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Welcome Remarks Aspen Ideas: Climate Announcement Event and Heat Roundtable

October 20, 2022  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below remarks at the announcement event for Aspen Ideas: Climate 2023 on October 20, 2022 at the New World Center in Miami Beach, FL. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Thank you, Mayor Gelber, Michele, Alberto, Jane, and all for joining us today. We’re especially grateful to the Knight Foundation, one of our founding sponsors, who we’ve worked with on other issues like press freedoms and the role of local media, and who made the investments that allowed us to generate those 77 million social media impressions for Aspen Ideas: Climate that you heard about.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit that works for a free, just, and equitable society. And here in the greater Miami region, we do that through leadership development, youth programs, our Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship, our work with local businesses and small business development, and now, Aspen Ideas: Climate.

This summit is firmly fact-based and solutions-oriented—highlighting research, community wisdom, energy technologies, smart investment, and innovations across the board, from food to construction to shipping to transportation to coastal protection to indigenous community actions to public messaging, and more.

Our first annual convening last May was a spectacular example of what happens when we come together from across sectors, across south Florida, across the country, across the world, and across political parties to focus on the solutions needed for a clean energy transition and a sustainable future. It was quite spirited and promising—from Adam Silver talking about the greening of the NBA, to Daniela Fernandez presenting 20 ocean innovations her fund invests in, to Miami Palmetto senior Gianna Hutton talking about her climate action group, to Andrew Steer and John Doerr and the three mayors, we had not handwringing but hands-on solutions.

And we’re just getting started. In 2023, we’re going to have more visionary community leaders, inventors, and entrepreneurs bringing new solutions to the table. We’ll have more examples of things that work and ways to scale solutions at the speed needed to meet the challenge. In May, we hosted almost 100 young leaders, and this year we’ll double that number from across the US and from around the world—the next generation of climate champions to learn and network from each other and from you.

We’ll also host a technology expo, where people will be able to see some of the most cutting-edge energy and climate technology and solutions—from electric vehicles to solar panels to feed for cattle that reduces emissions to the work of entrepreneurs who are using their businesses to drive change and protect the energy access that people desperately needed. Add to that a jobs fair, and more field trips bringing us deeper into the Miami community, and more visits to the hurricane simulators and university research, and so much more.

We couldn’t be more excited for next March’s Aspen Ideas: Climate, to partner once again with this mayor and this community, and we are thankful to you all for welcoming the Aspen Institute to South Florida with such open arms again. We love it here—thank you.

Now, it is my pleasure to begin the program and introduce our first speaker. In the spirit of Aspen Ideas: Climate, today we want to talk about solutions to a critical issue that climate change is causing: the impacts of extreme heat on people and communities.

You don’t need me to tell you that extreme heat is causing harm and threatening lives here and around the world. Just this year, heat waves swept across the United States causing damage, destruction, and loss. At the same time, China recorded its worst heat wave in history this summer, and India and Pakistan both faced their longest and hottest heat waves in more than a century earlier this year with dozens of people dying.

But it’s more than just rising temperatures—extreme heat has cascading impacts that are felt across our critical systems; for example, extreme heat also leads to droughts, wildfires, flooding, and landslides. And the very systems built to keep us safe from heat, our electricity grid and other energy infrastructure, are also threatened by extreme temperatures. We know that heat in classrooms impacts student learning and also threatens the economy, as outdoor workers for example—which includes roughly 100,000 Miami-Dade residents—are put at increasing risk. And we know that extreme temperatures are an environmental justice issue, disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations.

We will dig into this issue today and also talk about some of the innovative and scalable solutions being advanced by this impressive group of panelists who have been working to advance solutions right here in South Florida and across the United States.

We’re excited to be joined by Dr. Cheryl Holder, co-chair of Miami-Dade’s Heat-Health Task Force and co-chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action; Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director of The CLEO Institute in Florida; Amy Knowles, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Miami Beach; and our first speaker, Krystal Laymon, Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Resilience at FEMA.

Thank you for joining us and take it away.