August 17th –  “Protecting our Climate, Water, and Soil through Local to Global Solutions”

Greenleaf bridges expertise in science, policy, and business to advance solutions for a healthy and sustainable world. On August 17th, we presented on climate mitigation and adaptation, a 'One Water' approach in northern Illinois, and building resilient agricultural systems for soil health, carbon sequestration, and water quality/quantity benefits. John Andersen led off by reflecting on the history of innovation in Illinois but also challenges associated with the region’s development, including flooding, soil erosion and degradation, and climate change.

Carbon pricing around the world. World Bank 2020.

Dr. Francine van den Brandeler spoke to future climate scenarios and the urgency of implementing effective climate policy. She introduced a report co-authored with Dr. Roy Wehrle, and Dr. Don Wuebbles, "Addressing Climate Change Using a Carbon Tax & Dividend Plan Within a Global Compact," which builds on earlier work on the merits of carbon tax and dividend plans to rapidly decarbonize society while ensuring a fair transition. The report includes an international approach, led by the U.S., to draw participation by the world’s largest economies.

Francine presented a proposed plan to address climate change adaptation and health equity in the Chicagoland region. Together with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the University of Illinois, Greenleaf is seeking funds for a project to address extreme heat and associated air quality issues with lessons drawn from international cities. This work is critical in protecting residents most vulnerable to extreme heat and climate change who are disproportionally located in low-income, disadvantaged communities.

Chicago Riverwalk Flooding. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times.

Another regional challenge is fragmentation of water resources management, and associated inefficiency and inequality. Not only is Greater Chicago the most splintered metropolitan area in the United States with 1550 municipalities, there are more than 400 community water supply systems, all operating independently. While some communities struggle with excess water (stormwater flooding), other groundwater-dependent cities like Joliet and Elgin grapple with the risk of running out of water supplies in only 10 to 15 years. This challenge comes on top of lead pipes, water affordability, and aging water infrastructure in the region. Greenleaf has been working with Resources for the Future – a leading economic think tank in DC – and Jacobs Engineering – the biggest engineering firm in the world – to propose a regional management approach for optimizing sustainable water use in Northeastern Illinois. This can include a 'One Water' approach that integrates management of stormwater, drinking water and wastewater, and fosters regional coordination.

No-till farming. USDA NRCS, Lynn Betts.

Katie DeMuro leads Greenleaf's Healthy Soils program to inform sustainable agricultural practices for carbon sequestration, water quality and water quantity while maintaining farm productivity. Our research with partners and outreach to industry, environmentalists, and policy makers advanced approval of gypsum use as an NRCS Conservation Practice Standard given its soil health benefits. It is part of a suite of regenerative agriculture practices that build resilience to drought, prevent soil erosion, and reduce nutrient loading from fields into waterways. Recently, Greenleaf brought together researchers, farmers, and technology experts on innovative soil sensor technologies and monitoring tools to benefit carbon, water, and nutrient management. These innovations enable farmers to improve crop yields while protecting the soil resources that sustain them.

Greenleaf builds teams that harness collective intelligence to advance the sustainable solutions needed in an increasingly complex and challenged world. Our ability to bridge across disciplines is a unique strength. We enjoy working with diverse groups of people to protect the resources that will sustain our future.

Posted in Climate, Energy, soil, water.