Climate Change

Exxon boss: climate change is ‘real’ and ‘serious’

The company is accused of ignoring its own climate change science for years.

By: Alejandro Dávila Fragoso
View the original article at ThinkProgress.

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ExxonMobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson. CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the company backs a price on carbon and believes climate change brings “real” risks that require “serious” action.

Speaking at the Oil & Money conference in London, Tillerson also noted that the Paris climate accord set to kick in this November is unlikely to limit near-term consumption of oil and gas, Climate Central reported.

“We have long used a proxy cost of carbon… there’s a range depending on the country, depending on the tax that we think would be appropriate,” he said. “We’re trying to influence and inform people and business on the choices they make.”

Tillerson’s comments come amidst accusations that Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest listed oil and gas company, for years ignored company scientists who warned about climate change as early as 1977. The company has also been accused of funding climate science denial groups. Since the story broke in 2015, multiple state attorneys general, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, and organizations have subpoenaed the company to give investigators 40 years of documents on research findings and communications about climate change.

Exxon denies the accusations and has even sued some state AGs. On Monday, after almost a year of cooperating, the company sued in a Texas federal court to block the subpoenas from New York and Massachusetts, Inside Climate News reported.

In a news release, Exxon called the New York and Massachusetts investigations “biased attempts to further a political agenda for financial gain.” The company said Schneiderman and others are colluding with anti-oil and gas activists. For more than decade “it has widely and publicly confirmed” the risk of climate change and its potential impacts on society and ecosystems, the company said in the news release.

Organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) dispute that, however. UCS claims that as recently as 2015, Tillerson said the world should improve its understanding of climate science before acting, and that he’s asserted climate models are inaccurate. The advocacy organization also notes Exxon is still associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market lobbying group that has worked to kill renewable energy programs, and teach climate denial in schools.

On Wednesday, Tillerson avoided the most recent controversy, but said that since 2006, Exxon has been committed to doing the “right thing the right way.”

“Integrity is in everything we do. It’s the foundation of trust and cooperation. A focus on integrity makes a corporations more effective,” he said.

Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts “SALT” – new concept for adaptation

John EnglanderBy John Englander
www.johnenglander.net

 

 

Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts – “SALT” «««« DOWNLOAD HERE

At a conference today in St. Petersburg Florida I have put forth a new concept: Shoreline Adaptation Land Trusts. “SALT” The 3-page paper was published by the Institute of Science for Global Policy and can be downloaded above or from their web site www.scienceforglobalpolicy.org

I developed the concept in response to their challenge to come up with something specific that could be based on science and help the adaptation of policy to deal with rising sea level. This two day forum is: “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?”

Similar to the concept of conservation land trusts which have been well established, a SALT could create a vehicle to facilitate the migration of vulnerable private lands. If you are interested, please download the short paper with the description.

Why Florida Developers and Business Interests Need To Understand and Embrace “Adaptation Action Areas.”

 

Mitch Chester

By Mitchell A. Chester, Esq.

The latest projections of anticipated sea level rise (SLR) in Southeastern Florida offer a stark and compelling reminder that commercial and residential adaptation planning should be a priority concern for developers, building and unit owners and operators, businesses and even tenants.

In October, 2015, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Sea Level Rise Work Group released a document which projects by the year 2030, sea level rise in the region can increase 6 to 10 inches (above 1992 mean sea level) by 2030, just a mere 14 years away. That’s only about half way through a 30 year mortgage. By 2060, the increase above 1992 levels is anticipated to be, based upon present peer-reviewed scientific projections, 34 inches.

To put that in to another context, according to the Work Group, between 1992 and 2015, based upon NASA satellite measurements, the ocean in this part of the planet has heightened by almost 3 inches. That is a significant rise in very short period of time.

As SLR science evaluates and warns of complex dynamic factors such as thermal expansion of ocean water, changing oceanic currents, as well as melting rates of ice sheets and glaciers, society needs to responsibly plan for and adapt to the reality of climate change by developing planning and operational tools which will extend the life of vulnerable areas. This includes preparing existing and planned commercial and residential structures on threatened properties.

An initial effort to plan for such adaptation was created by the Florida Legislature in 2011. Tallahassee adopted the Community Planning Act, which currently provides for “Adaptation Action Areas” (“AAA’s). One of the few actions taken by state lawmakers to address SLR concerns to date, Section 163.3164 (1) of the Florida Statutes defines AAA’s as “a designation in the coastal management element of a local government’s comprehensive plan which identifies one or more areas that experience coastal flooding due to extreme high tides and storm surge, and that are vulnerable to the related impacts of rising sea levels for the purpose of prioritizing funding for infrastructure needs and adaptation planning.”

Without understanding if there is adequate public infrastructure in specific areas, such as resilient water treatment facilities, storm drain systems, roads and bridges, developers and other business stakeholders may make costly and risky decisions to build or upgrade facilities which will be adversely and perhaps prematurely impacted by the verified threat of rising seas.

The failure to thoroughly understand the menace ocean dynamics presents to specific construction projects can ultimately lead to negligence and errors and omissions lawsuits against proponents of the projects, land owners, architects, engineers and construction companies.

Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 163.3177 (6) (g) (10), local governments have the current option to develop AAA boundary areas. These AAA zones can vary in shape and size, and are carefully being implemented in certain areas, such as within portions of the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Inclusion within properly funded Adaptation Action Areas have the potential to increase the value and useful lives of properties to be built or which are being revitalized.

Local governmental discretion to create and manage AAA’s is a potentially powerful tool which can be employed as a part of Florida’s growth management laws. When established for a part of a municipality, AAA’s are designed to promote adaptation to SLR and other coastal hazards, including rising water tables, tidal flooding and storm surge. The AAA strategy allows for funding, on a priority basis, for government infrastructure improvements within the defined boundaries of the AAA.

In November, 2013, the South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) made it clear, “This is the time for all Floridians, the majority of whom live less than 60 miles from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, to question the long-term effects of sea level rise on more than 1,350 miles of our coastline, 4,500 of our estuaries and bays, and over 6,700 square miles of our other coastal waters.”

The SFRPC highlighted high-stakes economic concerns. According to the report Adaptation Action Areas: Policy Options for Adaptive Planning for Rising Sea Levels, “Three-fourths of Florida’s population resides in coastal counties that generate 79 percent of the state’s total annual economy. These counties represent a built-environment and infrastructure whose replacement value in 2010 is $2.0 trillion and which by 2030 is estimated to be $3.0 trillion.”

As Southeastern Florida grows in population and with new projects, clearly, there’s a lot at stake. Those planning to build new condominiums, offices, facilities and other “built environment” developments cannot responsibly do so without an understanding of the meaning of AAA’s. Furthermore, even those desiring to re-build structures need to recognize the critical conceivable importance of AAA’s in their planning process.

As usual, money is key. This means corporate financial adaptation in real estate development is just as important as any other aspect of proposing, and building structures.

In certain coastal and nearby inland areas, fiscal consequences have already profoundly impacted shoreline and adjacent lands. Take for example, the City of Miami Beach, which is spending in excess of a reported $400 million to place pumping facilities throughout the city and the intense and costly focus on climate related issues within the City of Fort Lauderdale and surrounding communities.

Understanding the potential benefits of inclusion in coastal community adaptation action areas can provide is a part of a responsible private sector hazard exposure management strategy. The key is early, intelligent and probing due diligence.

For example, developers considering new coastal projects, on either side of Florida’s Coastal Construction Control Line, will want to know several key issues prior to proceeding with a project so they can financially adapt:

  1. Is the property to be developed included within the boundary of an existing AAA? If not, is a AAA zone being considered for the subject property?
  2. What public infrastructure projects are planned for the immediate area around the proposed construction site? Is the existing or planned governmental infrastructure adequate to serve the development’s anticipated life-span?
  3. Is the AAA funded, and if so, what public projects within the zone are prioritized? How will early AAA projects affect the subject property? What funding mechanisms will power the AAA? For example, federal programs, increased taxes, a variation of development impact fees or bond issuances?
  4. What future plans does the municipality have within the specific designated AAA boundaries? Is the AAA in the planning or operational stage?
  5. What are the flooding risks for the developer’s site footprint over time?
  6. What political challenges are there to the full and proper implementation of an effective AAA?
  7. Will inclusion in an AAA zone enhance the property value of the project? One thought is that being situated within a AAA can potentially increase market value over a limited period of time.
  8. What area protection measures are being considered or are already underway to mitigate against sea level rise?
  9. What construction design requirements are being considered or mandated for the specific AAA? For example, is structure elevation required? To what extent? Will use of such tools help to reduce environmental exposure to the structure?
  10. Is the long-term AAA goal one of retreat as opposed to adaptation? “Managed retreat” is defined by the SFRPC as, “Strategies that involve the actual removal of existing development, their possible relocation to other areas, and/or the prevention of future development in high-risk areas. Retreat strategies usually involve the acquisition of vulnerable land for public ownership, but may include other strategies such as transfer of development rights, purchase of development rights, and rolling or conservation easements.”
  11. Is the AAA in an area where no development will be allowed in the near-term? Are restricted development rights on the horizon in the specific sector?
  12. What new technologies and strategies can be used within the boundaries of the AAA to help lengthen the productive life of the zone?
  13. Will buyers, renters, visitors and tenants be attracted to the property because of its inclusion in a AAA? In other words, can the zone have the same significance as a sea level rise equivalent of LEED-certified buildings?
  14. What can the county and municipality tell you about any adverse consequences for building and developing in a specific AAA?

Peer-reviewed science is clear. Even if we eliminate all greenhouse gasses over the coming years, sea level rise will continue. That’s the blunt reality. Properly planned and funded, Adaptation Action Areas can extend, for some finite period of time, those lands which are most at risk to the ever encroaching ocean waters.

Understanding the sustainable benefits of Adaptation Action Areas is key to responsible planning and development in coastal regions. Much more needs to be done in Congress and at the State Legislature to help engender constructive adaptation to sea level rise, but responsible implementation of AAA’s, with a strong public-private partnership, is a good starting point.

Mitchell A. Chester, Esq. is a civil trial lawyer practicing in South Florida. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and an AV rated attorney. In practice for over 36 years, he is deeply concerned about developing legal and monetary adaptation strategies and solutions for communities threatened by swelling oceans. Mr. Chester is editor of RaisingFields.org (how agriculture can adapt to sea level rise and increased heat), SLRAmerica.org (which explores legal and practical financial issues pertaining to sea level rise), FinancialAdaptation.org (monetary tools for sea level rise), Sea Level Rise Radio.com (a podcast which discusses topics to examine key societal issues and opportunities presented by encroaching waters) and MySeaLevelRise.org (SLR issues). His focus is on people, including homeowners, renters and business owners as we jointly prepare for altered coastlines. He is one of the directors of the CLEO Institute, which educates government leaders and students in Southeastern Florida about sea level rise and climate issues. Mr. Chester has presented SLR and climate issues in Southeastern Florida including events at the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Miami-Dade College, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades, the Environmental Coalition for Miami and the Beaches, the Coral Gables Museum, and other venues.

How Greed and Capitalism Can Solve the Climate Crisis

By Greg Hamra, LEED AP BD+C, O+M
Climate Solutionist, Education & Advocacy
Guest Author

 GH1

You’re about to learn of a fiscally conservative, market based solution to the climate crisis that reduces government regulations, boosts economic growth, creates millions of jobs, save thousands of lives per year and reduces greenhouse gases and has the endorsement of leading economists and world-famous scientists.

But first, a disclaimer: I think Naomi Klein makes some very good points in her book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” Naomi Klein first landed on my radar with this hard-hitting quote:

“Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. A belief system that vilifies collective action and declares war on all corporate regulation and all things public simply cannot be reconciled with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that are largely responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.”

I find it very difficult to argue with her statement. However, many experts believe solution exists somewhere in between Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman, in fixing capitalism, not overthrowing it. Don’t be so quick to dismiss capitalism as a tremendously powerful force to drive human behavior and major financial moves. Right now capitalism is very broken. It’s being misused, mismanaged, and even hijacked. And when it comes to our energy economy, it is completely bastardized. Milton Friedman is turning over in his grave.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” – Fredric Jameson

And if you think all this is just a scam – part of a liberal conspiracy, I say to you: “You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” - Ayn Rand

Please take a moment to consider the benefits being put forth, an economic boost, job creation, and restoration of free-market capitalism! The issues at hand are of such great urgency and importance that none of us can enjoy the luxury of expecting everyone to do what needs to be done for the same reasons you or I have.

So what’s the problem?

Our need power our world by continually burning of fossil fuels results in serious consequences for our planet, our economy, and the way we live. Our very way of life is threatened. Burning of fossil fuels results in the release of heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere. This is not disputed.

The costs associated with this are immense. They include: downwind emissions that shorten people’s lives, sea-level rise (SLR), extreme weather, increased wildfires, ecosystem and biodiversity loss (including crop loss), dying coral, famine, floods, mudslides, damaged fisheries, and a national security risk in the form of climate refugees. (See documentary: “Climate Refugees” with Newt Gingrich – trailer).

The big issue for us in South Florida is clearly sea-level rise. In fact, Miami is ground-zero for the economic impacts of sea-level rise with the greatest value of assets at risk in the world. SLR is the result of a warming planet. Over 93% of the Earth’s trapped surface heat goes straight to the oceans. Thermal expansion of ocean water and melting of land-based ice results in sea-level rise. Here in S. FL, the seas have risen nearly 9 inches in the past 100 years, as measured by the Naval Air Station in Key West. During super high-tides, sea water is delivered into our streets through the storm sewers. (Sea-level rise in action) The City of Miami Beach is undertaking major infrastructure improvements, raising sea-walls, roads and sidewalks, and installing pumps to return seawater back to Biscayne Bay. The first phase of this project included four pumps at a cost of $15 Million. The entire project will involve 60-70 pumps with a whopping price-tag.

Estimated cost: $500 MILLION

Prices reflected in our cost of good or fuels: $0

With assets in the trillions to be protected, we need to do this, but we also need to fix a big accounting error.

Our broken energy economy bears little resemblance to a free-market economic model.

Three predominant market distortions that must be remedied:

  • The price on fossil fuels does not reflect the social costs.
  • Energy subsidies (picking winners and losers) serve to create deeper market distortions.
  • Top-down government regulations can be inefficient and costly, and receive consistent pushback from ‘free-market’ purists and industry groups.

The President’s new Clean Power Plan is an aggressive and effort to tackle GHG emissions. So what’s the problem? Half of the states are already protesting it.
GH2

Our energy economy is broken. Very broken. Nobody argues with this.

Another problem we have are elected leaders who are driven by fear, short-term interests, and often re-elected by low-information, similarly fearful voters. I submit that most of these punters, these ‘slow-lane’ Americans who waffle somewhere between “let’s keep it in neutral” and “more CO2 release is good for us” are actually quite scared. But they’re not afraid of the science. They’re afraid of the solutions. They fear that anything we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will tank our economy. Many people truly believe this, conservatives and many liberals too. And they’re wrong.

What we have at hand is potentially the biggest job-creating economic stimulus ever seen… if we get it right. But what if we don’t? It’s not like it’s the end of the world, right? Wrong That’s exactly what it means. Our survival on this planet depends on getting this right, and fast. We can’t afford to punt. We need a big play.

We need to fix the accounting error. The moment we begin to account for the social and environmental costs of carbon based fuels, the markets will shift.

To my conservative friends:

Our energy economy is nothing at all like the “free-market” Milton Friedman envisioned. Would you help to restore true, free-market principles, remove the socialism from the system, help restore capitalism and fix our energy economy? Consider dealing with this issue the Reagan way.

To my more liberal, and potentially anti-capitalist friends:

Capitalism is a big word, with many flavors. Leading economists realize we’re getting it wrong and that a correction is in order. Experts think more plausible, and certainly more politically viable to plug the holes in capitalism rather than swap it for an entirely different economic system. That would require nothing short of a revolution. Are you ready for that? Me neither.

There’s one plan that could put us on the right track. The Washington Post called it the most politically viable solution to reducing greenhouse gasses, and it is consistent conservative economic principles.

The carbon fee + dividend (CF&D) plan was written by a Republican icon, George Shultz, President Reagan’s Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State, and Nobel laureate Gary Becker.

It calls for a steadily-rising revenue-neutral carbon tax collected at the most upstream point — the mine, well, frack pad — (about 1600 points of collection in the U.S.) and rebating those fees back to American households. All of it. This is not a big government plan. In fact, it trades in current big government regulations and subsidies for a simple, more honest, market-based plan that fixes the accounting error.

This plan is consistent with conservative economic principles by embedding the true cost into the price we pay for our direct and embodied energy. When happens, market actors change behavior almost immediately. When the markets move in this direction we’ll be on our way. Suddenly all those green jobs we’ve wanted start taking off. American ingenuity and competition is unleashed.

This plan has the endorsement of leading economists, top scientists, and top economic policy analysts. George Shultz says: “You shouldn’t call it a tax if the government doesn’t keep it!”

Read about the Shultz-Becker Carbon Tax proposal in this WSJ article (or see PDF).

In summary the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan:

  • reduces government intervention
  • leverages the incredible power of the market
  • is revenue-neutral; rebates all funds to taxpayers
  • unleashes American ingenuity and innovation, and spurs competition
  • will create millions of jobs, benefiting our economy (REMI report)
  • would eliminate costly fossil-fuel subsidies
  • would result in thousands of lives saved
  • would reduce GHGs by over 50% by 2035

From a performance standpoint, the Carbon Fee & Dividend would outperform the Clean Power Plan. Look:

  • CPP aims for a 32% emissions reduction by 2030 (and some call it a job killer)
  • CFD would reduce CO2 emissions by 52% by 2035 (and it creates 2.8 million jobs)

So the solution is simple:

  1. Put an HONEST price on carbon
  2. Rebate all fees to American households
  3. Get out of the way and let the free market work

This is a call to my fellow Americans. Let’s fix capitalism! Let’s restore some honesty into the system.

Economist Robert Reich explains in 3-minutes:

GH3

What we need is political will for a livable world. We need a price on carbon, a carbon fee & dividend.

To be part of the solution, contact Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the most effective organization driving sane climate policy in this country. www.citizensclimatelobby.org

The world’s most famous climate scientist says…
GH4

Learn more:

 

Perhaps the Scientists are sounding too much like Chicken Little

11/5/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 
This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report on the effects of climate change on the world if corrective action is not taken. The headline in the Miami Herald read “Scientists’ warning is most alarming yet.”

A review of articles on climate change reflects similar headlines and worse – like “Goodbye Miami” or “Florida developers facing environmental woes.”

The alarm bell is ringing – and the headlines are starting to sound like Chicken Little crying “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” in the children’s books. I know it does to me – and I know that the scientists have done their homework which is the opposite of Chicken Little and all his furry friends – Hen Pen, Duck Luck, Goose Loose and Turkey Lurkey.

In fact, a group of industry experts and sustainability professionals met in London last summer to dialogue about a report being issued by DNV GL, a leading ship and offshore classification, a leading technical advisor to the global oil and gas energy and a leading expert for the energy value chain including renewables and energy efficiency. The report, entitled, A Safe and Sustainable Future: Enabling the Transition, provides an analysis of challenges to sustainability in the global economy, societal well-being and governmental and corporate governance.

In an article published in Maritime Executive (http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Too-Much-Climate-Change-Doom-and-Gloom-2014-07-12), entitled “To Much Climate Change Doom and Gloom,” participants expressed concern that the messaging around climate change is too much “doom and gloom” and not enough on the opportunities that are arising from addressing the effects of a warming world. Bjorn Haugland, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at DNV GL was quoted:

“We believe there is a need to put the focus on the opportunities. For corporate leaders and politicians to speak a positive narrative is so important as it directs so much activity in society.

“We believe it is possible to create a thriving economy, it is possible to stay within the limits of the planet and it is possible to create a society for nine billion people to live well if we want to. It is human activity that has taken us into this situation and it is human activity that will take us out of it.”

Much of our perspective on the world, including our economic systems, is based on the belief that the world has an infinite supply of natural capital and a warming planet; however, the headlines about water shortages, famines, super storms, flooding, the hottest year on record, rising sea levels, ice caps melting and other calamities highlight that the scientists are not Chicken Little – the evidence is all around us.

Whether or not the global warming is man-made or from natural causes does not really matter, it is affecting the future for man-kind. Further, resource limitations can be extended – like the Green Revolution in agriculture where research, development and new technology between the 1940s and the 1980s increased agricultural production around the world – saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation.

Challenges abound everywhere, but where there are challenges, opportunity also exists.

DNV GL’s research report highlights 36 “barriers to sustainability” which range from economic and market hurdles to policy, societal and behavioral attitudes and habits – including reactive and short-term thinking, “denialism” and a lack of urgency. (available here: http://dnvgl.com/Images/DNV%20GL%20SSF_20_aug2014_tcm212-595432.pdf)

The Report concludes with Pathways to a Sustainable Future, which is summarized as follows:

“Our vision for a safe and sustainable future is within reach. Humanity has faced, and overcome, grand challenges in the past. Undoubtedly, we can surmount our present challenges too – if we choose to. Changing course will depend on our ability to work together, to act quickly and to harvest opportunities both today and tomorrow.

“We can develop an economy that is sustainable and regenerative, we can rejuvenate our ecosystems, and we can build the stable, equitable and thriving societies that we desire for the future. We are at a moment in time where there is a unique opportunity to shape the future we want.”

The scientists are not Chicken Little. It is time to stop ignoring the headlines which are designed to instill a sense of urgency and realize that the time is now for each of us to act.

It is real estate owners and investors who have the most to lose as the effects of climate change will most definitely be seen in utility bills, property taxes and insurance premiums.   With the new building management technologies, energy efficiency, water conservation capabilities and waste management programs, building owners and managers have the ability to reduce operating costs while making the building sustainable. We know. We see it being done – in both new and existing buildings.

As Glenn Pickett reports in his article on “the Drumbeat for Climate Action Grows,” published in Environmental Leader on 11/3/2014,

“The appetite is all but gone for hearing more about our frightening global forecast and who’s at fault for it. The more time the environmental and sustainability movement spends sharing solutions, the more mainstream these choices will have the chance of becoming….. It’s time for action, and leaders will be rewarded.”

Read more: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/11/03/the-drumbeat-for-climate-action-grows/#ixzz3I7KNzYO0

May we all become good stewards of this earth.

Now, let me tell you about this…

10/22/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

I freeze…become paralyzed in the face of danger or uncertainty. It is something that I am getting better at as I age but I still tend to become a deer in the headlights from time to time. In heated discussions, I never come up with the one line “Buzzinga” response until later – sometimes days later – when it is too late to be effective.

Does this happen to you?   Or, are you one of the blessed people who know just the right response to any situation without giving it a second thought? Do you see a situation and instantly know and take the correct action to save the person from going into the undertow or stop the bleeding from a kitchen knife cut or have just the right response to win the debate?

We all respond to new circumstances differently. Some freeze, some panic and run, others deny what is happening like a child who pretends people cannot see him when he pulls his “magical” covers over his head. And, then, there are some charge forward full speed ahead.

Again, if you are like me, once you get over the shock of “is this really happening?” you assess the situation, spring into action and work feverishly to correct, or save, the situation….

Based on the muted reaction, or the “I am not a scientist so it does not exist” position of a significant number of our civic, community and business leaders, either they are in shock that the world’s climate can change so rapidly or they are in complete denial which is worse. The fact that many large American cities ranging from Galveston and New Orleans to Tampa, Miami and even as far north as New York City will be faced with significant issues from the rising sea level is still being debated among politicians reflects a similar approach to reality as the child with the magic blanket.

The news of global warming, now more appropriately referred to as Climate Change, is not new. Scientists have been ringing the warning bell for at least two decades. And yet we still do not want to believe.

Well, we are now starting to see the effects. Storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, increased flooding in cities like Miami Beach, increased tornado activity, the hottest year on record, and shrinking shorelines caused by sea level rise are now featured in the news on a regular basis.

Many government officials responsible for protecting the public from such events are joining in the chorus to raise awareness in order to make their job of obtaining public approval for a budget to install and maintain systems and equipment to reduce the damage from the effects of climate change feasible.

Yet, it is the real estate community that seems to most want to stick their head in the sand….For instance, last July, the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force issued its report and recommendations. Shortly afterwards, the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a meeting with Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts and Chairman of the Task Force, presenting the report. The meeting, which was broadly announced, had fewer than 100 attendees and almost no one from the real estate community was in attendance.

As reported in the June 2014 report “Risky Business: A Climate Risk Assessment for the United States”, it is apparent that climate change and sea level rise are going to have significant effects on the American global business community – and real estate, which has a particular distinction of being immovable, is going to be more impacted than most industries.

And yet. And yet the real estate community is acting as if it is business as usual. The level of interest in doing a sustainable retrofit has yet to make a significant impact on the market – especially for properties that are not seeking credit-quality tenants whose corporate sustainability policies encourage occupancy in LEED-certified buildings. (According to an article entitled “What’s Sustainability Wroth to Tenants?” by Paul Bubny of Cushman & Wakefield in the 10/28/2014 GlobeSt.com national eMagazine, ” Among the 37 real estate and sustainability directors at 23 US-based corporations surveyed by C&W, 74% see value in going to a sustainable building compared to a non-sustainable one.”1

With the obvious costs to upgrade and improve the infrastructure – especially electrical and water and sewer utilities, as well as expected increase in insurance costs, a prudent reaction to the reality of climate change and sea level rise would be to put improvements in place now that reduce the consumption of water and power as well as to make a building less susceptible to damage from major hurricanes, storms and other weather events (like flooding).

We can only hope that real estate owners, investors, managers and tenants will soon realize that the future is now, overcome their “shock” of the impending calamity and start to take action. It is time to take action. The economic, environmental and operational benefits will be immediate and, if done right, sustainable.

And, as in any crisis situation, if you wait too long to take action, the results can be devastating. Let me know if I can be of service.

1 See (http://www.globest.com/news/12_975/national/office/Whats-Sustainability-Worth-to-Tenants-351877.html?ET=globest:e44644:11970a:&st=email&s=&cmp=gst:National_AM_20141027:editorial).

Miami weather forecast …rising tides, flooding and heat

8/13/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

I live in Miami – it is my home. The other night I was watching the weather forecast. The August full moon, a “super” moon, was on Sunday. The forecaster gave us the news that the weather was going to continue to being in the mid-90s with afternoon thunder storms – summer in Miami, no news there (NOTE: All of the record high monthly record temperatures in Miami have been recorded since 1971). However, the forecaster continued to advise viewers who live on Miami Beach and other low-level areas that they may need their rubber boots in order to get to their cars in parking lots and to watch for flooding along the roadways….This is a fairly recent phenomenon – but one that is going to be a part of the forecast for years to come.

It has been a year since Rolling Stone published its article entitled “Goodbye, Miami” written by James Goodell (7/4/2013 Read more:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620?page=3#ixzz3A6oXVFId).

When the article was first published, most of Miami’s leaders scoffed at the article and the idea that Miami may not exist in 100 years. Perhaps it was the publication in which it was published or wishful thinking, but most of Miami’s (and Florida’s) business and political leaders decided to stick their head in the sand and ignore the increasing number of days in which our streets are flooded.

As reflected in numerous studies and many reports and articles, the world is warming. It does not really matter if it is natural or man-made – the facts are the facts – and this one will not be ignored for long. Along with the warming of the earth’s surface is a rising of the sea level resulting from both the melting of the ice caps and the expansion of the water as it warms….It has already risen almost one foot in the past century – and the pace at which it is rising is hastening.

Predictions are that the sea level will rise by two feet within 35 years and by up to one foot per decade thereafter – until the earth’s temperature stabilizes. At these levels – and with no actions put into place – Mr. Goodell’s prediction will surely come true.

The implications are immense: According to the report, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate change in the United States, produced by the Risky Business Project led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and published in June:

“In Florida, because of porous limestone on which the major southern cities were build, even modest sea level rise comes at significant economic cost. Under current projections, between $15 billion and $23 billion (in today’s dollars) of existing property will likely be underwater by 2050, a number that grows to between $53 billion and $208 billion by the end of the century…An additional $240 billion in property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.”

The impact of rising sea levels goes beyond flooded streets and imminent threat to property – and the impacts will grow exponentially as the sea rises and our leaders and citizenry remain immobilized – whether out of denial, ignorance or apathy.

Miami especially is vulnerable because of our low ground level (one quarter of Miami-Dade County is at less than 3′ above sea level) and our porous limestone plateau which Glenn Landers, senior engineer at the US Army Corps of Engineers likens to a block of Swiss cheese in Mr. Goodels’ article. A good analogy for the ground on which Miami (and all of South Florida) is built; but troublesome in the development of global solutions.

To its credit, Miami Beach has started to build pumping stations to reduce flooding – but this is only a stop-gap measure AND is being contested by home owners who feel it reduces the value of their property. This Stormwater Master Plan began with $206 million budget which is estimated to be half of the actual monies needed. The City is starting to raise fees and rates in order to pay for this program.

According to information in the website Sea Level Rise America, (www.slramerica.org), “Property owners of all types including developers, need to understand sea level rise issues and adaptation strategies. Those seeking to sell their properties will have to disclose to potential purchasers that their real property will be impacted by sea level rise and possibly higher taxes imposed by governments seeking to update public infrastructure projects such as storm sewers. Such adaptation projects will be necessary, but some will be controversial.”

SLR America identifies 26 legal and financial implications of rising sea levels on coastal communities – and many of these implications need to be addressed NOW: For instance, let’s take the disclosures in real property sales. “Simply stated, residential (and commercial) property purchasers in sea level rise threatened zones need informed notice and protection.” Just like sellers and real estate agents must disclose hazards due to asbestos and radon and lead-based paint, in order for sellers to be protected from future claims, property sales in 2013, when sea level rise is a known scientific fact, need to be accompanied by the disclosure of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the property.

We are not under water – yet! Last year, the Miami-Dade County Commissioners created a Sea Level Rise Task Force which issued its report on July 1st (Available here: http://www.miamidade.gov/planning/boards-sea-level-rise.asp) and provided six recommendations to the Commissioners. It is important that the real estate and business leaders support these recommendations and encourage the County government to dedicate the resources necessary to create and implement a plan that results in the survival of our fair City.

Meanwhile, building owners and managers can start now to make their properties more sustainable – which includes the ability to withstand increasingly harsh and violent storms with greater flooding from storm surge.

I have lived in tornado zones and earthquake zones and hurricane zones. The true benefit of living in a hurricane zone is that you have 3 – 7 days of advance notice. In those days, we prepare – we buy supplies and protect our properties against the coming storm.   With climate change and the sea level rise, we are given just 40 years to prepare – it is time to start make our preparations – the weather forecast is not changing any time soon.

This 19-Year-Old Is Ready to Build an Ocean Cleanup Machine

By Caroline Winter, Bloomberg Business Week, 6/10/2014

View the original story here

The world’s oceans contain millions of tons of trash, much of it collected into vast gyres of plastic and debris. Even if humanity stopped putting garbage in the water today, researchers project that these garbage patches would continue growing for hundreds of years. One such trash vortex, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, already spans hundreds of miles.

How do we get all that garbage out? Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old Dutch aeronautical engineering student, is raising $2 million to build an ocean cleanup contraption he designed to passively funnel garbage to specific collection points. Working with a team of over 100 people, he recently released a 528-page feasibility study (PDF) detailing how the complex technology works and grappling with questions of legality, costs, environmental impact, and potential pitfalls.

Slat’s plan, expressed simply, is to deploy several V-shaped floating barriers that would be moored to the seabed and placed in the path of major ocean currents. The 30-mile-long arms of the V are designed to catch buoyant garbage and trash floating three meters below the surface while allowing sea life to pass underneath. “Because no nets would be used, a passive cleanup may well be harmless to the marine ecosystem,” he writes in the feasibly study.

Over time, the trash would flow deeper into the V , from which it would then be extracted. The report estimates that the plastic collection rate would total 65 cubic meters per day and that the trash would have to be picked up by ship every 45 days. Slat hopes to offset costs by recycling the collected plastic for other uses.

One limitation is that the Ocean Cleanup machine won’t pick up tiny plastic particles, which tend to distribute over greater depths and pollute the entire ocean, including the Arctic. “Particles smaller than 0.1 mm are not caught whereas all particles larger than 1 mm are estimated to be caught,” wrote the cleanup team via e-mail. Still, many of these tiny particles have been and will be produced by the breakdown of larger bits of plastic. “In that view,” wrote the team, “we will greatly reduce the number of microscopic particles over time.”

The money to build a pilot version is already trickling in. Barely seven days into a 100-day crowd funding campaign, the Ocean Cleanup already has more than 3,300 backers who have contributed nearly $200,000.

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

By JUSTIN GILLIS

MARCH 31, 2014

View original article here

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty.

Panel on U.N. Climate Change Report

Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Christopher Field, the co-chairman of the group that wrote the report, discuss its warning.

In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference here on Monday presenting the report.

The report was among the most sobering yet issued by the scientific panel. The group, along with Al Gore, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to clarify the risks of climate change. The report is the final work of several hundred authors; details from the drafts of this and of the last report in the series, which will be released in Berlin in April, leaked in the last few months.

The report attempts to project how the effects will alter human society in coming decades. While the impact of global warming may actually be moderated by factors like economic or technological change, the report found, the disruptions are nonetheless likely to be profound. That will be especially so if emissions are allowed to continue at a runaway pace, the report said.

It cited the risk of death or injury on a wide scale, probable damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations.

“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared.

The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”

The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just a problem of the distant future, but is happening now.

Studies have found that parts of the Mediterranean region are drying out because of climate change, and some experts believe that droughts there have contributed to political destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa.

 

In much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists said in the report. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less melt water to ease the parched summers. In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.

“Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,” Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said at the news conference.

The report was quickly welcomed in Washington, where President Obama is trying to use his executive power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to impose significant new limits on the country’s greenhouse emissions. He faces determined opposition in Congress.

“There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

Amid all the risks the experts cited, they did find a bright spot. Since the intergovernmental panel issued its last big report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are making extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists.

“I think that dealing effectively with climate change is just going to be something that great nations do,” said Christopher B. Field, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report and an earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. Talk of adaptation to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the ground that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.

A striking example of the change occurred recently in the state of New York, where the Public Service Commission ordered Consolidated Edison, the electric utility serving New York City and some suburbs, to spend about $1 billion upgrading its system to prevent future damage from flooding and other weather disruptions.

The plan is a reaction to the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy. Con Ed will raise flood walls, bury some vital equipment and conduct a study of whether emerging climate risks require even more changes. Other utilities in the state face similar requirements, and utility regulators across the United States are discussing whether to follow New York’s lead.

But with a global failure to limit greenhouse gases, the risk is rising that climatic changes in coming decades could overwhelm such efforts to adapt, the panel found. It cited a particular risk that in a hotter climate, farmers will not be able to keep up with the fast-rising demand for food.

“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during an editing session of several days in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations were private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

Two decades of international efforts to limit emissions have yielded little result, and it is not clear whether the negotiations in New York this fall will be any different. While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India.

For the world’s poorer countries, food is not the only issue, but it may be the most acute. Several times in recent years, climatic disruptions in major growing regions have helped to throw supply and demand out of balance, contributing to price increases that have reversed decades of gains against global hunger, at least temporarily.

The warning about the food supply in the new report is much sharper in tone than any previously issued by the panel. That reflects a growing body of research about how sensitive many crops are to heat waves and water stress. The report said that climate change was already dragging down the output of wheat and corn at a global scale, compared with what it would otherwise be.

David B. Lobell, a Stanford University scientist who has published much of the recent research and helped write the new report, said in an interview that as yet, too little work was being done to understand the risk, much less counter it with improved crop varieties and farming techniques. “It is a surprisingly small amount of effort for the stakes,” he said.

Timothy Gore, an analyst for Oxfam, the antipoverty group that sent observers to the proceedings in Yokohama, praised the new report as painting a clear picture of the consequences of a warming planet. But he warned that without greater efforts to limit global warming and to adapt to the changes that have become inevitable, “the goal we have in Oxfam of ensuring that every person has enough food to eat could be lost forever.”

Correction: March 31, 2014

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified a station with flooded tracks. It is the South Ferry subway terminal, not Grand Central Terminal.

Aquafil, Star Sock to Turn Fishing Nets into Socks

Original article on Environmental Leader 3/19/2013

Nylon polymer manufacturer Aquafil, sock company Star Sock, and the European Centre for Nature Conservation Land & Sea Group have launched an initiative to remove marine litter — in particular used fishing nets — and recycle it into yarn to make carpeting, socks, underwear, swimwear and other textiles.

The Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear aims to improve seas’ health and keep recovered fishing nets out of landfills. A joint report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and UN Environment Programme says there are about 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets in the oceans, accounting for one-tenth of all marine litter.

The three partners say they will recycle the marine waste into Econyl yarn, which will then be used to create new products. In 2011, Aquafil started the Econyl Regeneration System project, which turns nylon waste from products including carpets, clothing and fishing nets into raw material.

The Healthy Seas Initiative will include three main phases; the organizations say they will publish an action plan before the end of April.

The first phase will cover three pilot regions in Europe: the North Sea (Netherlands and Belgium), the Adriatic Sea (Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and the Mediterranean Sea (Spain). After completing the first phase, the organizations will identify the most efficient practices to use when they expand the initiative.

The second phase will identify effective procedures to discourage abandoning fishing nets at sea. It will also make available, encourage and facilitate responsible handling of fishing nets at the end of their life, allowing their recovery and regeneration into new products. The initiative’s expansion to other areas will be part of this second phase.

During the third phase, the partners will draft proposals that include actions governments can take to encourage marine waste removal and recycling. They will then submit the proposals to lawmakers.

Additionally, the organizations will establish a Healthy Seas Fund, which will support activities that raise awareness about the importance of healthy seas, clean up marine litter and finance other coastal projects.

The Healthy Seas initiative is the latest of several efforts to recycle marine waste into new products. Earlier this month, Ecover and Closed Loop Recycling said they will begin using plastic collected from the seas to create recyclable plastic bottles for the green cleaning product company. In January, carpet tile manufacturer Interface and conservation charity the Zoological Society of London expanded a pilot project that turns discarded fishing nets into recycled material for carpet tiles.

In the fall of 2012, cleaning product maker Method launched a two-in-one hand and dish soap that comes in bottles made from plastic recovered from the ocean, blended with post-consumer recycled plastic.