29 June 2007

Global Climate Change: Flannery's 10 True Climate Predictions

Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers, stirred up some controversy earlier this week when he created a list of "ten predictions made by climate scientists that have come true (or are becoming true)" in The Times (of London):

1) That the Earth would warm as more CO2 was put into the atmosphere (Svante Arrhenius in 1893).

2) That we'd begin to see noticable changes to Earth's climate by around 2000 (some IPCC scientists).

3) That sea-level would start rising.

4) That Earth's Ice would start melting rapidly (James Hanson).

5) That hurricanes would increase in intensity (this one goes back to Alfred Russel Wallace in 1900).

6) That species would start going extinct as a result of climate change.

7) That Australia would start drying out (Hadley Centre scientists).

8) That tropical diseases would increase.

9) That food crops would be adversely affected.

10) That the CO2 would begin to acidify the ocean.

See the complete article, including links to original source material, more lists, and rebuttals: Flannery in Times Online

26 June 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: Philanthropy and the Changing Business of Giving

Over on the Enterprising Ideas blog, part of the PBS NOW series on social entrepreneurs, they are talking about the latest report on giving in America. According to the report, charitable giving by Americans rose 4.2% to $295.02 billion in 2006, setting a record for the third-straight year.

Great news, of course. But what really got my attention in this blog post comes from blogger Lucy Bernholz, who writes the excellent blog about the "business of giving" called Philanthropy 2173. I track Lucy's blog and am always intrigued by her observations.

The blog post begins with commentary from the Enterprising Ideas staff, following up on a description of "product and service innovation" and the "commercialization of philanthropy."

"Not surprisingly, social entrepreneurs —- entrepreneurs with a humanitarian mission -— are also behind many of the new projects that facilitate donations and investments. Bernholz said social entrepreneurs are playing a major role in how the tools and mission of philanthropy are changing:

'There’s this whole industry of giving that social entrepreneurism is a part of largely because very smart businessmen have entered the field and are very excited about it.'

The post goes on to say, "Now that it's becoming 'more and more possible to make money by doing good,' as Bernholz puts it, there should be more willingness to invest in social entrepreneurs and their projects. After all, the social entrepreneurs are the people who are creating financial opportunities for doing good, says Bernholz. Like Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and South Shore Bank in the Midwestern United States."

“'We’ve entered a period of philanthropy like no other,' explains Bernholz, 'because the federal government has gotten out of the business of funding domestic programs.' Foundations and individuals are picking up the slack by providing resources to projects—and many social entrepreneurs. Even if the government increases its commitment to domestic programs, Bernholz believes social entrepreneurship and its hybrid approach—drawing on strategies from the market as well as the public sector—to solving serious problems is here to stay:

"'The problems people are trying to solve are not caused by any single sector so no single sector can solve them.'"

Read the full blog post (and check out other posts and information about the program): Enterprising Ideas and Better Ideas.

And check out Lucy Bernholz's Philanthropy 2173 (You can also find out why it's called what it is...although Woody Allen fans can probably make a good guess.)

25 June 2007

Global Climate Change: A Vacation Odyssey, Will NC Beaches Be Gone?

Vacationing on the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, I'm always struck by the fragility of the landscape here and, indeed, the perseverance of the human communities along this chain of islands.

Now a new study called "Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on North Carolina Coastal Resources," analyzes the impact of rising sea levels on property values, recreation and quality of life in coastal North Carolina.

The study was conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina Wilmington and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Their conclusion?

* North Carolina's coastal topography makes it especially vulnerable to sea level rise and hurricanes -- both economically and ecologically.

*The value of property at risk to sea-level rise in just four NC counties is US$6.9 million.

* A one- to three-foot rise in sea level along four North Carolina coastal counties could mean billions of dollars in private property losses over the next 75 years.

* Recreational fishing and beach trips also are vulnerable to increased erosion from sea level rise and hurricanes, resulting in potential loss of recreational and tourism benefits totalling US$3.9 billion.

* Business losses from hurricanes could increase by as much as US$157 million per storm event by 2080, potentially reaching US$1 bn per category 3 storm event.

All of this is sobering news for communities that derive their livelihoods in large part from an annual influx island visitors and second-home owners.

According to the study, by the year 2080, 14 of the 17 recreational swimming beaches in southern North Carolina could, without adaptation, erode all the way to the road, eliminating the possibility for beach recreation in those areas.

As the beach diminishes, lead author John Whitehead, a professor of economics at Appalachian State University, people will spend less time and money at the coast as a result of the lost recreational opportunities. Using economic models, Whitehead estimated the lost economic value for southern North Carolina beaches would total $3.9 billion over the next 75 years.

Meanwhile, coastal developers and private home communities are springing up in very unlikely places. Condos, golf courses, and resorts are popping up along the edges of coastal spits and dunes, and at least one development advertised its "deep water homes."

Deep water homes? Now there's a concept whose time may be coming. Scuba gear included.

In another curious development in a recent Coastal Living magazine: the state of Colorado advertized its charms to CL readers. Do they know something we don't know?

Read the full or summary reports: Measuring Impact NC

Social Entrepreneurs: The Purpose Prize Finalists

My friends Howard and Marika Stone, founders of 2young2retire.com have just been named 2007 Purpose Prize Fellows. The Purpose Prize, a major new initiative started by Civic Ventures, invests in Americans over 60 who are leading a new age of social innovation by providing five awards of $100,000 and ten awards of $10,000.

The winners reveal the wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that those over 60 bring to the task of solving some of society's most pressing problems in what used to be called the retirement years. (Finalists include Interface's Ray Anderson, Project 18's Gloria Jackson Bacon, the Reverend Sally Bingham, who is leading a religious response to global warming, Richard Cherry of New York's Community Environmental Center, and Bridges to Understanding founder Phil Borges.)

"As the first wave of America’s 77 million baby boomers turn 60, The Purpose Prize winners are doing what society least expects people over 60 to do: innovate," said Marc Freedman, founder and President of Civic Ventures.

"These men and women - some national figures, some local heroes - disprove the notion that innovation is the province of the young and show us the essence of what's possible in an aging society."

Howie and Marika started "Too Young to Retire" after successful careers in international advertising sales and public relations/journalism. Rejecting the idea of retirement as "a great place to visit but who would want to live there?" Howie built a coaching practice to help other mature people skip retirement and discover their own continuing passions and Marika pursued her mission of "helping people -- especially women of a certain age -- achieve their full potential."

The couple wrote a book, Too Young to Retire: An Off-Road Map to the Rest of Your Life and started the web resource 2young2retire.com.

Howie and Marika have long inspired me to keep focused on the purpose and meaning of my life. In fact, it was Howie's informal coaching some 16 years ago that led me to realize I could leave a publishing career for work with The Nature Conservancy.

Congratulations to Marika and Howie on being named 2007 Purpose Prize Fellows!

22 June 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: David Bornstein Interview on "Global X"

I'm a big fan of David Bornstein. His book, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of Ideas is a powerful and inspirational work of journalism and the book I'd recommend to anyone interested in social change.

I've been reading his first book, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank, which is an engaging look at Muhammad Yunus, how he fell into banking for the poor, and the idea of microfinance.

Global X, on the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge website, is posting short (3-7 minutes) interviews with leading social entrepreneurs telling stories about the significant impacts on their lives and how they see the world in 2017. The interviews were shot at the 2007 Skoll World Forum at Oxford from the Skoll World Forum.

Bornstein's interview is wonderful, especially the story about his Aunt Suzan, who told him to "climb the fence of the playground" and not follow the rules all the time. Good advice for anyone seeking social change.

Watch the interview here: David Bornstein on "Global X"

21 June 2007

Conservation Mission Success: My 15 Year Journey

It was 15 years ago today that I set up shop in The Nature Conservancy. I walked into the offices of what was then the Lower Hudson Chapter with a bag of tricks, a drive to change, and a desire to help the Conservancy achieve its mission of protecting the diversity of life on Earth.

The Conservancy took a chance on me: I had little experience, having spent my previous career years in various forms of publishing, from producing my own magazine to scouting for foreign publishers to the editorial staff at a tradition- and whiskey-soaked publishing house. They were looking for their first development and communications staffer; I was looking for meaningful work and a vehicle for making social change happen on an unprecedented scale.

I believed then, as I do now, that one of the most critical roles in conservation, indeed in any public benefit or civil sector corporation, is that of helping other people act on their values.

Along the way, I've had some tremendous mentors, including Kay Sprinkel Grace, Simone Joyaux, and Scott Schultz (three of the best fundraising management consultants in the business) who operate outside the organization, to Julie Rosenfeld and Mason Morfit from within; from Carter Bales from the Conservancy's board of governors to Harry Groome and Jan Portman from the organization's current board of directors. Phoebe Driscoll, Robin Potter, Ken Thompson, Al Parrish, Gene Sykes, Mary Clifford, Terry Pelster, Tom Dolan, Tom Rosenberg, Dick Eales, Chris Earl, Ted Robb, Boyce Budd, Hugh Moulton, all trustees from the various state programs with which I worked, taught me the value of perseverance and critical thinking in the face of great challenges.

My chapter directors, including Olivia Millard, Susan Ruddy, and Randy Gray, and initiative directors such as Lynne Hale, Jeff Hardesty, and Brian Richter, inspired me with confidence and a guiding hand. And David Whitehead, Stephanie Meeks, Mark Burget, Roberto Troya, Rili Djohani, Steve McCormick, the "Skeptics," Holley, Jill, and the late John Sawhill all helped keep me focused on the long-term view of our global mission. Together, we've wrestled with the growth and expansion of the Conservancy's vision and fulfillment of its mission. Some have moved on, but their spirit remains.

The list could go on. Indeed, so many people have contributed to my success at the Conservancy, from those on my very first team, through my two "best hires" and two "best inherited" employees, to my current team, which I'm convinced is the hardest working group in the Conservancy, tirelessly pushing the horizon of the organization's worldview and its face on the global stage.

And the donors. I won't name them here, but they know who they are and what we've accomplished together: from building the Neversink Bioreserve in New York to protecting Lower Talarik Creek in Alaska; from forming Pennsylvania's West Branch Wilderness to mapping protected areas and sacred sites in Mongolia; from helping local people secure Podocarpus Park in Ecuador to helping put Indonesia's Coral Triangle on the map.

All this and more we've accomplished together from the simple gift of acting on shared values and an ambition to be the best in the business at achieving ever-increasing scales in conservation.

It's been a great run. Fifteen years is longer than most people stay with one organization these days, certainly in the functional area within which I've operated, and it's longer than I ever anticipated on that day in 1992 when I walked into the Conservancy's little office in Katonah, New York.

Here's to fifteen years and the millions of acres we've protected together, the millions of lives upon which we've had a positive impact, and the multiple millions of dollars we have mobilized together in the service of conservation, of saving the last great places on Earth.

A friend of mine, and a long-time donor to the Conservancy, used to tell me I had the best job in the world. He was right.

And on this first day of summer 2007, while I stand on the edge of that 15-year precipice trying to see what's ahead for me, I thought it best to reflect on the work that my colleagues, donors, friends and partners have accomplished together. The change we have affected. So much has changed for me and for the organization over these past fifteen years, and much continues to change.

But isn't change the whole reason I got into this business in the first place? Isn't that the job of a change agent?

Here's to 15 years. Thank you.

18 June 2007

Innovation: Design for the Other 90 Percent

I'm looking forward to getting to New York to see the Cooper-Hewitt's "Design for the Other 90%" show, which runs through September 2007. The show features many of the design solutions, such as the Life Straw and others, that we've featured in the past in The Green Skeptic.

The brainchild of curator Cynthia E. Smith, Design for the Other 90% opened in May and will close on 23 September.

Here are some excerpts from the exhibition web site:

Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted...Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.”

...Designers, engineers, students and professors, architects, and social entrepreneurs from all over the globe are devising cost-effective ways to increase access to food and water, energy, education, healthcare, revenue-generating activities, and affordable transportation for those who most need them...

...More recently, designers are working directly with end users of their products, emphasizing co-creation to respond to their needs. Many of these projects employ market principles for income generation as a way out of poverty. Poor rural farmers become micro-entrepreneurs, while cottage industries emerge in more urban areas...

Some designs are patented to control the quality of their important breakthroughs, while others are open source in nature to allow for easier dissemination and adaptation, locally and internationally.

Encompassing a broad set of modern social and economic concerns, these design innovations often support responsible, sustainable economic policy. They help, rather than exploit, poorer economies; minimize environmental impact; increase social inclusion; improve healthcare at all levels; and advance the quality and accessibility of education.

...Design for the Other 90% demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world.

For more information, visit the Cooper-Hewitt web site: Design

Global Climate Change: Summer "Warms" to Movies with Arctic Tale

There's a new movie coming out later this summer from the makers of "March of the Penguins." It's a live action "dramacumentary" called "Arctic Tale," narrated by Queen Latifah (really) and featuring polar bears and walrus rather than penguins. It just could be the sleeper film of the year.

Apparently, the Arctic setting for the film, which shows main characters Nanu and Seela facing life-and-death challenges, was affected by global warming during the filming, which led to the movie's theme of struggle in the face of climate changes, according to Adam Ravetch, who directed the film with his wife, Sarah Robertson.

"There was a time where we were discussing, should we address climate change or shouldn't we, and we felt a responsibility," Ravetch said at the world premiere of the film at the Silverdocs documentary film festival outside Washington. The movie opens commercially July 25 in Los Angeles and New York, and nationally in August.

Polar bears have become a sort of cause celebre in anti-global warming circles, especially after news reports last year that bears were seen swimming in circles 60 miles off-shore in a behaviour forced upon them by melting ice. The threat of Arctic ice melting reduces the feeding grounds and season for polar bears.

Robertson calls "Arctic Tale" a new genre of nature film, in which global problems are given a face -- Seela, the walrus, and Nanu, the polar bear, who are often cast in human terms and shown close up. Um, sounds like anthropomorphism to me; but my 11-year-old son says it's a must see for summer.

(By the way, the walrus turns 65 today: Happy Birthday Paul!)

Watch the trailer: Arctic Tale

17 June 2007

In Memorium: Colin Fletcher, Inveterate Walker

Colin Fletcher died last week at the age of 85. For those of us who considered his book The Complete Walker a kind of bible, this news represents the end of an era.

I recall the first time I cracked open a copy of Fletcher's book almost 30 years ago. To a teenager interested in the outdoors, but for whom the Boy Scouts were too cultish and conservative, Mr. Fletcher's lyrical, funny, and practical way with dispensing advice about walking and backpacking was a godsend.

My pal Geoffrey Rule turned me on to Fletcher. Geoff was from British stock and Fletcher was Welsh. They both had an enthusiasm for walking, especially in wilderness, that was infectious and seemed cut from another time.

Mr. Fletcher wrote about his own experiences in the wilderness in such books as The Thousand-Mile Summer (1964) about his walk through the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada range, The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968), which chronicled a two-month long trek along the length of the Grand Canyon, and River: One Man's Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea (1997).

But it was The Complete Walker that gave me advice about gear, what to take on various trips, and what to know about walking in the wilderness, which to Fletcher remained "a delectable madness, very good for sanity." Although the book was far too large to pack on a backpacking trip, I still won't leave for a multi-day trek without consulting it. Even today, I've turned to the book when planning for one of my 40-mile excursions in the Wind River range, the White Mountains, or Yosemite over the past few years.

It's an indispensable guide. And Fletcher was a companion who will be missed. Luckily, his book is still in print, in an edition updated by Chip Rawlins: The Complete Walker.

Here's a link to his obit from the Los Angeles Times: Fletcher

16 June 2007

Global Climate Change: China Reducing Emissions, Investing in Alternatives

China and India are growing as greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. Indeed, China may soon overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases. Two-thirds of China's power comes from coal, which releases the most CO2 of any fossil fuel.

So, China's government is under pressure to reduce its emissions. Wan Gang, the country's science and technology minister, was critical of the recent Group of 8 pronouncement, which he said failed to resolve the question of burden associated with cutting greenhouse gases.

According to people familiar with the situation, Mr. Wan claims that his government has dedicated 4.6 billion yuan (US$602.7 million) to research since early last year, compared with 2.5 billion yuan for the previous five years. The Chinese have invested more than 7.1 billion yuan (about US$930 million) in technology innovations to deal with climate change since 2001.

Mr. Wan implied that this is just the beginning. "China is determined to find answers to climate change through science and technology," he said.

One such innovation is the China High-Speed Transmission Equipment Group, the nation's largest maker of gears for windmills. They are seeking as much as 2.12 billion Hong Kong dollars in an initial public offering, according to people with knowledge of the sale.

The company plans to sell 300 million new shares, a 25 percent stake, in Hong Kong at 5.38 dollars to 7.08 dollars apiece, according to an article on the situation. At the higher valuation, the sale would reap US$271 million.

China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation, a state-run company that is building a 200-megawatt wind farm, also plans an IPO. The government plans to expand installed wind power capacity to 5,000 megawatts by 2010 from 1,000 megawatts at the end of 2005.

Yingli Green Energy Holding, a Chinese maker of solar-power models, last month raised $319 million in a U.S. IPO, joining local rivals including LDK Solar in selling stock this year.

China is learning to quickly turn global warming concerns into investment opportunities.

07 June 2007

Global Climate Change: Mixed Reviews for G8 Agreement

The Group of Eight (G8) came to an unexpected agreement on a plan to seek substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and to launch talks in Bali later this year. The focus of the Bali talks will be to reach a new, global agreement by 2009, in an effort to be led by the UN.

"We have a clear starting moment and a clear finish," said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, according to a Reuters report. De Boer also said that other countries, chiefly China and India, would also have to agree to come to the table in Bali.

De Boer praised US President George Bush for his announcement last week, in which he pledged to seek cuts in emissions and convene talks among top emitters. De Boer's comments came despite Bush's objection to a 50 percent cut in global emissions below 1990 levels by 2050.

"I think that by doing what he has done the president has put himself and his country back in a leadership position," de Boer told Reuters.

Not everyone was happy with the outcome in Germany this week. Environmentalists slammed the agreement, claiming it was "not worth the paper it was written on." Their main objection was the lack of targets identified in the agreement.

"In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050," said the G8 declaration.

According to an article in The Guardian, "the G8 countries, which make up 13% of the world's population, are responsible for around 43% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the agreement a victory in Europe's push to secure a deal on climate change. She told sources familiar with the situation that the agreement represents "substantial cuts" in greenhouse gas emissions.

But environmentalists and extreme greens called the agreement "inadequate," "not enough," and yet another empty promise.

Sources familiar with the situation called the agreement "better than expected," considering the Bush administration's objections to specific targets proposed by some of the G8 countries.

06 June 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: Bill Drayton Featured on PBS NOW

Bill Drayton, the founder and CEO of Ashoka, which offers venture capital for social entrepreneurs, was recently featured on the PBS program NOW. Here's a link to a Podcast version of the interview, in which Drayton explains what makes a social entrepreneur and why they are important: Drayton on NOW

(I understand Bill was suffering from a cold when this interview was conducted, so he was losing his voice. Nevertheless, it's worth a listen!)

Bill Drayton, the innovator who popularized the term "social entrepreneur," talks to Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa about why he thinks social entrepreneurship is the next big thing. Drayton runs Ashoka, an organization that finds and fosters social entrepreneurs around the world. He is Bill Clinton's pick to become a winner of a Nobel prize.

Interview Excerpts:

"What does an entrepreneur do? The first thing is they've given themselves permission to see a problem. Most people don't want to see problems ... Once you see a problem and you keep looking at it you'll find an answer."

"It's the combination: big idea with a good entrepreneur: there's nothing more powerful. That's just as true [for] education and human rights as it is for hotel or steels."

"The citizen sector is now growing jobs at three times the rate of the rest of society."

"The social entrepreneurs are governments' best friends ... Yes the social entrepreneurs are challenging the governments, but that's very healthy."

"Two of the last three Nobel [peace] prize winners have been social entrepreneurs. This is a recognition that our field is maturing."

And check out the new PBS NOW series Enterprising Ideas, which highlights social entrepreneurs.

05 June 2007

Global Climate Change: Body-slam in Heiligendamm? Europe vs. Bush

Senior officials from Europe, the United Nations and G8 countries plan to put pressure on U.S. President George Bush to back U.N. efforts to combat climate change at a summit of major powers this week. Bush last week unveiled his own plan for tackling global warming beyond 2012, which suggests bringing China and India to the table, something other proposals have failed to do.

Bush and the EU, specifically Germany, disagree fundamentally on approaches. Bush wants technology solutions and voluntary targets; Europe feels that undermines the U.N.'s proposed mandatory target approach.

"America increasingly wants to use new technologies and in this way test how much carbon dioxide emissions can be decreased," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Der Spiegel. "We Europeans find it more compelling to agree on goals on an international level, and direct our efforts accordingly."

Who will win the battle? Or will we all lose, because, as Merkel's climate adviser Hans Joachim Schnellhuber said, Bush and Europe are like two cars racing head-on in a game of chicken.

Get ready for the "Body-Slam in Heiligendamm"...could be as exciting as the "Thrilla in Manilla."

04 June 2007

Investing: ISS Introduces Sustainability Risk Reports

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), the world’s leading provider of corporate governance and proxy voting services, last week announced the launch of its global Sustainability Risk Reports database.

Drawing on an extensive set of over 400 environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, ISS offers in-depth company profiles rich with qualitative analysis and a relative scoring system to help investors assess a company's ESG performance and compare it against industry peers.

As environmental and social issues such as climate change, energy use, labor and human rights begin to assume a higher profile among mainstream investors, there is a need for more extensive sustainability considerations for deeper analysis.

Leveraging the analysis and scoring embedded in the ISS Sustainability Risk Reports enables investors to analyze the potential sustainability-related risks and opportunities of portfolio companies.

“Shareholders not only expect their asset managers to know whether companies are acting as good corporate citizens, but also to consider ESG performance when managing their portfolios,” said John Deosaran, ISS Vice President of ESG Analytics. “With ISS’ Sustainability Risk Reports database, investment managers can identify those ESG factors that best align with their client-driven mandates, and determine appropriate investment weightings, turning compliance priorities into a competitive edge.”

Building upon its proven corporate governance model introduced in 2002, ISS is the first to deliver a reliable, objective and transparent scoring system for environmental and social performance. The breadth of the ISS sustainability scoring factors encompasses key areas such as carbon emissions, energy use, labor standards and ethics. ISS also analyzes each company’s disclosure practices, adherence to ESG policies and its Board’s oversight of ESG issues.

Investment managers can leverage ISS reports and scoring model to identify sustainability-related risk in portfolio companies and to manage client-driven mandates related to environmental, social and governance screening.

“Investors are asking increasing numbers of companies to provide more information around their ESG efforts, yet disclosure practices vary widely,” added Deosaran. “To obtain a comprehensive picture, investors need a consistent framework to evaluate ESG practices."

ISS’ global coverage universe for its Sustainability Risk Reports database includes the S&P 500, TSX 300 and European MSCI EAFE companies.

To learn more about ISS’ ESG services: ESG.

Global Climate Change: China Puts Economy Ahead of Climate

Reuters reported this morning that China's response to the threats of climate change must give overriding priority to economic development as the nation seeks to balance ambitions for growth with fears of environmental calamity.

The remarks came in China's first national plan on climate change, which sets out the country's broad policies on global warming and greenhouse gas pollution.

"The first and overriding priorities of developing countries are sustainable development and poverty eradication," the plan states. "China will continue to actively tackle climate change issues in accordance with its national sustainable development strategy in the future."

The unveiling of Beijing's broad blueprint comes two days before President Hu Jintao attends a meeting of Group of Eight leaders in Germany at which global warming will feature.

Read the full article: China

02 June 2007

Global Climate Change: "How business is starting to tackle climate change" - The Economist

This week's Economist features a cover story on "How business is starting to tackle climate change, and how governments need to help."

These days businesspeople are falling over each other to prove their greenness. That's partly because the politics of climate change have moved so fast in America. Five bills in U.S. Congress would introduce federal controls. Most of the serious presidential candidates for 2008 favour them.

California now has binding targets to cut CO2 emissions, and other states plan to follow. Many chief executives have come around to the view that federal controls would be better than a patchwork of state laws. And if federal regulations are coming, companies need to support them, in order to be involved in designing them. Hence the need to be seen to be green.

But companies are not driven purely by fear of regulation. Cleaner energy means new technologies -- and new money to be made.

Read more: The Economist: Cleaning Up

01 June 2007

Global Climate Change: John Doerr on Climate Change

A friend of mine sent the following link to a video of John Doerr's absolutely moving talk about climate change from the TED conference.

Doerr and his colleagues at Kleiner Perkins expended a lot of CO2 investigating the climate change issue after his 15 year old daughter challenged him to do something about this problem our generation created. But what Doerr found in his travels gives him hope, despite the fact that he is afraid we can't make it. If you are not moved to action by this video, then you are not human.

A must see: Doerr on Climate Change

Social Entrepreneurs: Vote for Ending Corruption at Changemakers

Changemakers, an initiative of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, wants you to join the search for innovative solutions that enhance the transparency and accountability of societies throughout the world.

Prepare to vote on June 6, 2007

Read all 80 entries: Ending Corruption

Global Climate Change: Can Nanotechnology Be Good For Climate?

Can nanotechnology be good for climate? by ZDNet's Roland Piquepaille -- The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently released a long report stating that nanotechnology might offer hope for climate change. This study has focused on 5 specific areas: fuel additives, solar cells, the hydrogen economy, batteries and insulation. The conclusion of this report is that nanotechnology could contribute to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 per cent by 2050. The largest reduction would come from using hydrogen as a source of energy. Unfortunately, this might be very difficult and will take years.

Here are a few quotes about the five areas where nanotechnologies could be used to improve our environment.

Fuel additives: Nanoparticle additives have been shown to increase the fuel efficiency of diesel engines by approximately 5%. This could be implemented immediately across the UK diesel powered fleet.

Solar cells: The high prices of solar cells are inhibiting their installation into distributed power generation, reducing energy generation from renewables. Nanotechnology may deliver more benefits in significantly decreasing the cost of production of solar cells.

The hydrogen economy: Hydrogen powered vehicles could eliminate all noxious emissions from road transport, which would improve public health. [But] the technology is estimated to be 40 years away from universal deployment.

Batteries and supercapacitors: Recent advances in battery technology have made the range and power of electric vehicles more practical. Issues still surround the charge time. Nanotechnology may provide a remedy to this problem allowing electric vehicles to be recharged in less than ten minutes.

Insulation: Cavity and loft insulation are cheap and effective, however, there are no easy methods for insulating solid walled buildings. Nanotechnology may provide a solution which, if an effective insulation could be found with similar properties to standard cavity insulation.

Download the report here: Environmentally beneficial nanotechnologies

Innovation: Negroponte Updates on "One Laptop Per Child" Project

Worldchanging features an update from Nicholas Negroponte on his "One Laptop Per Child" project:

"Despite the enthusiasm of countries like Rwanda, Libya and Uruguay, all of which are entertaining the idea of providing laptops to every schoolchild, no country has yet written a check to the project. That includes Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine and Thailand as well, all of whom Negroponte lists as first-stage adopters of the project. It’s a big check to write - nations are being asked to invest in the laptop one million at a time. That’s $176 million for the machines alone, at current pricing, plus money for distribution and Internet provision - the actual price tag could be closer to a $200 - 250 million investment. As the project scales up, the price drops - possibly as low as $100 per unit in 2009, possibly to $50 per unit in the next decade. Quanta, which manufactures the machine, is ready to scale to a million laptops per month by year’s end. That doesn’t sound like much, Negroponte tells us, but global laptop production is only 5 million a month."

Read the full article: OLPC

Read The Green Skeptic's original post on this project: Green Laptop

Environment: Is Water the New Oil?

YaleGlobal Online this week features an article by Rohini Nilekani, chairperson of Arghyam, a charitable foundation that supports a safe and sustainable global water supply, on the future of a world facing increasingly scarce fresh water. This from the YaleGlobal intro:

Water is more vital for human life than oil – and environmentalists, corporations, communities and governments increasingly recognize its unequal distribution around the globe could lead to severe environmental degradation and intense conflicts in the years ahead.

Less than 3 percent of the world’s water is potable – and climate change is already rapidly diminishing the vast stores of freshwater stored in glaciers and polar ice. Nilekani suggests that individual awareness combined with some global leadership must focus on sustaining life on the planet rather than modern lifestyles – and could reduce waste, overpopulation and unsustainable practices. Otherwise, warns Nilekani, the conflicts over water will make the oil crisis “seem like the trailer of some horrible disaster movie.”

With water already in short supply for more than 20 percent of the world’s people, no person can afford to take freshwater for granted.

Read the full article: Is Water the Next Oil?