While past world government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have fallen short, a summit convening today in New York holds more opportunity following the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation's announcement that it was divesting its ties to fossil fuels.
The Rockefeller name has through history been tied to fossil fuels and the oil industry, so the announcement that the company is looking toward investing in more renewable energy sources is indicative of a changing attitude and, along with other major companies that are shifting toward cleaner energy sources, could provide the boost needed to help drive a major shift in energy philosophies.
Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a trustee of the largest charitable foundation in which the family still plays the leading role, told The Washington Post that "there is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet."
The Post noted that opinion polls show more people are concerned about climate change. Extreme weather events in recent years have helped shift attitudes, and realities including last week's report from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that average global temperatures put 2014 on course to be the hottest since record-keeping began.
According to that report, the combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August was a record high for the month. That continued an upward trend in which temperatures were above the average that began in 1976.
NOAA notes that greenhouse gas levels have reached historic highs. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that the buildup of greenhouse gases can change the earth's climate. An increase in droughts, severe storms and abnormal weather events has gotten the public's attention, and increasingly, the attention of big business, which is seeing economic value in investing in renewable energy sources.
This week's summit likely won't convince all nations to step up their efforts – several key polluters won't be there. But as public opinion continues to evolve, and more and more businesses see the benefits of change, our progress will grow exponentially toward protecting our planet for future generations.