Rafe Pomerance was working at World Resources Institute in 1986 when he helped organize two days of hearings on Capitol Hill, suggesting witnesses for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. These hearings would change history.
Pomerance’s charge from WRI founder Gus Speth: outreach on climate change. Those hearings, titled “Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change,” moved the bipartisan dialogue on climate policy significantly forward.
In time, the United States joined a global effort to halt the production of the chemicals responsible for the ozone hole, today known as one of the success stories of the environmental movement.
The results are decidedly more mixed when it comes to the second subject of the hearings. Thanks to people like Pomerance—and his contemporaries at WRI and their partners on the Hill and in the scientific and environmental communities—climate change is on the agenda.
Today, we have the Paris Agreement and decades of results from the scientific and environmental communities. We stand on the shoulders of giants, building on the hard work of Pomerance and his peers. Decisive U.S. action remains elusive, but we continue to work towards comprehensive climate action.
This week, the New York Times Magazine published a special, issue-length article, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” looking at the efforts of Pomerance and his peers during the years 1979 to 1989.
In this podcast, Pomerance sits down with WRI Vice President for Communications Lawrence MacDonald to talk about what it was like to work for climate action when no one had heard about it, why he thinks we didn’t get climate action then and why he thinks Florida is the most important state for climate activists to win.
Listen to the podcast now: