27 December 2006

Climate Change: Bush, New Hope for Polar Bears?

Did Santa give Global Warming Skeptic George Bush a lump of coal this Christmas, as he said he would in an email to me last week? Or did Bush have a Scrooge moment over the holiday break? Whatever the reason, there is encouraging news up north today as the Bush administration seeks to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Doing so will put the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming may push the charismatic bears out of existence.

According to the Washington Post today,
Identifying polar bears as threatened with extinction could have an enormous political and practical impact. As the world's largest bear and as an object of children's affection as well as Christmastime Coca-Cola commercials, the polar bear occupies an important place in the American psyche. Because scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide from power-plant and vehicle emissions is helping drive climate change worldwide, putting polar bears on the endangered species list raises the legal question of whether the government would be required to compel U.S. industries to curb their carbon dioxide output.

Read the full story here: Polar Bears

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20 December 2006

Climate Change: An Email from Santa Claus

I received this email from Jolly, or not so Jolly St. Nick tonight:
TO: Global Warming Skeptics
FROM: Santa Claus
DATE: A few nights before Xmas
SUBJECT: My Christmas List

This is Santa, writing from the North Pole. Soon I'll be gathering all the toys for all the good little girls and boys and packing them in my sleigh to begin our journey, our night of nights.

The reindeer, however, are starting to complain about hoof-rot. Apparently, they've been standing around in too much slush. This has put me in a decidedly prickly mood this Christmas.

You know me; I'm not a single-issue guy. I believe that as long as you are good, and I mean good for goodness' sake, you deserve some slack on the other stuff. I'm an equal opportunity distributor. I know whether you've been bad or good or just plain evil. You also know I'm not one to discriminate against one group of people or another, believers or non-believers.

But this year is different. This year, I'm making a few changes to my list. I'm checking it twice and have decided that the naughty include any one of you out there who do not believe in global warming. All you climate change skeptics out there, you are on the naughty list this year.

Oh, you know who you are. And I've got one special gift for you: Nothing but COAL. You like the stuff so much -- and it's such a big part what's leading to climate change -- you might as well have bags and bags of it and nothing more.

Make no mistake. Global warming is happening. You don't have to show me any scientific reports, although some nifty ones have shown up in my email box lately, sent to me from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

No, you don't have to convince me; I'm a believer. All I have to do is look out my window to my back yard, what's left of it! It's a soupy mess out there.

We usually have a good bit of ice up here at the North Pole -- and early. That's important, too; you see, every year the elves and I construct a temporary workshop up here where we make the toys and assemble the other goodies. The earlier the ice, the sooner we get started. Although I have figured out a way to deliver the entire shipment of gifts on my list in one night, I still haven't perfected the manufacturing process. I can't speed it up. (Some of that I blame on the unions.) We need all the ice we can get up here for there is no solid ground.

But this year, the ice cover was the lowest it's been in almost 30 years. And at least one of those science groups studying this stuff tells me that, according to their models, by 2040, we'll have mostly open water up here. (They sent me this short animation clip, which sends chills up my spine: Arctic Ice Melt.)

Mrs. Claus has even started looking for Houseboats on Craig's List!

So, dear boys and girls, you better not pout or cry or whine or deny climate change any longer. And I'm telling you why: because climate change is coming to town. Time's a wasting. We need to do something about this now, before it's too late. Or before I have to move all of my operations to the South Pole!

Here's wishing a carbon-neutral Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

S. Claus, North Pole

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14 December 2006

Climate Change: Midwest US Investors Assess Economic Risks from Climate Change

Peter Bohan, writing for Reuters/Planet Ark, reports this morning on the conference of Midwest (U.S.) investors who gathered at the University of Chicago Business School a week ago.

The conference was organized by the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a program of Ceres, the "national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change." It follows on the heals of a disclosure reporting framework advocated by Institutional Investors earlier this fall.

Bohan notes that the talk was sobering, writing that the consensus "was that institutional investors are still too near-sighted to factor climate change into their investment decisions." William Page, a portfolio manager at State Street Global Advisors, told Bohan, "The value proposition is one the Street isn't really recognizing."

He also quotes Michael Moran, vice president of global investment research at Goldman, Sachs & Co., who said that Wall Street "was still taking its first steps. 'The first step to recovery is acknowledging you have a problem.'"

At issue is capital that is centered around short-term strategies, such as hedge funds and mutual funds. As Moran told Bohan, "They say: 'I understand climate change. I think it's a big risk. But you are talking about long-term issues. I get evaluated every three months. I get a percentage on this year's profits.'" Individual investors may have a longer view, it was noted.

Bohan reports that Richard Sandor, head of the Chicago Climate Exchange, and others encouraged "every institutional investor to push companies to evaluate and estimate their climate risk."

The risks from liability may be particularly onerous. Such risks are being scrutinized by the insurance industry in a major way, because of the potential impacts on that industry.

Bohan suggests that damage from last year's Hurricane Katrina -- an event that can not be directly linked to climate change -- at "about US$125 billion...with US$45 billion covered by private insurers."

Conference participants, according to Bohan, "agreed to keep pushing companies to disclose their climate risk and to press the Securities and Exchange Commission to encourage such disclosure."

While it's easy to focus on the risks, investors may want to look more closely at potential solutions to the climate change crisis. Green technologies or "Clean Tech" industries may provide investment opportunities. A recent analysis in The Economist suggested that sector is growing, reporting that analysts "confidently predict the clean-energy business will grow by 20-30 percent a year for a decade." But, they also warn the sector is not without pitfalls for investors.

Still, for many industries, looking beyond the risks to taking proactive steps to adapt and stay ahead of regulation may be a windfall.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times last week, Tim Wagner, director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance and co-chair of the Climate Change Executive Task Force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and Ceres president Mindy Lubber, stated that "carmakers and power providers that look around the curve and begin implementing strategies to reduce emissions and operate with greater energy efficiency will have a significant competitive edge over those that do not."

Other companies that promote "alternative energies such as bio-based fuels will reap the financial benefits of their foresight," Wagner and Lubber write, "and, in fact, already are doing so."

Read more: Peter Bohan

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10 December 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Yunus Accepts Nobel in Oslo

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday, saying he hoped the award would inspire "bold initiatives" to fight poverty and eradicate the root causes of terrorism.

Yunus, 66, shared the award with his Grameen Bank for helping people rise above poverty by giving them microcredit -- small, usually unsecured loans.

"I firmly believe that we can create a poverty free world if we collectively believe in it," Yunus said after accepting the prize at City Hall in Oslo, Norway. "The only place you would be able to see poverty is in a poverty museum."

The Nobel Prizes, announced in October, are always presented in Oslo and Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the 1896 death of their creator, Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite and stipulated the dual ceremonies in his will.

The winners for literature, medicine, physics and economics will receive their awards later Sunday at a royal ceremony in Stockholm's blue-hued concert hall. Each award carries a purse of $1.4 million, a diploma and a gold medal. The first prizes were handed out in 1901.

Read full story: Yunus Nobel

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08 December 2006

Climate Change: Green Prince, Charming?

According to an AP story by Sue Leeman, this morning, Bonnie Prince Charles is "putting his money where his environmentalist mouth is," and swapping his gas-guzzling private jets and helicopters for commercial flights, train journeys and biodiesel cars."

A longtime champion of green causes, the heir to the throne says action is needed now to avoid leaving a ruined planet to the next generation.

"From February, we are going to look at the diary and see what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint," a spokeswoman for the prince's London residence, Clarence House, said Thursday on condition of anonymity in line with royal rules. "Wherever possible, we will be making less use of helicopters and chartered planes and rely more on car journeys, scheduled flights and trains."

When my 10 1/2 year old son saw this news in this morning's paper, he asked, "Well, what about his sons -- what are they doing?" This coming from a boy who developed a "climate monitoring kit" as a science project in 4th grade and who "adopts" polar bears from WWF Canada. Well, does anybody know the answer?

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06 December 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Ashoka/Changemakers "Entrepreneuring Peace" Contest

Received this note from the Ashoka/Changemakers Team. Please pass it on!


We invite you to join our 8th Changemakers Collaborative Competition - "Entrepreneuring Peace: innovation in managing group conflict."

Participating now offers you the opportunity to gain access to investors, a community of innovators, and wealth of new ideas.

Twelve finalists will attend the "2007 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England in March 2007. Three winners will receive each $5,000.

Enter the competition before January 10, 2007 at www.changemakers.net or click the invitation below. (Note: well, you can't, because it's just an image...but go to the site.)

Please also extend this invitation to your friends and colleagues working in this sector.

We look forward to hearing from you,


The Changemakers Team

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30 November 2006

Climate Change: Can Climate Change Save the Environmental Movement?

My question tonight goes back to a conversation with colleagues last month. Can Climate Change Save the Environmental Movement?

The "Death of Environmentalism" caused a stir last year when it was published on Change This! And there has been a lot of dialogue about everyone from Wal-Mart to the Evangelicals going green.

But there continue to be lingering doubts about whether environmentalism can survive its fractured and many-splendored state. Let's face it, there's just too much noise and too many complicated messages out there. The general public -- hell, even the committed -- have a hard time keeping it straight.

Enter Climate Change (or global warming or climate crisis or climate pollution or whatever you want to call it). It is happening. It is real. We should all be very afraid. Or we should we stop worrying and do something about it?

And because it will effect us all and touches all aspects of our work, can this be the rallying cause that brings the movement together. Can Climate Change save us from ourselves?

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28 November 2006

Climate Change: Climate Exchange May Get Boost from U.S. Elections, claims CCX Boss

Reuters/Planet Ark reports that Richard Sandor, founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange is confident, "The debate over global warming will likely move to center stage with the return of Democratic Party control in the US Congress, and that should boost trading on fledgling 'climate' markets."

"Clearly the wave at least in Washington is much more oriented toward cap-and-trade, market-based solutions to climate change," CCX founder Richard Sandor told Reuters on the sidelines of a Futures Industry Association meeting here.

Three key US senators, Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut -- who are to lead powerful environmental committees in Congress -- wrote to President George W. Bush on Nov. 15 asking him to reconsider his long-held opposition to mandatory US caps on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide.

"The recent elections have signaled a need to change direction in many areas, including global warming," the senators wrote to Bush. "When the 110th Congress begins in January, we pledge to work to pass an effective system of mandatory limits on greenhouse gases."

Most scientists have linked greenhouse gases to global warming. Rising temperatures could increase storm intensities and melt glaciers, which would threaten low-lying nations with flooding.

Sandor, a pioneering economist credited with building the US financial futures market in the 1970s, founded the Chicago Climate Exchange three years ago.

Read the full story by Christine Stebbins: Chicago Climate Exchange

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23 November 2006

Blogging: Two Years of The Green Skeptic

Two years ago, on a Thanksgiving evening, I started this web log. Really, I started it as an experiment. I wanted to find a venue to write about issues I care about in a way that was quick, immediate, and reached a wider audience than the print journals or online publications for which I was writing.

There have been times when I wondered if there were any readers out there, when I thought, "Well, it's been a good run, but am I reaching folks?" And yet, when I have those moments of despair -- doesn't every writer? -- I will hear from some stranger about something I've written or learn that one of my posts has been picked up by a class as part of a syllabus.

Or the time I mentioned Walter Lowenfels, whose words I continue to keep before me: "One reader is a miracle; two, a mass movement," when I heard from one of his grandchildren from somewhere out in cyberspace. Or I'll get an email from a challenging reader who wants to take issue with something I've written or continue a dialogue I started but didn't know it. Or the loyal readers, you know who you are, who show appreciation for a particularly erudite post.

Somehow, in those moments, it all seems worth it. Over the past year, I've tried to narrow the focus of my posts to write about climate change, social entrepreneurs, and microfinance, hoping that will sharpen my knowledge but also generate a kind of niche-interest compatible to mine. Lately I've been wondering if that was a good move. It certainly helps focus me when I sit down to write a post, and yet my interests are broader -- am I cheating myself or my readers?

I've toyed with the idea of writing about poetry on this web log, and wondered if that was worthy content for "The Green Skeptic." Or music or pizza or breadbaking or books. (I've done one well-received book list and am planning another for this year.) Is it better to go broad or deep? I'm not sure I have the answer

The beauty of this medium is you can make of it what you want. I never wanted to post for the sake of posting; rather, I've preferred to post only when I had something to say or when some news item or another caught my eye.

This approach isn't winning me the highest readership or phenomenal traffic, but if you're reading this now (and if you've read this far, I salute you) then somehow the whole experiment is worth it. And if you decide to comment or contact me all the better. I want this to be a dialogue not a one-way street.

Two years of blogging. It doesn't seem like a long time -- 163 posts or so; if this were a small business I would not yet be past the threshold to know whether my business was a success, a survivor.

So, I'll stick with it, as I hope you will too. I want to take some time this next year to improve the site and my posts. Any advice or assistance you can provide is most welcome. Thank you for reading.

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20 November 2006

Climate Change: More Hot Air from Nairobi; or Why We Deserve to Fry

We deserve to fry and have our planet heat up to a point where our life-support systems collapse and we can't survive.

It's time to buy land in the far north -- I hear there are still good deals to be had on the slopes of the Brooks Range -- and start building the bunker to keep out the hordes of climate refugees who will storm our shores and knock at our doors. Time to stockpile canned goods, nonperishable items, and arms like some wacko from Waco.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little extreme. But it's pathetic how hopeless we are as a species. So intelligent and yet so asinine. We're worse than the proverbial frog in the pot of slow-boiling water.

Am I being unfair? Faced with the greatest single threat to our well-being since nuclear proliferation, we choose to do nothing. Nothing, but talk. And talk about what? About having more talks!

Forget the UN Climate talks. It's a waste of time. Posturing and pontificating is getting us nowhere. Oh, sorry, that's too harsh. The talks ended with an agreement to review the Kyoto Protocol by 2008, including the targets for 2012 when it is set to expire. And that represents progress?

We need to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at between 500 and 550ppm and we do what? We talk about taking another look at the Kyoto Protocol...?

I'm ashamed. The cost of the UN Climate talks: US $4M. The fund that was established to help developing nations adapt to climate change: US $3M. Richard Branson's commitment to address climate change, made at the Clinton Global Summit two months ago: US $3B. What's wrong with this picture?

Now I understand and am even beginning to support President Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. It's just a lot of hot air. Everyone knows the cuts are not enough to make a dent in the impending climate disruption, but no one wants to admit failure. Of course, if the review determines the cuts are not enough, then we need a whole new round of talks to set new targets. And that will no doubt be scuttled by the next president, even if it is John McCain.

If environmentalists won't take on climate change, it's time for President Bush to turn his global legacy around by tackling climate change with a five-point plan:

1. Launch a market-based greenhouse gas permit trading program, modeled on the acid-rain trading program.

2. Call for a mandatory greenhouse gas reduction program, as well as voluntary "deep emissions cuts" by industry.

3. Dramatically increase the incentives and subsidies for and reduce barriers to alternative energy development, including zero-greenhouse gas technologies such as wind, solar, nuclear, and zero-emission coal-burning power plants, with the goal of reducing the costs of existing technologies and fostering R&D to develop new low or no-carbon technologies.

4. Convert all US government fleets to hybrid or clean-diesel vehicles and ensure all US government departments are carbon-neutral by 2010.

5. Refuse to allow US government officials to produce any more CO2 by flying to another UN Climate session.

Your move, George.

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14 November 2006

Microcredit: Nobel Peace Laureate Yunus Calls for Making Access to Credit a Human Right at Summit

Several new announcements and commitments were made at the Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax today, where lenders and microfinance institutions are gathered to address the fight against poverty.

Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, called for "creating a more peaceful world through ending poverty, noting that access to credit is a major problem across the world in developed, as well as developing, countries."

Professor Yunus claimed that "despite being one of the richest donors, the World Bank still only spends around one percent of its budget on microcredit. He called on the World Bank to pay earnest attention to the world's poorest people through microcredit."

Ten of the largest microfinance institutions, including BRAC, FINCA International, Opportunity International and the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, pledged to work with the Microcredit Summit Campaign to find and implement methods to measure and report on the progress of their clients in the fight to rise above the dollar-a-day poverty threshold.

"On issues from health to wealth and everything in between, the world continually fails the poorest people," said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. "As we set bold goals and introduce new innovations in microcredit we must be absolutely sure that we are reaching the poorest people and we could not be happier that ten of the world's premier microfinance institutions have pledged to do just that."

The Grameen Foundation also announced the launch of a software initiative called Mifos, to address the microfinance industry’s information management challenge. The Mifos Initiative delivers an open source information management system for the global microfinance industry via a collaborative development and support community.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and FINCA International announced a new multi-million dollar expansion of rural lending in Afghanistan. The program is designed to foster economic stability by enabling rural Afghans to start small businesses. USAID will provide a grant of US$10 million to FINCA International to open five new branches and increase client outreach to 45,500 in several Afghan provinces.

"The initiatives launched today will take microcredit to the next level," said Mr. Daley-Harris. "What started with a few dollars in loans in a Bangladeshi village more than three decades ago has transformed into the foundation upon which we will build the Museums of Poverty."

And finally, Prime Minister Driss Jettou of Morocco sent a message to Summit delegates expressing his government's support for their important work: "The Microcredit Summit Campaign has played a determining role in the worldwide success of microfinance." Prime Minister Jettou was unable to attend the Summit due to previous commitments.

For information: Microcredit Summit Campaign

For information on the Halifax Summit go to: Global Microcredit Summit 2006

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13 November 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Kiva on FRONTLINE WORLD

One of the most innovative approaches to microcredit these days uses the power of the Internet to link together lenders and recipients. I wrote about Kiva several months ago after a friend pointed me to their site. A couple of weeks ago, while many of us were taking our children out trick-or-treating, FRONTLINE World ran a feature on Kiva, focusing on its lending program in Uganda. You can view the 15-minute video here: FRONTLINE World: Uganda

The broadcast was so inspiring that the Kiva site jammed with potential lenders wanting more information or to make loans. The site is now back up and running. Be thinking about Kiva and its loan recipients this holiday season. It's a fantastic experiment and one that is working (their loan repayment rate is currently 100%; that means you can make a loan to one individual who wants to start-up or expand their small business in developing country and, when it's repaid, turn the loan around to others. Absolutely brilliant.

Here's a description of the show, Uganda - A Little Goes a Long Way:

Radio reporter Clark Boyd first reported about Kiva.org for Public Radio International's news program The World. He now travels to Uganda for FRONTLINE/World, where the first recipients of money collected through Kiva's Web site are building and expanding businesses.

Kiva, which means "agreement" or "unity" in Swahili, would allow people with a little bit of extra cash to use their credit card or the online money transfer company, PayPal, to lend directly to African entrepreneurs. Kiva got its start a little more than a year ago in Uganda, where it forged partnerships with local microfinance institutes so that each business would be vetted and approved before being posted on the site.

Boyd travels to Uganda to find out more about the real-world impact of these micro loans, He arranges to meet Grace Ayaa, whose peanut butter business received a micro loan through Kiva. When she fled a brutal war between government and rebel forces in the north, she took refuge in the capital. She takes Boyd to the Acholi Quarter, a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala, where many people displaced by Uganda's decades-long conflict scrape together a living.

View the video here: FRONTLINE World: Uganda

Visit Kiva

Kiva Co-founder and CEO Matthew Flannery's blog: Kiva Chronicles

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12 November 2006

Microcredit: Global Microcredit Summit unites world leaders to slash poverty

This week's Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax announces new to lift half a billion people out of extreme poverty by 2015, according to press release by The Microcredit Summit:
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA – World leaders including Queen Sofia of Spain, President Zelaya of Honduras and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus were joined today by microcredit lenders, international banks, UN agencies and more than 2,300 delegates from around the world, to launch the Global Microcredit Summit 2006, an international conference that aims to contribute to the eradication of worldwide poverty by setting two new, bold measurable goals for global microfinance.

“The goals laid out this weekend in Halifax could potentially lift more than 500 million people out of extreme poverty by 2015,” according to Summit organizer Sam Daley-Harris. “Succeeding will require renewed effort and some new players, but if the commitment demonstrated in fulfilling earlier goals is matched, I have every confidence we’ll be successful.”

Established during this week’s Summit, the Microcredit Campaign’s two new goals are to: (1) ensure 175 million families have access to credit, and (2) help 100 million of the poorest families move above the $1/day threshold by 2015.
Speaking at the Summit’s opening ceremony, Microcredit Summit Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris remarked on the progress made toward the Summit’s original goal, set in 1997, of reaching 100 million of the world’s poorest families with microloans. “113 million families took out microloans last year and 82 million of those families were among the world’s poorest when they did.” Daley-Harris said, “We’ll likely hit our original goal of reaching 100 million of the world’s poorest with a microloan by the end of this year; one year late, but still a remarkable achievement!"

Read the entire press release: Global Microcredit Summit

Check out the Global Microcredit Summit Campaign

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10 November 2006

Microfinance: Yunus vs. Omidyar in The New Yorker

Connie Bruck published a very good article on the current state of microfinance in the 30 October New Yorker. It details the gulf between two approaches, roughly exemplified by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus and eBay-founder Piere Omidyar. Omidyar argues that microfinance needs a dose of commercialization to build it into a profit-making sector, while Yunus sticks to the belief that "anyone, provided the means, can become self-sufficient--even successful" through his model of small loans.

It's a curious debate and I suspect there is room for both aproaches. Yet, thinking about Omidyar's for-profit approach may provide a better means toward sustainability for social entreprenuers. (See my article "Drayton's Conundrum" on the Social Entrepreneurs Group at Gather.com

Read the full article by Connie Bruck: "Millions for Millions"

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Climate Change: New Climate Report From Merrill Lynch and WRI

Merrill Lynch’s automotive research team, in collaboration with World Resources Institute’s Capital Markets Research team released a report this week titled "Energy Security and Climate Change: Alternatives for the Clean Car Evolution."

The report presents a framework for understanding the regulatory and market dynamics driving the demand for more fuel efficient and less polluting automobiles, and highlights investment ideas that are levered to this long-term theme.

The report is the second in an annual series produced by Merrill Lynch and WRI focusing on energy security and climate change in the auto sector.

Worth a look: Energy Security & Climate Change

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08 November 2006

Climate Change & Poverty: Wangari Maathai wants to plant a billion trees

NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) -- The United Nations and Africa's Nobel laureate, environmentalist Wangari Maathai, launched a project on Wednesday to plant a billion trees worldwide to help fight climate change and poverty.

Kenya's Wangari Maathai, who in 2004 became the first African woman and first "green" activist to win the Nobel Peace Prize, urged people from the United States to Uganda to plant trees to combat global warming and to make a long-term commitment.

"Anybody can dig a hole, anybody can put a tree in that hole and water it. And everybody can make sure that the tree they plant survives," she said on the sidelines of a U.N. meeting on climate change in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

"There are 6 billion of us and counting. So even if only one-sixth of us each plant a tree, we will definitely reach the target (next year)," she told reporters.

Read the full story at CNN.com

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Climate Change: UK Climate Group Responds to Stern Report

The Stern review, released on October 30th, stated that failure to tackle climate change could cost the world up to 7 trillion dollars, and leave 200 million people as refugees amid drought or flood. The Climate Group, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing business and government leadership on climate change, has just released its commentary and analysis of the Stern report.

The group identifies the key message from the report,
the most extensive analysis carried out to date on the economics of climate change, is that the costs of taking action now (likely to amount to approximately 1% of GDP) are far outweighed by the costs associated with adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude.

This macro-level analysis showing that taking early action to combat climate change is an economically sound course of action is backed up by much of The Climate Group’s work at the micro-level, which has shown how companies from a range of sectors have made significant emissions reductions and made or saved money in the process.

Steve Howard, The Climate Group’s CEO, said “The Stern Review provides clear evidence to support what many businesses, governments and the public have known intuitively for years; cutting carbon emissions is the only sensible course of action, both environmentally and economically.”

For The Climate Group's response and a link to the Stern report: Climate Group

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06 November 2006

Climate Change: Climate Talks Begin Today in Nairobi

Reuters/Planet Ark reports this morning on the UN Climate talks, which begin in Nairobi and will run through the 17th of this month:

NAIROBI - Spurred by a UN warning that Africa risks catastrophic damage from global warming, UN talks in Nairobi from Monday will seek to ease deep rifts over how to widen a fight against climate change beyond 2012.

Delegates at the 189-nation Nov 6-17 talks will try to find ways to widen the UN's Kyoto Protocol, capping emissions of greenhouse gases by 35 industrial nations until 2012, to include outsiders such as the United States, China and India.
"An essential challenge in the future is to create a mechanism that everybody will want to be part of," Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference on the eve of the talks by 6,000 delegates.

He said no final breakthroughs were likely at the Nairobi talks in fixing a plan beyond 2012 for fighting warming that could spur more floods, droughts, spread disease and raise sea levels by almost a metre (three feet) by 2100.

The talks will separately try to aid Africa and the rest of the developing world to adapt to climate change -- with everything from drought-resistant crops to better flood protection.

A report issued on Sunday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said Africa's vulnerability to climate change was "even more acute" than previously believed.

It said that the number of people in Africa at risk from coastal flooding would rise to 70 million by 2080 from 1 million in 1990 and that 25-40 percent of habitats could be lost. Cereal crop yields could fall by 5 percent by 2080.

"There is a very urgent need to move now" to help Africa to adapt, de Boer said. Kenyan Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana will open the talks on Monday.


The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) urged citizens around the world to act to cut greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, rather than wait for negotiators.

"It is happening today and everyone across the planet can act now to do something about it," UNEP head Achim Steiner said.

At the talks, European nations will try to push the United States and developing countries to get more involved in restraining the growth of greenhouse gases.

Washington pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying caps on emissions would cost US jobs and that the plan wrongly left developing nations out of targets for 2012.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in London on Friday to work to build a strong international alliance. A British report last week warned of apocalyptic long-term costs of ignoring climate change.

Of the top four emitters of greenhouse gases -- the US, China, Russia and China -- only Russia is bound by Kyoto.

Read the full story here: Nairobi Climate Talks

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30 October 2006

Climate Change: Ignoring Climate Crisis Could Lead to Economic Collapse, UK Economist Reports

LONDON - Ignoring climate change could lead to economic upheaval on the scale of the 1930s Depression, underlining the need for urgent action to combat global warming, a British report on the costs of climate change said, according to Reuters/Planet Ark.

The report by chief British government economist Nicholas Stern, a 27-page summary of which was obtained by Reuters, says the benefits of determined worldwide steps to tackle climate change would greatly outweigh the costs.

The 700-page report, to be published on Monday, said that no matter what we do now the chance "is already almost out of reach" to keep greenhouse gases at a level which scientists say should avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It said the world does not have to choose between tackling climate change and economic growth, contradicting US President George W. Bush who pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol against global warming in part because he said it would cost jobs.

"The evidence gathered by the review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs," said the report, prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and finance minister Gordon Brown.

"Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century," it said.

It precedes UN climate talks, starting in Nairobi on Nov. 6, focusing on finding a successor to Kyoto which ends in 2012.

Read the full story: UK

Read the press notice: HM Treasury

Download the full report: Stern Report

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28 October 2006

Climate Change: Yale Global Features Part II of Hansen's "Planet in Peril"

Yale Global Online, a web-based publication of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, features Part II of Jim Hansen's "The Planet in Peril:

People have some measure of control over how much the climate will change, explains Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In the second of a two-part series, he makes specific recommendations that do require some sacrifice: Humans must end their reliance on fossil fuels; governments can impose carbon taxes in a way that provides incentives to decrease fuel consumption and changes human behavior; industries and universities can make development of renewable energy sources a top priority. Public awareness is growing about the impending dangers, including species extinction, violent weather patterns and the washing away of coastal cities, displacing millions. Nations and industries that take early steps to end or manage global warming will have a competitive advantage. Global warming is not just an environmental or health or economic concern – reversing the trend is a matter of human survival. – from YaleGlobal

Read the full article: Hansen, Peril Part II

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26 October 2006

Climate Change: Farmers Go Green to Fight Global Warming

Tackling Climate Change is going to take all sorts from all sectors. Some will seem like strange bedfellows. Like, I dunno, enviros and oil men, evangelicals and pro-choice green soccer Moms...

Now farmers are getting into the mix. Some see it as a way to save family farms by suplying biodiesel. Others understand that if dramatic climate change occurs, they may have difficulty growing cash crops where they farm today. (Any real estate agents out there looking to sell some future farm land in Siberia or Alaska?)

CNN.com reports on the farmer situation from Iowa. (Sing it: "Oh the greenies and the farmers should be friends...")

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Gary Larsen, a 63-year-old grandfather who raises corn and soybeans, is among the growing number of farmers concerned with the potential effects of global warming.

"We don't know how the world could actually turn out, but doing absolutely nothing and sticking your head in the sand is not an option," said Larsen, who lives near Elk Horn, Iowa.

He has adopted environmentally friendly farming methods and even recently bought a hybrid car.

Hybrids aren't replacing one-ton pickups in mid-America, but many in the agriculture industry are reacting to the potential effects of global warming, developing new technology and farming methods to brace for the possibility of widespread drought and crop-pounding storms.

In the past century, the Earth's surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit and could climb another 5 to 10 degrees over the next century, according to government officials.

The Environmental Protection Agency has blamed human activities for most of the warming over the last 50 years, including the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat.

"It's dire in the sense that this problem is already with us, and it's hard to see how it can go away," said Kevin E. Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

"There are no global concerted efforts to really address the problem."

Trenberth said farmers have quickly learned to manage the effects of hot, dry weather and soil-eroding storms.

"They see the trends and they adapt their practices," he said.

The industry has been especially aggressive in breeding and developing crops that more efficiently use soil moisture and nutrients. Such crops can ward off disease and pests that stress plants trying to cope with increased temperatures.

Read the full article: Farmers Going Green

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24 October 2006

Environmentalism: Makower's ecoAmerica Discovery

Joel Makower, in his blog Two Steps Forward, writes about a new organization ecoAmerica and their desire to reengage Americans to support sustainability and protect our natural heritage. The group's challenge to the environmental movement is provactive and timely:
The question of how to engage Americans on pressing environmental issues is a perennial one. Arguably, environmental activist groups haven't made much traction. After more than 35 years since the birth of the modern environmental movement, the major green nonprofits cumulatively engage only 3 million to 4 million Americans -- the roughly 1% of Americans who appear on the groups' mailing lists.

It's no wonder, then, that the environment ranks near the bottom of issues about which Americans are concerned. And it explains why environmentally proactive political candidates don't run on those issues -- and why conservative politicians, as a rule, can run roughshod over the planet with impunity.

A group called ecoAmerica -- "the first environmental non-profit with a core expertise in consumer marketing" -- is looking to change all that. Armed with a half-million dollars in market research and out-of-the-box -- for enviros, at least -- thinking, the group hopes to engage "environmentally agnostic" Americans to support green causes "as a personal and public policy priority."

Read the full article: Makower

More about ecoAmerica

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20 October 2006

Climate Change: Global warming will shrink nations and change world maps, Hansen says

The evidence on global warming is overwhelming. Ongoing scientific research reveals that human-induced climate change will contribute to dangerous new weather patterns and rising sea levels that will gradually swamp many coastal cities, displacing millions of people over the next century.

Jim Hansen, director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, explores the implications of global warming in a two-part series for YaleGlobal, a web-based publication of the Yale Center for Globalization. The globe experienced abrupt temperature changes in the distant past, and Hansen offers a reminder that those changes resulted in mass extinctions and the evolution of new species.

Meanwhile, the changes caused by modern human activities dwarf any natural events recorded during the prehistoric era. Unless humans take action soon, by restraining activities that contribute to global warming, they can anticipate adapting to a transformed planet. Read the full article: YaleGlobal

Read the original article from which it was taken: The New York Review of Books

More on NASA's study of global warming: NASA

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19 October 2006

Climate Change: Major Institutional Investors Make a Statement

from The Climate Group

The Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) - Europe’s leading alliance of institutional investors working on climate change - held a major investor conference in Paris on October 12th and 13th. This event bought together senior figures from the corporate, financial and public sectors to discuss the investment consequences of climate change and the most appropriate response.

The conference followed a recent statement released by institutional investors managing assets worth more than £850bn, who pledged to use their collective financial muscle to encourage companies and governments to act to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Investor Statement on Climate Change, sponsored by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and signed by a number of Europe’s largest pension funds and asset managers, states that climate change is likely to have serious adverse impacts on the long-term interests of the millions of savers whose assets are managed by institutional investors and that investment decisions taken now will have a major impact on the world’s climate.

Douglas Ferrans, Chief Executive, Insight Investment, which is a member of the IIGCC said, “As institutional investors we recognise that the long-term interests of the millions of savers who we represent and the organisations they work for are inextricably intertwined with long term climate issues. This Statement is about encouraging real change right now, through ensuring that all actors in the investment system – asset managers, pension funds and their advisers – play their part in responding to climate change. The Statement also recognises the critical role of government in providing an investment environment that will help us ensure a more stable climate for current and future generations.”

Read more at Investors

Download the IIGCC statement here.

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Microfinance: At a crossroads, according to Wharton finance panel

With the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus last week, the world is focusing more attention on the world of microfinance. Now, according to panelists at this year's Wharton Finance Conference, held earlier this month, the business of making loans to poor people in underdeveloped countries is itself entering a critical phase.

"On one hand," according to an article in this week's Knowledge@Wharton, "foundations and other non-governmental groups have shown the private sector that there is money to be made in lending to some of the globe's poorest populations. And, they acknowledge, only the private sector has the capital to do this at the necessary scale. But they also warned, at the panel and in interviews afterward, that the drive for profit could leave behind some of the neediest citizens -- particularly those in remote rural areas -- and thus defeat the enterprise."

"The finance conference, Creating Value in a Global Economy, focused on the state of what moderator Keith Weigelt, Wharton management professor, jokingly called, 'the good side of capitalism.'"

Read the full article: K@W

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18 October 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Echoing Green Wants You

Echoing Green awards two-year fellowships to emerging social innovators. Annually, they award fellowships to individuals with innovative ideas for creating new models to seemingly unsolvable social challenges. The fellowships offer social entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop and test their ideas.

The fellows develop their ideas in the community, launching, managing, and growing organizations that implement and continually expand their ideas for creating lasting social change.

During the two-year fellowship, Echoing Green provides both financial and technical support.

The application process is open; anyone who meets their eligiblity criteria and has a compelling new idea for social change is welcome to apply.

The 2007 application is now available at Echoing Green Application. The application deadline is December 1, 2006.

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17 October 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Winners in Innovative Affordable Housing Contest

Check out the winners from the Changemakers/Habitat for Humanity "How to Provide Affordable Housing" Competition:

The winners:

(India) Building dignity through sustainable habitat development

(France) The Nubian Vault : Mud roofs for the Sahel

(India) Affordable housing through community-led, women-managed action

Congratulations to all the winners -- and to the finalists:

(Kyrgyzstan) Cane-reed housing technology with cheap heating system...
(Sri Lanka) Bringing the Capital Market Home to the People
(United States) First Step Housing for At Risk Single Adults
(India) Slum Networking - Transforming Settlements from Within
(Philippines) CentroMigrante: A self-sustaining housing model for migrant...
(India) Slums – A bane, boon or a big business
(United States) Manufactured Housing Park Program
(Pakistan) Building community capacity for delivery of construction...
(India) Mass Housing after Disaster as if People Mattered
(Pakistan) Incremental Developmental Housing for low income groups

Read more about it: Changemakers

To view all the entries: Housing

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14 October 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Yunus and Grameen Receive Nobel -- A Triumph for Microfinance

OSLO, Norway -- Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans -- microcredit -- to lift millions out of poverty.

Through Yunus's efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead.

Read the full story: Yunus from The New Nation

More about Yunus and Grameen Foundation

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13 October 2006

Global Writing: Turkish Novelist Pamuk Wins Nobel for Literature

You may have read it here first, back when I compiled my list of "Best Books for 2005":

Snow, Orhan Pamuk. This novel is perhaps the Turkish writer's most accessible in translation. It follows a poet as he faces the challenges of being an exile returning to a country and a culture that is caught been Europe and a hard place. A timely read with Pamuk's recent trials for "defaming Turkey" by speaking out against the atrocities inflicted by the Turks on the Armenians during WWI. He's likely to win the Nobel for Literature one day, hopefully before he's assassinated by a zealot.

By honoring Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk with the Nobel Prize for Literature this morning, the Committee recognizes not only a literary world treasure, but an eloquent dissident. Pamuk, whose work often deals with issues of identity and fundamentalism versus modernism, has openly criticized Turkey’s government for failing to acknowledge that Turks committed genocide against Armenians and Kurds during World War I. Turkey is bidding for membership in the European Union. If it wants to become a part of the EU, then Turkey must cease to punish its leading thinkers for their outspoken views.

We congratulate this remarkable writer.

For more: Pamuk

and from YaleGlobal a year ago: Persecuted Novelist

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11 October 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Vote in Innovative Affordable Housing Contest

Vote Now! Help select 3 winners from 13 finalists
in the Ashoka-Changemakers Innovation Award Competition:

How to Provide Affordable Housing

presented in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International

Voting ends Monday, Oct. 16 at 12 pm (US Eastern time)

Affordable housing for the poor and marginalized gets a facelift in this competition for the most innovative solutions from social entrepreneurs around the world.

Finalists include a method for providing market-access to poor in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and financing for mobile home owners in New Hampshire, USA, to purchase the land beneath their trailer to vaulted mud brick houses in sub-Saharan Africa and cane-reed contruction with inexpensive in-floor radiant heating in Kyrgyzstan.

Here are a range of positive approaches that incorporate design, community involvement, and new technologies and applications. Most hopeful are those projects that promote new ways to use local materials and labor and that encourage community involvement in providing housing. There were 85 entries in the competition, which was begun earlier this year. The entries were assessed for their ability to meet several criteria, including innovation, impact, strategy, and sustainability.

You can vote for three from among 13 finalists, but hurry, voting ends a week from today at noon (US eastern). Note: you must supply a valid email address to participate in the voting.

Cash prizes of US$5,000 will be awarded to three winners. The Changemakers Innovation Awards series is based on a unique "open source" format by which participants compete for the best solutions to pressing social issues while collaborating to advance current initiatives.

Find out more at Changemakers

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03 October 2006

Computer Problems

I've had computer problems for the past week and a half, which is why I have not made a post since 22 September. I was in San Francisco last week, when the Ah-nold's signing of California's historic Climate Change legislation. Amazing.

"I'll be back," as he would say, with much to say...


22 September 2006

Clinton's Show in New York Tackles "Big Problems"

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Part of the deal at the Clinton Global Initiative currently taking place in midtown Manhattan is that when someone agrees to commit money to a project, they get to come up on stage with President Clinton, sign a document, and get a picture.

So they all file up on stage, looking a little bit embarrassed and a little bit proud. (Ayn Rand would have a field day.) No one besides Clinton speaks - the exception was a young woman who said, "Thank you, President Clinton" into the microphone. In the audience, here was a definite rustle of surprise at her temerity.

A few of us in the press were trying to decide what the spectacle most resembled. Is it kindergarten show and tell? (And little Jimmy gets a gold star!) Is it "The Price is Right?" (This commitment is worth $80 million! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, $80 million!) Or is it a guy hawking time-shares? (Look who's vacationing in lovely Bemidji, Minnesota! You could be just like them and spend some money, too!)

Like all things Clinton, CGI is plenty of pomp and circumstance. There seemed to be an awful lot of perfectly coiffed blond hair in the audience, which consisted of a lot of important people. (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, President Pervez Musharraf, King Abdullah and Queen Rania, Richard Branson, to name but a few.) The press was treated as a nuisance - there was a large army of people whose job was to tell reporters "You can't go in there!" and "You can't sit here!" - which I suppose we are.

And I shouldn't be hard on my handlers, because my peers were even more ruthless. As I tried to take a seat, a cameraman shoved me so hard I almost tipped over. (OK, I am wearing heels.) "You can't sit here," he shrieked.

But there's also a lot of substance at CGI. Yesterday, Bill Gates, along with Clinton, former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Hernando de Soto, the president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, participated in a panel called "Effective Action, Lasting Results."

Read Bethany McLean's full article: Clinton

20 September 2006

Survey: What Does "Sustainability" Mean to You?

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines "Sustainability" as
"a systemic concept, relating to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire planet."

The word is au courant, but what do YOU think of when you think of Sustainability? Inquiring minds want to know, dear reader...

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17 September 2006

Social Entrepreneurs: Telling Stories to Change the World

Terrain: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments has just published my article on Storytelling and Social Entrepreneurs in their latest issue, No. 19: The Music of It All.

In "Telling Stories to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and a Network Proposition," I've tried to capture my latest thinking about how to promote social change through the stories of the people who are effecting such change. In doing so, I've also taken a look at why stories may be the most powerful vehicle for change.

Included are a number of links to resources, stories, and previous posts from "The Green Skeptic."

Stories about change are narratives of conflict and hope, problems and solutions. A conflict of some kind is set up that leads the reader to hope. And telling these stories helps others make change. In the words of award-winning journalist and author David Bornstein, stories help "a person form the belief that it is possible to make the world a better place. Those who act on that belief spread it to others. They are highly contagious. Their stories must be told."

Please check it out and tell your friends.

Read the complete article in Terrain: Telling Stories

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14 September 2006

Climate Change: Hansen says we have 10 years...

Sobering news from Reuters/Planet Ark: "NASA scientist James Hansen, widely considered the doyen of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit)."

"I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most," Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in California's state capital.

If the world continues with a "business as usual" scenario, Hansen said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and "we will be producing a different planet."

On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan under water. The world would see more prolonged droughts and heat waves, powerful hurricanes in new areas and the likely extinction of 50 percent of species.

Read the complete story by Mary Milliken: Hansen

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Climate Change: Nuñez on California's Climate Landmark

California's landmark legislation on Climate Change, which puts a cap on the state's greenhouse gas emissions, creates a clear path for a market-based approaches to bring the state’s emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill encourages the state to work with businesses to achieve such a reduction. The question is, will it work for business. An interview with California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez seems to answer the question.

Nuñez is the co-author (with Fran Pavley) of bill AB 32. Read The Climate Group's interview with Mr. Nuñez. One choice quote:

We’ve already taken action on clean air and tailpipe emissions – you name it, we’ve done it, and our economy continues to hold strong. It isn’t mutually exclusive to have a strong economy and have a green economy as well.

We like the sound of that.

The Climate Group is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing business and government leadership on climate change. They are based in the UK, the USA and Australia and operates internationally.

Read it here: Nuñez

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07 September 2006

Media: Death of "Crocodile Hunter" Hits Home

Like many ten-year olds, my son looked up to Steve Irwin. He looks up to anyone who is passionate about conserving animals and the natural world. The "Crocodile Hunter" was for my son what Jacques Cousteau was to my generation of conservationists: He brought places and species from around the world into our living rooms in a captivating way.

Regardless of what you think of his wacky, over-the-top style, and as dangerous as most of the situations Irwin put himself in on TV, his was always a message of the importance of conserving the animals and natural diversity.

Truth be told, we don't have cable, so catching Irwin in his element was a guilty pleasure in hotel rooms or at grandma's house, where we'd hear the Crocodile Hunter shout his trademark "Crikey" or talk about beautiful "Sheilas" as he held them up to the camera. Irwin achieved "rock-star" status as a conservationist; to my son, he was a hero.

So the news that Irwin had been killed by a fatal encounter with a stingray was quite a shock to our home.

Last year, my son took part in a saltwater crocodile survey in Mexico's Sian Ka'an. He got to hold and tag a baby croc and re-release it into the wild. It was one of his proudest moments. "It's like the Crocodile Hunter," he exclaimed.

I speak for my son and for many kids (and adults!) out there when I say Steve Irwin will be missed. "Crikey," it's hard to believe he's dead and from such a freak accident involving a rarely dangerous animal. Our prayers go out to Mr. Irwin's family in their time of grief.

Read the story in News.com.au

and CNN

Jules Crittenden's insightful Boston Herald column

and a tribute video/slideshow from YouTube

31 August 2006

Climate Change: World Bank Brokers Greenhouse Gas Deal

NEW YORK - The World Bank put together on Tuesday the largest greenhouse gas deal ever, where European and Asian companies and others will pay two Chinese chemical companies US$1.02 billion to reduce output of gases believed to cause global warming, as reported by Timothy Gardner in Reuters/Planet Ark.

In the deal, European and Asian companies bound by the UN's Kyoto Protocol to tackle climate change, will pay the Chinese chemical companies to reduce and destroy emissions of HFC23, a heat-trapping gas 11,700 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
The deal will reduce emissions by about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, according to the World Bank.

About 75 percent of the money to purchase the reductions came from private capital, it said.

Additional participants included entities in World Bank managed funds including the Danish Carbon Fund, the Italian Carbon Fund, Deutsche Bank, Mitsui & Co and two entities of Natsource LLC, which calls itself the world's largest greenhouse gas asset manager.

As a developing country, China, the world's No. 2 producer of greenhouse gases, is not required to reduce emissions of heat trapping gases in the first phase of the international global warming pact the Kyoto Protocol, which runs from 2008 to 2012.

Tuesday's deal was done under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows allows rich countries to meet some of their greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by investing in reductions in developing countries.

"The resources came together from lots of different directions. There was pooling and deployment of capital in a large scale which was good to see that the CDM could do that," Jack Cogen, president of New York-based Natsource, said in a telephone interview.

The Chinese government will recoup 65 percent of the money from the deal though taxes on the two chemical companies and use it cut greenhouse gases and expand the use of renewable energy.

Read more: World Bank

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30 August 2006

Katrina Anniversary: Rebuild Wetlands

NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans should embrace its watery environment and restore wetlands as it rebuilds, suggests a prize-winning architect hired to design a modernistic central park in the city's downtown, according to an article in Reuters/Planet Ark. Coastal wetlands, barrier islands, and other coastal ecosystems are the first line of defense against catastrophic storms.

Thom Mayne, known for maverick designs, urged New Orleans to treat the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina last year as a chance to re-imagine the city, adding both technology and a dollop of the nature that has been erased over the years.
"If you build it again, would you do it the same way?" Mayne asked. "The answer is absolutely no."

New Orleans is known for the wrought iron and stone of its narrow French Quarter streets and wooden mansions on oak-shaded Garden District avenues, both in higher areas of town.

But most of New Orleans is below sea level, and many of the areas hit hardest by Katrina were developed from land reclaimed from wetlands -- or swamps. State officials and activists are also focused on restoring coastal wetlands to help soften the blow of future storms.

Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans, where entire neighbourhoods are still nearly empty.

Putting up fewer buildings, more densely packed with much more open space could help prevent a recurrence, Mayne said.

"What would the open space be? You could even leave huge tracts of property that would return to its original state, a swampland or the estuary, wetlands and they would become sort of future preserves, that actually would draw tourists, by the way," he mused in a phone interview from his office in Santa Monica, California.

"You are literally starting over," he said.

Read the full article here: Katrina

23 August 2006

No, dear reader, I haven't abandoned you...

...I've just been on vacation and too distraught over the Boston Massacre redux this past weekend to write.

But I promise a follow up on my "Rock 'n' Roll" post from last year. Some things have changed and some haven't. I want to take some credit and take stock: Rock Star

See you soon.


16 August 2006

Climate Change: US Study Says Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity

MIAMI - Global warming is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, according to a new study by a university professor in Florida who says his research provides the first direct link between climate change and storm strength, Reuters/Planet Ark reports today.

James Elsner of Florida State University said he set out to perform a statistical analysis of the two theories in a raging debate within the scientific community: Whether recent intense hurricanes are the result of climate change or natural ocean warming and cooling cycles.

"Is the atmosphere forcing the ocean or the ocean forcing the atmosphere?" Elsner asked.

The issue has a wide-ranging impact on insurance companies, municipal planners, some 50 million residents of hurricane-prone US coastal communities and millions of others in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The 2005 hurricane season produced 28 tropical storms and hurricanes, shattering the old record of 21 set in 1933.

Four of the hurricanes were Category 5, the strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. One of those, Wilma, was the most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

The season also produced Katrina, which killed more than 1,300 people and caused about US$80 billion in damage when it swamped New Orleans and other parts of the US Gulf coast.

Elsner looked at 135 years of records to examine the statistical connection between Atlantic sea surface temperatures and air temperatures near the sea surface, and then compared them to records of hurricane intensities.

Atlantic hurricanes draw their energy from the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

He found that average air temperatures during hurricane season between June and November were useful in predicting sea surface temperatures, but not the other way around.

Read the full story here: Hurricanes

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14 August 2006

Energy: World Bank Fine Tunes Clean Energy Funding Proposal

WASHINGTON - A World Bank proposal to its steering committee to create two new funds to help developing countries generate cleaner, more efficient power is misguided because it backs fossil fuel projects, experts said on Monday, as reported in Reuters/Planet Ark.

A copy of the report obtained by Reuters argued that current financing from multilateral lenders like the World Bank as well as governments and the private sector "cannot lead to a meaningful transition to a low-carbon economy."
A World Bank official declined to say whether the proposed Clean Energy Financing Vehicle low-interest loans and the Clean Energy Support Fund grants correspond to British finance minister Gordon Brown's call in April for a seed fund of US$20 billion for clean energy to invest in alternative energy.

The proposed Clean Energy Financing Vehicle calls for an initial capitalization of US$10 billion, the report said.

The two funding ideas endorse low-carbon technologies and carbon emission reductions and were drafted after an original April report. They go to World Bank directors for review on Aug. 29 ahead of next month's annual meeting in Singapore.

Read the complete, exclusive story here: World Bank

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Innovation: GM, BMW, Daimler Plan to Leapfrog Toyota Hybrid Technology

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A research alliance consisting of General Motors Corp., BMW AG and DaimlerChrysler AG plans to invest over US$1 billion in the development of a new hybrid transmission and related systems that backers say will leapfrog the market-leading technology now offered by Toyota Motor Corp, Reuters/Planet Ark reports this morning.

The three automakers have about 500 engineers who have been working for the past 18 months on the joint development of the next-generation hybrid engine technology, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional gasoline combustion engine, company representatives said on Friday on the sidelines of an industry trade meeting.

The so-called dual-mode hybrid technology that has been under development by the consortium includes an onboard fuel-optimization computer that determines when and at what speeds the two motors will be used for power and how the on-board battery will be recharged.

Development of the transmission -- the core of the project -- is expected to cost about US$300 million for the partners, said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler's hybrid programs. The remainder of the investment represents the cost of integrating the new hybrid system with other vehicle components, he said.

"What's often forgotten about the hybrid technology is that you have to put it into the car," Truckenbrodt told reporters.

Read the full article here: Hybrid

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09 August 2006

Technology: Our Disposable Legacy Unmasked

Knowledge@Wharton is an online business journal published by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It is a great resource for a variety of topics from management and leadership to current trends in business and research. This week, K@W published its summer reading list, complete with reviews of the books they featured. One title that caught my eye was Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America by Giles Slade.

Here is a teaser from the review:
Canadian writer Giles Slade was checking out a touring exhibit called "Eternal Egypt" with his 10-year-old son a few years ago when he had an epiphany. The Egyptians, he realized, designed great monuments to endure for countless generations, while here in North America, nearly everything produced is made to break.

And that's no accident. Slade's Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America (Harvard University Press), is a painstakingly researched story of 20th century technology through the lens of disposability, a concept born, bred and nurtured in America. Made to Break is the history of an industrial strategy that has come to define this country -- a strategy that has taught us to buy, throw away and buy again, and that now must change because we have run out of room to safely dump all our unwanted, used-up or obsolete possessions.

Read the full review: K@W Review

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