Posts Tagged ‘climate’

Cities take action on climate in run-up to Paris talks

Not long ago, we featured a post that quickly summarized several global initiatives that are bringing cities together to develop effective local climate change programs.  Now, in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in November, these urban government efforts are accelerating.  In August, President Obama announced that 15 US cities had recently joined the Compact of Mayors, nearly doubling American participation, to 34 cities, and he challenged mayors across the country to bring that number up to 100 before Paris.  Meanwhile, 12 US mayors announced the Local Climate Leaders Circle; they will be delegates at the Paris COP21 talks, representing climate action at the municipal level, and Rio de Janeiro became the first city to meet the Compact of Mayors climate goals.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently penned a stirring article in Foreign Affairs that fleshed out why urban leaders have the incentive to take action where national governments are moving slowly:

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Don’t look away now—time for climate mobilization

The UK newspaper The Guardian has been a leading voice on climate change for some time now.  As part of its Keep it  in the Ground campaign, they ran a series of excerpts from Naomi Klein’s most recent book, This Changes Everything.  This one popped up again recently in one of our social feeds, and it’s a solid reminder of the stakes, and the potential, that stand before us.  Here’s the rallying cry:

Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Sex discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one.

Klein goes on:

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Stories to show us the way: Cli-fi on the rise

As readers of The Resilient Investor will know, we are always on the lookout for stories and movies that can help us envision the many different possible futures that we need to be readying ourselves for.  So it was with some excitement that I followed a series of links on “cli-fi” after completing the post about how Margaret Atwood’s Everything Change essay can inform resilient investors’ life choices.  The term was familiar to me (“climate fiction,” a growing topic within sci-fi), and the first couple of books I’d happened upon in the genre had piqued my interest.  Now, after spending a half-hour of clicking through from Atwood’s original link, I’ve got a reading list, reviews, and even a syllabus if I want to really dive in.  This post will share enough to get you started, too.

Let’s start with a few words from Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the better-known authors in this field:

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Big-finance mainstream seeing the light on climate

Here comes some more indication that Paul Gilding’s optimism about market forces steering a rapid transition away from carbon-intensive energy may indeed pan out.  As Exhibit A, check out this op-ed from Hank Paulson, Secretary of Treasury for George W. Bush during the economic meltdown of 2008:

For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do.

We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.  This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore.

And that’s just his opening salvo.  Yowsa!  Exhibit B is even more startling; it’s a dry-as-sand financial assessment of the risks of Paulson’s “climate bubble” as it affects the world’s biggest institutional investors. Despite its “just the fact, ma’am” tone, the message is one that we can definitely get behind:

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Solar’s value to ratepayers is higher than retail price

 

The recent boom in rooftop solar power installations tied to the local grid has led to a lot of teeth-gnashing about how much utilities should be paying for excess electricity that they buy from distributed solar installations.  In many states, the starting point has been paying the customer the going retail rate per kWh; but utilities have been pushing hard to lower these payments, aiming for a wholesale rate instead, largely due to account for the utilities’ upkeep of transmission systems, both regional and local.  Some have even claimed that new solar can impose a net cost on the electric system as a whole, meaning installations should be limited.  A recent report commissioned by the Maine Public Utilities Commission reframes this debate in a dramatic way, by looking at the full range of costs and savings that distributed solar offer to utilities and ratepayers.  While current retail electric rates in Maine average 13 cents per kWh, the report finds that new solar capacity is worth 18 cents/kWh in the first year, and 33 cents/kWh levelized over 25 years.  The cost savings are about equally split between avoided market costs (paying for other energy sources, transmission saved by on-site/nearby use of solar, etc.) and societal benefits (health/enviro costs of pollutants, effects on overall price of electricity).  This kind of analysis could pave the way for solar to continue booming, unfettered by regulatory concerns. To learn more, check out the report, or see RMI’s summary here.

 

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What Atwood’s “Everything Change” can mean for you

There’s been a fair amount of online buzz this week about a longform essay from Margaret Atwood, “It’s Not Climate Change—It’s Everything Change.” It begins with a short think piece she wrote in 2009, offering some semi-plausible visions of a post-oil world, but the real meat of the piece is what follows.  For the bulk of the essay, Atwood explores how much our society’s engagement with climate, and with change itself, has shifted since 2009.  Especially interesting are a couple of other writers that she summarizes, both of whom also posted companion pieces on Medium, where Atwood’s piece appeared. Taken as a whole, the essay and responses make for a rich reflection on our times, one that combines stark realism about the entrenched nature of the current system with a good dash of hope founded on the ways that human societies have evolved in the past.  Here’s our distillation of what they have to say, and some thoughts on how these rich perspectives can inform your own approach to the life planning practice that we call resilient investing.

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Cities lead the way on climate, resilience

Everywhere I turn lately, there’s another reminder that cities are central to our hopes for a more sustainable, resilient future.  The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group—a decade-old collaboration among 75 of the world’s largest cities that are home to over a half-billion people and a quarter of the global economy—is on the forefront of these efforts, as is the Compact of Mayors, involving 84 cities, many of them smaller or mid-sized. Both groups are gearing up to have a major presence at the upcoming Paris climate talks. The C40 has just released a new report, Powering Climate Action: Cities as Global Changemakers, which highlights the collaborative potential of cities working together: “The evidence shows that cities are taking action even where they have limited power, by collaborating with other cities and non-state actors and catalysing wider climate action in the private sector and civil society.”

NRDC’s OnEarth magazine recently produced an issue devoted to city-based climate action that is full of inspiring stories, including 

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Gilding: The End (of fossil fuels) is Nigh

The stubborn inertia of our political and energy systems in the face of stark climate change realities has been the great frustration of the past decade (or three), and is at the root of the discouragement and despair that’s growing in many of us.  Our society seems intent on waiting too long to act.  But Paul Gilding has become a leading voice for an alternate view, one that sees the past decade as prelude to a tipping point we can embrace rather than dread.  His book, The Great Disruption, laid out his view that when push came to shove with climate change, the market and the big-monied economic elites would spur a WWII-scale refocus of the economy toward carbon-neutral energy.  For the past couple of years, he’s updated the book’s themes with fresh analysis every few months, based on the latest global developments.  He’s now convinced that 2015 is the year that the “Dam of Denial” breaks, and his latest missive offers further encouragement that the long-sought disruptions are at hand:

For over a hundred years, energy markets have been defined by physical resources, supplied in large volumes by large, slow moving companies developing long life assets in the context of slow moving shifts in markets. The new emerging energy system of renewables and storage is a “technology” business, more akin to information and communications technology, where prices keep falling, quality keeps rising, change is rapid and market disruption is normal and constant.

If you haven’t tuned into Gilding before, this is a great place to start.  The new piece includes links to several of his key articles over the past two years, and will likely leave you feeling a tad—or a lot—more optimistic about our prospects.  Read on here for a few more nuggets from this most recent article:

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The plight and fight of the climate scientist

For all our encouragement that resilient investors should consider the full range of possible futures, and our respect for the array of thought leaders that inspire our archetypal Dreamers, Dealers, Doomers, Dualists, and Drivers, it really all comes down to one simple question: are we f**ked?  Pity the climate scientists, who most fully understand the forces we’ve unleashed, and who spend their days (and sleepless nights) grappling with the implications.  A recent feature in Esquire takes us into their world, and their homes, offering a sobering glimpse of what life is like for those among us who know the most.  Says one researcher who answered that aforementioned simple question by publicly affirming that, yes, we are: “I think most scientists must be burying overt recognition of the awful truths of climate change in a protective layer of denial.” A climate activist terms it “pre-traumatic stress.”  This article, When the End of Civilization is Your Day Job, is well worth the ten minute read; it’s really quite moving, and rather unsettling, since even the scientists who resist despair don’t seem to have much to offer in the way of specific encouragement.

So it was a welcome solace to see one of Andrew Revkin’s in-depth reports a few days later, on a climate science meeting attended by 2000 top researchers and policy-makers that he found “refreshing in several ways”:

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Post-hurricanes, northeast turns toward resilient power

The one-two punches of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have spurred cities throughout the northeastern United States to invest in more reliable backup power systems.  These “Resilient Power” initiatives reduce reliance on generators (which too often fail when fired up) in favor of more resilient solar, fuels cells, and power storage systems that can provide benefits between outages as well.  A new Resilient Power Guide from the Clean Energy Group highlights early state-wide projects from Maryland to Vermont, which have spurred 40 municipal programs.  The first target is emergency response facilities: “More than 90 critical facilities in the Northeast – including emergency shelters, wastewater treatment plants, firehouses and other first responder facilities – will have resilient electrical systems in place to improve emergency response in the next year, and to protect neighborhoods in the next power outage.”  Click through to learn more about these trailblazing programs, then dig in a bit in your area to see how you might engage in some Zone 4 resilient investing to advance these efforts in your community.

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How to raise $500 billion in 5 years for clean energy

A spate of recent headlines touted President Obama’s announcement that a new federal program had secured $4 billion in commitments from private equity investors to finance new clean energy projects.  Four billion sounds great, but it’s a drop in the bucket of the International Energy Agency’s estimate of what’s needed to keep global warming under 2 degrees centigrade—the IEA says we’ll need $500 billion in the next five years and $1 trillion by 2030.  And that’s the real goal of the DOE’s new Clean Energy Investment Center.  Impact investors already have $46 billion in the bucket, and globally, we’re halfway to that near-term $500 billion target.  The new federal initiatives aim to provide the information that foundations and other large investors need in order to get comfortable joining the green energy rush.  The Guardian offered up a great overview of how this announcement is about way more than this initial $4 billion:

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Inspiration and practical advice: investing in food, soil

Resilient investors are typically very attuned to the need and opportunities for investing in local, regional, and global farmland and habitat regeneration. Even recently, it was often difficult to find viable avenues for making these investments, but things are changing fast.  See our Zone 6 resources for many tangible, evolutionary options; and here are two recent online articles that offer both practical advice and big-picture perspectives that may inspire you to dig into this zone more actively.

The first is a great overview from Don Shaffer of RSF Social Finance.

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