Monday, November 19, 2012

What's going on... a quick news round-up

There has been a lot happening related to sustainability recently, particularly around climate. Of course, Sandy's devastation has people talking.

Here are a few highlights of articles and reports from the last couple of weeks that are of particular interest:

1) Investor Jeremy Grantham's opinion piece in Nature urges climate scientists to be more aggressive: "Be Persuasive. Be Brave. Be Arrested (if necessary)"
    • Commodities prices have reversed their downward trend of the 20th century, rising dramatically over the past ten years. 
    • Climate change exacerbates these trends, particularly around food prices, which is particularly dangerous in light of the pending shortages of potassium and phosphorous fertilizers. 
    • "We need oil producers to leave 80% of proven reserves untapped to achieve a stable climate." 
    • "This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence."

2) World Bank Report: "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 degree C Warmer World Must be Avoided"
    • Warns the world is on track to a “4°C world” marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise.
    • Bank eyes increased support for adaptation, mitigation, inclusive green growth and climate-smart development.
From WB president (and former Dartmouth College president) Jim Kim: "Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest."

3) International Energy Agency: World Energy Outlook 2012
    • US could be energy independent by 2035 according to the report's central scenario (I've seen a few analysts question this conclusion). 
    • Global fossil fuel subsidies reached $523 Billion in 2011.
    • A carbon price of $120 is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption. 

4) Obama made waves with comments at his first post-election press conference that could be interpreted as "climate action vs. jobs."
    • President Obama: "I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that."
    • Bill Becker of the Presidential Climate Action Project wrote a good piece about a report from the Center for Climate Strategies showing that climate action can support economic activity and jobs.

5) 350's "Do The Math" tour has been moving around the country, getting people engaged city by city.
    • The numbers: we need to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees. That means we can only release 565 more gigatons (at most) into the atmosphere. there are 2,795 gigatons in reserves - we can't burn it all. (see Grantham's point that we need to leave 80% of reserves in the ground) 
    • On Nov. 18 Protesters went to the White House opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline.
    • Part of the tour is focused on getting university endowments (and other institutional investors) to divest from fossil fuels.  Unity College's Board approved divestment and 72% of Harvard students voted in support of divestment

Stay going. 

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