By Kimberly Preston
On Monday, November 28, Auden Schendler, climate activist and author of Getting Green Done, spoke at Impact Hub Boulder about climate change and the need for drastic action from corporations. Auden is the Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, where he focuses on corporate sustainability, activism and policy change through business. During his talk, he discussed what the recent election means for the planet, corporate action, and what individuals can do to actually make a difference. Here are some key takeaways from his talk and discussion with the audience.
We’re up against a lot
Besides the President-elect’s comments or personal beliefs about climate change, it’s impossible to ignore the fact climate activists are nervous about the people included in Trump’s transition of power and what it means for climate initiatives. Originally, Donald Trump’s transition team included lobbyists with strong ties to the oil and gas industry, like Michael McKenna and Mike Catanzaro. Although these lobbyists have since left the team, it still includes those with close relationships with corporations like Koch Industries.
According to Trump’s website, Thomas Pyle is now leading the transition team for the Department of Energy and Myron Ebell is overseeing the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pyle is currently the President of the American Energy Alliance (AEA), a non-profit organization that engages in public policy advocacy surrounding energy and environmental policies. Some if the organizations initiatives include supporting the Keystone Pipeline, ending the tax subsidy for wind turbines, and blocking further EPA restrictions of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Not only does the AEA have ties to the oil industry, Pyle also previously worked for Koch Industries, said The Washington Post.
And then there’s Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and who works to “challenge global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies”, according to his bio. Myron Ebell is a strong climate change denier, and the CEI has received donations from companies and foundations like the Koch Companies Public Sector, Charles Koch Foundation, Murray Energy, Ford Motors and even Google, said The Washington Post in 2013.
“We’re not going to do too well with these people,” Auden said. “These are bad people if you care about climate change.”
Not only will these advisors influence the picks for the new administration, Ebell is also being considered for E.P.A. Administrator, said the New York Times. In addition, Harold D. Hamm, chief executive of the oil and natural gas company Continental Resources, is being considered for Energy Secretary and Interior Secretary, the New York Times said. This means we’re up against a lot if we’re serious about addressing climate change and it’s time to work harder than ever to create change.
We can’t wait to act
“How did we get here? How did we get to this place, where on climate, we’re soon to be the first of 200 nations that denies climate science?” Auden said, referring to threats of the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. “If we’re going to solve this problem in the time of Trump, we’re going to have to do some things differently.”
According to a 2016 UN Environment Program report, the World is still on track for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius by 2100, and the world will have to cut at least 12 billion to 14 billion metric tons of emissions annually to meet the 2-degree increase goal. So why haven’t we made more progress if the science is so clear? Auden says it’s because we, as a society, never took the issue seriously and never took the time to understand the science.
Auden explained that meaningful action on climate change must include more radical activism and a change in the mindset of the corporate sector. Most corporations have responded to climate change by vowing to shrink carbon footprints and changing light bulbs. The problem? That’s not enough. To really make an impact, Auden says big businesses need to use their voice to educate customers and influence public policy by talking directly with elected officials.
Individuals must create a movement
But many publicly held companies are scared to speak out for fear of receiving criticism from stockholders, even though Auden says once they do, they actually receive more praise. Even though lack of corporate action seems too big a problem to fix, he says individual citizens are the key to creating the movement that gets corporations to act.
“Write the CEO. Do it. Write the CEO of a corporation,” he said. In order to get corporations to take a stand and get politicians to listen, individuals must become more invested in getting their voices heard.
“We have the technology on the shelf today to solve this problem. We have the policy tools that are supported by the extreme right and the extreme left, — and all we’re missing is the political will,” he said. “The Egyptian revolution happened on Facebook. That was a use of social media that drove mass scale change. So we can do it. We will do it.”