Mark Dixon Breaks Down the Climate Challenge Numbers for COP21


Mark Dixon is an award-winning filmmaker, activist, and public speaker exploring the frontiers of social change on a finite planet.

Mark represented Mayor Bill Peduto and the City of Pittsburgh at an official COP21 precursor event: the World Summit Climate & Territories [in Lyon, France on July 1 & 2].

Recently Mark gave a presentation to the Mayor and the Sustainability Team with some galvanizing statistics, summarized in this graphic*:

In December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will convene representatives of its 195 members at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris.

The goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference is to “achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, the the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”

However, as Mark discovered, climate scientist James Hansen warns that global warming over 1°C may trigger feedback loops that could raise planetary temperatures to 3 to 4°C above pre-Industrial temperatures, a severe departure from Holocene climate that would result in major disruption. We are currently experiencing an elevated global temperature of 0.85°C, with corresponding unprecedented storms, wildfires and oceanic acidification.

UNFCCC Parties are submitting Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) ahead of COP21 to indicate what degree of carbon mitigation they will commit to, but these cumulative INDCs come in at the low end of the Business As Usual scenario which could take the planet to over 3°C of global warming.

Thus, Mark concludes:”We need to stop emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as soon as humanly possible and then update our global agricultural and forestry practices to remove CO2 from the atmosphere ASAP.”** 

Read a more thorough explanation from Mark here at his blog:

* Mark’s caveat: the information is approximate and under constant review and revision as helpful scientists and experts emerge to correct assessments.

**Mark is also compiling a spreadsheet of carbon sequestration options, and notes that this field is currently receiving a great deal of attention which can lead to exciting new developments.

Register Now for Duquesne University’s Presidential Conference on Climate Change

Integrity of Creation Web Banner FINAL 2015

Wednesday September 20 – Friday October 2, 2015

Presidential Conference on the Integrity of Creation: Climate Change
This interdisciplinary, academic conference will occur each year to provide a scholarly forum for exploring a topic related to the general theme of the Integrity of Creation. The topic of this year’s inaugural conference is climate change.

About the Conference

The conference, commissioned by Duquesne President Dr. Charles J. Dougherty, is an endowed academic event that celebrates the Spiritan mission of Duquesne University. The conference is interdisciplinary in the sense that presenters and participants from different disciplines are invited to engage each other in civil discourse on the conference topic.
The interdisciplinary committee of University faculty that plans the conference has chosen climate change as the inaugural topic. Climate change will be discussed as a substantive and worrying change of patterns in the weather and related phenomena over recent decades which negatively impact the entire planet. This academic conference explores the implications of climate change from a variety of scholarly perspectives to consider ways to improve our planet’s future – safeguarding the Integrity of Creation around us.
The conference has three goals:

  1. To provide a scholarly opportunity to engage established and emerging research on the conference topic
  2. To foster interdisciplinary discourse on each topic, such as among science, health, philosophy, religion and policy
  3. To enlighten public awareness and discussion of the conference topic.

Attendance is free, but registration is required:—climate-change/register

!! Business leaders/managers: Dr. Robert Sroufe is sponsoring a table each day of the conference so you can participate and join the discussion. Please register (it is free)

Climate Initiative Discussed at Business Leaders Breakfast


Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post Gazette

PCI Partner, Green Building Alliance, was represented by Vice President of Innovation, Aurora Sharrard, at an Earth Day breakfast meeting of business leaders held downtown April 22nd. Dr. Sharrard’s comments, which were printed in a Pittsburgh Post Gazette story about the event, made sure climate  change and the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan were a part of the conversation.

Read the full story from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette here.

Op-Ed: Our Health, Native Plants, Wildlife Compromised By Climate Change

Reprinted from

By Ed Perry, PA NWF Global Warming Outreach Coordinator

Slowly but surely, Lyme disease has reached near epidemic proportions in Pennsylvania. Twenty years ago, most of us never heard of Lyme disease. Now, most of us know someone who has had it and many of us have had it as well. Ticks not only are more abundant in Pennsylvania, but they also have migrated into Canada.

It’s no coincidence that warmer winters have facilitated the spread of ticks to the North.

Another noxious insect pest, the wooly adelgid, is decimating our state tree, the hemlock. This species originated in southern Virginia, but has steadily moved north as winters have warmed. As of 2007, the adelgid has impacted over 50 percent of the geographic range of the hemlock.

Hemlocks are what scientists call a “keystone species.” That is, one which many other species depend on for food, cover and nesting habitat. Brook trout, our state fish, is so closely allied with hemlocks that at one time they were called hemlock trout.

Scientists predict that global warming will enable the adelgid to eventually eliminate our state tree from the eastern United States, thereby speeding the demise of our state fish.

Global warming isn’t just blindsiding native species with habitat changes — it’s giving a leg up to many harmful and invasive species. In essence, climate change puts a thumb on the competitive scale, helping not the species that are most beneficial or most economically valuable, but the ones that can take the heat.

Ordinarily, one would think global warming would have only minor effects on mobile species. However, a recent report by the National Audubon Society found that, of the 588 North American bird species, “more than half are likely to be in trouble. Of the 314 species at risk from global warming, 126 of them are classified as climate-endangered.”

So, if mobile species like birds are unable to cope with the rapid increased temperature change, how do you suppose less mobile creatures will fare?

Conservation biologists believe we already are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event and are on the path to losing half of all species on Earth.

Climate scientists warn that unless we reduce carbon pollution, temperatures will rise by seven to 11 degrees within the lifetime of a child born today. By the year 2100, Pennsylvania will have the climate of Alabama, with roughly 60 to 80 days over 90 degrees (depending on location) and at least 24 days over 100 degrees. This is the legacy we will leave for our kids and grandkids.

We Americans want our government to take action to reduce the threat of climate change. A recent poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that over 60 percent of Pennsylvanians support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants, 82 percent believe Pennsylvania should work with the EPA to reduce carbon emissions, and 97 percent support increased energy efficiency as the way to meet future energy needs.

This public support for clean energy and the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming drives home why the president has developed a Clean Power Plan, the first real energy policy we have ever had.

His plan proposes the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, but also mandates higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, more efficient appliances and increased energy-efficiency standards for new construction.

If we are going to combat climate change and reduce emissions of climate-disrupting carbon pollution, as scientists tell us we must to avoid increasingly costly and devastating impacts, curbing pollution from our power sector is key, and the president’s Clean Power Plan will help us get there.

The staunch denial of climate change by many lawmakers in Washington is dangerous and does not reflect the true thinking of people across the country who not only recognize the reality of climate change, but also support action to curb its impacts.

The stakes are too high to play politics with the health and safety of our communities. It’s time to end the obstruction and take action.

The least that we Pennsylvanians can do is contact our legislators in hopes of preserving some semblance of our beautiful state’s natural heritage.

Ed Perry is the PA National Wildlife Federation Global Warming Outreach Coordinator and can be contacted by sending email to:

Climate Music Video

Singer and songwriter Katie Costello recently shared a new song with PCI. Its video focuses on the challenge of climate change, with a hopeful tone. We hope you enjoy it!

What is methane and what’s it have to do with the climate?

Our friends at Communitopia have launched the most recent episode of their “Do Something About Climate Change” series explaining what methane is and why it’s important to climate protection.

Building a Resilient Pittsburgh: A Community Forum

Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and its partners announce Building a Resilient Pittsburgh: A Community Forum on Climate Challenges and Opportunities. This event is open to the public and will be held October 14, 2014, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM at Carnegie Mellon University, Cohen University Center, Rangos 2&3.

Participants will help to inform efforts in Pittsburgh to prepare for climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more and register here.

Next Blitz this Saturday in Elliott!

Take an active role in reducing Pittsburgh’s carbon emissions! The Black and Gold City Goes Green is partnering up with the West End Alliance and Elliott Community Group to host the second blitz of the year on Saturday, September 13, and they are looking for volunteers to help make the event successful. As a volunteer, you will team up with a partner and distribute free energy-saving toolkits door-to-door to your neighbors in Blitz groupElliott and West End. The Black and Gold City Goes Green will provide you with adequate training in the morning so you will know what to say at each house, and upon your return from the streets you will be greeted with a free lunch courtesy of Chipotle. All you need to bring is a water bottle and a winning smile, and be sure to dress appropriately for the weather – the blitz will go on rain or shine!

The event begins at 10:00am at the New Life Center (725 Lorenz Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15220) and will be finished by 2:00pm. Visit to sign up today! As a bonus, the first 25 people who sign up will receive a complimentary movie ticket to the  SouthSide Works, and everyone who joins will have a chance to win tickets to Venture Outdoors.

The Black and Gold City Goes Green was created in 2009 as the residential aspect of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative.  It is a project by PennFuture that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy use at home. By using less energy and having your electricity supplied from renewable sources, you can significantly reduce your household’s carbon footprint and help make our air cleaner and communities healthier.

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!

Communitopia’s  Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something! video series makes the subject of climate change accessible – breaking the science down into short, digestible nuggets; defusing fear and dread with humor and relatable characters; keeping the topic of climate change fresh with episodic content; and empowering viewers with easy actions, at a personal and a larger advocacy level.

This week they have released their 20th episode, “Silence of the Clams,” a humorous look at the serious science behind climate change’s effects on our oceans.


Draft U.N. Reports Warns of “Severe, Pervasive, Irreversible Impacts”

Excerpt from the August 26, 2014 New York Post:

“Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.

The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities.”

Read the full story here.