Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Yale University Shapes Its Investment Policy to Address Climate Change

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

With climate change accounting for the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related disasters, climate mitigation and disaster risk reduction policies are coming under scrutiny. To underscore the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, many institutional fund managers are divesting their portfolios of fossil fuel stocks. Yale University took a more measured approach, performing a carbon audit on each energy firm in its portfolio. Today’s New York Times has a great article on this approach.

Angry Planet Series Featured During Earth Month

Saturday, April 9th, 2016
Angry Planet

Angry Planet

As April 22 is Earth Day, the Pivot cable television network is offering programming on climate and environmental issues throughout the month. I have recorded the “Angry Planet” series airing this month on Pivot and what I have been able to watch so far is fantastic. “Angry Planet” is a 39-part television series hosted by environmentalist and adventurer George Kourounis. Each episode shows the stark effects of Earth’s evolving climate and the consequences of climate change for vulnerable populations. The series is taped for high-definition television, with stunning visual effects. Each episode in the series documents the unmistakeable changes that threaten Earth’s delicate eco-system.

The episode about India’s monsoon season depicts the hardships people suffer each year with increasingly severe storms. The episode filmed in Cabo Verde depicts the hazards of people living dangerously close to an active volcano, as it is the only locale where they can eke out a living. The volcanic eruption sends lava into people’s homes, forcing them to evacuate and we see the frustrations and fears of people then forced to live in tent camps when their homes are no longer habitable. It is compelling television and if you don’t have the Pivot network from your local cable provider, check it out on the Internet.

Deadly Floods in Pakistan

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Torrential rains and flash floods have killed nearly fifty people in Pakistan and injured many more. The country’s prime minister directed the National Disaster Management Authority to provide timely aid to victims. Family members of those killed in the floods will be compensated with $3,000, owners of destroyed homes will receive $1,000, those with partially damaged homes and those who sustained injuries will receive $500. Reading the news of this terrible tragedy reminded me of what I had read in Mega-Disasters: the Science of Predicting the Next Catastrophe (page 64).

In 1970, a powerful cyclone struck East Pakistan, killing almost 500,000 people. The government, based in West Pakistan, failed to attend to the victims. The disaster occurred in the context of political factions favoring a separatist movement. Enraged by the inept response to the disaster, the population was soon engulfed in civil war. East Pakistan declared its independence in 1971 and changed its name to Bangladesh.  U.S. policymakers believe such responses to weather-related disasters may become more common.

The U.S. Naval War College is undertaking research to consider how climate change can impact global political stability. It is sobering to consider the issues of access to water or food security arising from a warmer world.

U.S. Weather Disasters in 2015

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
U.S. Weather and Climate Disasters

U.S. Weather and Climate Disasters

The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) compile historical data for severe weather and climate events for monitoring and assessment purposes. According to NCEI data, since 1980, the United States has sustained 188 weather and climate disasters where losses reached at least $1 billion (indexed to 2015 dollars). The sum of these 188 loss events exceeds $1 trillion. NCEI just published the data for 2015; last year, the United States experienced ten weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each. These disasters include one drought, two floods, five severe storms, one wildfire and one winter storm. What these figures do not show is the disproportionate impact on economically distressed communities, which typically lack adequate insurance coverage and other resources to finance their recoveries from disasters. And remember that 2015 was considered a “mild” year for the lack of hurricane activity.

The 2016 State of the Union Address

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
2016 State of the Union

2016 State of the Union

I just finished watching last night’s State of the Union address on my DVR. I was disappointed with the President’s remarks, which is unfortunate because on certain issues that are relevant to my business, President Obama has delivered. However, the overall content and tone of his remarks failed to capture that. With a few exceptions, the President has appointed highly capable people and largely left them to get on with their jobs. The two administrators of the U.S. Small Business Administration – Karen Mills in the President’s first term and currently, Maria Contreras-Sweet, have done excellent work in improving the service delivery and responsiveness of the SBA. FEMA, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, is in dramatically better shape than it was eight years ago. The President appointed a highly-skilled administrator who had on-the-ground disaster experience in Florida. FEMA has promoted initiatives, such as Whole Community Recovery, and prioritized the need for businesses to get back to delivering services in order to enable post-disaster recovery.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is in remarkably better shape since the President took office. When I was running my first venture, I submitted a trademark application for the name of the business only to learn, more than a year later, that another company had filed the rights to the same name just two weeks prior. I could have saved myself a lot of time and expense had I known that – as a requirement of the application, you must search existing and pending marks. But because there was a nine-month delay between the time an applicant filed a name for trademark protection and the time that application appeared in the searchable trademark database, I could not have known that someone else had beaten my filing date by just twelve days. With my current business, I have registered marks with a much more streamlined process. Given the need for entrepreneurs to protect our intellectual property, an efficient USPTO is critical to our economic growth and here I tip my hat to the President for having delivered. Intellectual property law is reportedly a strong personal interest of the President, who is a law school graduate. On the occasion of one media interview in the Oval Office, he showed the reporter that he had replaced the stodgy artwork in the office with framed patent applications from Thomas Edison and others.

And while European policymakers have been developing frameworks for addressing climate risk for some time now, President Obama was the first U.S. president to explicitly address the threats with tangible policy proposals. That was what I found so disappointing about last night’s speech. The President forfeited an opportunity for a thoughtful presentation to educate the American people about the impacts of climate change on the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related hazards, the economic impacts of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable communities or even the national security implications of the consequences of drought and flooding for geopolitical changes. Instead, he spoke of the issue in a way that suggested this was another partisan jab. He could have referenced that, against remarkable odds, nearly 200 countries reached a landmark climate change agreement in Paris last month, one that largely came about because of effective U.S. diplomacy in engaging China in this issue. He could have been Presidential, stepped above the fray and said words to the effect of “I hope my successor – whoever he or she is – will seize the opportunity to build upon the progress we have made in reaching this agreement…” The last State of the Union speech in President Obama’s administration was too important an opportunity to squander. Sadly, that is what he did last night.

Historic Climate Agreement is Achieved

Friday, December 11th, 2015
Successful Conclusion to the Climate Talks in Paris

Successful Conclusion to the Climate Talks

This evening, 195 nations reached a historic agreement committing nearly every country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of changing the trajectory of climate impacts. The agreement is the culmination of nine years of negotiations that, until recently, seemed politically impossible. The breakthrough may have been achieved just last month when the U.S. and China agreed to jointly pursue plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along the lines of what the UN Member States had negotiated for the Hyogo and Sendai disaster risk reduction frameworks, countries that signed the agreement are required to monitor, verify and report their achievements in reducing carbon emissions. As climate impacts are correlated with more extreme and volatile weather patterns, the climate agreement is an important contribution to the work of disaster risk reduction.  In the coming weeks, I will blog about the work that Prisere LLC is undertaking that is the result of this historic agreement.

Faith-Based Response to Climate Change

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Interfaith Response to Climate Change

Interfaith Response to Climate Change

This evening, I attended the Fall 2015 Conference offered by Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light (RI-IPL). RI-IPL is one of forty state organizations affiliated with the national Interfaith Power & Light movement.  RI-IPL’s membership includes twenty local congregations and faith organizations committed to fulfill the moral responsibility of faithful stewardship of Creation. To that end, RI-IPL works with local faith-based organizations to raise awareness about climate change, related spiritual teachings and practice responses.  RI-IPL also engages with the religious community to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

This evening’s conference featured a keynote address delivered by Curt Spalding, the Administrator for Region 1 (New England) of the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining the EPA, Mr. Spalding had served for twenty years as executive director of Save the Bay in Rhode Island, a 20,000-member environmental advocacy and education organization. Mr. Spalding addressed resilience planning efforts for climate change in New England, including pilot projects to support community sustainability and urban revitalization. He responded to questions from the conference participants, including the work done to de-commission nuclear power plants in New England.

The keynote address was followed by break-out sessions as round-tables discussing a variety of local initiatives. I learned a great deal about the work being done at the grassroots level to support a sustainable environment. To see photographs from the conference, click this link and be sure to follow for the announcement for next year’s conference or for events from other state chapters of the Interfaith Power and Light movement.



Climate Week NYC 2015

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Climate Week in New York City

Climate Week in New York City

Today is the beginning of the seventh annual Climate Week in New York City, a series of events that brings together actors from business, government and the non-profit sector who are working towards a transition to a low-carbon economy. The week’s activities will include public and private events and typically private companies and the city government will announce commitments to invest in climate resilience measures or targets to reduce climate impacts. The Mayor of New York, for example, has floated a proposal to transition all city lighting to LED. Fortune 500 companies plan to announce specific commitments for the adoption of renewable energy sources to run their businesses. Climate Week also coincides with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, at which time the UN will adopt a new series of sustainable development goals, and the meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. This week I am very glad for the Acela high-speed train. I am also very glad that many of the Climate Week NYC events will be live-streamed on the Internet, so those from far away who wish to participate do not have to take flights to New York!

Book of the Week: Climate Capitalism

Sunday, September 13th, 2015
Climate Capitalism

Climate Capitalism

I just finished reading Climate Capitalism, a book that presents the opportunities afforded by entrepreneurial solutions to achieving a low-carbon economy. I particularly appreciate that the authors addressed the importance of small businesses, as “the economic engine of any country, in North America generating more than half of non-farm private gross domestic product.”  They support this claim with familiar figures courtesy of the U.S. Small Business Administration: small businesses represent 99.7 per cent of all employer firms, employing nearly 60 million workers, or about half of all private-sector employees. In the past decade alone, small businesses have created 60 to 80 per cent of net new jobs each year. The authors recognize the importance of small businesses in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint in writing (page 39) that small businesses “confront correspondingly promising opportunities and bear significant responsibility for global sustainability.” But small businesses generally lack the resources to hire chief sustainability officers or undertake the measures pursued by Fortune-500 companies to address climate change.

Fortunately, the authors present pragmatic ways small businesses can contribute to global solutions for climate sustainability. They write (page 39) “Energy efficiency remains one of the best investments that a small business owner can make.” They cite examples of small businesses that reduced their energy bills by two-thirds employing such simple measures as replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs or holding meetings in rooms lit by natural light. They also show how the use of power strips prevents appliances from consuming electricity even when they are switched off, a wasteful practice known as “phantom load”. I was stunned to read that Americans spend more money supplying electrical powers to DVD players when they are turned off than when they are actually in use. The authors demonstrate how small businesses implementing weatherization programs (such as caulking windows and sealing leaky ducts) have realized a 40 per cent return on their investments. Programmable thermostats typically return 30 per cent in annual savings. This book presents practical steps small businesses can take to achieve a sustainable environment and I highly recommend it.

Preparing for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Saturday, August 29th, 2015
The Beauty of Nature

The Beauty of Nature

Pope Francis has designated Tuesday, September 1 as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. The Pope included the following prayer in his encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home:

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.