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Global community can't afford to delay,
says leading environmentalist
May 3, 1999
lobal warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is one of the world's most intractable problems, according to Fred Krupp, a leading environmentalist. Individuals don't want to give up cars, industrialized nations don't want to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, and develop- ing countries want to use more fossil fuels.
Yet the global community cannot afford to delay. "The time for action is now," he said. "The atmosphere and oceans are heating up. Glaciers are shrinking. Large chunks of ice shelves around Antarctica are disintegrating. Rain and snowstorms across the United States are growing more intense.
"The timing of the seasons is changing, habitat for many plants and animals is shifting, in some cases shrinking and even disappearing. Tropical diseases are invading new areas," said Krupp, speaking on "Environmentalism in the 21st Century: New Ways to Get Results," on April 22, the 29th anniversary of Earth Day, in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Krupp was the final speaker for the Edwin Way Teale lecture series on nature and the environment and the Gieb distinguished lecturer in environmental engineering.
As executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Krupp heads a team of scientists, economists and lawyers in devising innovative, economically viable solutions to environmental problems. The organization's priorities include global warming, ocean pollution and overfishing, human exposure to toxic chemicals, and biodiversity.
The hottest year in recorded history was 1998, Krupp said, the second hottest was 1997, and the 13 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 1980. A two-degree rise in ocean temperatures since 1977 is forcing changes in marine life along the Pacific Coast.
The EDF has taken a leading role in seeking solutions to environmental issues. The organization was a key player in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which more than 150 nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also helped develop the 1996 Farm Bill that targets subsidies to environmentally sensitive areas. Using an EDF plan, more than 2 million acres of private lands are now protecting endangered species.
To obtain agreement on difficult environmental issues, the EDF develops plans that combine flexibility and economic incentives. The organization obtained agreement from oil giants BP and Shell to reduce pollution; helped plan the McDonald's Corp. changeover to recycled packaging; and identified emissions tradeoffs for the 1980 revised Clean Air Act that resulted in a 30 percent greater reduction in emissions than mandated, at one-tenth of the anticipated cost.
One of the newest tools for addressing environmental problems is the Internet. EDF's website, for example, www.scorecard.org, gives information about chemical pollution in each zipcode, receiving 200,000 requests daily.
Not only is the Internet the largest environmental research library ever, in 90 minutes EDF can reach 39,000 individuals of its Member Action Network. When alerted last year, members helped obtain a decision to save the threatened Gulf of Maine cod from overfishing. Krupp urged the audience to sign up at http://www.edf.org.