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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Not a day goes by, without yet another report on the growing risks posed by the increasing scarcity of water. Today’s report is from the Pacific Institute: Water Scarcity & Climate Change: Growing Risks for Businesses & Investors and CERES.

Taking agriculture/food, the sector of interest to me, the applicable risks fall as follow:

Physical Risks Reputational Risks Regulatory Risks

water-risks_food-sector_ceres-study

Growers are going to need all the help they can get to adapt to more and more unpredictable water supply and weather patterns. Not one but a combination of strategies will be required to mitigate risk. Prediction models, risk management tools, sensing networks, smart irrigation scheduling systems, efficient water pricing and delivery, accurate water tracking, incentives for the installation of smart water management infrastructure,   all will have a part to play. And it will take the collaboration of federal, state, business, and private land owners to make it happen.

If you want to assess your company’s exposure to water risk, you can start here.

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Certain things, I cannot accept. Like Exxon Mobil’s sponsorship of CNN’s inauguration coverage. I am sure, if Barack Obama had a say, he would not tolerate having his name associated with one of the worst contributors to climate change.

Please join me in boycotting CNN and turn to other sources of coverage instead.

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A mail this morning from my friend Lynn Miller, at OrganicMania, made me realize I failed to properly close the chapter on all work that took place here on this blog, on critical issue of climate change:

I read your blog post on La M about the new direction, and really wanted to respond but felt like I should run this by you first….I am happy for you that you are on a path that excites you….but at the same time, I do really miss the old global warming focused La Marguerite. You were my main source of information and inspiration on global warming, and I felt a part of your community. I thought you were the top female voice on global warming, bar none, and one of the very top in the world (Ok, I really like Friedman, but you were up there!)   

Will you still be writing about global warming under “social issues?” I felt like in your post you were a bit dismissive of the incredible work you did in global warming. I’m sure I’m not the only one  who feels this way…

First, let me apologize for my haste and for appearing ‘dismissive’ of all the work that took place on La Marguerite, regarding raising awareness and looking for behavioral solutions to global warming. It is one thing for me to decide to take a turn. It is another to not properly acknowledge the community that formed and contributed so much. There has been many ripples from the discussions held at La Marguerite. Sharing of information that would not otherwise have made it into the mainstream media. Connections formed that led to enduring collaborations outside the scope of this blog. Acts of activism. Personal awakenings . . . Lynn is right. 

Still, I am closing the climate change chapter for good. After eighteen months of being a voice and a community organizer for climate solutions, it is time for me to move on, and leave it to others to carry the torch. With the election of Barack Obama, I feel the stakes are different, and the path is more clear. What is needed now, more than ever, are new policies, quick, and the support of the people to pass these new policies. 

I am very much looking forward to the opening of  the next chapter on La Marguerite, as discussed in earlier post. My professional interests are now gravitating towards social media and social change ventures, and it is only natural for my blog to follow. 

Let me end with a big thanks to all who contributed to the climate change chapter on La Marguerite. I wish you to continue your awesome work in the many venues available to you, both online and in the outer world. 

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(cross-post from Huffington Post)

Sarah Palin should not have mocked Barack Obama for being a community organizer. If anything, tonight’s results proved her wrong. Our new President has given new meaning, and strength to the concept of community organizing. And he has shown us what citizens can do, when given the means to organize towards a cause, that’s greater than themselves.

Tonight I am thinking of the thousands of Obama offices, volunteer networks, and fundraising organizations, along with the sophisticated Internet machine, and the organizing methodology, that went into getting Barack Obama elected. As the signs are coming down, the thank you emails go out, and the temporary offices go back to their original owners, I wonder, is that it? Will we go back to business as usual, each in our homes, going about our private lives?

Or will we use the skills learned during the Obama campaign to mount a national community effort, this time to address the threat of climate change? The last time I checked, we had less than ten years to get our act together. Citizens have a crucial role to play on the conservation end. As someone who has tried for the last year and a half, to curtail my consumerist and energy appetites, I can testify on the difficulty of accomplishing such changes at the individual level. Instead, we need to summon the power of community to help each other.

Tomorrow, after you have come down from your victory high, I urge you to keep alive the citizen spirit that made you pick up the phone, and knock on doors, and put up signs on your lawn. Take that energy and become an organizing force in your community. Start a No Beef Lunch at your kids’ school, or a telecommuting initiative at work, or a volunteer home insulation project in your city . . . The climate cause may not have a face like Barack Obama, but it’s all the more reason to take it on.

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“Why are you placing so much hope on Barack Obama becoming President? It is up to you, and all the other citizens to make changes.”

This is a refrain that comes up a lot, including from some La Marguerite readers.

I say, this is a false debate. The answer is, we need both a competent leader, and responsible citizens. A new President who understands and places sustainability, climate change solutions, and energy independence on top of the national agenda. Citizens who believe in their power to make a difference, in their support of new environmental policies, and in their daily lives. One without the others won’t work, and vice versa. The last few years should be proof enough.

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McKinsey just released a must read for green marketers. ‘Helping Green Products Grow‘ outlines five steps businesses need to take to sell green products successfully. Most of it is common sense. Still there were a few surprises, most notably in the area of consumers’ awareness of most concrete actions to reduce global warming:

These findings present enormous educational opportunities, not just for green marketers, but also for environmental educators, hoping to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions. Bloggers, journalists, teachers, environmentalists need to turn up the volume on eating less beef, improving home insulation, and driving more fuel-efficient car, less often. These are all concrete actions that citizens can understand, and that also can help them save money, particularly during these hard economic times.  

Here are the five steps, with selected some highlights:

1. Educate consumers:

Because consumers are largely unaware of green products, a business that sells them must see itself first as an educator, not a sales machine. Our study shows that more than one-third of the consumers who want to help mitigate climate change don’t really know how . . .

2. Build better products:  

Consumers will not think better of green products until companies make them equal to, or better than, their conventional alternatives. It’s no surprise: most people value performance, reliability, and durability much more than ecological soundness. . . .

3. Be honest:

To rebuild public trust, companies must come clean about the true environmental impact of their products and their attempts to reduce it, and many will need to address historical concerns about specific products or operations . . .

4. Offer more:

Companies must ensure that consumers understand the financial and environmental returns on their investment in green products, for they are more willing to try new ones-especially those that cost more-when they find it easy to track the savings . . .

5. Bring products to the people:

Having decided to buy green products, many consumers encounter a last hurdle-finding them-either because manufacturers don’t keep up with demand or advertise where they can be bought, or because wholesalers and retailers don’t stock them or display them prominently. Biofuel enthusiasts, for example, must often drive out of their way to fill up . . .

I will end with my usual rant. Buying green stuff is good as long as it translates in net carbon reduction. Otherwise, we are all better off following the old conservation adage of, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle‘. 

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I just got a peak at William Becker‘s new book, ‘The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet -  A Climate Crisis Solution for the 44th President‘.

William Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a non-partisan initiative, based out of the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs. The Climate Action Project plans to deliver the plan to the next President right after the election. Here are the key parts of the plan:

  • Take early action by using the powers Congress already has delegated to the executive branch
  • Move rapidly away from investments that lock the nation into more long-term carbon emissions
  • Rebuild the federal government’s leadership capacity by restoring respect for science and bringing America’s best experts on energy and climate security into public service
  • Mobilize the marketplace to build a new twenty-first century economy
  • Launch and economy wide “clean energy surge”
  • Ensure that climate action is equitable and fair
  • Create an agenda for natural resource stewardship that responds to climate change
  • Help the nation adapt to the climate changes already underway
  • Redefine national security to include climate and energy security
  • Work with leading governors and mayors to create an intergovernmental action plan
  • Reengage the community of nations to find solutions to the climate and energy crises
  • Work closely with Congress to create additional laws and to fund the programs we need to effectively address energy and climate security

Broad strokes, that get broken down into hundreds of specific steps, in the book. This is serious stuff, and exactly the kind of thinking we need for the next four years. As pointed by William Becker in his introduction, we are running out of time, and action at all levels, starting at the top, is needed now.  In that respect, I find Barack Obama‘s recent answer to Time reporter Joe Klein, quite encouraging:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office, assuming obviously that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. We’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks, and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy.

The big question of course is, how long before we get ‘it’ into port? Nature has been patient enough, and it cannot wait much longer, for us to take remedial actions.

Last, kudos to Martin’s Press for deciding to publish William Becker‘s book, electronically. That’s what I call walking the writing! You can order the book here.

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I got a sneak preview of Scientific American‘s Earth 3.0 special issue on ‘Solutions for Sustainable Progress’. Mostly great stuff, with the exception of one article, that prompted me to write this rebuttal.

In ‘Learning from the Internet’, Robert M. Metcalfe, venture capitalist and Internet pioneer,  expands on the dangerous idea that, 

I don’t think for a moment that we’re going to conserve our way out of the energy crisis. Internet history shows that prosperity depends on abundant bandwidth. Prosperity (gross domestic product, per capita) is proportional to energy use. We are not going to lower per capita consumptionof energy in the U.S. We are going to enable the rest of the world to be as prosperous by using not less but more energy. We need to make energy cheap, clean and therefore abundant – really abundant, for a really long time. 

Sounds familiar? This is the same kind of thinking endorsed in an earlier McKinsey study, and also to a lesser extent, by Al Gore in his Moon Shot Challenge speech.

Makes me mad. The average citizen is already confused enough. The last thing we need is more tenors in green tech and green biz to lull us into thinking that technology will get us out of our mess. Besides, I do not see what climate change has to do with the Internet. 

We need to get out of this pervasive either-or thinking. Energy conservation and new energy technologies are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are meant to work together. One without the other will not work. It’s a matter of simple maths, and of mitigating our risks, in the unlikely event that technology does not deliver on all its promises. 

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Dear Al,

You and I just met last weekend. I had traveled far in my Prius for the chance to have a few words with you, my hero. When my turn came, I made sure to let you know how grateful I was, for the presentation you gave three years ago, at Stanford, on “An Inconvenient Truth”. I told you I had come out of the event transformed and determined to help somehow with the global warming crisis. You seemed flattered, and you moved on to the person next in line, a funny guy named Dana Carvey.

You were supposed to give a political speech, but you could not stay away from your favorite topic. And you spoke at length about the need to bring about a change in consciousness, regarding the moral challenge of our time, our role in the destruction of the future of our planet. I loved listening to you, and so did the rest of the audience. You delivered your message with feeling and conviction, and we readily joined you in your outrage, down to your last word. “Damit!”

That’s all good. And that’s not enough. You see, what I took away from this time with you, was not the thrill of meeting you, nor the heartfelt speech you gave, nor the majestic scenery surrounding us. No, instead I will remember the sight of all the cars parked along the road, and filling every free parking space on the compound. Call me a party spoiler, but it bothered me that you seemed oblivious to the lack of carpooling for the event. When I brought up the subject with my neighbors at the lunch table, all expressed interest. I know this is a small detail, and you are dealing with the big picture.

I just want to raise this question with you. What if the big picture was all in the details? How different would have your message been, if you had sent a request ahead of time to all the guests, asking them to carpool? You could have carpooled yourself, rather than just driving with your daughter in her Prius.

Al, I hope you will consider. As the world leader on climate,  you bear a huge responsibility. Please do not misuse it, and realize the power of your actions, not just your words.

Respectfully,

Marguerite Manteau-Rao

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“Next year, when my youngest daughter goes to college, I wouldn’t mind spending more time in Hawaii” I mused over dinner with my friends Tom and Betsy. And quickly added that I felt conflicted about the idea. Given the climate situation, I told them, it felt irresponsible to engage in such gratuitous behavior. Both of my friends looked at me as if I was some crazy woman. Why wouldn’t I want to fly to Hawaii? No way would they change their habit of flying to Europe three of four times a year.  Tom started ranting about not subscribing to moralistic attitudes towards climate change. No, the solution lied in new technologies. What about all the predictions that keep getting worse and worse? I asked. Tom, an engineer with an interest in data visualization, expressed skepticism. There is a lot we don’t know. All those data are to be taken with a grain of salt. No, both he and Betsy were adamant they were not about to change their lifestyle, one bit. I was shocked. And changed subject.

This morning came this alarming news from the Associated Press:

The world pumped up its pollution of the chief man-made global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists’ projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, called “scary” by some, were a surprise because scientists thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output jumped 3 percent from 2006 to 2007.

That’s an amount that exceeds the most dire outlook for emissions from burning coal and oil and related activities as projected by a Nobel Prize-winning group of international scientists in 2007.

Meanwhile, forests and oceans, which suck up carbon dioxide, are doing so at lower rates than in the 20th century, scientists said. If those trends continue, it puts the world on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.

The pollution leader was China, followed by the United States, which past data show is the leader in emissions per person in carbon dioxide output. And while several developed countries slightly cut their CO2 output in 2007, the United States churned out more.

Still, it was large increases in China, India and other developing countries that spurred the growth of carbon dioxide pollution to a record high of 9.34 billion tons of carbon (8.47 billion metric tons). Figures released by science agencies in the United States, Great Britain and Australia show that China’s added emissions accounted for more than half of the worldwide increase. China passed the United States as the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter in 2006.

Emissions in the United States rose nearly 2 percent in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon (1.58 billion metric tons).

“Things are happening very, very fast,” said Corinne Le Quere, professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s scary.”

Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop because of the economic downturn. That didn’t happen.

“If we’re going to do something (about reducing emissions), it’s got to be different than what we’re doing,” he said.

The emissions are based on data from oil giant BP PLC, which show that China has become the major driver of world trends. China emitted 2 billion tons of carbon (1.8 billion metric tons) last year, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

“We’re shipping jobs offshore from the U.S., but we’re also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them,” Marland said. “China is making fertilizer and cement and steel and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries.”

Developing countries not asked to reduce greenhouse gases by the 1997 Kyoto treaty – and China and India are among them – now account for 53 percent of carbon dioxide pollution. That group of nations surpassed industrialized ones in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, a new analysis of older figures shows.

India is in position to beat Russia for the No. 3 carbon dioxide polluter behind the United States, Marland said. Indonesia levels are increasing rapidly.

Denmark’s emissions dropped 8 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany reduced carbon dioxide pollution by 3 percent, while France and Australia cut it by 2 percent.

Nature can’t keep up with the carbon dioxide from man, Le Quere said. She said from 1955 to 2000, the forests and oceans absorbed about 57 percent of the excess carbon dioxide, but now it’s 54 percent.

What is “kind of scary” is that the worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Under the panel’s scenario then, temperatures would increase by somewhere between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 to 6.3 degrees Celsius) by the year 2100.

If this trend continues for the century, “you’d have to be luckier than hell for it just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic,” said Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.

I read this, and I think about my conversation with Tom and Betsy. And I wonder, what is it going to take, for the reality to sink in, with people like them. The message is not getting through.

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