The Climate Extremes conference, affiliated with the upcoming COP21 Paris, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, was held this past week in Dallas. In Dallas! Dallas is joining the worldwide conversation on climate change, and even City of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was there with some inspiring words and remarked on the perception of our city.
“I think a lot of people across this country and across the world would probably be shocked if they heard that the mayor of Dallas was hosting a conference, in Dallas, focused on climate change,” Mayor Rawlings said, “but I think it’s important because it’s real and we gotta deal with it.” Mayor Rawlings went on to highlight the importance of dealing with climate change to continue to attract businesses to our city and help ease the effects on every member of the pubic, especially people who are most affected by extreme changes, the “have nots.” Mayor Rawlings also announced the new green initiatives by the city to combat climate change, including a goal to reduce municipal emissions by 39 percent by the year 2017. Starting in 2016 the city will begin buying renewable energy credits to reduce energy emissions to zero.
The four and one half hour conference held at the SMU Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity hosted local and international leaders discussing climate change impacts and emphasizing collaboration to solve problems.
Consul General of France in Houston, Sujiro Seam, spoke in his French accent, about the importance for Dallas to take an interest in climate change issues. Seam said, “Climate extremes matter for Dallas Fort Worth, everybody cares about drought, floods, heat waves, cold tornadoes, water scarcity, air quality.”
Dr. Bruce McCarl, agricultural economist at Texas A&M University, outlined the change in our climate to date, the harsh effects on agriculture, and a few scenarios on what we can do about it. McCarl gave us the data leading to serious consequences. “Texas is very vulnerable,”McCarl said, “we will be squeezed.” He also made us giggle about the room temperature, throwing in, “I think they could hang meat in here.”
Garrett Boone, co-founder of The Container Store, spoke of his ironic journey advocating for energy efficiency while owning an “energy hog” home in North Dallas. The vision to create a sustainable home improvement store, which empowered people to make good decisions about their home, led to Boone becoming Chairman of the Board of treehouse.co (an Austin-based green home products store). Boone answered a panel question on the success of their solar sales by highlighting the way products are sold, “You have to make the buying decision easy for people.” Good news: TreeHouse is hopefully coming to Dallas, next year!
Trammel Crow rattled off some green statistics but ultimately invited members of the marketplace, city departments and community organizations to continue the conversation and collaboration at Earth Day Texas in April, an event Crow described himself as “A hotbed of activism, but based on a foundation of business.”
Lee Collum, KERA host and journalist, did an excellent job moderating the sessions by asking insightful questions and adding some of her own remarks. “The almighty can’t be counted on to bail us out of our indifference” said Collum as the panel discussed the impact climate change is having on our agricultural systems, water issues and the role trees have in cooling the climate.
Climate Extremes organizer and director of the SMU Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, Dr. Eva Csaky, closed out the event encouraging our local community to make change happen. Csaky said: “The ultimate goal is to take action and to make some projects and initiatives happen here in Dallas that do address the intersection of climate change and poverty.”
Many aspects of climate change were packed into a short forum leaving us excited for the continued build up to the COP21 in Paris. At the COP21, leaders from around the world will “aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.” There are high hopes for the COP2 to be collaborative, insightful and provide the world’s leaders, including Dallas, with a high standard that we all will attain. The Climate Extremes conference sparked a collaborative dynamic at the local level to create a climate smart city here in Dallas – let’s keep moving forward.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.