At its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this spring, the American Association of Geographers (AAG) adopted a resolution on climate change submitted by Rutherford “Rud” Platt, emeritus professor of geography, and six colleagues. Platt says they submitted the statement in tribute to the late Gilbert F. White, an international authority on natural disasters known as “the father of floodplain management,” and one of the most distinguished American geographers of the twentieth century. He died in 2006.
Among other recommendations, the resolution states, “In the spirit of Gilbert F. White, the American Association of Geographers urges the government of the United States to resume its leadership in combating climate change,” including strategies that “recognize human activities as the preeminent cause of accelerating climate change” and “reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, and, in cooperation with the international community, intensify efforts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases to control further rise in global temperatures.”
The document also urges that the U.S. ratify the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol to limit hydrofluorocarbon production and consumption, encourage transitioning the U.S. economy to embrace energy conservation and sustainable energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions through incentives, taxes, regulations, public transit, carbon recapture and other means, and promote continue innovation by states, local governments and the private sector to conserve energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
White’s career began as a New Deal staff member who wrote memoranda on natural resources for President Franklin D. Roosevelt while still a graduate student. In 2000, as capstone to a long series of honors, White was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Bill Clinton for “ his major contributions to the study of water systems in developing countries, global environmental change, international cooperation, nuclear winter, geography education and the mitigation of natural hazards including earthquakes, hurricanes, and drought.”
Platt and members of a special panel session developed the resolution at the AAG meeting. Their tributes will appear in a joint article in Environment Magazine this fall.