CLIMATE AND CONSERVATION

Protecting and conserving our natural resources is a challenge of national importance. Being good stewards of our given resources means protecting the environment while also supporting responsible development of our nation’s resources.

Background

Since 2007, the U.S. has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 500 million metric tons. This effort has garnered international attention, yet there is still much more to be done. Innovation and new technologies have paved the way for a cleaner future, even while other parts of the world produce ever greater shares of emissions.

Regulation is certainly warranted, but a focus on improving technology and techniques must remain a chief priority so we can achieve better, safer, cleaner outcomes in America and export that innovation to other parts of the world. The challenge of climate change is a global one, American leadership and innovation will be essential.

The Challenge

The first challenge in understanding and combatting such a polarizing and complex topic as climate change is separating fact from fiction. This is harder than it seems, because on its own, data cannot prescribe policy or even inform the true nature of certain problems or solutions. All data must be interpreted, analyzed, and viewed through a framework, worldview, or set of assumptions. This is often then cast as a narrative. Critical, then, is understanding where positive descriptions end and normative judgments and policy prescriptions begin.

The data shows warming. Climate change is a reality that must be confronted. Part of the problem is a technical one– our society, as well as nature, emits many warming gases. Innovating to prevent that cannot be done overnight. And regulating those emissions away still requires the technology to arrive on scene and at scale.

When we do get to policy, it is important have clearly defined goals. If the goal is to achieve lower carbon emissions, that can be done through reducing energy consumption, meeting demand with low-emissions or emissions-free resources, or by improving technology, like energy storage, to better align energy production and consumption – or all of the above. This is where costs and benefits must also be central. Energy raises standards of living, lifts people out of poverty, allows the cultivation and transportation of food, goods, and resources, and warms or cools homes. Risking these things to lower global carbon emissions may be too costly for not enough practical benefit.

Finding those boundaries is essential for businesses, policymakers, and government bodies. Agreeing on the best course of action, however, remains a challenge. Adding to this is the problem that other nations produce greater emissions and have different policies and standards for enforcement. If it falls on the United States to pave the way on climate change, we must be ready to solve problems and export the solutions and technology to the most critical areas around the globe.

The Solution

There are many ways to approach climate change and conservation challenges. These may be through economics, tax policy, innovation in the lab, or community efforts to plant trees and safeguard local wildlife. While each of these is a needed piece of the puzzle, and they must be pursued, the two we focus on are innovation and resiliency. Surprisingly, the use of voluntary carbon offsets may be one key to unlocking future innovation in addition to mitigating emissions.

 

Innovation

There are virtually no problems that cannot be innovated around. When we wanted to put a man on the moon, we invented the math. Humans have incredible capacity to solve problems and imagine new possibilities.

Not long ago, the global climate challenge seemed insurmountable. Now, innovators are literally sucking carbon straight out of thin air. Power storage and batteries are improving and scaling at costs unheard of a decade ago – making wind and solar power more feasible. Scrubbers have taken the dirty air pollutants from coal out of the equation. Drones are mapping and planting new forests and replacing the slow, back-breaking labor of tree planting. These innovations tackle the global problem one element at a time.

We must have public policy and regulation that fosters innovation. That means encouraging innovators to try new things and bring them to the market, and not prescribing how they must go about different practices. We must limit new emissions and counteract the old ones through new technology that promotes higher standards of living and allows robust energy consumption. An innovative way to achieve this outcome may be through the use of voluntary carbon offsets*. These enable individuals and organizations to pay for an amount of carbon dioxide to be removed through carbon capture and other offsetting technologies and practices. This means money is allocated directly to innovators and entrepreneurs creating climate solutions, and over time, may help jumpstart a standalone climate industry sustained by a circular carbon economy*.

 

Infrastructure Resiliency

We cannot control the climate, and while we must strive for cleaner, more efficient, and conservation-oriented solutions, threats to life and property are happening now. Whether storms are becoming more frequent, stronger, or remaining about the same, we know the damage that comes from a Category 5 hurricane or an F5 tornado.

Building infrastructure capable of withstanding any natural disaster or weather phenomenon – and avoiding blackouts when these instances occur – is every bit as impactful as efforts to mitigate future disasters through emissions reductions. Levees and flood management must be improved, undergrounding of utilities should be considered, and investments in a smarter grid are essential for living through the storms to come.

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WHITE PAPERS

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The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted new low sulfur fuel standards for cargo ships beginning in 2020. The rule requires ships to reduce the maximum sulfur content of their fuels to 0.5%, from the 3.5% standard currently in place. While on its face, the rule seems obscure and not relevant to day-to-day life, it could actually impact the cost of every product Americans buy and use…

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The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled joint proposed rule-making to revise tailpipe emission standards and average fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured for model years 2021-2026. This announcement created a confrontation with California and raised questions about whether EPA has the authority to revoke California’s waiver…

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Infrastructure Resiliency: Preventing Damage Through Critical Investments

In the two years, Texas experienced extensive flooding with estimates of more than 70 trillion gallons of rain hitting the state. This volume of rain equates to the entire state being covered in 16 inches of water. The flooding has led to loss of life and unprecedented damage to crops, private property, and public infrastructure. The nearly $10 billion in damaged property is a signifi- cant drag on the local economy and will likely have lasting devastating impacts on individuals and businesses within the state.

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POLICY BRIEFS

During the month of August, Aii educated on the importance of energy resources to the nation and the world. Throughout the month, we highlighted the seven primary natural and energy resources used to generate electricity in the United States. New content and briefs were uploaded to this page throughout Energy Month. Stay tuned for next year as we refresh the page with the latest available data for 2021.

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America’s Top Infrastructure Challenges

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted new low sulfur fuel standards for cargo ships beginning in 2020. The rule requires ships to reduce the maximum sulfur content of their fuels to 0.5%, from the 3.5% standard currently in place. While on its face, the rule seems obscure and not relevant to day-to-day life, it could actually impact the cost of every product Americans buy and use…

READ MORE

The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled joint proposed rule-making to revise tailpipe emission standards and average fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured for model years 2021-2026. This announcement created a confrontation with California and raised questions about whether EPA has the authority to revoke California’s waiver…

READ MORE

Infrastructure Resiliency: Preventing Damage Through Critical Investments

In the two years, Texas experienced extensive flooding with estimates of more than 70 trillion gallons of rain hitting the state. This volume of rain equates to the entire state being covered in 16 inches of water. The flooding has led to loss of life and unprecedented damage to crops, private property, and public infrastructure. The nearly $10 billion in damaged property is a signifi- cant drag on the local economy and will likely have lasting devastating impacts on individuals and businesses within the state.

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POLICY BLOG

6 Carbon Market Solutions… And Counting

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Carbon Offsets Provide Unique Pairing of Environmental Gain and Investments in Innovation

As individuals and organizations focus on ways to improve their environmental, social, and governance impacts, discussions often center around climate. Seemingly the most common approach is to simply avoid fossil fuels altogether, but in the energy industry, that is not always possible or desirable. Where developing fossil fuels is the industry objective, good stewardship and governance must focus on limiting emissions, improving transportation efficacy, and promoting efficiency.

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Fires, Climate Change, and More

As human lives are threatened, property burns, and animal losses rise to nearly incalculable tolls, pinning all the blame on climate change is appealing. After all, climate change can seem like an insurmountable challenge to get ahold of, and the wildfires burning out of control appear to match that level of abstract enormity. But with such an enormous and costly problem, more nuance and evaluation are called for rather than allowing the scale to blur it all together.

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Weathering Climate Change Through Resilient Infrastructure

Hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters can be truly devastating. Not only are precious lives lost, but property damage can decimate local communities and business activity. As concerns over climate change cause many to fear stronger or more frequent storms, one simple solution stands ready to protect lives, economic activity, and property.

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