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Roland Hwang David Goldstein Dale Bryk David Hawkins Ashok Gupta Daniel Lashof Ralph Cavanagh David Doniger Ashok Gupta Daniel Lashof Ralph Cavanagh David Doniger
Inside NRDC


Cool and the Gang
Each member of NRDC's climate team possesses unique talents and skills to help solve global warming.

A diverse and talented team of scientists, engineers, economists, and legislative tacticians at NRDC is devoted to finding practical solutions to global warming. Our experts are helping to craft federal legislation, advising industry executives, and promoting energy-efficient technologies. Who are some of these folks?

David Hawkins, director, climate

THE BEGINNING: "We didn't have a TV or a car until I was 14," Hawkins says. "So we went to the library and took nature walks near my home in central Connecticut." During a two-year break from law school, he spent his summers on a tiny, uninhabited island off Nova Scotia -- an experience that, he says, "cemented my environmental convictions."

THE JOB: Hawkins has worked at NRDC since 1971, except for a four-year stint at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Carter. Upon his return to NRDC he helped develop a national program to curb acid rain, and now spends most of his time working with members of Congress, federal agency officials, and industry executives -- especially those in the coal sector -- to craft policies that reflect the urgency of global warming.

THE CHALLENGE: "There are two main issues to overcome. One is the tendency to assume that global warming is too big to deal with, and the other is the misconception that there's time to wait," Hawkins says. "We don't have another year to waste."

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David Goldstein, co-director, energy

THE BEGINNING: In the 1970s, Goldstein studied physics at the University of California at Berkeley, where social change was on everyone's mind, even in the lab. "I knew I was good at physics, but I also cared deeply about the environment," he says. "So I found a way to combine the two."

THE JOB: Goldstein joined NRDC in 1976, and that year, he negotiated efficiency standards for refrigerators in California. It was the first time anyone had thought to do that, and the idea subsequently caught on nationwide. Water heaters, washing machines, and many other appliances now use less energy, thanks to him. In 2002, Goldstein was named a MacArthur Fellow for his innovative work, and he continues to team up with state officials, federal agencies, and appliance manufacturers to develop energy-saving programs.

THE CHALLENGE: "There isn't one single solution to global warming, so the most challenging aspect of my job is deciding what to focus on," Goldstein says. "We have to carefully select the problems that we have the greatest chance of solving quickly."

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Ralph Cavanagh, co-director, energy

THE BEGINNING: "My father was the most devoted bird-watcher I've ever known," Cavanagh says. "He inspired my interest in nature, and law school solidified it."

THE JOB: More than half of all our carbon dioxide emissions trace back to electric and natural gas utilities, and since he joined NRDC in 1979, Cavanagh has worked to figure out what makes them tick -- how they do their job and make a buck. He's built relationships with utility companies, and he was a pioneer in devising financial incentives to improve energy efficiency.

THE CHALLENGE: "Utilities may be the biggest single piece of the solution to global warming," Cavanagh says. "Traditionally, utilities have made money when people use more energy, so convincing them to help customers be more efficient -- to get more work out of less energy -- requires regulatory changes, innovative incentives, and a lot of cooperation."

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Ashok Gupta, director, air and energy

THE BEGINNING: "Going through the public school system in Washington, D.C., in the midst of the civil rights movement was a formative experience for me," says Gupta, who moved from India at the age of 9. "I studied physics in college in the 1970s, when nukes were the big issue, and although my parents wanted me to be an engineer, social forces steered me toward policy issues."

THE JOB: Master strategist. Gupta devotes himself to nurturing delicate relationships among elected officials, state agencies, industry executives, and environmental advocates, helping them find ways to reduce energy consumption and air pollution.

THE CHALLENGE: "Understanding opposing viewpoints is never easy," Gupta says. "We work in a culture that's all about sticking to your guns, but that's not how you make progress."

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Daniel Lashof, science director, climate

THE BEGINNING: "I was studying physics in college and on my way to becoming a career academic when the second oil crisis hit in 1979," Lashof says. "Suddenly I was interested in energy policy." His first job was at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, where he found the great outdoors. "Backpacking and skiing turned me on to nature," he says.

THE JOB: Master translator. Lashof dissects new scientific studies and finds ways to convey their essence to congressional staff and corporate executives. One day it's a study about how oceans and plants absorb carbon dioxide; the next it's a technical analysis of the costs of coal-fired power plants that capture carbon dioxide and inject it into the ground.

THE CHALLENGE: "Having all of the data isn't enough," Lashof says. "The tricky part is assembling the most salient facts into a compelling story that motivates citizens, business leaders, and government officials to take action."

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David Doniger, policy director, climate

THE BEGINNING: "It was my interest in Roman history that introduced me to the challenges of modern government," Doniger says. "If they could manage their vast empire without even a telegraph, we ought to be able to tackle modern problems, like air pollution." He once studied city planning, but gave it up for law school and environmental advocacy.

THE JOB: Doniger joined NRDC in 1978 to work on clean air policy, and helped draft the international Montreal Protocol, which curbed ozone depletion. He left to direct climate-change policy at the EPA under President Clinton, but returned in 2001 and now works with federal lawmakers to devise policies that cut global warming pollution from power plants, motor vehicles, and industry.

THE CHALLENGE: "Translating global warming science and policy into plain language that conveys the immediacy of the problem is tough," Doniger says. "But it's the only way to craft legislation that will bring results in our lifetime."

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Dale Bryk, head of state-based climate work

THE BEGINNING: "Nature didn't lead me to NRDC, energy did," says Bryk, who gave up a career in corporate law and turned to environmental advocacy because, she says, "energy issues are at the root of so many problems."

THE JOB: Energy pricing and regulation vary from state to state, and those differences determine whether to invest in energy efficiency or clean technologies such as wind and solar. Bryk's job is to create regulations that cut global warming pollution while simultaneously making every stakeholder happy.

THE CHALLENGE: "Coming up with good ideas for policy solutions is the easy part," Bryk says. "What's truly difficult is getting everyone to sign on to a single plan, even if it's not exactly what each person may have wanted."

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Roland Hwang, director, vehicles policy

THE BEGINNING: "I loved cars as a kid and studied engineering in college, but I knew I wouldn't work for an auto company," Hwang says. "My job is ideal: I get to focus on what I love and make social progress."

THE JOB: Hwang works with state and federal legislators, automakers, and state agencies to devise technologically feasible emissions regulations and to persuade car companies that they can adopt technologies that cut pollution while improving their competitive edge.

THE CHALLENGE: "Getting the message out is tough; we're battling two enormously powerful industries, autos and oil," Hwang says. "And people love their cars, so we've got to be sure they know we're not trying to take them away, just make them better."

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Also Inside NRDC


Illustration: James Taylor

OnEarth. Fall 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council