PGA Green & Inspired Advancement

PGA Green & Inspired Advancement

paulOne of the new initiatives for PGA Green is educational outreach, for our PGA community as well as for PGA Green members. West Coast PGA Green Chair Amanda Scarano continued this task with vigor, enlisting the help of Paul Bunje, PHd, Senior Director of XPrize to speak about climate change at our last meeting.

XPrize is an inspiring organization that understands that breakthroughs in technology – and society in general – sometimes need a boost to get off the ground. In short, they give prizes for inventions that improve the world. Many of us were surprised to learn that major modern industries like air travel, marine navigation, food canning and even satellites are the direct result of a cash prize being offered. In the instance of air travel, in 1927 no one had flown a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. A New York hotel owner named Raymond Orteig announced a cash award for the first pilot to do it. He wrote: “As a stimulus to the courageous aviators, I desire to offer, through the auspices and regulations of the Aero Club of America, a prize of $25,000 to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris, all other details in your care.” The young and unknown pilot Charles Lindbergh was the first to make it across, flying over 30 hours by himself and even tearing the corners of his maps to keep his craft ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ as light as possible. Lindbergh’s accomplishment launched the modern flight travel industry, and within 2 years air travel was a part of American life. This original ‘Orteig Prize’ inspired the $10 million dollar ‘Ansari XPrize’ that succeeded in 2004 by awarding Microsoft’s Paul Allen and his ‘SpaceShip One’ the award for repeated sub-orbital private space flight and was the beginning of XPrize.

Xprize works in many different areas, one of which is climate change. In an effort to turn this massive topic into a specific challenge, XPrize is currently focusing on the acidification of the oceans by launching the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE of $1.5 Million to create advanced pH sensor technology. Due to increased temperatures, the pH levels in the oceans are shifting and becoming more acidic. The first casualty of this increase will be the coral reefs, which can’t sustain even a fraction of an increase in either acidity level or temperature. The current pH sensors were designed by the soft-drink industry and don’t offer the specificity needed to gauge the acid level increases now happening worldwide. The $1.5 Million prize is inspiring teams across the globe to create this new tech, and in turn, possibly save our coral reefs by stimulating preventative action.

Climate Change is an evolving discussion and recent findings inform the debate. One slide in Mr. Bunje’s presentation was prepared by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. The map shows the average temperatures across the US over the last 118 years, which is how long these records have been kept. Out of 50 states, 18 showed that last year was the hottest on record, with every other state (except WA) showing them to be in the top 7% of their hottest years. Mr. Bunje’s first slide showed that our planet is now 1 degree warmer than it has been in the last 2000 years. Thomas E. Lovejoy is the professor of science and public policy at George Mason University and in an op-ed for the New York Times writes that an increase of “two degrees is actually too much for ecosystems. Tropical coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to even brief periods of warming. The elevated atmospheric CO2 also has raised the acidity of the oceans, which affects the ability of coral and mollusks such as oysters to build shells and skeletons. A 2-degree world will be one without coral reefs, which millions of human beings depend on for their well-being (article: The causes for the warming of our planet are still debated, but this is the first time in human history that we have the tools to try and do something about it. XPrize’s work in ocean acidification – and inspiring breakthroughs across many other areas of human involvement – is to be commended.

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Brent Roske is a member of PGA Green and a candidate for US Congress, CA-33.