When the Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in 1998, global warming was hardly of great public concern. In a survey the year before, the Pew Research Center found that “fewer people are greatly concerned about the greenhouse effect now than in Gallup polls taken in 1989 and 1990”—24 percent versus 30 percent earlier.
Ten years later, it tops the list of issues facing world leaders; internationally negotiators recently established a road map toward a comprehensive agreement on action after 2012 (the year that closes the first “commitment” period for nations adopting the Kyoto Protocol).
In the United States over the past decade, states and regions have adopted innovative climate strategies, an everincreasing segment of the business community is calling for a reasonable—but mandatory—national climate policy, and Congress has taken significant steps toward developing such a plan.
“For more than a decade, the Pew center has served as an honest broker in the complex and often controversial debate over climate change,” said U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman at a July event marking the center’s anniversary. “Its message that we can protect the climate and grow the economy has resonated with Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The years of hard work the Pew Center has put into this issue are a major reason why the tide is turning in Congress, and we will soon pass strong legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and addresses the challenge of climate change.”
The event also honored the 10th anniversary of the center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, comprising companies dedicated to climate solutions. Starting with 13 members, BELC now consists of 42 members with more than $2 trillion in combined revenue and nearly 4 million employees. That includes two new members: BASF Corporation, the North American affiliate of BASF SE, the world's largest chemical company; and Deere & Company, the world’s leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery as well as a major supplier of lawn- and other turf-care equipment and materials.
“The Pew center’s thoughtful analyses of the science and economics of climate change have helped bridge what was once a sharp divide between business and environmental interests,” said J. Wayne Leonard, chairman and CEO of Entergy, a BELC-member company engaged primarily in electric- power production and retail distribution operations. “Its work has helped convince many in the business community that the costs of addressing climate change are far outweighed by the costs of doing nothing.”
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established, and continues, as a nonprofit, nonpartisan and independent organization “providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions,” said Eileen Claussen, the center’s president. In addition to growing BELC, the center’s highlights over the decade include
- engaging with decision-makers at the federal and state levels on such topics as cost-effective policy options, the science (through nearly 100 reports by noted climate experts) and greenhouse gasreduction efforts;
- founding the U.S. Climate Action Partnership;
- advancing international solutions, as at the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, which the center convened and where senior policy makers and stakeholders from 15 countries produced recommendations to engage all major economies in the post-2012 effort; and
- building public awareness of the climate-change problem and solutions.
“We are working on an issue that is often polarized and politicized, yet we have seen an enormous amount of progress in the last decade,” said Claussen. “Obviously, much more needs to be done. We remain as committed as ever to providing objective research and analysis and developing pragmatic policies and answers that will lead to real, wide-ranging action to protect the climate.”
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions site.