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Wednesday, October 10, 2001

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"Toward a Real Kyoto Protocol?"

Ross Gelbspan

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         Ross Gelbspan is a 34-year veteran of daily journalism, having worked as a reporter and editor for The Philadelphia Bulletin, The Washington Post and The Boston GlobeIn addition, he has taught at the Columbia University School of Journalism. In 1971, Mr Gelbspan traveled to the Soviet Union to interview dissidents and human rights advocates. His four-part series on the Soviet underground was reprinted in the Congressional Record. In 1974, he edited a book for Scripps-Howard on the Congressional Watergate Committee hearings. In 1979, the Boston Globe hired Gelbspan as a senior editor. In his capacity as Special Projects Editor, he conceived, directed and co-edited a series of articles on job discrimination against African-Americans in Boston-area corporations, universities, unions, newspapers and state and city government. The series won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984. In 1991 he published an investigative book about FBI abuses during the 1980s. The book exposed the domestic aspect of the Iran-Contra scandal, documented a secret relationship between the FBI and the National Guard of El Salvador and detailed a campaign of surveillance, harassment and break-ins which led to the entry of the names of 100,000 political and religious activists in the FBI's terrorism files.

       Over the last 25 years of his career as reporter and editor Mr. Gelbspan has devoted attention to environmental issues, beginning with his coverage of the first UN environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972. In recent years his work on environmental issues has been marked by an increasing dedication to their public policy implications. In 1991, for example, he wrote a series of articles which contributed substantially to the effort to close down of an aging, unsafe nuclear power plant in Western Massachusetts. In 1992 Mr. Gelbspan's environmental reporting included a four-part front page series dealing with the global "Environmental Summit" -- United Nations Conference on the Environment (UNCED) -- in Rio Di Janero, Brazil. The series appeared in the Boston Globe, where Gelbspan had worked for 13 years until his retirement in 1994.

       Since his formal "retirement," his dedication to exposing the public policy implications of environmental change has -- if anything -- increased. In 1995, Mr. Gelbspan co-authored an article on climate change and the spread of infectious disease which appeared in the Outlook Section of The Washington Post. In addition, in that same year, his article on climate change, which appeared on the cover of the December, 1995 issue of Harper's Magazine, was nominated for a National Magazine Award.

       His latest book, The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription (1998), published by Perseus Press 1998, is a timely updated edition of his study published a year earlier by Addison Wesley Longman. Gelbspan BookThe initial work received numerous enthusiastic  reviews in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, the science journal, Nature and elsewhere. In the summer of 1997 the first edition of this book received immediate national recognition when President Clinton told a group of environmental leaders that the book helped persuade him to make climate change a major theme of his second administration. The work is scheduled to appear in paperback shortly, and it is now being translated to be published in German and Italian.  A web site which updates information in the book,, was recently rated the best climate-related site by the Pacific Institute. It currently receives about 9,000 visits a week.

       Since the book's publication, Gelbspan has appeared in numerous radio and television interviews, including "Nightline," "All Things Considered" and "Talk of the Nation." In addition, Mr. Gelbspan's incisive writing and clear sense of urgency about climate change issues led to an invitation to Mr. Gelbspan to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in February 1998. There he was asked to address world government and corporate leaders on the dimensions of the climate crisis. Most recently, Mr. Gelbspan has published an article on solutions to the climate crisis in the June, 1998, issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

      In the summer of 1998, he and Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment of Harvard Medical School, assembled a group of economists, energy company presidents and policy specialists to hammer out a set of  strategies designed to dramatically accelerate the Kyoto process.  They were invited to present those strategies at a conference in Buenos Aires in 1998.  As a result of that presentation, the United Nations Development Programme invited them to mount a conference on those strategies in Bonn, Germany in June, 1999, during that round of climate negotiations.

    The “strategies” have been endorsed by large NGOs in India, Mexico, Germany, Bangladesh and elsewhere – as well as by a number of economists, energy specialists and environmentalists both in the U.S. and abroad.

    He presented these "solution" strategies in May, 2000, at a conference he keynoted in Cairo.  (The conference was co-sponsored by UNEP and CEDARE, the Center for Environment and Development in the Arab Region and Europe). While in Cairo, he briefed directors and managers of Shell/Egypt.

    In September 2000, Gelbspan presented these strategies to a small group of Senators and Congressmen at a meeting in Washington. These strategies were received enthusiastically by a number of delegates and NGOs from the G-77 at the recent round of climate talks in The Hague, where they were disseminated by Anil Agarwal, head of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi and a leader of the NGO community of the G-77.

    In November 2000, these “solutions” strategies were presented to a new G-8 Task Force on Renewable Energy headed by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, director of Shell, as well as a managing director of the World Bank.  Moody will be putting these ideas in front of the full task force.

    He is 62, married to Anne Gelbspan, a non-profit developer of housing for low-income families, and the father of two daughters and lives in Brookline, MA.


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