December 2011

West Virginia's Energy Future is Clean December 2, 2011 : 9:33 PM

Allen Johnson, co-founder of Christians For The Mountains, writes in the Charleston Gazette:

“West Virginia simply must face the fact that it cannot play all its marbles on coal, and step into the future of clean, affordable, efficient energy.”

“Is such a future realistic? Or must we rely upon coal to "keep the lights on" and keep West Virginians working? Must we imperil our health and blight our state's natural wonder through mountaintop mining? Is there a workable road map that is not propped up by interminable massive taxpayer subsidies?”

“The good news is that there is such a road map. The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and Christians for the Mountains joined the Civil Society Institute in releasing a major new report that outlines a realistic and affordable path to a cleaner and less expensive energy future.”

Read Allen Johnson’s op-ed by clicking here


The Real Climategate December 3, 2011 : 7:04 PM

A fascinating piece in The Guardian entitled: “Attacks on climate scientists are the real ‘climategate.’" It reads in part:

“Joseph Welch famously brought down Joe McCarthy with a simple question: "Have you no sense of decency?"

"This year has already witnessed multiple events that break climate records: the drought in East Africa, the worst drought in Texas' recorded history, and record breaking storms and floods in the US south. Those events, anticipated by climatologists decades ago, should remind us that those who persecute and harass scientists, or mendaciously misrepresent their actions and findings, have no sense of decency."

"That is the real climategate.”


Congratulations Pat Summitt December 6, 2011 : 4:14 PM

Sports Illustrated named Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Women's basketball team Sportswoman of the Year:

"Of course there's an element of the lifetime achievement award in SI's choice. How could there not be? Summitt has put her stamp on women's basketball for 38 seasons, from the days when the sport was sometimes referred to as "women's extramurals," and her Lady Vols were asked, during a 1979 game at LSU when their prelim to the men went into overtime, to move to an auxiliary gym so the guys could tip off on time.
Over that span she has won eight national titles along with all those games, while graduating every last young woman to play four years for her."


Practical Tips To Debunk Deniers December 10, 2011 : 1:56 PM

From the Climate Reality Blog:

“1. Focus on the truth, not the myth. You want to increase your audience’s familiarity with the right facts, not the misinformation. Don’t give the myth more attention than it deserves, or your efforts might “backfire.” It even helps, before you mention a myth, to add an explicit disclaimer: “The information to follow is FALSE!”

“2. Less can be more. Although it might be tempting to list every piece of evidence thatdisproves a denier’s argument, research shows this is “overkill.” It’s best to keep your argument simple. People are most likely to believe information that’s easy to understand.”

“3. Be clever and present information in a way that is least threatening to your audience’s worldviews. If we’re not careful, our debunking efforts could further polarize the climate change “debate”. Check out this past blog post or listen to this podcast for more info.”

“4. Finally, expose the strategy behind the myth you’re attempting to debunk. Does the myth stem from teachings of a faux-expert? Is the myth a piece of information that’s “cherry-picked” and used out of context? What motives may have been behind the spreading of the misinformation?”


What was agreed in Durban December 12, 2011 : 11:25 AM

Reuters provides a great rundown of what was agreed at the conclusion of the climate treaty talks this weekend.


Sustainable Capitalism December 14, 2011 : 10:13 AM

Today, the Wall Street Journal has printed an op ed that I wrote with David Blood. It reads:

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, "It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship." Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for "sustainable capitalism."

We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.

Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.

Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.

Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: "Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?" From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.

Moreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:

• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company's profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.

• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.

• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.

• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.

Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.

Because ESG metrics directly affect companies' long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.

We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:

• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. "Stranded assets" are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.

That's exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.

• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.

This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.

• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies' issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.

• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.

• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete "standard model" of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.

To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.

Ben Franklin famously said, "You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again." Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.

Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.


Climate and Faith December 15, 2011 : 9:51 PM

A great profile of climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe in the LA Times:

“When Katharine Hayhoe was faced with telling a group of petroleum engineers in the heart of the Texas oil patch that the main culprit for climate change is humanity's consumption of fossil fuels, she expected pushback.”

"Aren't you scientists just in this for the money?" one older man asked — thelatest insult after a string of anonymous emails asserting that she and other climatologists were corrupt liars.”

“Most climatologists refuse to answer skeptics, preferring to let the research speak for itself. Hayhoe is one of a small but growing number of scientists willing to engage climate change doubters face to face. Unlike most of her colleagues, she is driven as much by the tenets of her faith as the urgency of the science.”

“A rising star among climatologists, Hayhoe, the daughter of missionaries, is also anevangelical Christian. Though the science supporting climate change grows ever more compelling, fewer Americans now accept the scientific consensus than they did three years ago. No group is more resistant than political conservatives, especially white evangelical Christians, who often say that climate change is a hoax.”


5.9% December 16, 2011 : 4:43 PM

This is an incredibly disconcerting sign:

“An analysis released over the weekend tells us that global carbon emissions leaped 5.9% in 2010, the largest absolute jump since the Industrial Revolution. Compare the nearly 6% increase in pollution last year to the 3% yearly growth in 2000-2010, and 1% in the 90s. Notice a trend?”

Source: Climate Reality blog


Terrible Disaster in the Philippines December 22, 2011 : 3:49 PM

AFP reports on the grim reality of the terrible flooding in the Philippines:

"Philippine authorities on Tuesday began burying the dead from flash floods that have left more than 1,000 dead or missing, as President Benigno Aquino declared a national disaster.

Aquino flew to Mindanao island to inspect the ports of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan -- choked with drying mud, crumpled homes, and hundreds of decomposing corpses after being struck by tropical storm Washi on the weekend.

Two dump trucks arrived at the public cemetery in Iligan at dusk, with soldiers unloading 38 coffins of victims who have been identified and claimed by relatives, who cried and lit candles as they witnessed the burial.

On Monday as the stench of rotting bodies grew unbearable and health fears rose, local authorities had announced plans for burials in mass graves but after intense criticism they hastily arranged individual tombs.

"It is not like digging a hole and sticking them in there. They are being given apartment-style compartments, and I think it's pretty decent," Iligan city Mayor Lawrence Cruz told AFP as he led the first of the burials.

A priest sprinkled holy water on each coffin before it was pushed into the tombs.
Cruz said that forensics experts were taking fingerprints and DNA samples of the many other unidentified bodies at overflowing local mortuaries and that dozens more cadavers would be ready for burial on Wednesday.

Aquino pledged aid to the slum communities hit by the disaster, which the government has said left 957 people dead and 49 others missing -- a toll they fear could rise as bodies swept out to sea begin to surface.

The president pledged to repair damaged roads and water systems, mass housing units in safe relocation areas, and water level sensors for all major river basins across the country to help communities avoid similar disasters.

He said he would sign an order declaring a national "State of Calamity" to make the necessary funds available.

"But in return we expect you to refrain from moving back to those places that put your lives at constant risk," Aquino said in a speech at an evacuation centre.

Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, appealed for $4.2 million (3.2 million euros) on Tuesday to help an estimated 200,000 children who are victims of the flood.
Meanwhile the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, said the Philippines should draw lessons from the natural disaster.

"The first is that more must be done to ensure early warning systems are effective in an age when climate change is intensifying the impact of typhoons," she said in a statement from the UN information office in Manila.

"The second is to understand the deadly cocktail of exposure and vulnerability created by poverty, rapid urbanisation and deforestation which results in huge loss of life, homes and hard-won development gains when a storm of this magnitude strikes."
Officials and experts said many of the dead were informal settlers living in shantytowns built on river sand bars made up of soft and unstable sediment."

To read the full article, click here.


Not Backing Down December 23, 2011 : 6:53 PM

Senators Boxer, Kerry, Sanders and Whitehouse write at Grist:

“If you read just the headlines these days, you might think renewable energy inAmerica is going the way of Solyndra. Don't take our word for it: A recent headline from Fox News declared "ENTIRE Solar Industry on Brink of Collapse."

“We cannot allow long-time opponents of renewable energy to focus the discussion only on Solyndra (whose higher-priced panels could not compete as solar costs came down) when we should be thinking about competing with China to win the next energy revolution. Why? Because the race is on to put the right policies in place so hundreds of thousands of new, well-paying renewable energy jobs will be created here, and not in China. With Bloomberg New Energy Finance reporting that for the first time ever, global investments in renewable electricity have exceeded investments in fossil fuel power plants, the question is not whether renewable energy is creating jobs; it is which country is going to lead the clean energy jobs revolution. We want it to be America.”

Read their entire article by clicking here.


Massachusetts Benefits from Cap-and-Trade December 29, 2011 : 2:01 PM

Despite all the naysaying and skepticism, Massachusetts is economically benefiting from cap-and-trade:

“The state of Massachusetts is quietly reaping the benefits of cap and trade, the much-maligned process for curbing greenhouse gas emissions that federal lawmakers and many state governments resoundingly rejected in recent years.According to a recent study, cap and trade has created 3,800 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic activity for Massachusetts since 2008.”

“Massachusetts belongs to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first and only mandatory carbon emissions trading scheme in America. A report analyzing data from the first three years of the effort found that of the 10 participatingNortheast and Mid-Atlantic states, Massachusetts benefited most economically, because it used the bulk of its money to help fund its aggressive energy efficiency agenda.”

"Energy efficiency investments have a much bigger multiplier effect than any other category of spending," said Paul Hibbard, vice president of the Analysis Group, the Boston-based consulting firm that prepared the report. When homeowners and businesses used RGGI dollars to retrofit and weatherize buildings, they not only ended up saving on energy costs and spending moneyelsewhere in the economy—they also put contractors and installers to work.”

Source: Inside Climate News


Americans Make the Link December 30, 2011 : 7:32 PM

Americans have linked extreme weather to the climate crisis – it's time out leaders do the same:

“More than half of Americans believe that weather in the United States has gotten worse over the past several years, and even more say they believe that global warming is affecting U.S. weather, a new report finds.”

“The data come from the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, which tracks Americans' opinions about climate change over time. About 63 percent of Americans said they believed that global warming is occurring, essentially unchanged from 64 percent in the last survey in May 2011. Half of Americanssaid that humans contribute to climate change, a slight increase of 3 percentage points since May.”

Source: Live Science


Climate Misinformer of the Year December 31, 2011 : 9:57 AM

Media Matters names Rush Limbaugh the "Climate Misinformer of the Year"

"In 1994 Rush Limbaugh declared, "There is no global warming going on," adding that scientists "admit" they "may need 20 years more data to prove it." Since then, Limbaugh has managed to shield his brain from 18 years of mounting evidence that humans are changing the climate. "Science has made enormous inroads in understanding climate change and its causes," according to the National Research Council's latest report assessing the state of climate science. "There is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities," the report said."

"Limbaugh, whose radio show reportedly reaches roughly 14 million people per week, remains the most prominent and cocksure denier of human-induced climate change in the news industry. His unyielding belief that the world's earth scientists are perpetrating a "hoax" has led him to some interesting places this year, from declaring that the heat index is "manufactured by the government," to accusing NASA of sabotaging its own research satellite, to announcing that the National Academy of Sciences has "lost all credibility." Given his large following, Limbaugh's extreme and misguided position may well have influenced the Republican presidential primary by discouraging candidates from speaking about the threats posed by global warming. Indeed, Limbaugh made this litmus test explicit, saying "bye, bye, nomination" after Mitt Romney acknowledged the human contribution to climate change. For all this, on top of his typically bombastic distortions and obfuscations of climate science, Limbaugh wins the distinction of 2011 Climate Change Misinformer of the Year."