How A Changing Climate Is A Threat To The Stability Of Our Federal Budget (Forbes)

FORBES | According to recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, 2022 tied as the fifth warmest year on record. Why does this matter? Well, a warming climate directly affects the health of you as an individual – and your family, communities, businesses, and our overall economy. We are seeing these effects now and scientists anticipate that they will grow.

Yes, climate change and changing weather patterns create an environmental crisis, but increasingly we are realizing they create a health crisis, and a food crisis, and ultimately a threat to our economic security and to the stability of our federal budget.

The budgeting agencies of both the White House (Office of Management and Budget) and the United States Congress (the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office or CBO), have both projected sizable budgetary impacts from climate change. The CBO states it succinctly: “Climate change increases federal budget deficits, on net.” A reduction in economic output related to lower worker productivity and damage to physical capital and the corresponding drop in income and payroll taxes will create a drag on federal revenues, while mandatory and discretionary spending demands will increase.  

Indeed, climate change touches nearly all aspects of what in the aggregate comprises our national economy. And it is through this policy lens of the federal budget (The author served on the Budget Committee of the U.S. Senate from 1995 until 2002 and testified before that committee on May 10, 2023) that our elected public officials are called upon to look to the future, assess, and react to public risk. While Congress is notorious for delaying action until absolutely necessary — as we saw with the recent debt limit debate — I hope our elected officials will begin in earnest to address climate change and its impact, as we are in uncharted territory and there will come an unpredictable time in the future when failure to act will balloon budget costs exponentially.

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It’s World Ocean Day: Here’s Why Life Depends On Our Oceans (Forbes)

FORBES | June is the month when the global community honors the crucial services the ocean provides. From World Ocean Day (June 8 this year) to the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1), we celebrate that the ocean sustains all life on the planet and call attention to the threats to its future.

Many don’t realize the diverse ways in which our daily life is impacted and sustained by Earth’s marine ecosystems. First, more than half the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from the ocean (primarily from phytoplankton), regardless of where we live and breathe. The ocean also regulates the global climate and influences weather patterns, driving storms that often move far inland. Third, it feeds a lot of us: at least 3.3 billion people, including the world’s poorest, rely significantly on marine products for sustenance, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. And the seas contribute considerably to the global economy, with about 600 million livelihoods depending on fisheries and aquaculture.

That includes the U.S. economy. More than three-quarters of all U.S. trade relies, at least in part, on maritime transportation routes. In 2019, the U.S. “blue economy” supported 2.4 million jobs and contributed approximately $397 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

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How Ecuador Serves As A Solutions Incubator To Restore The Planet’s Water Health: The Nature Conservancy Model For The World (Forbes)

FORBES | Clean and accessible water is essential to life, and closely linked to economic vitality. As the World Health Organization explains, “Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.” Yet water insecurity affects one in four people globally, with an estimated 2 billion people lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, while about 3.6 billion lack access to sanitation services (an astounding 46% of the world’s population). This has a ripple effect that increases disease burden, reduces food supply, and reinforces cycles of poverty.  

As global water consumption doubles every 20 years, finding clean water solutions that are replicable and scalable to cities and countries globally might seem out of reach. This is where The Nature Conservancy (TNC) comes in. TNC is the largest conservation organization in the world, working in 79 nations and territories, and its size, impact, and science-based approach has cemented its role as a global innovator that can collaboratively help solve the most complex environmental challenges. Its ability to smartly problem-solve at scale, with international reach, is what initially drew me to The Nature Conservancy, where I currently serve as Global Board Chair.

The Pivotal, Global Role of Water Funds

Over 20 years ago, The Nature Conservancy pioneered a watershed investment approach known as “Water Funds,” and it has since become a too-rare example of scalable innovation. My wife Tracy and I were able to witness the impact of the first of the Water Funds last month when we traveled to Ecuador, visiting the Galapagos Islands, the Andean mountains, and the Amazon basin, hosted by the in-country TNC team led by Galo Medina.

It was in the capital city of Quito that we learned the remarkable story of the pioneering role of TNC in Water Funds and their subsequent expansion worldwide. What began as a mere $20,000 contribution towards the establishment of watershed conservation area in 2000 has grown exponentially into a replicable system that today helps provide 2.6 million people access to fresh water. This first-of-its-kind approach has become a model for countries worldwide.

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On Earth Day 2023, here’s how we can think globally and act locally | Opinion (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | More people than ever are coming together around a unified cause — the health of our planet, which is inextricably connected to the health and well-being of our people.

While not created for Earth Day, the slogan “think globally, act locally” rings true this month as we are reminded to consider the health of our shared planet in our day-to-day activities. We are doing the same at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization where I chair the Global Board.

Today our planet faces the accelerating loss of plant and animal species at an alarming rate, while rapidly shifting weather patterns and progressive climate change is disrupting human and natural habitats alike. As a physician, I view both crises – biodiversity loss and climate change – through a lens of their impact on the health and well-being of people.

The continuing loss of our planet’s biodiversity — such as birds, bees, butterflies, insects and other pollinators — jeopardizes food production around the world. The destruction of natural environments increases the likelihood of human exposure to novel viruses and other pathogens for which we have no cure. And increasingly volatile weather — from extreme rain events and subsequent flooding to lengthy droughts — places unprecedented pressures on our electrical grid, our nation’s aging infrastructure, our agriculture sector and on health systems responding to natural disasters.  With expanding flood zones, whole communities are at increased risk.

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In a Divided Congress, Four Opportunities for Cooperation on Nature (

NATURE.ORG | December closed one of the most productive U.S. federal legislative sessions for nature ever. By the time the 117th U.S. Congress gaveled out, it had advanced the country’s largest investment in climate action; a massive bipartisan infrastructure package that heavily invests in nature, clean energy, and climate resilience; and a host of bills related to water infrastructure, natural climate solutions, coastal and ocean resilience.

Any one of these advances would have been impressive in itself, but to do them all in just two years shows how far we’ve come in making conservation and climate action central and urgent policy issues in the United States. Some of these victories passed on party-line votes, but the vast majority of measures passed last Congress had strong bipartisan support. 

For The Nature Conservancy (TNC), it has never been about who controls Congress or the White House that defines our policy objectives, but where the science tells us we must act. As the 118th Congress settles in, there are several opportunities to build on the progress of the last Congress and continue bipartisan support for nature.


Can Nature Be Our Climate Defender? Adaptive Strategies Lead To A Sustainable Future Where People And Nature Thrive (Forbes)

FORBES | Friday, November 18th marks the final day of COP27 – the United Nations 27th annual Climate Change conference. Each year this conference convenes leaders from nearly 200 nations. And each year, the stakes are higher.

This year seems especially poignant. The global community is under tremendous pressure to achieve the goals outlined in COP21’s Paris Agreement where nations pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Since then, nations have been working to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the health of our environment, natural resources, and people.

Reducing emissions alone, though, will not be enough. Indeed, we will not be able meet our climate action goals without also transitioning to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources and doubling down on investing in nature.

Nature-centric solutions – such as restoring, protecting, and managing our lands and wetlands — allow our natural environment to be our climate defender. This is better for the health of our ecosystems, our communities, and our planet. It is also a core value of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization dedicated to creating a future where people and nature thrive.

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Nature And People Positive Solutions: The Nature Conservancy In Belize (Forbes)

FORBES | The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has a storied history of local, regional, and global environmental protection and conservation efforts centered on sound principles and comprehensive solutions. Since 1951, TNC has used a collaborative approach that engages communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners to combat some of our world’s toughest challenges like climate change and food and water sustainability.

TNC’s mission is centered on the fact that all life is connected and supported by land and water and, when these resources benefit, so do people. This duality of purpose in focusing on solutions that benefit nature and people alike, separates TNC from many other environmentally focused groups. Without a doubt, this has been key to TNC’s successes in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partnership.

Recently, Tracy—my wife and a member of the Tennessee TNC Board—and I traveled to the eastern coast of Central America to visit the on-the-ground team leading TNC’s Belize chapter. This chapter has played an active role in protecting the country’s vital ecosystems for 31 years and, more recently, the country’s economy.

Always eager to immerse ourselves in the fascinating conservation work being done globally, Tracy and I jumped at the opportunity to join a Belize TNC team retreat to learn more about innovative solutions underway, from Blue Bonds to sustainable seaweed farming, and how local conservation efforts in Belize are indeed having a powerful global impact. Here are some of the remarkable and eye-opening things we learned over our two-day visit:

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