Every major oil company has a climate change division. Most have active climate change plans aimed at reducing emissions, managing environmental risks, and experimenting with alternatives to reduce climate impacts. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts.They chose to manage and discuss climate risk.
Here are links to the biggest oil and gas companies’ climate pages:
Oil operators claim innocence since Peru did not have clear environmental standards when drilling began. Because, you know, screw ethics.
Peru’s government declared an environmental state of emergency on Monday in a remote Amazon jungle region it says has been affected by years of contamination at the country’s most productive oil fields, which are currently operated by Argentina-based Pluspetrol.
Indigenous groups in the Pastaza River basin near the Ecuador border have been complaining for years about the pollution and the failure of successive governments to address it. Authorities say one reason the pollution was never addressed is that until now Peru lacked the requisite environmental quality standards.
In declaring the emergency, Peru’s Environment Ministry said the contamination included high levels of lead, barium and chromium as well as petroleum-related compounds. The region is inhabited mostly by the Quichua and Ashuar, who are primarily hunter-gatherers.
The fields have been operated for roughly 12 years by Pluspetrol, the country’s biggest oil and natural gas producer, and it will be obliged to clean up the contamination, said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal.
The government also said the field’s previous operator, Occidental Petroleum, had not adequately remediated contamination either. It began drilling there in 1971. Pluspetrol took over in 2001. The 90-day emergency orders immediate action to reduce the risk of contamination to the local population.
Dan Pallotta’s new TED talk criticizing charity systems is great stuff. “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.”
Why you should listen to him:
“The nonprofit sector is critical to our dream of changing the world. Yet there is no greater injustice than the double standard that exists between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. One gets to feast on marketing, risk-taking, capital and financial incentive, the other is sentenced to begging,” Dan Pallotta says in discussing his latest book, Charity Case. This economic starvation of our nonprofits is why he believes we are not moving the needle on great social problems. “My goal … is to fundamentally transform the way the public thinks about charity within 10 years.”
Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry, and a new generation of citizen philanthropists with the AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Day events, which raised $582 million in nine years. He is president of Advertising for Humanity, which helps foundations and philanthropists transform the growth potential of their favorite grantees.
“He liberates charity from its Puritan constraints and cogently attaches it to entrepreneurship.” - Gary Hart
Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.
In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.
Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.
Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.
The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).
In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.
So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.
Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.
Queue a big political fight on this one.
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.
The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.
“It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.
In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Now some investors are taking another approach. Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, they’re investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter. (The World Bank says the earth could warm by 4C by the end of the century.) Their strategies include buying water treatment companies, brokering deals for Australian farmland, and backing a startup that has engineered a mosquito to fight dengue, a disease that’s spreading as the mercury climbs.
Derivatives that help companies hedge against abnormal weather and natural catastrophes are drawing increased interest from some big players. In January, KKR (KKR) bought a 25 percent stake in Nephila Capital, an $8 billion Bermuda hedge fund that trades in weather derivatives. (The firm is named after a spider that, according to local folklore, can predict hurricanes.)
“Climate risk is something people are paying more and more attention to,” says Barney Schauble, managing partner at Nephila Advisors, the firm’s U.S. arm. “More volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk.”
Drought is helping spur business at Water Asset Management. The New York hedge fund, which has about $400 million under management, buys water rights and makes private equity and stock market investments in water treatment companies. “Not enough people are thinking long term of [water] as an asset that is worthy of ownership,” says Chief Operating Officer Marc Robert. “Climate change for us is a driver.”
“From Bark to Bottle” shows why cork is an important, sustainable, natural resource for the world. I didn’t know cork was used in the aerospace industry. So neat! Most cork is harvested in Portugal, and it’s an important source for the wine industry. The video doesn’t touch upon how climate change affects the source trees, but you can read about it, here.
My favorite quote is from Carlos de Jesus of cork producer, Amorim:
If you want to make money for yourself, plant a eucalyptus.
If you want to make money for your children, plant a pine tree.
If you want to make money for your grandchildren, you plant the cork.
Beautiful old-world wisdom. Btw, this comes from the personal tumblr of the hardest working climate journalist I’ve ever seen, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times:
List by Tom Giesen, an adjunct professor at University of Oregon. I edited it down some, for the entire post, visit here. I’ll add that, generally, I personally cannot see how we’re going stop the climate from changing. Too many people in the world are starting to want - and get - TVs, laptops, cars, and a single family home. Who are we to deny them?
1. Delayed consequences. Warming is a current phenomenon, but most of the damage is in the future, like a time-delayed bomb – we emit now and suffer the consequences later. Because it is a future event, neither citizens nor politicians feel sufficient urgency.
2. Belief in the necessity of growth! The sanctity of growth in the economy and in population is the real American religion. What all cities/communities want is more economic and population growth. But growth is now impossible without cheap and abundant fossil fuels, and they are finite and becoming prohibitively expensive – causing recessions.
3. Energy cornucopia! The “booms” in oil and gas are mostly just Wall Street bubbles like the real estate and internet bubbles of recent years. Conventional (cheap) fossil fuels are declining resources, and fracked, deep water, oil sands and arctic sources are prohibitively expensive. But no matter – the press is still full of empty chatter about the US out-producing Saudi Arabia and being energy independent.
4. Individualism. Devotees of individualism dislike cooperative processes, preferring go-it-alone methods. Cutting emissions requires a globally cooperative effort, and such cooperative projects might feel to individualists like unacceptable collectivism, and hence resisted.
5. Anti-intellectualism. Many in America have not moved beyond medieval science. Rationality does not often apply in scientific issues with political overtones, or with personal preferences, and hence global warming, the end of cheap oil, and other issues are falsely labeled as scientific frauds by opponents of science.
6. American exceptionalism. We imagine we are different from other nations, and many Americans accept that we are not subject to the same rules as other nations.
7. Failure of international cooperation. It is nearly universally believed that the solution to the problem of warming lies in global treaties involving all nations and dealing with emissions reductions and related equity/financial issues. It’s now 25 years since James Hansen warned Congress, and we have done nothing. Nothing.
8. Difficulties of monitoring and assuring compliance. How do you closely monitor emissions of a gas which quickly diffuses globally in the atmosphere? How do you closely monitor all production and use of fossil fuels? How do you monitor and control land use change (deforestation) before the deed is done? Etc.
9. Greed. Greed permeates political life: worldwide, governments’ subsidies to fossil fuel producers now total $100,000,000,000 a year, and subsidies to consumers are $675,000,000,000. The subsidies are like crack cocaine – the addiction is extremely difficult to treat.
10. Disinformation. The fossil fuel industry lavishly funds global warming deniers and skeptics – the “lavish” funding is chump change in view of current profits.
If we follow the path we are on, the path of no cutting back on emissions, and in fact the path of continued increases in the rate of increase of emissions, our civilization will very possibly collapse.
A shift from sustainability to resilience leaves many old-school environmentalists and social activists feeling uneasy, as it smacks of adaptation, a word that is still taboo in many quarters. If we adapt to unwanted change, the reasoning goes, we give a pass to those responsible for putting us in this mess in the first place, and we lose the moral authority to pressure them to stop. Better, they argue, to mitigate the risk at the source.
In a perfect world, that’s surely true, just as it’s also true that the cheapest response to a catastrophe is to prevent it in the first place. But in this world, vulnerable people are already being affected by disruption. They need practical, if imperfect, adaptations now, if they are ever to get the just and moral future they deserve tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the sustainability movement’s politics, not to mention its marketing, have led to a popular misunderstanding: that a perfect, stasis-under-glass equilibrium is achievable. But the world doesn’t work that way: it exists in a constant disequilibrium — trying, failing, adapting, learning and evolving in endless cycles. Indeed, it’s the failures, when properly understood, that create the context for learning and growth. That’s why some of the most resilient places are, paradoxically, also the places that regularly experience modest disruptions: they carry the shared memory that things can go wrong.
“Resilience” takes this as a given and is commensurately humble. It doesn’t propose a single, fixed future. It assumes we don’t know exactly how things will unfold, that we’ll be surprised, that we’ll make mistakes along the way. It’s also open to learning from the extraordinary and widespread resilience of the natural world, including its human inhabitants, something that, counterintuitively, many proponents of sustainability have ignored.
I don’t subscribe to Zolli’s guru-esque ways. I was asked to review his book, Resilience, (thank you PopTech!) but couldn’t get through the first chapter and cancelled the contract.
I am ruefully thankful for Zolli’s open thinking on the topics of adaptation, resilience, and sustainability. The upside is that he’s introducing the buzz words of my field into mainstream thinking. Sort of like how Malcom Gladwell introduced us to the (myth) that one becomes an expert once you’ve spent “10,000 hours” practicing your chosen area of interest, like golf, or computer programming.
My problem with Zolli (besides his undergraduate-ish, jargon-heavy writing style) is that he sees resilience, adaptation, and sustainability as theories that should be exploited for profit. He’s sees them as methods to sell gizmos, to be utilized to help businesses “succeed.” Mentioning Hurricane Sandy in the above op-ed, for example, is seen, from his perspective, as an “opportunity.”
I find Zolli to be (perhaps unwittingly) on the path to perfecting greenwashing.
Environmentalists and researchers should find Zolli’s exploitation deeply disturbing, even appalling. Increasing the profits of private corporations are not the purpose of these theories - it’s environmental protection. Adaptation, resilience, and sustainability are theories that scientists hope will be utilized to increase the health of our natural environment.
These theories also foster hope and inspiration in students. They help young people learn to explore and respect nature and earth’s incredible (fucking astounding!) diversity of species. And, as the original scientists of these theories have said, these theories ought to be employed to create cleaner development practices of our dwindling natural resources. They should not be bastardized by swindlers and charlatans.
Zolli is enabling greenwashing. And environmentalists should not allow him to get away with it.
Today (Nov 27) the President signed the New York City Natural Gas Enhancement Act into law, which will finally make the construction and operation of a new natural gas pipeline in New York City a reality. Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City. This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean-energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the City’s future energy needs. I would like to thank President Obama for signing this bill into law and all of the New York City delegation members who supported it, especially the sponsors – Congressman Grimm, Congressman Meeks and Senator Schumer – for their leadership in securing this victory for New York City.
-Mayor Bloomberg’s Statement on President Obama’s Signature on the New York City Natural Gas Enhancement Act (via nycgov)
Great read on corporations adapting to climate change by World Resources Institute. You’d be surprised by how many corporations are adapting - even big oil is adapting to climate change. Blame the media’s obsession with showing “the other side” of the debate. When 97% of climate scientists agree on something (a first) there is no other side to debate.
Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.
WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.
Why Adaptation Is So Important
Each panelist pointed to reasons why adapting to climate change is becoming increasingly important to their own companies. For example:
At AT&T, potential disruptions to IT networks pose real threats to the company and its customers. Drawing lessons from disasters like Hurricane Katrina, AT&T has started locating critical equipment on the 2nd floor of a building—rather than the ground floor—to avoid future floods.
At Monsanto, the focus is on meeting the future food needs of a growing global population. Global warming means new challenges for farmers, who must adjust to changing growing seasons and water availability.
Critical Issues for Corporate Climate Leaders
AT&T and Monsanto shared stories about their own experiences with climate change adaptation, but it’s important to note that this issue will increasingly impact all companies—from small, mom-and-pop shops to global corporations. Companies like Coca-Cola are publicly acknowledging climate risks as part of their financial reporting. More leadership is needed, as businesses start to look at their own climate risks as well as impacts on their customers and local communities.
In the course of the Q&A, the Net Impact session highlighted five important topics that corporate leaders will need to keep in mind:
Managing diverse climate change impacts across global operations: Companies that operate in multiple regions may face very different climate change impacts (for example, sea level rise, increasing temperatures, drought, or floods) in different locations. Corporate strategies must be developed locally and in partnership with departments across the organization’s various locations.
Finding and creating better decision-making tools: Companies will need information to help them factor potential climate risks into future investments and strategies. Experts in the audience and on the panel pointed to WRI tools like the Aqueduct global water risk maps and the forthcoming Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) as examples of the type of resources needed to guide forward-looking, smart business decisions.
Recognizing underlying drivers of vulnerability: A changing climate is just one of several variables that contribute to business and community vulnerability. For example, population growth and mass consumption are two of the underlying drivers that came up in discussion as places to focus when seeking to increase community resiliency.
Taking a broad view of risks and opportunities by engaging stakeholders: A narrow view of climate impacts may unintentionally increase a company’s (or its customers’ or surrounding communities’) vulnerability to climate change. Looking just at the company’s own facilities along the coastline, for example, ignores risks in the supply chain. Similarly, the potential health impacts of climate change—like an increasing threat of water-borne disease—might not seem immediately relevant to some businesses, but it may impact employees or communities in future growth markets. Proactive stakeholder engagement is essential for identifying such risks, which for some companies, may also be opportunities to provide new solutions.
Reaching out to new partners: Effective strategies for adapting to climate change may in some cases be a source of competitive advantage (for example, in developing a new product or service). However, in other cases, adaptation measures can be pre-competitive, meaning that even bitter rivals (think Coca-Cola and Pepsi) could collaborate to create better information tools or share water resource management techniques.
Corporations Must Act Quickly
The list above is a partial one. Corporate action to adapt to climate change will certainly involve many more ideas and strategies—many of which are still being developed. More action is needed, and the important take-away from the discussion at the Net Impact conference is that action must start now.
Agricultural Robots Can Tell The Difference Between Plants and Weeds, Can Thin Crops
Lettuce Bot uses a camera to image the plants beneath it. Machine learning algorithms then identify which ones are desirable and which are weeds. It can work with iceberg and romaine lettuces.
Once a plant is identified as a weed, a target spray, which is mounted behind the camera, will then shoot a targeted spray of an organic compound, such as hot steam or hot organic oil, at the plant and the plant will quickly die,” the company told Startup Lab.
The plant-classification algorithm is 98 to 99 percent accurate, and the kill mechanism is accurate to a quarter of an inch when the prototype is moving a 1 mph. The firm wants it to move at 3 mph while keeping it on target. Blue River says its machines will be more efficient than other means of weed-killing, and will work well in organic fields or those that have chemical-resistant weeds.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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