Own Fossil Fuels, Own Global Warming

“If fiduciaries own fossil fuels, they own global warming…” writes Green Alpha Advisors’ Garvin Jabusch in “The Economic Case for Divesting From Fossil Fuels.”  Think about that for a second. Fiduciaries hold assets to benefit others, but if those monies are invested in fossil fuel companies, they are directly contributing to global warming. Of course the same applies to you and me.  If we hold assets in gas, oil, or coal companies, we too have invested in global warming. Which is why divestment from fossil fuel corporations matters so much to battling climate change.Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 2.32.50 PM

Jabusch highlights ten reasons for divestment from fossil fuels.

  1. Fossil fuels have the capacity to threaten basic systems.
  2. Fossil fuel assets present asset abandonment risk.
  3. Renewables are becoming too competitive for fossil fuels.
  4. Fossil fuel firms are beginning to have to pay for their externalities.
  5. Fossil fuels are likely to face carbon taxes.
  6. Fossil fuels will soon face diminishing governmental subsidies and benefits.
  7. There is growing global institutional belief that transition to renewables solves climate AND economy.
  8. Fossil fuels are the ultimate non-circular: they’re completely consumed upon first use, so more primary source extraction is required.
  9. Distributed renewable energy grid is more secure than traditional hub and spoke systems, even those powered by domestic fossil fuels.
  10. Renewables will counter fossil fuels’ endless ‘boom and bust’ economic cycles.

Just imagine if every individual and organization pulled their investments from fossil fuel companies. What would happen to those corporations if they lacked the resources to buy policies and misinform the public? And how would the renewable energy sector benefit by the influx of new monies to fund their ever-growing industry, creating more and more jobs in the process? Would the small yet vocal group of climate denying state and national leaders take notice and reframe their message to acknowledge and tackle climate change?  I think so. It all starts with you and me. We can do this!

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Pull out those retirement and equity account statements and determine if any holdings are in fossil fuel equities. If you’re in an energy ETF, odds are you’re in the big oil, gas, and coal companies. Move your monies out of the fossil fuel companies and into socially responsible investments. Speak about divestment from fossil fuels with your local non-profit agencies, higher education institutions, and government agencies. Learn more about divestment at Fossil Free.

 

I’m Not A Scientist

“I’m not a scientist” is the flip response you’ll get from some of our most politically powerful state governors and D.C. politicians these days when you ask them what they think about climate change.  Some will even entertain you with the notion that remote island volcanoes are the source of all those nasty greenhouse gases (I’m not kidding). It’s hysterically funny until you realize these folks are minding the store like ten-year olds in charge of the candy section at Wal-Mart. One politician is likely to be our next chairman of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee. The other is tagged to head the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  Holy smokes!  You can’t make this stuff up. This is something you’d expect to see on Netflix, not in real life! You can only laugh and hope sanity eventually prevails.Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.59.19 PM

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that with a few modifications, the “I’m not a scientist” line has lots of potential. At the very least it would allow me to shirk my responsibilities or hide my ignorance. The possibilities are endless. For example, if my doctor asks why my cholesterol is so high, and am I following a heart-healthy diet, with indignation I’ll respond, “How am I supposed to know? I’m not a nutritionist.” Or if my brother asks if I emailed that important fantasy football file, I could respond, “How the hell do I know?  I’m not a computer!” Yup, from now on I will use some derivative of “I’m not a scientist” in response to questions I either 1) don’t have the answer to, or 2) don’t want to admit I know the answer to.

In all seriousness, I’ve come to the conclusion we will see little to no movement on climate issues for the next two years at the national government level. President Obama will use executive privilege to do what he can to battle climate change, but he’ll be fighting an entrenched House and Senate unwilling to move from a fossil fuel-supported base. Climate victories will be ones driven by grass-roots efforts, local communities, and some forward-thinking state governments. Things will change at the national level only when enough people demand action. And with voter turnouts at midterms hovering around 36%, we’ve got work to do.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

Don’t Worry About Climate Change

Worrying only makes the problem worse, and in too many cases, leads to a sense of hopelessness and inaction. Psychologists have learned humans do less when the magnitude of a problem seems too great to solve. Whether one considers contributing money to fight starvation or having difficult climate change conversations with others, we’re more apt to make the effort if we filter out the magnitude of the problem. Having a “What can little ol’ me do to make a difference in this HUGE problem” leads to inaction. And inaction is something the climate can not afford right now.Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.11.40 AM

I’ve often wondered why we aren’t doing more to fight climate change. Why our leaders fail to agree on measures recommended by the IPCC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and why we forget to do the small things in our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprints. I guess we should blame our brains for part of the problem. More specifically, our sense of efficacy, or lack thereof, to battle big issues such as climate change. Our emotions to do good are overridden by the magnitude of the seemingly insurmountable problem.

NPR Morning Edition’s Shankar Vedantam covered the fascinating work of psychologist Paul Slovic illustrating what I’ll term the hopeless factor. He looked at how people’s willingness to donate resources to help a starving young girl were cut in half after they became aware of the millions of others suffering starvation. In other words, they were much less willing to solve the starving young girl problem when they understood the scope of the global starvation problem.

Climate change is a really, really big problem. No question. But we must step out of this “woe is me” mindset if we hope to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Sitting on our hands and ignoring climate change as sea level rises, oceans acidify, ice caps and glaciers melt, droughts and severe storms increase in intensity, and all other climate change nasties is not good for our planet’s future. So instead of worrying, do something for the climate and be happy about it. Play Bobby McFerrin’s song, Don’t Worry be Happy to get the proper mindset. And if McFerrin can’t buoy your spirits and climate change efforts, try Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds song–“Don’t worry about a thing cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

Whatever your song choice, believe in your ability to make a difference–regardless how big or small the act. Consider the adaptation of Loren Eisely’s The Star Thrower:   A little girl was picking up starfish stranded on the sand and throwing them back in the water at low tide when a man walked over and commented she was wasting her time. He waved his hand towards the beach and said, “Look at all these thousands of starfish. There are just too many to throw back in the water and save.” The little girl picked up a starfish, threw it in the water, and said to the man, “I made a difference for that one.”  We can do this.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Check out The Climate Mobilization and consider joining. Significant efforts in this flattened world are more likely to happen through grass roots campaigns than through politics.  Join a movement and get happy about your involvement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Justice with Climate Change?

Ain’t no use as I can see

In sittin’ underneath a tree

An’ growlin’ that your luck is bad,

An’ that your life is extry sad;

Your life ain’t sadder than your neighbor’s

Nor any harder are your labors;

It rains on him the same as you,

An’ he has work he hates to do;

An’ he gits tired an’ he gits cross,

An’ he has trouble with the boss;

You take his whole life, through an’ through,

Why, he’s no better off than you. 

So reads part of a 1917 poem, Hard Luck, by syndicated columnist Edgar Albert Guest who reminded early 20th Century Americans they were more similar than different in life’s travails and struggles, and that attitudes could cloud judgments of one’s lot in life. i.e. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sadly, the game has changed and last century’s rules no longer apply in the flattened, unjust world of 21st Century Hothouse Earth. The grass is now indeed greener on some sides of the fence.Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 2.31.34 PM

Climate injustice is real and terribly unfair for vulnerable indigenous people threatened by rising sea levels, chaotic and unpredictable rainy seasons, desertification, loss of habitat, and so on. We know what’s happening in the “threatened small island states” of the Maldives, Tonga, and Micronesia–ocean waters lap at low-lying shores imperiling homelands and rich cultural histories. Many will become climate change refugees seeking shelter in years to come. The same holds for inland sustenance farmers who can no longer rely on predictable rainy and dry seasons, but instead, hope and pray for relief from declining crop yields.

How do we restore climate justice? How do we help those who contributed so little to the climate change problem but who stand to lose so much in a warming earth? Can we even restore justice? And if not, who is writing the agreements that will protect the millions of climate change injustice victims?  We need a plan now while there’s still time. Climate change won’t wait for us to act.

Edgar A. Guest, Just Folks (Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1917), p. 26-27. PS 3513 U45J77 1917 c. 1 ROBA

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Go to Carl’s Green Ideas for great strategies on reducing your carbon footprint and other environmentally conscious actions.  http://carlsgreenideas.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/rein-in-that-big-energy-hog-in-your-home/

Eight Climate Leadership Steps To Fight Climate Change

Can the climate change fight be won? And if so, what climate leadership steps must we take to grow an army of supporters willing to take action? To access necessary resources and create a strategic plan that offers hope and solutions to a complex problem? To change things for the better? It is not easy, but there are proven models for change. My favorite is Dr. John Kotter’s Eight Steps of Change. I’ve successfully used Kotter’s model in implementing educational change, and it certainly can work for fighting climate change.

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Step 1: Increase Urgency. People have to feel the urgency, and, in the case of climate change, dread the outcomes if things stay status quo. Are people worried about climate change and willing to take action, or are they too complacent or frightened to act? How do we increase urgency without overwhelming people?

Step 2: Build the Guiding Team. Change requires teamwork. Do you have a team to work with? 350.org? Sierra Club? Climate Reality Project? A local support network? The notion of Spiderman or Superwoman saving the world is a fairy tale. Fighting climate change and the fossil fuel industry requires teamwork, sweat, grit and hard work.

Step 3: Get the Vision Right. Sustained efforts require a destination. A benchmark, capstone, endpoint, something understood by all. What is the vision for fighting climate change? A 2-degree Celsius warmer world? 1.5-degree Celsius? We need to know where we want to be so we know when we’ve gotten there. Stephen Covey captures this concept beautifully in Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.

Step 4: Communicate for Buy-In. Clear, concise, heart-felt communications are essential. Confusion is the enemy. The fossil fuel industry and climate deniers know this all too well–which is why they sow seeds of doubt in various media. We must be impeccable and impassioned with our words if we hope to have others join us to fight climate change.

Step 5: Empower Action. Obstacles interrupt change through distraction, disorientation, and frustration. Leadership requires being aware of potential barriers and planning accordingly. We cannot afford to lose team members or momentum due to poor logistical planning.

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins. There’s nothing like success to motivate and uplift. Climate change leaders look for the “low-hanging fruit” and celebrate all successes in the march towards climate restoration. Celebration is essential to sustaining the change effort.

Step 7: Don’t Let Up. Fatigue, frustration, fear, or losing the sense of urgency are hazards in any major change effort. Great leaders know this and fight doubly hard when things get difficult. I used to tell my cross-country ski team that races are won on the uphills and in the last kilometer. The same rule applies for major change efforts.

Step 8: Make Change Stick. When we inevitably win this climate change battle (and we will win), we need to be certain our efforts “stick.” Policies, protocols, culture, habits . . . all need to be put in place that ensure we never, ever place Earth in a tenuous position again.

Fighting climate change will require a global commitment led by millions of leaders at the international, national, state, regional, and local levels. Climate leaders who understand and use effective change models can ease the struggle.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Winter is approaching and with the falling leaves come falling temperatures. This year, reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint by lowering your nighttime temperature to 58 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temps to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 58 degrees Fahrenheit sounds chilly, but trust me, a few extra blankets makes all the difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours will save 10-15% on your heating bills.

Carbon Footprints and Random Climate Change Musings

There is no climate change theme this morning, just random thoughts from another week of life on this precious planet. If you are a friend or family member, you know climate change is always on my mind. I don’t perseverate or wring my hands on the issue, but I do try to figure out ways to help solve the problem. One strategy is getting the message out to others. Sometimes I unintentionally offend people when I fold in the politics of climate change, but I learned long ago that it’s best to tell people what they need to know rather than what they’d like to hear. At all times I focus on information, hope, and action. Without hope, there is no action.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.38.52 AM

39.9 tons of carbon. That’s how much carbon I release each year according to a carbon footprint calculator I found on the Internet. My “contributions” to atmospheric carbon levels equates to 80,000 pounds of carbon. I’m not pleased with the number, even though the site says I’m 30.4% better than the average person in Warrensburg, NY. Hmmm. There are things my wife and I can work on, but overall, we do live simply. We keep our heat low in the winter and do not use air conditioning in the summer. We rarely, rarely eat beef, and try to buy local produce whenever possible. I know my car is too big. I have a mid-sized sedan that gets only 27 miles per gallon. That’s a problem. I also commute 28 miles a day and take at least one roundtrip flight each year. Our house could be smaller, also. I can and will do better.

Earlier this week one of my climate reality leader friends posted a wonderful animated poem with lovely background music. I shared it on my Facebook page and sent it to friends and family. They “liked” it. My daughter asked if I would put it in my blog, and so here it is: Shoulders by Shane Koyczan. It is truly beautiful. Caution–there is an “F” bombed dropped in for good measure. Think of the title, “Shoulders”, and you’ll figure out the poet’s message.

I’m still getting zucchini from the garden. Seriously. It’s mid-October and we have not had a hard freeze yet. I live in the Adirondacks, and normally by this time the garden would be bare of any vegetation. Not this year. I’ve noticed over the past 25 years that the gardening  season starts earlier and ends later. I’ll call it climate change. It’s nice to get veggies out of your zone 4 garden in mid-October, but with that also come the mosquitos, ticks, and no-see-ums which enjoy the relatively balmy weather of a warmer climate. I’m not even going to get into the rising sea levels, ocean acidification…. that also come with a warmer climate. I yearn for the hard freezes of late September.

And so it goes. Till next week.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Use this carbon footprint calculator to learn how many tons of carbon you and your family members release into the atmosphere each year. Then discover and act on ways to reduce that imprint.

 

 

Falling Oil Prices Are Bad News For The Climate

Now’s a good time to get into shale oil and coal.” The statement jolted me awake from a serene drive home. “And with a swing in Senate leadership likely this fall, coal and oil stocks should do very well.” Now I was über focused. Okay, I’m paraphrasing a tiny bit, but the gist of the CNBC radio commentary was buy fossil fuel stocks now while they’re cheap and before the Senate changes hands to a fossil fuel-friendly party. Oh boy, that spoiled a nice drive home.Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 4.03.42 PM

It’s interesting to observe how oil prices impact markets and perceptions. A fall in price for a barrel of oil is good news for consumers–You’ve probably noticed filling the tank is a little less painful lately. Lower gas prices mean more savings, or more consumption, depending on your preference. Conversely, cheaper oil spells economic problems for countries reliant on oil revenues–think Middle East and Russia. A fossil fuel-based economy responds to oil price volatility much like a stone dropping into water–the ripples spread out in all directions.

One disturbing ripple is the threat declining fossil fuel costs pose to battling climate change. In the past two weeks, renewable energy equities plunged over 20%, suggesting less investment value. It seems the market is saying, “Fossil fuels are cheap now, so to hell with alternatives.”  Or perhaps its carbon-centric commentary from “stock experts” such as CNBC’s Jim Cramer:  “Think about it. We have no energy policy. We don’t have a fossil fuel friendly president who sees what is about to happen: overproduction with no place to put the oil.” Really????? I guess as a nation we’re still not fully on board for a renewable energy-powered world. We certainly don’t have a sense of urgency for climate change action. If we did, we’d see a dichotomy in price behavior with alternative energy investments rising as fossil fuel prices fell. Instead, we see the two moving in tandem.

A drop in oil prices should be a positive suggesting a reduction in demand or an increase in supply–either scenario a victory for Earths’ climate. Logic being we’re using less oil thanks to energy consciousness and a greater reliance on alternative energies such as solar and wind. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The macroeconomic viewpoint is the world’s economy (particularly china and the Eurozone) is slowing, jeopardizing productivity.  And therein lies the problem. We measure our economic well-being on consumption and productivity, without considering the external costs of a carbon-based society. Until reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are perceived as an economic victory, we are at the mercy of an industry and public that sees cheaper fossil fuel costs as a win.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Take the Climate Mobilization Pledge and join a new and growing social movement to fight climate change. We can do this! Click here for more info: http://www.theclimatemobilization.org

90 Plus Infinity Percent Positive Climate Change is Reality

So, are you coming home for Garage Sale Weekend?“, I ask my daughter.  She responds:  “Yes, I’m pretty sure. And Simon (daughter’s friend) says he is 90 plus infinity percent positive he’s coming with me.” 90 plus infinity percent positive? I had to think about that for a minute. Does that mean 90% positive? What about the infinity piece? After collaborating with my wife, I concluded Simon was creatively saying he was 100% sure to join us for the weekend.Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.27.13 PM

I prefer whole, round numbers. Simple is better is my motto. In fact, I believe most people like their math simple and round. Less confusing and easier to focus on. Not so with climate change models, which is one small reason why climate change still has its share of deniers and skeptics (The BIG reason of course is fossil fuel$$$$). Climate change math is not always perfect, with climate change impact tolerances and confidence intervals that suggest a range of uncertainties. Numbers and expressions from epic algorithms that easily perplex.

As we grapple with decimals and levels of confidence when reading climate change news, charts, and facts, let’s not forget behind all the expressions and calculations are undeniable truths: ice caps are melting, sea level is rising, biodiversity is declining, and carbon dioxide continues its steady, upward oscillating trend past 400 parts per million.  Without a doubt, I’m 90 plus infinity sure climate change is happening.  Which means I’m 90 plus infinity sure to do whatever I can to fight climate change.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Believe it or not, you can increase your car’s fuel efficiency 3.3% by keeping your tires at the proper pressure. Save some gas by stopping at the local station and filling your tires to the recommended pressure.

Climate Change’s One Strike and You’re Out Rule

Derek Jeter had a Yankees home game finale for the ages last week. The soon to be retired Captain hit a walk-off single to win the game for the Bronx Bombers, elevating himself to near god-like status in the process. The social media sphere was ablaze with love and adoration for the Yankee shortstop. Ah well, America loves its baseball. And if the walk-off game-winning hit (single, double, triple, or home run) sounds foreign, all Americans have heard the line, “Three Strikes and You’re Out.”  The saying is so common some states use it to define their legal code–screw up three times and you’re done. Finished. Going to the slammer. Kaput.Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.20.59 AM

“Three strikes and you’re out” is packed with emotion. Imagine the home team up in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied 2-2. Bases are loaded, two outs, and a 3 and 2 count on the batter. The fans are screaming for a hit. And here comes the pitch . . . Deliver the game-winning hit and you are a winner sure to be on ESPN’s Top Ten plays. Make the third out and you’re a loser. A choker unable to deliver under pressure. We know the rule all too well.

What would the game be like if the rule were not three strikes you’re out, but “one strike and you’re out”? Probably less forgiving, with little room for error. Batters would have to “protect the plate” to avoid a strike call by the umpire. Games would be played more cautiously. It just wouldn’t be fun. We like the second and third chances of strikes two and three. We like the element of hope. You whiffed on a curveball and have two strikes, so what. You still have a chance. But one strike and you’re out? That’s an unforgiving scenario.

When it comes to global climate change, it’s a one strike and you’re out rule.  There is no forgiveness. And with three ominous risks to our well-being and that of most other species–ocean acidification, sublimation of frozen methane, and melting of polar ice caps–humans and most other life forms are “out” with but one strike. If ocean acidification increases as excess atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans, the smallest and simplest organisms forming the base of the food chain will perish. This will cause the entire ocean ecosystem to collapse. Strike One. You’re Out.  If frozen methane hydrates in our deep ocean floors were to “melt” with warmer ocean temperatures, Earth would have an abrupt 5-8 degree Celsius increase in temperature by the end of the century. Strike One. You’re Out. And if the melting of our polar ice caps continues or accelerates, sea level could increase 220 feet. Strike One. You’re Out.

Oh boy. I feel like retreating to my recliner with a beer and popcorn and watching some more baseball. Or maybe fantasy football. Anything that will distract me from the harsh reality of the “game” we are playing with our climate. There are uncertainties within all scientific scenarios, but one thing is for certain, we are tempting fate and we don’t get a second or third chance. It’s one strike and you’re done. Do we want to take that risk? I don’t.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Have an energy audit done of your house. We had ours done through New York State’s NYSERDA. Most audits are free and a public service of your state or local municipality. Google energy audit for your area and learn how you can cut your home energy costs now and for years to come.

24 Hours After the People’s Climate March

IMG_4196Yesterday at this time I sat with my wife and three friends in a little New York City restaurant on 10th and 24th street. Famished, tired, and a little achy, we were glowing in having participated in the worlds largest climate march.  Outside the window sat our purple bus and ride home to Saratoga Springs. We’d departed from Skidmore College at 6:30AM with 45 other marchers, and now we were ready to go home.

My brother and sister came to join us, each with one of their daughters, midway in the march holding signs and chanting–the looks on their faces were priceless. “What do we want?” RENEWABLE ENERGY! “When do we want it?”  NOW!!  or “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go.” There were other chants, but those were the two we were calling the most. People came from all over North America and all walks of life. There were grandmothers and cyclists, children and the elderly, college students and parents. The mass of humanity winding through the streets of New York City invigorated the soul and left me hopeful of what can be done when enough people know and care about something as deeply vital as climate change.

400,000+ marchers is a good turnout on a humid, late summer day. Somewhere along the March I saw Bill McKibben supporting participants and graciously having his photo taken with different groups and individuals. Kudos to Bill. Kudos’ to 350.org., the Sierra Club, NRDA, and many, many, many other organizations.  Kudos to every man, woman and child who helped organize, setup, participate, or break down the event. The People’s Climate March was special, and I sure hope our world leaders have heard our call for an end to fossil fuels.  Peace.

A 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Show our world leaders you demand action on climate change by signing this petition: http://act.350.org/letter/ready-for-action/?sp_ref=57647564.6.9350.e.0.2 

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