MORE BUSINESS LEADERS ARE TAKING ACTION

To a greater extent than ever before, the best interest of many businesses and those of the planet are aligned. That’s how The Washington Post’s Steven Mufson put it in a story that ran just after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 8 report warning that the world is headed toward an increase of 3 degrees Celsius instead of the 1.5 degrees ceiling that the Paris Agreement calls for.   

“We need to future-proof ourselves,” said  Feike Sijbesma, chief executive of the Dutch multinational Royal DSM. “Some of my investors and banks asked me what do you want to do: Improve the world or make money? I said, ‘Well, both.’ ”

“A lot of investors want to understand the implications of a low-carbon economy,” said Bob Litterman, a member of our Advisory Board who is a nationally recognized authority on risk management. “Quantifying that is difficult. And they’re worried that a major climate transition could take place much faster than expected.” During a 23-year career at Goldman Sachs, he helped create the Black-Litterman Global Asset Allocation Model.

“If you look at this problem from a risk-management point of view, you look at that worst-case scenario,” Litterman said. “And the worst-case scenario is really, really bad.”

A number of major corporations are taking action.

  • Walmart has installed more than 1.5 million energy-efficient LED light fixtures across more than 6,000 stores, parking lots, distribution centers and corporate offices in 10 countries, driving down lighting costs by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, the company said. Walmart also said it had exceeded its goal to double the efficiency of its trucking fleet by 2015, thereby saving nearly $1 billion.

  • Costco has installed solar systems on top of at least 100 of its warehouse stores, and some locations use solar power in parking lots.

  • UPS is shifting toward electric vehicles and plans to operate a quarter of its vehicles with alternative fuel by 2020.

  • Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, will no longer fund new coal-fired power plants, oil-sands development or Arctic drilling.

  • New Jersey-based PSEG, one of the nation’s largest utilities, recently unveiled a six-year, $4.1 billion climate plan, with two-thirds of the money aimed at boosting energy efficiency. An additional $300 million will go toward 40,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles. “We need to step up our game,” said Ralph Izzo, the utility’s CEO.

“We’ve gone from saying ‘it would be nice to do, but it would cost us’ to saying ‘if we don’t do it, we won’t be able to grow, we won’t be able to have tomorrow’s economy,’ ” Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, told Mufson.“It’s wonderful what [companies] are doing,” he said. “But we also need governments. They are two blades of a pair of scissors, so to speak.”

We believe that the most effective step our government could take is to price carbon, and we are urging business leaders to make that case to Congress. Will the Congress that convenes in January take action? We will be encouraging lawmakers to do so.


CARBON FEE IS FOCUS OF GLOBAL SUMMIT FORUM

“Over past year or two, a carbon fee has been emerging as the best and maybe the only solution to climate change that can command significant bipartisan support,” PRG co-founder George T. Frampton, Jr., said during a carbon-pricing forum at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. He told the audience that neither cap-and-trade nor an EPA-led regulatory approach appears politically viable.

Since it is market-based, a fee appeals to many Republicans. Another panel member, Josiah Neeley of R Street, said that as a conservative he values a fee because it “best respects human freedom,” leaving it to the consumer to buy what he wants.

Frampton and others emphasized that the key to progress on climate change--and specifically on a carbon fee--is advocacy from the business community. “We have done visits to more than 250 members of Congress, both staff and members, and a large majority, including Republicans, believe climate change is occurring,” he said September 13. “But they tell us they need to know that the business community will have their back if they go public in support of a carbon fee.” Businesses, meantime, are wary of finding themselves “out there in the Valley of Death, hit by a tweet from the president for publicly backing a fee.”

The summit, Frampton said later, “was a demonstration of energy by those determined to show that President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does not mean that the United States as a whole is abandoning the cause.”  

Thousands of mayors, climate activists and business leaders from around the world were on hand. The news at the summit included a report that 27 major cities around the world have seen emissions decrease over a five-year period and are now at least 10 percent lower than their peak. The cities include Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, and Paris, with a total population of about 54 million people.

There was no shortage of announcements at the meeting. Companies like Walmart and Unilever rolled out new programs to limit deforestation in their huge supply chains. Dozens of philanthropic groups committed $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change. (The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that there has been criticism that the philanthropic world has "chronically underfunded" climate work.)

“A key premise of the conference,” wrote Brad Plumer of The New York Times, “was that if a handful of leading-edge states, cities and businesses can demonstrate that it’s feasible — and even lucrative — to go green in their own backyards, they might inspire others to follow suit. That, in turn, could make it easier for national leaders to act more forcefully.” Most research shows that subnational and nonstate action has promise but cannot replace ambitious national policy as the cornerstone of climate mitigation.

Among those attending from other countries was Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. She told The Times, “It is important to show the world that we’re still working with U.S. states. There really are practical things we can do together.”

One major goal of the summit was to build momentum. Frampton predicted that the debate on carbon pricing would accelerate after the elections, and he expects the energy generated in San Francisco to help build political support. Some lawmakers, he said, may be lured by the massive revenue stream that a carbon fee would generate. Speaking to the summit by video, Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida touted his carbon tax bill, which most observers believe he will re-introduce in the new Congress.

The momentum also could help during December’s COP24 negotiations in Poland, the most important since the 2015 Paris agreement. Poland is where countries are supposed to complete the rules governing that agreement. That would encompass everything from how countries should report on their climate actions to how donors will count and mobilize climate finance to aid developing countries. Preparatory negotiations in Bangkok this month left many of these issues unresolved.  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a long-time player in climate policy, told The Times that there was “a real can-do spirit” at the summit. Looking ahead to the Poland negotiations, he said, “We’ll see if that mentality can permeate upward.”

PRG'S FRAMPTON TO SPEAK AT GLOBAL SUMMIT

PRG co-founder George Frampton has been invited to be part of a September 13 forum on carbon taxes at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. He and other leaders, including Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), chief sponsor of a new carbon tax bill, will devote half a day to exploring ways to advance such legislation. “This will provide a great opportunity to explain why this free-market approach is the most powerful and most efficient option for combating the climate-related problems we face,” Frampton said.

Titled THE U.S. BUSINESS CASE FOR A CARBON TAX: Driving Innovation, Equity & Opportunity, this forum will seek to answer questions such as: 1) What kind of carbon tax is best for the economy and environment?  2) How should the revenues generated be used? 3) What’s most politically feasible and socially equitable? The forum runs from 1 to 5:30 p.m. PDT, and Frampton will take part in an examination of the national political landscape, set to go from 3:15 to 3:55 p.m. Gap, Inc. will host the carbon tax event at its corporate headquarters, 2 Folsom Street, and it is open to the public.

Other invitees include U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI); Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett (D), sponsor of his state’s carbon fee bill; and representatives from Students For Carbon Dividends, The Nature Conservancy, R Street, Exelon, and ExxonMobil.

The summit will bring leaders and people together from around the world to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” Organizers want to celebrate the achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens. They also will underline new and continuing efforts underway across the Summit’s five challenge areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship, and climate investments toward the next milestone of “peaking” pollution worldwide by 2020 as a prelude to decarbonizing the global economy.

“The value and the beauty of the summit — a little bit of the magic, so to speak — is bringing all the non-state actors together to show what they can do and how much more they’re ready to do," Ceres CEO Mindy Lubber told Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group. You can virtually attend the Global Summit by streaming it live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Makower, writing a summit preview for his website GreenBiz, also spoke with Mark Watts, executive director of C40, a network of the world’s largest cities committed to addressing climate change. "I think we’ve got over 30 mayors of major cities, which is a huge number for this kind of event to travel to San Francisco, who will be on stage announcing or explaining the commitments they’ve made across four major areas: energy; transport; waste management; and building energy efficiency," Watts said.

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Makower reported, is playing a leading role in making sure that the business community is well-represented across the entire summit "working closely with our six partners in the We Mean Business coalition," according to CEO Aron Cramer.

That involves sending two key messages, he told Makower. “The first is that climate action is good for business. It’s happening, and businesses are reorienting their models in order to shift to a low-carbon and ultimately a new zero economy by the middle of the century. And related to that is the business community sending a strong signal to policymakers that climate ambition on their part is important and that with the right policy frameworks, businesses can and will go even further in accelerating action on the road to a clean energy economy."

The summit’s list of high-profile speakers is impressive. Among them are former Secretary of State John Kerry; European Commissioner for Climate Change and Energy Miguel Arias Canete; former U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna; former Secretary of State George Shultz; astronaut Mae Jemison; executives from McDonald’s, Walmart, Starbucks, and United Airlines; and the governors of New Jersey, Hawaii, Washington, Puerto Rico, and Connecticut.

The final months of 2018 will feature other important climate gatherings, reflecting the broad global determination to make progress. This year’s annual COP conference (COP24), organized by the UNFCCC, is December 3 to 14 in Katowice, Poland. Coming up later this month is Climate Week in New York, and from November 6 to 8, BSR is hosting “A New Blueprint for Business,” also in New York. There are others, as well.

ARE EASTERN TORNADOES NEXT?

 

 

If you live in the East, you probably worry about tornadoes as you do about earthquakes. Not going to happen.

Then again….

One morning in late July Dena Connors woke up in her home in Upton, Massachusetts, and found a large tree branch protruding from her husband’s back windshield, paired with multiple downed trees, and a snapped basketball hoop. “It was the weirdest thing,” she told MetroWest Daily News. “It came so quick and went so fast.... My dog woke me up, and I heard it coming. I thought, ‘this is either a lot of rain or a really lot of wind that’s coming.’”

A week later another tornado, a weak one, touched down in New York City’s Queens borough. With winds of up to 85 m.p.h., it knocked down at least 50 trees, ripped down power lines, and peeled siding off houses. Tornadoes are so rare there that the National Weather Service’s alert mainly “inspired jokes about ruby slippers and related displays of ambivalence on Twitter,” according to a New York Times story.

No one is comparing the East to Tornado Alley, the region of the southern and central U.S. where most of the nation’s tornadoes touch down. But the frequency appears to be increasing.

Researchers know, The Times reported, that there are two ingredients that fuel severe storms that could spawn tornadoes: potential energy in the air and wind currents, or wind shear. The rising levels of greenhouse gases in the air add more energy to the climate system, Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University, told reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis. There’s less consensus on how climate change will affect wind shear, though a 2013 study on the thunderstorm conditions that form tornadoes found that the impact was negligible.

Over all, Diffenbaugh said, “We do have strong evidence that, at the large scale, global warming is likely to increase the atmospheric environments that create the kind of severe thunderstorm that produces tornadoes.”

The United States gets more tornadoes, by far, than any other place on Earth. We average about 1,250 twisters a year. Canada, which sees about 100, is a “distant second,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

During a summer featuring deadly heat waves and wildfires, the apparent increase in eastern tornadoes offers one more reason for us to take climate change more seriously. Unfortunately, the federal government seems unconcerned, watering down vehicle fuel-efficiency standards and the regulations designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Even someone not concerned about climate change might be troubled to hear that EPA estimates that there would be between 470 and 1,400 additional premature annual deaths by 2030 under its new power plant regulations.

It’s time for Congress to stop sitting on its hands. Tell your representatives on Capitol Hill to enact a carbon fee and put the free market to work on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. You don’t want to look out your window and see roofs, cars, and trees flying by.

HEAT WAVES AND FIRES ARE TASTE OF FUTURE

Summers are hot. But the heat waves around the world this summer have broken numerous records and are setting off alarms about what may lie ahead--especially if policymakers fail to get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are a few of the numbers:

  • Los Angeles set an all-time high temperature record of 111°F on July 6.

  • Japan set a national temperature record of 106°F during a heat wave that followed deadly floods.

  • Ouargla, Algeria, may have set Africa's all-time highest temperature on July 5, with a reading of 124.3°F.

  • Quriyat, Oman, likely had the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28, when the temperature failed to drop below 109°F.

  • Heat records have also fallen in Canada, the U.K., Ireland and France.

What’s cooking? The jet stream, the river of wind high above the Northern Hemisphere, has been weaker and wavier in the past few weeks, scientists say. Instead of pushing weather systems along as it usually does, it’s allowing the patterns to stagnate.

The heat wave searing northern Europe was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to a rapid assessment by scientists. The result is preliminary, but they say the signal of climate change is “unambiguous,” according to an article in The Guardian.

Scientists have long predicted that global warming is ramping up the number and intensity of heat waves, with events even worse than the current one set to strike every other year by the 2040s. “The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford and part of the World Weather Attribution consortium that did the work.

"Near the Arctic, it's absolutely exceptional and unprecedented. This is a warning," said French heat wave expert Robert Vautard, who also worked on the study. "In many places, people are preparing for the past or present climate. But this summer is the future," he said.

“What has been really unusual in the Western U.S. this summer has been the sustained heat,” said Alex Hall, a UCLA climate scientist. “It really pulls water out of vegetation, and that sets up conditions for big fires.”

University of Arizona climate researcher and geographer Kevin Anchukaitis publicized several wildfire studies from the last 10 years that all show how and why global warming is making fires bigger, more destructive and longer-lasting. "Is climate change the only factor influencing wildland fire? No, of course not—but climate change is influencing area burned and fuel aridity," he wrote.

After a devastating 2017, California is facing an even tougher wildfire season this year. The state has reported 3,770 wildfires so far this year, up from 3,440 over the same period last year. The largest, the Carr Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed six people. And the season has not yet reached its peak.

Anyone who’s wringing his hands about how much it would cost to speed up the transition to non-carbon energy sources should think about the tab that the heat waves and wildfires are running up. In England, as in almost all of Europe, growing patterns are changing. The drought has increased food prices, and staples may be in short supply this fall. In July, farmers had to fly in lettuce from overseas to meet contracts with supermarkets. One cargo firm said it flew in 30,000 heads of lettuce from Los Angeles during one hot July weekend alone. The drought in Ireland means that income for dairy farmers is likely to be cut in half this year, said Teagasc, the state’s farming advisory body.

Congress, over the past year, has passed a series of bills providing well over $100 billion in response to hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and other natural disasters, The Hill reported August 3.

The financial toll also includes health costs. A recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

“These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and is now a fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health. “It’s a major public health challenge.”

Excessive heat can lead to brain and kidney damage and cardiovascular stress, especially for those over 64. By the year 2099, even with economic growth and adaptation, 1.5 million more people will die each year around the world because of increased heat. By comparison, 1.25 million people died in 2013 in all traffic accidents world-wide. These findings came from an exhaustive new study by the Climate Impact Lab, a think tank based at the University of Chicago, and cited by Wall Street Journal columnist Greg Ip.

.More surprising, he wrote, is that temperate places fare worse, because they aren’t used to heat: In Seattle, a hot day is seven times deadlier than in Houston because fewer homes have air conditioning and people spend more time outdoors.

This summer’s heat waves and wildfires make it clearer than ever that the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases needs to take strong action. Most economists say the fastest, more efficient, and most effective step the United States can take is to adopt a national carbon fee. Tell those who represent you on Capitol Hill that you want them to support this commonsense approach.