have become the main focus of the City's efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. With NYC ramping up initiatives to make buildings more efficient, the role of management and building staff increases in making these efforts a success.

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Stuart Brodsky

WeWork's Opportunity to Stimulate Environmentally Sustainable Market Transformation in Office Property Markets

November 01, 2018

By: Stuart Brodsky

When a company such as WeWork holds a dominant positon among its supply chain and stakeholders, it has the potential to be an effective and innovative advocate for change in both practice and performance metrics — priorities that improve the corporate bottom line and demonstrate corporate citizenship. Known as market transformation, such a process should result in changes to the negotiated content and outcomes of transactions between stakeholders. To be truly market transformative, the achieved change should become standard practice, rather than a one-off result.

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Jeffrey Gracer & Amy Turner

Together, New Yorkers Are Leading On Climate Change

September 04, 2018

By: Jeffrey Gracer & Amy Turner

These are discouraging times for those of us who used to expect that our federal government would exercise climate leadership. It's been a chronicle of attempted destruction from Washington, kicked off by President Trump's deeply divisive June 2017 announcement of his plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and continuing in August 2018 with the proposal of Trump administration "replacements" for Obama-era fuel economy standards and the Clean Power Plan. If these most recent regulatory announcements survive court challenges, they would set back efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the transportation and power sectors. With this administration, we've seen funding cut for critical climate science programs, references to "climate change" deleted from federal agency websites, and cabinet-level denials of the basic science around our changing climate and extreme weather events.

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Courtney St. John

The Role Of Media For Advancing Discourse On Climate Change

July 02, 2018

By: Courtney St. John

Most people are well aware of the global shift that's been taking place in mass media over the last decade. The factors contributing to the decline of trust in the media are many, and include the rise of internet and social media that allow readers to seek out information sources that only confirm what they already believe, decline of local journalism and a prevalence of special interests that control what journalists can report on, all of which contribute to a general public that is confused about where to turn for accurate, unbiased information about global issues.

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Andy Frank

How Efficiency Can Be Treated As An Energy Resource

April 11, 2018

By: Andy Frank

Energy efficiency is weird. You can't see it or feel it, yet it has been, by far, the most dominant source of energy to heat, cool and power buildings in the last 40+ years. It's the energy not used; the reduction of wasted energy that once flew out the window — literally. Investments in energy efficiency are usually made for non-energy reasons, like building occupant comfort, yet, for those in the know, it is the cheapest form of energy. Think of it like a whimsical riddle (what is all around us and yet invisible?) that happens to be central to whether we can keep this planet safe.

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Lisa DiCaprio

The Social Cost Of Carbon & Why It Matters

March 03, 2018

By: Lisa DiCaprio

UPDATE: This article originally appeared here as a March/April 2018 guest Snapshot column — it has since been reprinted with permission in the Sierra Atlantic Newsletter Volume 48, Summer 2018

The social cost of carbon is a key environmental concept that assigns a monetary value to the economic damages caused by each new ton of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This concept, which was supported by President Obama as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is now being undermined by the Trump administration as part of its overall strategy to eliminate as many restrictions as possible on fossil fuel extraction and consumption.

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Nilda Mesa

Germany and U.S. Climate and Energy Policies at the Local Level: Common Puzzles

January 04, 2018

By: Nilda Mesa

For all that we may think Germans have climate and energy policies figured out, they are tackling many of the same issues as we are, with a few twists. So I found when participating in the U.S. Embassy's Speakers' Program in the fall of 2017, when I traveled to five cities in Germany to exchange ideas and speak about how New York and other U.S. cities and states are moving forward in the face of a new federal reality, and how sub-national governments relate (or don't) to federal governments, and in their case, to the European Union.

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Tom Sahagian

NYC's 80 x 50 Goal: Is it Realistic? How Do We Get There?

November 01, 2017

By: Tom Sahagian

As you probably know, "80x50" means reducing greenhouse gases produced in New York City 80 percent by the year 2050. As a practical matter this almost certainly means we must reduce the combustion of fossil fuels by 80 percent — either by increasing energy efficiency or by increasing the amount of energy we produce without using combustion (or, most likely, a combination of the two). This shift must take place in every sector — transportation, industry, buildings, etc., but I will focus here only on buildings.

Technically, there is no doubt that 80x50 is achievable. But it's not going to be easy. The biggest obstacles to success will not be technological — in my experience they are almost always fear and inertia on the part of decision-makers.

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Fulton Center transit hub oculus
February 7, 2019 at 11:41:06 AM EST