Climate Change

How Greed and Capitalism Can Solve the Climate Crisis

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

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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.
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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:

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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…
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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.

10 US cities vow to slash emissions from buildings

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer | January 29, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mayors from 10 U.S. cities took aim at their skylines Wednesday, pledging to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from their buildings.

Businesses and homes are a major source of carbon-dioxide pollution in cities, with most of it coming from the burning of fossil fuels for heating, cooling and lighting.

Many of the participating cities — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia and Salt Lake City — already are working toward making their building stock more energy efficient.
Los Angeles last year became the first major city to require new and remodeled homes to sport “cool roofs” that reflect sunlight as part of an effort to save energy and reduce electricity bills.

Boston requires energy audits from building owners. The city, along with Chicago and Philadelphia, passed measures to track how much energy buildings are using as a first step toward boosting their efficiency.

Other places including LA, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, Houston and Salt Lake City, participate in a voluntary federal program to cut energy waste from commercial and industrial buildings.

Under the new effort, cities will work with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation, a nonprofit that promotes green building, to continue their progress and further shrink their carbon footprints by targeting existing commercial and apartment buildings.

The groups projected the emission reductions would be equal to taking more than a million cars off the road, and they could save residents and businesses $1 billion annually. The project is funded by ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation and other philanthropic groups, which invested $9 million for three years.

New York City managed to cut its emissions by persuading some landlords to switch from oil to natural gas, Bloomberg said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said cities can be the matchmaker between building owners and banks that lend money for energy-efficient upgrades. He said greening buildings makes economic sense.

“We look forward to stealing your best ideas,” he told other mayors.

The cities were chosen for their geographic diversity, ambitions and ability to follow through, said project director Laurie Kerr of the NRDC.

The cities will craft their plans in the next several months. Backers acknowledged that some policies may require legislation. It’ll take several years to gauge whether cities met their emissions and savings goals.

Keith Crane, director of the environment, energy and economic development program at the Rand Corp. think tank, called the partnership a good first step. But he doesn’t consider it earth-shaking.

“It’ll have a modest effect on greenhouse gas emissions if everything goes right,” he said.

With Temperatures Dropping, Interest in Energy Savings at Multifamily Properties Should be Heating Up

By Tal Eyal, FirstService Residential, 1/15/2014
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While winter made its official debut on December 21, the cold weather has been upon us for some time now and has gotten to extreme levels, including 20-year record lows across the country at the start of the year.
For boards, managers and other key decision-makers at multifamily housing properties, the dropping temperatures bring a rising interest in energy saving strategies, and a renewed focus on negotiating better utility rates. Facing a host of pressing management challenges throughout the year tends to put the issue of energy efficiency on the back burner. But each year, as the cost of heating common areas rises and fluctuates, the questions flare back up again: how can we save on costs and reduce our carbon footprint, and how can we help residents do the same? The fact is, by helping residents reduce their energy costs, properties are more likely to gain buy-in for those critical capital projects that come along.

With this in mind, some condo associations and executive groups have created energy committees to explore potential infrastructure improvements to common areas that create efficiency, and to determine how to negotiate better energy rates. Other HOAs—and rental property managers—have worked with their management companies to take concrete steps toward savings: conducting energy audits, implementing comprehensive energy conservation plans, and leveraging their collective purchasing power.

At FirstService Residential, for example, through our affiliate FS Energy, which focuses exclusively on energy management and advisory services, we have implemented a benchmarking and energy savings program for nearly 600 of our multifamily properties. The program, which began in New York City, has expanded to properties in Florida, and is launching in Chicago. In essence, the approach involves analyzing a building’s energy use and comparing it to similar structures; developing an energy maintenance plan to reduce consumption based on the findings of the initial analysis; and in the case of our northern properties, integrating an Energy Aggregation Purchasing Program to reduce natural gas and electricity costs.

The simple fact is that energy conservation is not just an important environmental goal, it should be a critical financial goal for every multifamily property. The correlation between better energy practices and real savings is irrefutable. Our program in NYC has realized more than $19 million in cost savings, while reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings by 68,630 metric tons, or 15.6 percent. We expect a similarly positive result in other regions of the country.

Ultimately, every multifamily property can benefit from some basic energy planning, along with some long-term infrastructure considerations. Some of the most important steps for properties to take include:
Conduct an energy audit: By assessing current energy usage patterns and costs, and by determining where conservation opportunities exist within a property, management can begin to develop a plan for savings. Every property that has not conducted a comprehensive energy audit should get one under way.

Pursue efficiency: Not only should boards and managers implement a procurement policy that prioritizes energy efficient products—including lighting, water heaters, and water saving devices—for common areas, they should develop a communications plan to encourage individual residents to take similar actions. Building management should consider offering regular energy savings tips in communications with owners and residents, along with opportunities to purchase energy efficient products at wholesale prices.

Train property management staff in energy conservation: Simple steps such as programming thermostats in common areas around usage patterns, and turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, can lead to savings. Staff should be trained to pursue strategies that reduce energy use.

Consider infrastructure improvements: Based on the outcome of their energy audit, properties may want to undertake more significant energy saving improvements, such better insulation, insulating window film, landscaping changes, and automated systems that monitor energy use.

While the winter weather puts energy use in the hot seat, the fact is that conservation and savings are year-round endeavors. Just consider the fact that in warmer climates, such as Florida and Southern California, cooling is the greatest expense. Even in New England, A/C use in the warmer months is a significant energy drain. With this in mind, decision-makers at multifamily properties should keep energy issues high on their list of priorities.

Tal Eyal is founder and president of FS Energy, the energy management subsidiary of FirstService Residential which advises residential property management clients of ways to reduce energy consumption, costs and emissions while improving property values and quality of life. Eyal oversees FS Energy’s operations, energy procurement business, as well as the data analysis and reporting of energy usage.