Hearkening back to go forward

Thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps by Kevin Micalizzi via Flickr CC

The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in the spring of 1933 by a new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a way to put millions back to work. It gave jobs to an eventual three million young men. This was during the Great Depression and prior to the Second World War, which was an employment program of a quite different sort. The CCC left a legacy of trees, trails, shelters, footbridges, picnic areas, and campgrounds in local, state, and national parks across the country.

Now there is a new president, Joe Biden, and another CCC: The Civilian Climate Corps., which the president included in his 27 January 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, a comprehensive call to action on many fronts. The relevant section on the CCC goes as follows:

“Sec. 215.  Civilian Climate Corps.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.  The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.”

Under Biden’s executive order, the heads of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and other departments have 90 days to present their plan to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers,” a step toward fulfilling Biden’s promise to get the US on track to conserve 30% of lands and oceans by 2030.

Through its nine-year existence, Roosevelt’s CCC put three million jobless Americans to work. CCC enrollees planted more than three billion trees, paved 125,000 miles of roadways, erected 3,000 fire lookouts, and spent six million workdays fighting forest fires.

“We are conserving not only our natural resources but also our human resources,” Roosevelt said back then.

The CCC was a great idea then, its time has come around again.

Further reading:

“The Civilian Climate Corps Is a Big-Government Plan That All Americans Can Embrace,” Jim Lardner, New Yorker, 7 March 2021.

“Biden’s new conservation corps stirs hopes of nature-focused hiring spree,” Paola Rosa-Aquino, The Guardian, 9 Feb. 2021.

“Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps comes straight out of the New Deal,” Kate Yoder, Grist,  8 February 2021.

Supply chain decarbonization: the way forward

Getting to a global net-zero emission supply chain sounds like an impossible and expensive task, but it may be cheaper than one might think.

This is according to an article published in the recent State of Green Business report by Michael Holder, “The Price is Right.”

Holder, a BusinessGreen reporter, writes that  “setting ambitious net-zero targets for a company’s core business is one thing, but achieving deep decarbonization across the entire supply chain is quite another.”

Many, if not most, supply chains are highly complex and reach across the globe, so measuring and mandating emissions is daunting. “Yet without action to get to net-zero emissions across every corner of the global economy, the planet’s climate will continue to warm.”

He referred to a recent report, “Net-Zero Challenge: The “Supply Chain Challenge,” from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) noting that, as well as being a “game changer” in the fight against climate change, decarbonizing supply chains is possible with readily available technologies and at surprisingly low cost. Some of the majore findings from the report include:

  • Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains
  • Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions
  • Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs. (Around 40% of all emissions in these supply chains could be abated with readily available and affordable levers)

Decarbonizing supply chains will be difficult; the report outlines nine major initiatives every company can take:

“Through interviews with several dozen global companies that lead the way in reducing supply chain emissions, we have identified nine key actions: (1) build a comprehensive emissions baseline, gradually filled with actual supplier data; (2) set ambitious and holistic reduction targets, reducing emissions by (3) revisiting product design choices and (4) reconsidering (geographic) sourcing strategy; (5) set ambitious procurement standards and (6) work jointly with suppliers to co-fund abatement levers; (7) work together with peers to align sector targets that maximize impact and level the playing field; (8) use scale by driving up demand to lower the cost of green solutions; and – finally – (9) develop internal governance mechanisms that introduce emissions as a steering mechanism and align the incentives of decision-makers with emission targets.”

There is no time like the present to get started.

Further reading:

Gates Notes

  • Global Energy Perspective 2021

The Global Energy Perspective describes our view on how the energy transition can unfoldthrough four scenarios

The newly announced actions may well mark the beginning of the end of the fossil-fuel era.

newyorker.com

The Opportunity: Green Business

Business, green business, sustainability, health and economic security have always been connected, but no more so than now after four years of neglect and ignorance by the Trump Administration. Mix in a raging pandemic, a new administration committed to tackling climate change, and it might just be that the path forward is in sight.

“There never has been a moment as opportune as this one to be talking about the intersection of business and sustainability,” writes Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, in the latest edition of the State of Green Business. The report is now in its 14th year.

“Justice,” he continues, is the new mantra governing a host of issues–social, racial, climate, economic, environmental and others. “During 2020, amid the economic, social, political and public health crises we encountered; corporate sustainability continued to move forward.” Because of Covid-19 and “the other challenges we’ve encountered, the idea of rapid, large-scale global action now seems more than a mere pipe dream,” says Makower.

Factoids from the report:

  • According to the U.S. SIF Foundation’s 2020 biennial “Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends,” sustainable investing assets now total $17.1 trillion, or 33 percent of the $51.4 trillion in total U.S. assets under professional money management — a 42 percent jump from 2018
  • As of October 2020, more than 1,500 organizations had expressed their support for the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), an increase of over 85 percent since June 2020
  • Given the above, it was not surprising to see an uptick in corporate ambition on sustainability issues. “Net zero” became a key commitment during 2020 — goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date
  • What will it take for companies to dramatically step up their ambition and actions? That is a defining question of the decade. No doubt the answer lies in a combination of investor pressure, technological innovation, consumption shifts, governmental pressure, new circular business models that reward resource efficiency — and more than a little grit and determination
  • Corporate sustainability efforts are continuing apace, even amid economic uncertainty and a global pandemic that, as of this writing, is far from contained. It wasn’t very many years ago that the future of corporate sustainability was uncertain even during good times

10 Subject-matter trends discussed in the 135-page report:

  1. Ocean-Based Sequestration Heats Up
  2. The ‘S’ in ESG Gains Currency
  3. Community Investments Pay Dividends
  4. Aquaculture Becomes a Net-Positive
  5. Industrial Decarbonization Picks Up Steam
  6. Nature Takes Root on the Balance Sheet
  7. Sustainable Mobility Drives the Newest Perk
  8. Aviation Plots a Sustainable Course
  9. The Circular Economy Shows its Human Side
  10. Corporate Advocacy Gets Louder

The “State of Green Business” is always a valuable resource, now more than ever.

Further reading:

“A New Day for the Climate,” New Yorker, by Elizabeth Kolbert January 31, 2021

It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden’s sweeping climate directives can make a meaningful difference, but a critical threshold has been crossed.

A Keystone Moment

Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr CC
DC Says No Keystone XL 12

Actually, much more than a moment, President Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a milestone event in the on-again off-again, anti-climate history of this project.

Writing in the New Yorker on 21 January, Bill McKibben says the action “settled—almost certainly, once and for all—one of the greatest environmental battles this country has seen.”

Keystone XL is/was a project of the TransCanada Corporation (now TC Energy) and was designed to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands across the country to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. President George W. Bush approved the original Keystone pipeline, and it went into service early in the Obama years. But the new XL version, announced in 2008, was larger and took a different course across the heartland. It caused major opposition from virtually everyone concerned with protecting the climate. It came first from indigenous people in Canada, who had watched tar-sand mines lay waste to a vast landscape, to Native-Americans in America. Eventually President Obama announced a delay in the permit process in order to consider the question more closely, but President Trump revived the pipeline during his first days in office by Executive Order.

Now President Biden, also by Executive Orders, has cancelled the Keystone permit and has the US rejoining the Paris Climate agreement during his first days in office.

A great start for the new administration. There’s still much work to do and battles to be fought but can we at long last focus on creating jobs through renewable infrastructure projects, and not on pumping filthy tar sand oil into the US?

It is past time to transition away from fossil fuel jobs and transform those jobs to renewable industries.

Postscript:

Greta Thunberg Tweeted this on 24 January: “This week Norway awarded 61 new oil and gas exploration rights to 30 oil companies. Sweden’s Lundin Oil was awarded stakes in 19 licenses. It’s 2021 and when it comes to facing the climate emergency the world is still in a state of complete denial.”

Further Reading:

12 new books explore fresh approaches to act on climate change

Yale Climate Connections

4 ways the US can reassert leadership on climate change | Bill Gates

Gates Notes

Playing Catch-up

In a few days the work begins to undo four years of neglect, incompetence and horrific awfulness on addressing climate change.

For one thing, the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Agreement, which is a good thing but that pact is probably already virtually useless and in need of a major update. Even with a new, updated agreement, which seems unlikely, it may be too late because global warming and climate catastrophe adheres to no timeline but its own.

But much work is needed right now, especially in the U.S., and the new president appears to understand this and the necessity of tying progress on climate, infrastructure, jobs and the economy in a coherent and workable plan.

Referring to the 2015 Paris Agreement, Greta Thunberg, said this week that it’s “a huge problem that nations are failing to meet their climate- and ecological targets. The main problem however, is the fact that their targets are completely insufficient in the first place. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it like a crisis.”

For those in need of a refresher on the Paris Agreement here’s a link. A status report on the agreement from Vox, published last month (Dec. 2020) offers some good information on where we are now.

While we play catch-up, here a couple recent articles to consider, courtesy of Google alerts:


The Economic Costs of Climate Change

European Corporate Governance Institute


The fight against climate change should focus on reaching positive climate tipping points

Fast Company

Let’s do this.

American isolation

Climate Change by Jan via Flickr CC

While wildfires spread in California, glaciers continue to melt and species extinction continues apace, the Trump Administration this week took the first step to officially withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Lest we forget, every other country on the planet has signed the agreement that we wrote.

We also know that Trump promised to do this in 2017, but one might have hoped this particular move would be forgotten out of the sheer incompetence of this crew of idiots. But no.

“This is not America first; once again, it’s America isolated,” said John F. Kerry, former secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel, former U.S. defense secretary, in an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post.  

They wrote:

“Climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States, as hundreds of top scientists from 13 federal agencies made clear in a report the White House itself released last year. The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of U.S. lives every year by the end of the century. Rising seas, increased storm surge, and tidal flooding threaten $1 trillion in public infrastructure and private property now along U.S. coastlines. The United States has experienced at least $400 billion in weather and climate disaster costs since 2014. The recent hurricanes that slammed America’s southern coasts, as well as historic wildfires in California, resulted in more American victims of severe weather juiced by climate change than ever before.”

They also noted climate change threatens national security. “This link has been clear for decades. Our military bases, and hence our security preparedness, are threatened by sea-level rise and other impacts. If you put a map of places with high political instability today over a map of places with high climate vulnerability, the two would be nearly identical.”

The Paris climate accord is not the final answer by any stretch, but it is a good and necessary start to mounting the actions needed. For the U.S. to bow out is shameful and yet another example of the nation’s abandonment of world leadership.

There is a ray of hope. The paperwork to exit the Paris agreement is submitted, but that sets off a year-long process: the U.S. won’t officially leave the agreement until Nov. 4, 2020.

The 2020 election is Nov. 3, 2020. “The United States can rejoin the agreement at any time once we have a leader willing to do so,” said Kerry and Hagel.

Exxon in the dock for climate change fraud

ExxonMobil now is fighting fraud lawsuits on two fronts — one in New York and the other in Massachusetts — alleging that the oil giant defrauded investors by misleading consumers about the central role fossil fuels have played in causing climate change and misleading investors about the climate-driving risks to its business.

Read about the Massachusetts case here.

The latest lawsuit came last week in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston in a complaint alleging Exxon repeatedly violated the state’s consumer and investor protection law and related regulations. 

The lawsuit accuses Exxon of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors. 

The trial in the New York case began on 22 October. The New York attorney general brought the suit alleging the company used figures internally that were different from what they disclosed publicly when calculating the impact of laws, taxes and other economic aspects of climate change over the coming decades.

The fraud cost investors as much $1.6 billion, according to the the attorney general’s office.Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, during the years in question, and will testify in the trial, according to a company attorney.

When Tillerson became ExxonMobil CEO in 2006, he identified that climate change regulation would have a major impact on the company’s business and created the process of assessing a dollar amount for it..

“I had taken the view and we had taken the view as a corporation that the risk of climate change was serious and that … appropriate action was to be needed,” Tillerson said, according to the transcript of his deposition.

The New York suit argues that Exxon used two different ways to calculate carbon costs and wasn’t clear when it was using one or the other.

“We think it highlights the deception that Exxon has put forth over the last 50-plus years. You know, my entire life Exxon has been sowing doubt and disinformation about the climate crisis,” Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman with the group 350.org, told CNN.

“We’re escalating the demand that is rising around the world for fossil fuel companies to pay for their destruction and what they knew and lied about climate change,” she said.

“Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change,” the state wrote in a complaint last year.

The case In New York goes back to 2015, when stories by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that while Exxon’s scientists were internally researching climate change to plan its operations; they knew they global climate was being severly affect while the company was casting doubt on global warming.

The lawsuit claims ExxonMobil’s actions had the effect of making its assets appear more secure than they really were, which in turn affected its share price and defrauded investors.

Exxon contends the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs. Exxon Mobil and other oil companies face a growing number of lawsuits that seek financial help in coping with climate-driven floods, drought and heat.

Big Oil has a lot to answer for its role in causing change; perhaps these lawsuits will speed that reckoning.

Image: Target Exxon by Joe Brusky via Flickr CC

James Balog and geologic-scale change

We are in the midst of geologic-scale change, and we humans are causing it.

James Balog says this during Chasing Ice, a masterpiece of filmmaking and science. It’s perhaps the one film that that those who have any doubts about climate change—and even those who don’t—should watch, and maybe watch again with a group of friends.

Balog, an American photographer who explores the relationship between humans and nature, set out to record visual evidence of what we know is happening to our planet’s glaciers due to climate change.

In 2007 Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography program that integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. 

Chasing Ice captures largest glacier calving ever filmed:

Balog, at TED Global 2009, talked about the images from the Extreme Ice Survey and the network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate – some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.

Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. The film is a stunning, astounding, inspiring, artistic and heartbreaking work. If ever there was anything that is must-see, it is this.

Thanks for Bill McKibben: A voice shouting in the wilderness of a shrinking planet

air air pollution climate change dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever. We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale. The chances of that look slim. In Russia, the second-largest petrostate after the U.S., Vladimir Putin believes that “climate change could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance.” Saudi Arabia, the third-largest petrostate, tried to water down the recent I.P.C.C. report. Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected President of Brazil, has vowed to institute policies that would dramatically accelerate the deforestation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. Meanwhile, Exxon recently announced a plan to spend a million dollars—about a hundredth of what the company spends each month in search of new oil and gas—to back the fight for a carbon tax of forty dollars a ton. At a press conference, some of the I.P.C.C.’s authors laughed out loud at the idea that such a tax would, this late in the game, have sufficient impact.”

The above is a short excerpt from Bill McKibben’s, remarkable article in the New Yorker, “How Extreme Weather is Shrinking the Planet.” He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? will be out in the spring. His article is necessary reading.

This year as we gather to give thanks, it rings a bit hollow for me because I wonder what people will be thankful for 20 or 30 years from now as we fail to take proper care of the planet and take action to deal with climate change. (Maybe thanks, Exxon! as wildfires rage, temperatures rise, species disappear and sea levels make large swaths of coastlines uninhabitable and islands disappear.)

It may be too late for us but it’s not too late to try.