In the 30 years since it was founded, the Climate Institute has accomplished quite a bit. Click below to learn more about our achievements in specific areas:
- Moving climate protection onto the international agenda (1986-1992)
- Helping lay the groundwork for the Framework Convention on Climate Change (1986-1992)
- Catalyzing Climate Protection Efforts in Asia (1989-1995)
- Helping spark a “Cities for Climate Protection” effort (1991-2001)
- Empowering island nations and vulnerable peoples to lead in climate protection (1991-present)
- Promoting win-win strategies and focus on short-lived climate forcers to avert highly disruptive climate change (2005-present)
- Catalyzing rapid movement on climate protection in Mexico and launching the Crispin Tickell Interactive Climate Network (1991-present)
To learn about our current projects, check out our “Programs” page.
MOVING CLIMATE PROTECTION ONTO THE INTERNATIONAL AGENDA
In October 1987 the Climate Institute organized a three day Washington Conference on Preparing for Climate Change, the first major broad based conference in North America; this drew about 300 participants, including scientists, policymakers and environmentalists from the US, Canada and the Soviet Union.
This conference generated remarkable media interest. Moreover, several key US and Soviet participants were instrumental in facilitating the inclusion of two paragraphs on climate and stratospheric ozone protection in the communiqué issued in early December at the conclusion of the Washington Reagan-Gorbachev Summit.
Building on the momentum of the Washington Summit and the new found US-Soviet interest in climate protection, the Climate Institute convened a March 1988 Symposium on Implications of Climate Change for developing countries, attended by representatives of 40 embassies. This was so well received that UNEP asked the Climate Institute to organize a similar symposium in New York in June 1988 for UN Missions and Agencies, representatives from 24 Missions and a half dozen UN agencies participated.
These meetings helped greatly to spur international interest in climate protection helping result in the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In October 1989 the Climate Institute convened a Conference on Global Change and the Arctic in Ottawa, Canada, the first -broad based conference on Arctic climate change and the first to involve indigenous Arctic Peoples as speakers.
In December 1989 in partnership with the Government of Egypt and UNEP the Climate Institute convened a Cairo World Conference on Preparing for Climate Change, a week long meeting drawing over 400 people from 40 nations.
The Arctic Conference spurred increased interest in Canada and the US in funding Arctic climate research. The Cairo Conference produced a Cairo Compact that stimulated great interest in collaborative international action to address climate change.
HELPING LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (1986-1992)
Beginning in 1989 the Climate Institute was engaged by the Japan Environment Agency to serve as Editor of the portions of the First IPCC Assessment on impacts of climate change on human settlement, energy transport and industry, human, health, air quality and interactions of climate change and UV radiation and as Lead Author of the sections on human settlement, transport and industry. Institute President John Topping served as Editor and Lead Author of these sections.
In February 1990 the Climate Institute organized a three-day Washington Workshop on a Framework Convention and Associated Protocols pulling together 87 participants from 17 nations, including lawyers, scientists, environmental and industry representatives and government officials. The result was a consensus draft framework convention and protocols ready for distribution at a meeting of the IPCC happening that same week at Georgetown University. At the Washington Workshop Dr. Noel Brown, North American Regional Director of UNEP, invited the Institute to organize Head of State and Ministerial Level Briefings on Climate Change.
In 1991 and 1992, under auspices of the IPCC and UNEP the Climate Institute undertook Presidential and Ministerial Level Briefings on climate change in 20 nations and also carried out briefings on climate change at two regional meetings, the South Pacific Environment Ministers Summit in Noumea, New Caledonia, and the Arab Environment Ministers Summit in Damascus, Syria. The Institute developed slide sets in 11 languages for these briefings.
In February 1992, the Climate Institute, UNEP, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) co-organized a symposium on implications of climate change for small island nations and low-lying developing countries. The symposium was attended by UN diplomats from over two dozen nations. In April 1992, the Climate Institute organized a symposium in New York for UN Missions and Agencies on climate change effects on developing countries. This presented results of climate effects studies prepared by international scientists funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
In June 1992 the largest assemblage of world leaders in human history to that date gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to sign various treaties, the most significant of which was the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Climate Institute’s actions on many fronts helped speed the Rio Climate Treaty.
CATALYZING CLIMATE PROTECTION EFFORTS IN ASIA (1989-1995)
In January 1991 the Climate Institute joined with the Japan Environment Agency to organize the First Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change in Nagoya, Japan, the first Asia Pacific climate change meeting involving policymakers. This meeting drew representatives from nearly 20 nations.
In 1991 the Climate Institute organized Head of State or Government, Ministerial and Parliamentary Briefings on Climate Change in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines and China and a Briefing at the South Pacific Regional Environment Ministers Meeting.
From 1992-1994, under contract with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Climate Institute coordinated climate change country studies in eight Asian nations–Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam. To achieve this, the Climate Institute recruited a team of 60 experts from a dozen nations, reviewed and published ten volumes of studies, and organized national workshops in seven nations to review the findings.
President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, after being briefed by the Climate Institute on the Studies’ findings, convened a February 1995 Manila Asia Pacific Leaders Summit on Climate Change that drew leaders and Parliamentarians from over 30 Asia Pacific nations, co-organized by the Government of the Philippines, the Green Parliamentarians of Asia and the Climate Institute.
The Manila Asia Pacific Climate Summit produced a Manila Declaration calling for collaborative, international action on climate protection and creation of an international private-public partnership to promote a green energy transformation. The Summit provided a strong regional impetus for an emissions protocol as was later agreed to at the December 1997 Kyoto Conference. Building on the Manila Declaration’s call for a green energy private-public partnership, the Climate Institute and Climate Solutions convened a Seattle Summit on Protecting the World’s Climate in April 2000 to see how the information revolution might be a guide to a global energy transformation and how Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia might be leaders in such a transformation. At the urging of Climate Institute Chairman Sir Crispin Tickell, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000 prompted the G-8 to create a Renewable Energy Task Force whose recommendations helped spawn a variety of clean energy partnerships. Following the completion of the eight-nation ADB country studies, a number of participating experts assumed key positions in national and international climate protection efforts, with Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Team Leader of the India Country Study, ultimately becoming Chair of the IPCC.
HELPING SPARK A CITIES FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION EFFORT (1991-2001)
In 1991 and 1992 and with support of UNEP, the Climate Institute organized a series of briefings on climate change for mayors and city officials in the Southeastern US.
In June 1991, in collaboration with many Canadian and some US institutions, the Climate Institute convened a conference on Cities and Climate Change in Toronto, Canada that explored options that cities such as Istanbul, Tokyo, Toronto, Jakarta, and Mexico City had to respond to climate change.
In March 1992, at the Royal Geographic Society in London, the Climate Institute sponsored a conference on cities and climate change that examined both climate change challenges and response options in many of the world’s greatest cities.
In January 2001 Dr. Noel Brown, Regional Director for North America of UNEP and long-time Board Member of the Climate Institute, convened a World Cities Summit on Climate Change at the United Nations, pulling together mayors from cities around the globe to commit to collaborative action on climate protection.
During the June 1991 Toronto Conference on Cities and Climate Change the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) launched its Cities for Climate Protection initiative that has grown to encompass hundreds of cities around the globe and to spawn other city based climate initiatives.
EMPOWERING ISLAND NATIONS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLES TO LEAD IN CLIMATE PROTECTION (1991-PRESENT)
Since its inception the Climate Institute has focused significant attention on the vulnerability of residents of the Arctic, other indigenous peoples, and inhabitants of small island nations and low-lying deltaic regions to climate change and associated sea level rise. Rather than focusing on decrying the injustice of these populations that have contributed only slightly to climate change and that are often bearing the brunt of the effects, the Institute has sought instead to empower vulnerable populations to become leaders in climate response innovations. Over its first quarter century Institute efforts to achieve this have focused generally on three areas: 1) empowerment of island nations to be leaders in climate innovation, especially in clean energy transformation; 2) reinforcing efforts of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and North America to lead in climate innovation; and 3) highlighting the emerging environmental refugee challenge that may be posed by climate change, land degradation, and water resource depletion.
Facilitating Capacity of Island Nations to Transform Their Energy Systems
Beginning in 1991 the Climate Institute has worked closely with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to increase the capacity of small island developing states (SIDS) to respond to climate change and sea level rise. It has organized three events focused on climate vulnerability and adaptation: 1) a climate change briefing for South Pacific Environment Ministers in Noumea, New Caledonia in 1991; 2) a February 1992 UN Symposium on Implications of Climate Change for Island Nations and Low Lying Deltaic Nations; and 3) a Conference in late November and early December 1998 at Florida International University in Miami on Climate Change and the Greater Caribbean. Its focus within island nations for over a decade, however, has been energy transformation both to reduce greenhouse emissions and to reduce energy costs for SIDS. On October 3, 1998 this effort was launched in the Board Room of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York when the Climate Institute convened in collaboration with AOSIS a Symposium for United Nations Missions on Sustainable Energy Options for Island States.
In 1998 the Climate Institute recruited to lead this initiative a Member of its Board, Hon. Tom Roper, who as Minister for Planning and Environment had spurred Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, to become the first state on Earth to adopt carbon targets and teamed him with Nasir Khattak, who has served for a decade as the Climate Institute’s Director of Global Environmental Programs.
What since November 2000 has been described as the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII) has grown to encompass ten island nations–Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis , and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean; Fiji and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific; and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Following Nasir Khattak’s September 2010 speech to the United Nations General Assembly about promoting a much broader energy transformation effort among SIDS, UNIDO and other partner organizations have shown keen interest.
GSEII has achieved wide stakeholder input for national sustainable energy plans in its member states. Member nations have installed energy efficiency systems including several hundred thousand compact fluorescent bulbs and under Geo Caribes, an initiative of OAS, a GSEII Partner, there is a realistic chance that one or more GSEII members could become negative carbon users within the next decade by cabling excess electricity to nearby island states.
Enhancing the Capacity of Indigenous Groups to Respond to Climate Change
Beginning with its initial North American Conferences in 1987 and 1988 in Washington, the Climate Institute has focused on potential challenges both to island nation inhabitants and to indigenous peoples. In October 1987, at the Ottawa Climate Change Conference it convened, Arctic Peoples were panelists and John Amoskeag, Inuit Nation representative in Ottawa, was a luncheon speaker. Three current Climate Institute Board Members, Dr. Michael MacCracken, Dr. Robert Corell, and Dr. Daniel Wildcat, are experts on implications of climate change for indigenous peoples. Chief Scientist of the Climate Institute since 2002, Dr, MacCracken spearheaded the US National Climate Assessment published in 2000 and in that role was instrumental in the workshop that resulted in the report, Native Peoples–Native Homelands, detailing the challenges climate change poses to Native Americans. Dr. Robert Corell chaired the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment published in 2006; Dr. MacCracken also played a key role in that report that included substantial input from indigenous Arctic dwellers. Dr. Wildcat, Professor and Dean at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, has served since 2006 as Convener of the American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group. He is the author of Red Alert: Saving the Planet With Indigenous Knowledge.
The Climate Institute has been an active participant in the American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working group since 2007. During that time it prepared a Special Issue of Climate Alert, Water and Climate Change in Tribal Lands, as background for a Tribal College Forum organized by the Working Group and other partners in August 2008 at Haskell Indian Nations University. Jointly with NASA and the Bullitt Foundation, the Climate Institute co-sponsored an April 2009 Workshop on Climate Change and Northwest Indian Fisheries at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.
Interest in action to address climate change has grown in the last several years among Native Americans. Significantly, in 2008 the National Indian Gaming Association, a powerful force in the Native American community, created a Task Force on Climate Protection and Clean Energy and has encouraged conversion of facilities of its members to be clean energy models. The Working Group in which the Institute is active has played a pivotal role in these developments.
Identifying an Emerging Environmental Refugee Challenge
In 1992 the Climate Institute decided to initiate a study of a potentially growing environmental refugee challenge that might be posed by a combination of climate change and sea level rise and other environmental stresses such as land degradation and aquifer depletion. It commissioned a widely respected scholar, Dr. Norman Myers to lead this effort with input from an international steering committee chaired by Sir Crispin Tickell. The resulting study, Environmental Exodus: An Emergent Challenge in the Global Arena, was published by the Climate Institute in 1995 .
Although the Climate Institute has lacked the resources to sustain an ongoing environmental refugee analysis effort, this report appears to have stimulated much further interest in the environmental refugee problem, and Dr. Myers has gone on to win major international honors such as the Blue Planet Prize, where he was recognized for his pioneering work on biodiversity hotspots.
PROMOTING WIN-WIN STRATEGIES AND FOCUS ON SHORT-LIVED CLIMATE FORCERS TO AVERT HIGHLY DISRUPTIVE CLIMATE CHANGE (2005-PRESENT)
In early 2005, as evidence began to come in from the polar regions that climate change might be feeding on itself with warming changing albedo (reflectivity) and causing shrinkage of sea ice, possible acceleration of Greenland de-glaciation, and potential increased release of methane from the tundra, the Climate Institute began to focus both on understanding the risks of abrupt climate change and practical near term and medium term strategies to avert the risks of going past irreversible tipping points. As the Climate Institute prepared for its 20th Anniversary in 2006 Bert Kerstetter, Founder of Evergreen Foundation and now a Climate Institute Board Member, agreed to provide the seed funding for a Washington Summit on Climate Stabilization that would explore the risks of sudden and disruptive climate change together with practical measures to avert such change. Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Programs of the Climate Institute, agreed to develop the agenda for the Summit in September 2006. The Summit presentations provided ample evidence from world- class scientists that climate change might be accelerating with real risk of passing irreversible tipping points. At the same time, evidence was also presented that there were available win-win measures, some of which both reduce radiative forcing and yield benefits to consumers and industry alike. The presentations of the Washington Summit are encapsulated in Sudden and Disruptive Climate Change: Exploring the Real Risks and How We Can Avoid Them (Earthscan, 2008). Following on this the Climate Institute has focused especially on two areas where there are near and medium term opportunities for win-win reductions that would reduce climate forcing that is moving us toward tipping points. The first involves the removal of anti-competitive barriers against energy recycling that swell greenhouse emissions and cost US industry and consumers tens of billions of dollars annually. The second related area of focus is to increase reductions of short-lived climate forcers, especially black carbon (soot), where there are both health and climate benefits to such reductions and the potential for large, near-term changes in radiative forcing, and methane, where are significant economic benefits as well as climate benefits to such reductions and the potential to make a medium term difference in climate forcing. A third area related to averting sudden and disruptive climate change is to explore guidelines for research into geo-engineering options that might be considered in a worst-case situation where emissions limitation strategies are coming up woefully short.
Reducing Barriers to Energy Recycling
Following the presentation of Tom Casten, Chairman of Recycled Energy Development, to the Washington Summit showing huge opportunities in the US and elsewhere to save large sums of money and also slash emissions of carbon dioxide, the Climate Institute has highlighted this opportunity even producing a Special Issue of Climate Alert.
Working with Tom Casten, another Climate Institute Board Member, John Noel, President of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has managed to get the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority to lower barriers to energy recycling. In an article prepared for a Climate Institute-convened Symposium at the 2010 Cancun Conference, Casten made the case for reforming both utility regulation and US Clean Air Act regulation to simultaneously achieve large cost savings and reductions in both emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.
Focusing on Opportunities to Achieve Win-Win Reductions in Black Carbon and Methane
Climate Institute Chief Scientist Michael MacCracken greatly influenced the international policy debate on climate mitigation with his June 2008 paper in the Journal of Air and Waste Management proposing much greater focus on reducing black carbon, methane, and other short-lived climate forcers. This was influential in UNEP’s decision to commission a report on near term opportunities for reductions of radiative forcing by focusing on black carbon and tropospheric ozone, limiting the latter largely by reducing emissons of methane. Even before this report that effectively validated Mike MacCracken’s recommendations of three years earlier, the Climate Institute had produced a Special Issue of Climate Alert on black carbon that was widely circulated to policymakers, including those in the Arctic Council. It also established a Black Carbon Reduction Program.
Fostering Guidelines for Research Into Climate Geo-Engineering
Regrettably there is a very realistic chance, given the inertia in energy systems, slowness of the international community to act, and the genuine prospect of feedbacks where the warming shrinks sea ice, reduces reflectivity, and speeds de-glaciation and even methane release from the tundra or even ocean-based hydrates, that measures to limit carbon dioxide and other climate forcers, both long-lived and short-lived, may prove inadequate to avert passing crucial tipping points that might inundate coastal regions. In such circumstances it may become necessary to supplement strong emission control measures with some climate geo-engineering measures that might reduce incoming solar radiation, enhance albedo, or accelerate carbon storage. Some of these measures might prove benign, others might have adverse, unintended side effects, perhaps even in the research phase. To ensure that we prepare for this possible eventuality, in March 2010 the Climate Institute convened a three-day conference at the Asilomar Conference Center in California.
In each of these areas, only a few years ago terra incognita in the US and much of the rest of the planet, the Climate Institute has facilitated constructive discussion on potentially contentious issues and some progress in policy innovation. Tom Casten, together with John Noel, has had some success in the Southeastern US in removing barriers to cogeneration and even more success in winning support from an ideologically diverse group of writers and analysts for more fundamental reform. Nevertheless, as many of the barriers are a function of arcane state law or utility regulation, this can be a difficult slog. Similarly Clean Air Act re- interpretation, even one that would save billions annually while reducing greenhouse emissions and emissions of air pollutants, may seem to be walking across a mine field in the currently polarized US political environment. By contrast, as the UNEP Report underscores, there has been rapid movement in the last three years in the international community to recognize the necessity of acting to address short-lived climate forcers, perhaps facilitated in part by the remarkable potential benefits in human health. Mike MacCracken‘s skill in chairing the Asilomar Meeting enabled a group of over 160 experts from numerous countries and disciplines to address a multitude of contentious issues and emerge with a remarkably substantive statement.
CATALYZING RAPID MOVEMENT ON CLIMATE PROTECTION IN MEXICO AND LAUNCHING THE CRISPIN TICKELL INTERACTIVE CLIMATE NETWORK (1991-PRESENT)
The Climate Institute has a two- decade history of involvement in climate protection issues starting when in March 1991 Sir Crispin Tickell led the Climate Institute team to Los Pinos to brief President Salinas; this was the first of 22 Presidential or Ministerial Briefings carried out under IPCC and UNEP auspices by the Climate Institute. It seemed to have an immediate effect as the next week President Salinas announced creation of a national committee on climate change.
Beginning in 1999 the Climate Institute resumed active involvement in Mexico when Institute President John Topping was recruited by the World Bank to serve on a High Level Expert Team advising the Government of Mexico City on its 10-year air quality plan. The World Bank, Government of Mexico City and US Environmental Protection, seeing the merits of the Climate Institute’s arguments for coordinated strategies for climate and air quality protection, agreed to support a North American Symposium on Coordinated Strategies for Climate and Air Quality Protection organized by the Climate Institute in September 1999 at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City.
The immediate effect of the Climate and Air Quality Symposium was to encourage Mexico City to attempts to integrate greenhouse reduction considerations in its 2000-2010 air quality plan. Perhaps a more consequential result from the standpoint of the climate protection effort in Mexico was to introduce Luis Roberto Acosta, Carlos Diaz Leal, and Dra. Aurora Elena Ramos, principals in SIMA, the NGO that made Mexico City air quality and UV data accessible online, to Climate Institute President John Topping and to Sir Crispin Tickell, then Climate Institute Chairman.
Creation of World’s Highest Climate Observatory
SIMA soon after that began to function as the Climate Institute’s principal partner in Mexico. Within about three years it revised its priorities to focus on the creation of a climate observatory much like that at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The SIMA team obtained the necessary approvals from the World Meteorological Organization and US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that compiles and validates the greenhouse data to locate a climate observatory in Mexico at roughly 19 N latitude–much the same latitude as Mauna Loa. After first considering a high altitude site within the State of Veracruz, Senor Acosta and his team then received an invitation from Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics (INAOE) to situate the climate observatory in the High Altitude Science Cluster near INAOE’s powerful radio telescope atop Sierra Negra within the Pico de Orizaba National Park. Barbara Hernandez, President of the Pedro and Elena Hernandez Foundation, indicated that her foundation would provide funding for design and construction of the observatory. Already working closely with Sir Crispin Tickell, now Chairman Emeritus of the Climate Institute, and John Topping, President, Senor Acosta and his team began operating as the Mexico and Latin America Programs office of the Climate Institute. Much to his surprise Sir Crispin Tickell, who had done much to champion the need for a high altitude observatory, learned on September 24, 2007 just before delivering the Miguel Aleman Lecture at the Miguel Aleman Foundation, that the high altitude observatory would be named in his honor.
Greenhouse measurements have been taken on a weekly basis since January 2009 and sent to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and inclusion in global greenhouse totals.
Development of Tickell Network
The fact that the Tickell Observatory was in the State of Puebla caused Francisco Castillo Montemayor to suggest creation of a Tickell Observatory Climate Education and Outreach Centre within Flor de Bosque, a 1600-acre educational park. Senor Acosta and his team then combined NOAA ‘s Science On a Sphere projection technology with stunning traditional Mexican architectural design. The Tickell Theatre in Flor del Bosque opened in February 2009.
Since the opening of the Tickell Theatre in Flor del Bosque an average of nearly 10,000 people each month have witnessed multimedia Climate Change Briefings there. Eleven other Tickell Netwotate of Guerrero; Morelia in the State of Michoacan; Metepec, Atlocomulco, Texcoco rk Theatres have been created in Mexico, each with an eye catching building design. They are in the Mexico City Museum of Natural History; Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos ; Veracruz, Acapulco and Chilpancingo in the Sand Valle de Bravo in the state of Mexico; and Villahermosa in the State of Tabasco. Public interest is great. When Governor Enrique Pena Nieto dedicated the Tickell Theatre in Metepec in February 2011 he spoke to a crowd of about 7,000.
Developing Content for use in Climate Theatres, www.climate.org, and Social Networks
To complement the Tickell Climate Theatres and to reach many who are not near such theatres the Climate Institute is working through its educational arm, the Center for Environmental Leadership Training (CELT) in Hanover, NH, to gather, develop, and test problem solving tools, educational games, and short summaries of climate innovations in Spanish, English, Chinese, and ultimately French and Portuguese as well.
The Tickell Network has already attracted interest in expansion both within Mexico, other countries of Latin America, the US, the UK, Spain, the Philippines and the Middle East. The Tickell Climate Theatres already operational have been described as the climate education equivalent of what a planetarium is for astronomy. They have already helped catalyze a great public interest in Mexico in climate change and actions to protect the climate. Although CELT is in its infancy and is today a virtual center drawing largely on talents of undergraduates and graduate students at Dartmouth College, it seeks to develop problem solving games and educational tools that can be used both within climate theatres within the Tickell Network and much more broadly on the internet and on social networking sites. The vision of the Tickell Network and CELT is to combine large-scale public education on climate change with tools that could empower millions to become problem solvers and innovators on climate, energy, and environmental challenges using smart phones, laptops, desktops and other devices.