The sudden death of environmentalist Philip E. Clapp at age 54 deprives the climate change activist community one of its most influential and most quotable leaders just at a time when federal legislative efforts could get under way in Washington under a new administration and a concerned Congress.
Clapp died in mid-September while vacationing in the Netherlands, where he reportedly had contracted pneumonia. The founder and former chief executive of National Environmental Trust, NET, in Washington, D.C., he was deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group at the time of his death. The Pew Group had absorbed NET earlier this year.
A former congressional staffer with then-Senator Timothy E. Wirth, now President of the United Nations Foundation, Clapp was a frequent and trusted source for journalists looking into the environmental community’s views on the politics and policies of global climate change. “He was the single most effective person in terms of pushing for change and pushing people to actually do things,” The Washington Post‘s Juliet Eilperin quoted Wirth as saying.
Pew Charitable Trusts President Rebecca Rimel, whose group long had funded Clapp’s environmental and climate change activities, called him “a relentless voice in calling on our leaders to address climate change” and a constant and trusted force in international treaty discussions and negotiations.
Reporters long used to dealing regularly with Clapp on climate change issues generally agreed that his expertise, availability, and media savvy will be missed as domestic and international consideration of climate change policies proceed.