Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

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.

Caring for Creation

Thursday, December 10th, 2015


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.

Possible Impact of Climate Change on Small Business Finances

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
No Longer Sustainable

No Longer Sustainable

The impact of climate change considerations on investment decisions has been a subject of increasing coverage in the business news. Institutional investors as diverse as the Church of England and AXA (a global insurance company headquartered in Paris) have divested their portfolios of stock holdings in fossil fuel companies, citing concerns about rising greenhouse gases. At the same time, interest in investing in “green” or sustainable energy companies is growing. Investors who seek more information about the carbon emissions of major companies find the Carbon Disclosure Project to be very helpful.  CDP publishes information about the carbon emissions and offsets of major businesses to allow investors to assess the environmental impact of these companies. The insurance industry has been a leader in this movement, largely because of concerns that increase carbon emissions cause climate change and with it, increasingly frequent and severe weather-related disasters.

Now the focus is turning on the impact of climate change on households and small businesses. I was quoted in an article that U.S. News & World Report published today considering how climate change will affect property values, energy costs and food prices. We know from the work done by the United Nations Development Program and others that every dollar invested in risk mitigation programs reduces losses from weather-related hazards by nineteen dollars. I expect that in the near future we will learn more about the economics of climate change adaptation measures for our longer-term security,

Environmental Metrics

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015
Measuring Savings

Measuring Savings

There is an old saying that “what is measured, is managed” so I am always intrigued to see ways of measuring the impacts of small steps we can each take to reduce our environmental footprint/carbon emissions to reduce disaster impacts. This dispenser provides filtered water to employees of a Fortune 500 company. Each floor has one to encourage use. The dispenser is equipped with an automatic sensor. Once you place your refillable bottle underneath the spout, filtered water is dispensed and the small green screen at the top right of the unit tracks the number of refills as “Helped eliminate waste from 13,457 disposable plastic bottles”. The dispenser is an effective reminder of the cumulative benefits of avoiding disposable plastic water bottles that only wind up in landfills.

NuRide is another service that measures and rewards individual efforts to reduce environmental impacts. You can sign up for NuRide and use the service to find a ride-share or a car-pooling buddy. You can also create a free account and enter details of when and where you took public transportation, shared a ride with someone or walked or biked to your destination. You earn points for these efforts and they add up to rewards such as free admission to cultural events or discounts on purchases. I am trying to work out a model of how we would measure improved small business commercial resiliency measures and, in an analytically rigorous way, translate those measures into reduced premiums commensurate with better risk practices. So I find these models helpful and, of course, use both.

Impact of Climate Change on the Gulf Coast

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Looking Into the FutureA new study released by Entergy Corporation reports that climate change, economic development and land subsidence risks could cost communities in the Gulf Coast states over $350 billion in cumulative economic losses in the next 20 years. Already, wind and storm surge damage today cost this region $14 billion annually. But by 2010, such losses could reduce GDP by 2 – 3 percent each year.

The study on the economics of climate adaptation across the Gulf Coast states examined 77 coastal parishes and counties in four energy-producing states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The analysis focused on the potential impact of natural hazards on key sectors to the regional economy, particularly the electric utility and oil and gas industries. My former employer, Swiss Reinsurance Company, contributed its expertise to this research. To read the report, “Shaping Climate-Resilient Development”, click here.