Dear Mr. President: Mason Experts Offer Advice to Incoming Administration

September 25, 2008Print-Friendly Version


In a weekly series running from now until the election, the Mason Gazette will present the views of expert Mason faculty on a variety of important campaign issues. This week’s focus is on environmental and energy policy.

By Tara Laskowski

Nicole Darnall

Assistant professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy

“Most U.S. consumers are concerned about our environmental future, and more than one-third indicate they are prepared to adapt their lifestyles to tackle environmental concerns.

“However, there is little discussion among our government leaders about how society can do so. The new administration should require environmental product labels. Like nutrition labels on food, which have influenced consumers to assess the composition of the food, environmental labels would equip consumers with information to scrutinize the environmental footprints of the products they purchase.

“They would also provide investors with credible information about a company’s environmental focus and reduce opportunities for companies to make false product claims about their product’s environmental attributes.”

Darnall investigates the reasons why companies adopt sustainability strategies, whether companies that adopt these strategies improve the environment and whether companies that improve the natural environment also derive business value.

She has a new study to be published in Public Administration Review that shows that organizations that improve their environmental performance by enhancing their internal efficiencies and developing new green products and technologies can offset the cost of regulation or even accrue a net gain.

Allison Macfarlane

Associate professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy

“One of the most important issues facing the United States and the world is climate change. Intimately wrapped up with that is the issue of energy — which energy choices are best for a climate-constrained world, will increase national security and will allow developing countries to provide for their people.

“The best way to meet this energy goal is to diversify energy supply: New technologies must be implemented to remove and dispose of carbon dioxide that is created when coal and natural gas are burned.

“Further, nuclear energy must be considered, and renewable energy resources must be developed. We haven’t had an integrated, sensible energy plan in decades, and we are facing a number of serious problems as a result.”

Macfarlane’s work examines the intersection of environmental policy issues and international security. Her focus is on nuclear issues in particular. These include nuclear energy, especially the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, such as nuclear waste disposal; and nuclear weapons issues, such as nonproliferation and the management and disposal of fissile materials.

Her book on nuclear waste disposal, “Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste,” co-edited with Rodney Ewing of the University of Michigan, was published in 2006 by MIT Press.

Macfarlane currently sits on a National Academy of Science committee that is reviewing the Energy Department’s nuclear energy research and development programs. She also participates in the Keystone Foundation’s nuclear energy task force.

Edward Maibach

Professor and director, Center for Climate Change Communication

“The polls are pretty clear on what the voters want — the economy to pick up and the price of gas to come down. But what voters are most concerned about today and what we actually need to focus on as a nation are not necessarily the same thing.

“We need a coordinated response to the interconnected problems that we face —environmental, economic and national security. I hope our next president recognizes this, is willing to act on his convictions and is able to sell it to the Congress and the American people.”

Maibach works as a “climate coach” to help organizations such as government agencies and companies communicate their positions on climate change. He is an experienced public health advocate and social change professional.

Using social science research methods such as surveys and interviews, his center tries to engage the public and policy makers in becoming part of the solution for climate change.

Maibach is the author of the book “Designing Health Messages: Approaches from Communication Theory and Public Health Practice,” which is widely used by academics and practitioners.

He recently published a study that surveyed 133 local health department directors on their perceptions of and preparedness for climate change.


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