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...