Darden’s Net Impact Conference Turns up the Heat on Climate Change

03/02/2011

“The energy world is coming, and it’s coming fast,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, who spoke at Darden yesterday as part of Darden’s Leadership Speaker Series and the Net Impact Conference “People + Planet = Profit,” sponsored by the student groups, Net Impact and the Energy Club.

Larry SweigerSchweiger painted a sobering picture of the serious problems facing Planet Earth, caused by never-before-seen high levels of carbon dioxide and methane.

“2010 tied for the hottest year on record” he said, noting that records have been kept since 1880. He pointed out the effects of climate change all over the planet, as pine beetles eat through the forests of British Columbia, Canada, Greenland melts, lightning strikes, forest fires spread and the migration and breeding patterns of animals shift.

“Nature is in the bullseye,” he said. Schweiger predicts that the world will first see a risk to its biological systems, coupled with extreme climate events. He pointed to the recent floods and cyclone in Australia, as well as the mega-snowstorm that moved through the Midwest and to the Northeast United States earlier this week.

While scientists, politicians and business are responding to climate change, “We are not moving as fast as we should,” he said. “There are important business decisions to be made and the business leaders of today and tomorrow must make them.”

He encouraged the audience to support a clean energy sector, cap emissions, build a smart grid, improve deforestation and logging methods, innovate to keep the carbon in the tropical forests and the soil, and – above all – become more energy efficient.

“When the pot is boiling over, who in the world would turn the heat up?” he asked.

Schweiger’s comments reinforced concepts discussed at a panel on Energy Management that took place as part of the Net Impact Conference earlier in the day. The panel was one of many that brought representatives of the U.S. Government, corporate executives and Darden professors and students together to discuss such topics as Corporate Social Responsibility, Private-Public Partnerships, Social Entrepreneurship and International Development.

The Energy Management panel honed in on specific ways that people can conserve energy.

“I think one of the greatest opportunities for families in energy is HVAC systems: managing their costs and extending their life,” said Chrissa Pagistsas (MBA ‘09), multifamily green initiative program manager at Fannie Mae. “The vast majority of properties in this country are 30 years old. Green building is one way to get energy efficiency savings, but it’s not the only way.”

The panelists agreed that while corporations, NGOs and governments are making strides to manage energy, there is a long way to go.

“We should not be under the illusion that we’re doing enough,” said Graham Pugh, team leader for international climate activities at the U.S. Department of Energy. “We’re not.”

For more information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu or a member of the Communication Team.

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