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Environmental Defense Fund
Stabilizing the Earth's climate is the critical environmental challenge. We use national, regional and global approaches to preserve life and prosperity.
Location:New York, NY
Stories: Green construction jobs rise as sustainable building increases. May 31, 2010.
Environmental Defense Fund was founded in 1967 by a small group of scientists. Ever since, we've relied on science to help define our policy goals. In 2002, for example, we assembled the science proving that marine protected areas boost fish populations dramatically: This led to the creation of vitally needed ocean reserves.
EDF today has more Ph.D. scientists and economists engaged in advocacy than any other similar organization. Our biologists and chemists are deeply involved in the most critical environmental challenge of our time, global warming.
Our work is directed by chief scientist Dr. Steven P. Hamburg, who has served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, formed in 1988. Since our founding, our science-based efforts have influenced government and corporate policy to produce winning results:
Advancing public understanding of climate science. EDF climate scientists played a key role in highlighting the urgency of global warming. Today the national dialog has dramatically shifted from whether human-caused global warming is real to nuts-and-bolts policy discussions on how to reduce its impacts. Our scientists' analysis is helping shape climate policy goals at every level of government.
In 1998, atmospheric physicist Dr. Michael Oppenheimer — then our chief scientist — published a seminal paper warning of the catastrophic consequences of polar melting from unchecked global warming. His message fundamentally altered the thinking of scientists and policymakers around the country.
Today, Dr. Hamburg collaborates with 70 science institutions to create hands-on learning opportunities and exhibits for the public. As an EDF staff scientist in the early '90s, he coauthored a report on climate impacts in New England. "Polar bears are not real experiences for most people; what matters is the tree in their backyard or the places they hike," says Dr. Hamburg. "We're helping people grasp the changes that could affect them and their families."
Now the highest level of government has heard the alarm bells: President Barack Obama has pledged to fast-track a national carbon cap to reduce global warming pollution. To follow our scientists' past science discussions, visit our Climate 411 blog. Also, check out Climate Atlas, which maps the effects of climate change.
Safeguarding an ocean area larger than California. By creating three new marine monuments in January 2009, President Bush acted on our recommendation to permanently protect eight pristine shallow coral reefs and atolls teeming with fish and birds in the Central Pacific. Drawing on our previous work showing the value of protected areas, our experts assembled the science and won key political support for two of the areas. The reserve, nearly 200,000 square miles, will be the Earth's biggest marine protected area. Damaging fishing and mining are off-limits. The three monuments build on the Northwest Hawaiian Islands marine monument, which we helped create in 2006.
Advancing ocean science with university partners. EDF scientist Dr. Rod Fujita co-authored a paper in Science in 2007, raising concerns that ocean mining could become commercialized within five years. That spurred efforts in Papua New Guinea to help protect deep sea vents from destructive mining. To further advance ocean science, we're collaborating with Princeton, Stanford and UC-Berkeley on emerging challenges such as the future of ocean energy. We've partnered with Duke University and other groups to create a forum to further understanding of fisheries and ocean science.
Getting nanotech right. Touted as a revolution in everything from energy to medicine, the science of the ultra-small is generating new materials and uses at a furious pace, outstripping scientists' understanding of the risks. Recent research shows that some microscopic "nanotubes" used in a variety of consumer products may pose health risks similar to those caused by asbestos.
We're working to ensure that society can reap the benefits of nanoscale products while avoiding unintended consequences. In 2007 we released, with DuPont, the Nano Risk Framework, a comprehensive set of guidelines for companies that seek to commercialize nanoscale materials safely. Now major companies such as GE and Lockheed Martin are using the framework. We're also pushing for greater federal oversight of nanoscale materials.
A victory for children. Our scientists help convince federal regulators to phase lead out of gasoline in 1985, leading to a dramatic decline in childhood lead poisoning.
Ensuring safe drinking water. In 1974, an Environmental Defense study showed that chemical contamination in Mississippi water was linked to high cancer rates in some Louisiana parishes. Our findings prompted a federal study of contaminants in drinking water nationwide. This led to the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
A ban on DDT. In 1967, a group of scientists provided scientific evidence that the pesticide DDT was harming wildlife. Later they proved that DDT was tainting mother's milk. They formed Environmental Defense Fund and won a nationwide ban on the pesticide, allowing rapidly declining populations of bald eagles, ospreys and other birds of prey to rebound.