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Earth Day & Science: More Than a Symbolic Relationship

On Earth Day many people will be participating in science marches, to highlight the relationship between our Earth and the sciences that help us understand the world around us (and beyond). The Earth remains the only planet, among all that we have found, that has and can sustain life. And that means, aside from its natural beauty which we all celebrate and enjoy, we must do our part, as stewards of this unique place we call home so that it can meet the needs of this generation while ensuring it can continue to meet the needs for future generations. In order to do that we more than just an appreciation, we need to seek to understand the world around us and our symbiotic relationship with the environment.

That is where science comes in. The sciences help us to understand everything from how life began (biology) to how it changes (evolution) to how to best protect ourselves (medicine) and preserve it (climatology). Science helps us heat our homes, power transportation, design buildings, roads, and bridges — and also tackles some of our most urgent challenges of transportation, global warming, health, longevity and wellbeing, etc.

And the need is only going to grow. The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 according to the United Nations, and 9.7 billion by 2050. That’s a lot of people.  And meeting their needs is going to be a challenge. And that’s why science — and all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers — are some of the most in demand (and best paying) today and for the foreseeable future.

The crucial role that energy plays in sustainable development was recognized by the United Nations — and that is why ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed the vital importance of energy in improving health, industrialization and combating climate change cannot be overstated. And tremendous progress has been made. But, paradoxically, the number of people around the world who rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking such as solid fuels and kerosene has actually increased.

Experts estimate that the Earth is likewise capable of providing enough energy; through a combination of renewables like wind and solar as well as continuing use of fossil fuels including natural gas. In fact, through a combination of increasing efficiency as well as shifting some of the energy use from natural gas to those renewable electricity sources, there is abundant natural gas for decades to come.  That’s great news since it remains the most efficient and least polluting energy for thermal applications like heating, cooking, laundry and hot water.

We can be proud that our company is doing its part. Over the last seven years, WGL and Washington Gas have reduced the absolute emissions from our fleet and facilities by 74 percent; as well as the emissions per therm of the gas we supply by 20 percent. Those reductions are substantial and demonstrate how our company is working to address climate change. And we will continue to do so. At the same time, a major focus of our charitable giving, as a company, is in the area of education. And we’re focusing on STEM for two main reasons. First, those are growing areas for employment and opportunity offering great careers. And second, we know that as our company’s continued success depends upon educated employees well versed in science, technology, engineering and math.

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