Interview with Peter Fiekowsky
After a lengthy business, lobbying, and advocacy career, it became clear to Peter that progress in poverty reduction and other causes would be eclipsed by declining climate conditions. With this in mind, Peter helped start the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and continued to take on advisory roles. Through his work leading CCL’s 100 Year Plan Team, he became aware how a hopeful long-term climate goal could create a shared, unifying cause. Ultimately, this climate goal became Climate Restoration and led to the founding of the Healthy Climate Alliance
. Climate Restoration is a bold goal, and Peter’s strength in uniting diverse groups is a key to its success. In the past, researchers, politicians, economists, and others have launched initiatives in their own sectors, but have not collaborated with work by others across industries and fields. By bringing stakeholders together, HCA is creating a united and interdisciplinary front, working collectively to reverse global warming and restore the climate.
Hi Peter! Thanks for interviewing with us. We'd like to start off by asking you what have been the biggest milestones and benchmarks HCA has reached since it was founded in 2015?
HCA has a goal of restoring the climate, giving our children the same climate our grandparents had and the barrier that we're working to overcome is a gridlock that everyone wants to restore the climate and we haven't discussed it. And when I first talked with economists they said the fault was the physicists that there wasn't a physical way to do it. And the physicists said that there wasn't an economic way to do it. And so that demonstrates the gridlock. And we've been working to overcome that. So one of our key milestones recently was getting a peer-reviewed scientific paper, the first one ever from RAND Corporation asking about the question 'Is climate restoration an appropriate policy goal?'. And the answer is, of course, yes it is. And the paper is very good at discussing the economic implications of it. The next thing was our first ever conference on climate restoration in Rome. And so it was peripherally associated with the Vatican. It was their suggestion and then that brought in people from around the world who had been working separately on these projects and they were very excited to see that there are people really not just committed to but working on restoring the Arctic ice and getting carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. Finally this last month we demonstrated for the first time the ability to get carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it in limestone that is used in concrete, that is used to build our roads and our buildings. And this is really exciting because the amount of rocks that we use now for roads and buildings is enough to sequester all of the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
How can our users get involved with the HCA, should they have companies focused on similar missions? What are the main resources needed by HCA to continue operations?
People who are interested in restoring the climate for our children and next generations can work with us and a number of ways. We're looking for writers. There are really important issues to get people writing, articles and blogs and research on restoring the climate. We're looking for collaborators on projects for that can get large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere and especially for restoring Arctic ice and also for funding for these projects. The funding at this point is not huge but it will grow over time and there's a lot of leverage for participation in any of those methods at this point. So writing you can join our organization and our mailing list on our Web site, healthyclimatealliance.org and you can if you have projects or interest in funding projects you can go to our foundation The Foundation For Climate Restoration and find out more and connect with us.
What's next for your work with HCA? What are the main projects you'll be focusing on in 2019?
2019 is going to be a very big year for us. This year we've had enormous accomplishments in terms of creating public media. 2019 we'll be hosting conferences. We'll be managing four major projects, two carbon dioxide removal and two in Arctic restoration. Two of those projects are underway now and two should be starting in early 2019 and that's going to be very exciting getting the funding and getting those started and the media. The other thing is building up our organization so that we can do that management as well as assure the safety and monitoring, that restoring the climate, of course, is going to cause changes to our planet just as destroying the planet has caused changes and managing it is how to keep it safe, just like aeroplanes are safe now because they're managed very carefully. And we're putting together the first ever organization to make sure that all that data is used extremely well to look for unintended consequences and correct them quickly so that we can rapidly restore our climate for our children.
HCA's advocacy revolves around a number of issues pertaining to climate change, such as restoring the Arctic, drawing down carbon dioxide, and much more. What, in your opinion, is the most time-sensitive issue that HCA focuses on?
The most time-sensitive issue is not just my opinion but its what all the experts we speak to say. It's not so much that the carbon dioxide which is very important but it's less critical than restoring Arctic ice. The Arctic is 80 per cent melted and is providing a third of the warming on our planet now and more critically as that ice melts the water is warming and permafrost in shallow water is beginning to emit a lot of methane. Methane is about 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide. And that could just tip the scale and make it possibly impossible for us to restore the climate. So we're the most critical thing is for development and funding for restoring the Arctic ice.
How likely is it that we will reach the overarching goal of HCA: "to decrease atmospheric CO2 from the current level of 410 parts per million to 300 ppm and to restore year-round polar ice by 2050?"
I like that question about how likely is it that will do it. There are really two answers. The conventional answer is zero chance. The real answer is we're definitely gonna do it. And the reason the two are so different is that it's never been done before. And so scientifically we can prove that never will be done in the future because it's never been done in the past. Of course iPhone's had never been built in the past. So there's is a problem with that theory. The other answer of that it's almost 100 percent certain that we'll do it is that everyone wants it. And now that we're getting an increasing number of people saying they want to do it and we have the projects running to restore the Arctic ice we have projects running that will that will move all the excess carbon dioxide. There's really no reason that will stop. We had the leadership, we have the technology, we have the finance and the media are getting interested. We have a congressional resolution being introduced. Everything is moving in the right direction and there's no one pushing against us. So I say 100 percent likely will fulfill by 2050.
What is the most challenging aspect of fostering public demand for climate restoration, especially in political environments where government leaders may not prioritize the climate? How does HCA overcome this challenge?
So the most challenging aspect of creating public demand for climate restoration is actually creating public demand for it. The officials, the media, the scientists they're all waiting for someone to say that it's okay to talk about and the public that's in a position to say that. The politicians I talk to have no problem with restoring the climate. There is no constituency against restoring the climate. It might be a little expensive but it doesn't look like it will be, all of us really do care about our children. And so the biggest challenge is getting the younger people, youth and young adults to speak out for it because no one wants to look like a fool and say we should restore the climate when maybe it's impossible because people intuitively think that if it were possible we would be doing it already. So I don't wanna look like an idiot. And we're breaking through that. And that's beginning to happen now. So the real challenge is to get media discussion of it and then get scientific research into it. But once those happen there should be no stopping and it turns out that the cost of getting carbon into the atmosphere despite common thinking looks like it's very low because there are some products that we can sell at that 50 billion tonnes a year rate to remove the CO2.