I’m coming off a thrilling weekend digging into some of the finer points of the Carbon Cycle. But the internet research led to a lot of interesting websites on climate change – a debate I’ve largely avoided for the past few years, as it seemed fruitless to spend time bickering about what might happen, when that is inherently unknowable in such a complex system (for evidence of this, see your local weather report’s success rate).
But I was surprised by how much we do actually know at this point and how much consensus there really is among scientists. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, http://www.ipcc.ch/), The Pew Center on Global Climate Change (http://www.pewclimate.org/), and The Global Carbon Project (http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/) are a few organizations trying to tie together all the data and tackle the daunting task of establishing some policy measures that will address this problem.
It also became clear the huge impact the media has on this debate. Not to say that they’re politically motivated one way or the other, but it just makes better TV to have the “dissenting” view expressed. Maybe they think they’re being fair and balanced by giving the view of 1% side-by-side with the view of 99%, but I think too often it comes across as sounding like it is 50/50. Not to say that view should be ignored, but it’s a bit skewed right now. And then of course there are some political-economic interests that are pushing that 1% view, and making sure it’s louder than it probably should be.
Another cool aspect of having to sit down and actually look at the Carbon Cycle was really learning / relearning how it works and how little we understand about it. Many of you may have heard of the mystery “land sink” that has come up in the CO2 emissions debate. It’s essentially a missing flow of carbon on the order of about 1.8 Giga-tons C per year, from the atmosphere and we are not really sure where its going – it’s probably a combo of various factors (like increased fertility from climate change and run-off fertilizers), and the impact of some time-delayed flows (like fires from forest clearing that release a bunch of CO2 in the short term, but actually capture some in the form of black carbon that’s left behind and doesn’t breakdown). Anyway, some of the other interesting numbers in it from the most recent data I could find were: land-use changes (paving, deforestation, reforestation, etc) produce a net addition of 1.2 GtC/yr to the atmosphere, fossil fuel emissions and cement give-off 5.9 GtC/yr, and over-all (including exchanges b/n the air and ocean, and photosynthesis and respiration, etc) a net flow of about 3.5 GtC is added to the atmosphere each year. (Mostly in the form of CO2 … 1 GtC is about 3.7 Gt CO2).
The searching also led to some sites on Emissions Trading – a more “market based” approach to creating incentives for lower emissions. The process essentially securitizes emissions as credits that can than be traded between companies. It seems like a useful tool for companies that either (a) don’t have the long term strategic vision to see the benefits of sustainable operations (avoiding the funnel walls) or (b) are hindered from implementing long-term investments with difficult to quantify ROI due to shareholder demands, need to meet quarterly numbers, etc.
Anyway, I’m going to look into all of this more, including trying to figure out where policy watchers are placing bets as to the odds of the US signing on to Kyoto post-Bush. (That Forbes article on GE made it sound like businesses were gearing up for the possibility of that happening after G.W.’s time is through). Regardless, it looks like there are already some lucrative opportunities there for visionary companies, as well as people set up to get in the mix and trade the credits.
So, we’ve finished up this basic science section, and have another section on Organization Learning & Change and Strategic Management coming up this week – so I’m sure I’ll get some more stuff up on the business side of all this. HUGE week for the Sox though, so the blog might take a backseat… Hope everyone’s doing well -