The U.S. Department of Agriculture may soon approve commercial production of genetically modified eucalyptus trees in the U.S. The conversation around why we should embrace widespread planting of this tree is revealing of the economic paradigm in which we operate.

The latest climate study serves as a grave reminder that we can’t afford to just wait and see how technological transitions play out. To increase our chances of avoiding climatic tipping points and the emergence of negative feedback loops, we need to act boldly, decisively and intelligently to rebuild our energy system around zero-carbon technologies.

Not every American city – and perhaps not any American city – can follow Madrid’s model exactly. But all have the power to encourage compact land use, expand public transportation, tame the negative effects of private cars in urban places, and facilitate the growth of shared mobility and vehicle electrification – unlocking powerful opportunities for cutting carbon from transportation. 

Clean, renewable energy, once novel, is now a core part of America’s energy infrastructure. America produces 43 times more solar power than it did in 2007, now producing enough to power more than 5 million average American homes. And America produces seven times as much wind power as it did in 2007, now producing enough to power 21 million homes. The 10 states that have led the nation in adding wind and solar energy since 2007 are listed here. 

Repurposing balconies and bridges is part of a wider movement of “biophilic design,” which integrates nature and natural materials and forms into architecture and design to renature human spaces and restore our connection to nature, severed by urban living. Natural features for urban spaces can exist in many forms, from the streets to the roofs, including green roofs and facades, bioswales, or building shapes that mimic biological designs.

Getting off fossil fuels will take some hard work. The good news is that as cities across the country begin implementing climate plans, knowing what to do – and how to do it – is getting easier. Last week, our colleagues here in Boston at Environment Massachusetts released a new report offering some more help, called 100% Renewable Boston: How Boston Can Accelerate the Transition from Fossil Fuels to Clean, Renewable Energy. 

Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled an idea for a Top 10 list that is sure to create controversy: a new ranking intended to prioritize Superfund hazardous waste cleanups. Yet Superfund sites are already ranked based on the relative threat they pose to the public, on what is called the National Priorities List. The sites on the National Priorities List are ranked using a data-driven methodology. How Pruitt will set his own priorities list is anyone’s guess.

Musk’s challenge to the automobile dealership model is profound and with far-reaching implications – both economic and environmental. To understand why, one first needs to understand the role dealers play in car sales and the motivations they face.

There was a lack of immediacy for some Americans, fueled by the assumption that the government was “working on it.” However, with Trump making it abundantly clear that he is not working on it, citizens who may have been concerned but not “active” are finally being kicked into gear. 

Last week, we released Renewables on the Rise, which tracked the growth of five key clean energy technologies – solar, wind, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and energy storage – over the past decade. In case you missed it, here are some of the key findings.

In this era of rapid technological change and uncertainty, pushing back is not enough. It is time to create new and better visions for how emerging technologies and tech-enabled services – from autonomous vehicles to shared mobility – can help to achieve our goals of safety, fiscal and environmental sustainability, and access for all.

The dramatic rise of renewable energy and energy efficiency are reason to celebrate – these technologies are proving that they should be front and center in global efforts to fight climate change. Natural gas, on the other hand, brings many of the same problems that fossil fuels have brought for decades. It’s time to put to bed the idea that natural gas can play a major role in any kind of a clean, sustainable future.

Getting people out of cars and onto their feet, bikes and transit necessitates creating a safe and convenient multi-modal transportation network. At the ground level, Denver has a lot to do in order to ensure its treatment of people not traveling by car is consistent with its long-range goals.

Encouraging individuals to lead car-free lifestyles – for the sake of the environment, the well-being of their neighborhoods, or their own health and happiness – is great. But when they don’t do so, we should ask why.

This is another example of how we Americans lack a precise and rich language for even talking about urban change; how our existing data sources don’t help us to develop one; and how the unreliability of the existing data sources that we do have vexes us as we try ever so hard to pound them into the square holes we’ve created.  

There are many important questions to be asked about transportation trends. We need better data if we want to answer them accurately.

Could it be that, deep down, cyclists and drivers – despite often being at odds – really want the same thing?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its Consumer Complaint Database provide a good example of how a two-way flow of information can help make government more effective – and how it can benefit from modern online tools for sharing data.

With transportation policy at every level increasingly out of step with 21st century conditions and priorities and ripe for fundamental reform, now is the time to articulate a sustainable policy vision to guide the transition.

Swapping out fossil fuel-powered internal combustion engine vehicles for electric ones running on renewable energy might do the “climate work,” but the amount of climate work to be done will be far greater if we continue to design and run our cities on an auto-dependent operating system.


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