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Volkswagen to Unveil 261 M.P.G.e. Production Car – NYTimes.com

Volkswagen to Unveil 261 M.P.G.e. Production Car – NYTimes.com.

Did You Save Some Turkey Fat? Other Oils?

By EMMA BRYCE What could be more heartwarming than the sight of a table groaning with glistening Thanksgiving turkey, candied yams and buttery brussel sprouts or green beans? Still, all of that succulence is balanced by chaos and mess in the kitchen, where towers of plates, pans, and pots also glisten with the day’s accumulation of […]

Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century

Turn_Down_the_Heat_Executive_Summary_English

Comparative satellite image of the melting ice cap in Greenland. - Source: NASA 2012

Greenland surface melt measurements from three satellites on July 8 (left panel) and July 12 (right panel), 2012. Source:(NASA, 2012)

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Highlights:

  • New World Bank-commissioned report warns the world is on track to a “4°C world” marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise.
  • Adverse effects of global warming are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and goals.
  • Bank eyes increased support for adaptation, mitigation, inclusive green growth and climate-smart development.

November 18, 2012 – Like summer’s satellite image of the melting Greenland ice sheet, a new report suggests time may be running out to temper the rising risks of climate change.

Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” (pdf) (eBook version) warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.

Moreover, adverse effects of a warming climate are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and global development goals, says the study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, on behalf of the World Bank. The report, urges “further mitigation action as the best insurance against an uncertain future.”

A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C

–  Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong 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.”

The report, reviewed by some of the world’s top scientists, is being released ahead of the next comprehensive studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013/14, and follows the Bank’s own Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change in 2008 and the World Development Report on climate change in 2010. “Turn Down the Heat” combines a synthesis of recent scientific literature with new analysis of likely impacts and risks, focusing on developing countries. It chronicles already observed climate change and impacts, such as heat waves and other extreme events, and offers projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, food, water, ecosystems and human health.

The report says today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.

“This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do,” saidRachel Kyte, the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development. “We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge.”

The World Bank doubled lending for climate change adaptation last year and plans to step up efforts to support countries’ initiatives to mitigate carbon emissions and promote inclusive green growth and climate-smart development. Among other measures, the Bank administers the $7.2 billion Climate Investment Funds now operating in 48 countries and leveraging an additional $43 billion in clean investment and climate resilience.

This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do

–  Rachel Kyte, Vice President, Sustainable Development, World Bank

Rising Sea Levels

The report says sea levels have been rising faster in the last two decades than previously, and this rise is being seen in many tropical regions of the world. This phenomenon is partly due to melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; the rapid growth in melt area observed since the 1970s in Greenland’s ice sheet is a clear illustration of its increasing vulnerability. Arctic sea ice also reached a record minimum in September 2012. “There are indications that the greatest melt extent in the past 225 years has occurred in the last decade,” says the report.

“It’s early yet but clearly some of the small island states and coastal communities are beginning to take a hard look at their options,” said Erick Fernandes, co-lead of the Bank’s Global Expert Team on Climate Change Adaptation. “The need to adapt to climate change will increase as global population reaches 9 billion in 2050,” he added.

Ocean Acidification

Coral reefs are acutely sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels. The report warns that by the time the warming levels reach 1.4° C in 2030s, coral reefs may stop growing. This would be a result of oceans becoming more acidic as a result of higher CO2 concentrations. And with 2.4° C, coral reefs in several areas may actually start to dissolve. This is likely to have profound consequences for people who depend on them for food, income, tourism and shoreline protection.

Heat Extremes

A 4°C warmer world would also suffer more extreme heat waves, and these events will not be evenly distributed across the world, according to the report.

Sub-tropical Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States are likely to see monthly summer temperatures rise by more than 6°C. Temperatures of the warmest July between 2080-2100 in the Mediterranean are expected to approach 35°C – about 9°C warmer than the warmest July estimated for the present day. The warmest July month in the Sahara and the Middle East will see temperatures as high as 45°C, or 6-7°C above the warmest July simulated for the present day.

Lower agricultural yields

Hotter weather could in turn lower crop yields in a 4°C world—raising concerns about future food security. Field experiments have shown that crops are highly sensitive to temperatures above certain thresholds. One study cited in the report found that each “growing degree day” spent at a temperature of 30 degrees decreases yields by 1% under drought-free rain-fed conditions.

The report also says drought-affected areas would increase from 15.4% of global cropland today, to around 44% by 2100. The most severely affected regions in the next 30 to 90 years will likely be in southern Africa, the United States, southern Europe and Southeast Asia, says the report. In Africa, the report predicts 35% of cropland will become unsuitable for cultivation in a 5°C world.

Risks to Human Support Systems

The report identifies severe risks related to adverse impacts on water availability, particularly in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. River basins like the Ganges and the Nile are particularly vulnerable. In Amazonia, forest fires could as much double by 2050. The world could lose several habitats and species with a 4°C warming.

Non-linear impacts

As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.

The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

Australian and EU carbon markets to be linked

Deal connecting two international markets from 2015 will create the world’s biggest emissions trading system

Australia carbon emission :  factory chimney at an industrial park in Sydney

Emissions are released from a factory chimney at an industrial park in Sydney. Photograph: Reuters

Australian and European carbon markets will be linked in 2015, creating the world’s biggest emissions trading market.

 

Under the deal struck by Canberra and the European commission, Australian liable entities will be able to buy up to 50% of their carbon permits in Europe from 2015. In 2018, European entities will also be able to purchase credits from Australia.

 

“Linking the Australian and EU systems reaffirms that carbon markets are the prime vehicle for tackling climate change and the most efficient means of achieving missions reduction,” said Greg Combet, Australia minister for climate change and energy efficiency.

 

“It means the EU price will drive the Australian price and that will effectively be the floor price in our system too,” he said.

 

The European commisioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, welcomed the announcement.

 

“We now look forward to the first full international linking of emission trading systems. This would be a significant achievement for both Europe and Australia,” she said.

 

“It is further evidence of strong international co-operation on climate change and will build further momentum towards establishing a robust international carbon market.”

 

In Australia, the chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, Nathian Fabian, said the link between the two markets would please investors.

 

“We think investors will be pleased about the greater predictability this arrangement will give in the longer term for carbon pricing arrangements and of course, linking with a larger, more liquid market which is more established is also good for investor confidence,” he said.

 

“Having schemes that are open and linked is the best way to ensure investors can find the lowest cost and the most carbon competitive businesses to invest in,” said Fabian.

 

Australia’s carbon price, which controversially began in July as a fixed $AUD23/tonne tax, will move to an emissions trading scheme in 2015. Originally, the scheme was designed with a $AUD15/tonne floor price (to take effect from 2015), a design feature intended to prevent the price crashing during the early years of trading.

 

It was criticised by businesses because it was significantly higher than (current) international prices (in Europe the price is €8 or $AUS10/tonne). This meant Australian businesses would have to go through a complex set of adjustments to top up any international permits bought at a price below the Australian floor price.

 

“The removal of the floor price gives companies the chance to hedge their portfolios with European or international units and bank them in 2015,” said Elisa de Wit, head of law firm Norton Rose’s climate change practice.

 

“If you have the expectation that the prices will go up, it’s a great opportunity to lock yourself in now,” she said.

 

But Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the Australian National University, says linking with the EU trading scheme also has risks.

 

“From an Australian point of view, the EU is in quite some economic turmoil and it is somewhat difficult to judge what policy changes may be around the corner,” he said.

 

Jotzo says there’s an expectation that the combined market price in a linked Australian-EU scheme is likely to be much more strongly influenced by decisions in Brussels and Berlin, than in Canberra.

 

“If the EU crisis was to deepen and there was a decision to go easy on climate change and let the EU trading price drop lower than it is already, that would be entirely incompatible with Australia’s circumstances where greenhouse gas emissions continue to be on a strongly rising trajectory because of the continued expansion of the resources sector and commodity exports to China,” he said.

 

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and iron ore. Australians also generate more carbon pollution per head than any other developed country, largely because of their heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations to generate electricity. With a population of 22 million, the country is responsible for 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Britain, by comparison, with nearly three times the population, is responsible for just 1.7%.

How Can Business Leaders Accept the Challenges of the New Energy Era?

Published February 06, 2012

This is the first in a Rocky Mountain Institute series on the steps business leaders can take to seize the economic and competitive opportunities outlined in Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era.

If you’ve have heard about Reinventing Fire, Rocky Mountain Institute’s roadmap for a secure,renewable energy future, and are like almost everyone with whom I have talked about it, you wonder where to start. This blog is the first of several by RMI staff to help business leaders identify the steps they can take now to begin seizing the economic and competitive opportunities available by leading in the new energy era.

Since releasing Reinventing Fire back in October, I’ve been on the road introducing its vision. The majority of my time has been spent with senior business executives, most of whom recognize the risks associated with our aging energy systems but struggle with the magnitude of the challenge and a clear picture for what they can do about it.

A lot of execs are already taking the initial, common sense steps to move their businesses and industries toward a new energy economy. Many others, though, despite their concerns about the consequences of business as usual in our energy system, seem to want that same business as usual to make things better.

Thankfully, Reinventing Fire provides a robust framework to develop solutions that transcend the industrial boundaries and entrenched interests hard-coded into our energy systems over the past century. Our guide to a 2050 energy system that requires no oil, coal or nuclear power includes detailed recommendations for key players within the relevant sectors: transportationbuildingsindustry and electricity. These suggestions range from no-regrets actions everyone can take today to truly innovative actions steps for the most progressive leaders.

Yet, faced with such complex and interconnected issues, many readers are still asking: How do I gain traction personally and professionally? Are there other tangible steps to take now, and how can I influence those around me to join in this grand quest? And, maybe most difficult to answer, how do I know if I am making progress? When asked these questions, I have a few suggestions. They include:

Focus on the economics of opportunity vs. the economics of cost. The math may be the same, but people and organizations seem willing to accept a lower potential ROI or assume more investment risk when pursuing an opportunity they are excited about vs. trying to justify a cost they would prefer to avoid. Establish a winner’s mindset as winners and losers are sorted out in the shift from fossil fuels to a more efficient, renewable energy base. Accomplish this by focusing your own and your business’s attention on the opportunities created by action. Keep in mind the risks associated with inaction and maintaining a business-as-usual attitude toward energy.

Own your role in contributing to the problem — and pursuing the solution. I recently had a transformational experience at an event hosted by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Up on stage, in front of several hundred people, the CFO of UPS opened his presentation with a simple statement: “We are polluters.” His point was clear and honest — that in the execution of its core business, UPS generates a lot of pollution. The CFO said he — and all of UPS management — own this as a real business challenge, and have made addressing their environmental impact a top-line priority.

I realized that at some point the energy at UPS must have shifted from denial and obfuscation of the obvious facts to acceptance, so all the energy wasted before that turning point could be redirected to solutions. I was left wondering how many coal-based utilities would openly and honestly acknowledge that they were polluters, and how much energy and resource might be unleashed if they just accepted that fact and owned the responsibility to deal with it.

Become present with the problem and challenges for all stakeholders, and look across boundaries to embrace “coopetition.” It’s one thing to understand a problem from your own perspective. It’s another thing to really experience it — to internalize the challenges that the problem causes and really commit yourself to being an active, vital part of the solution. Yet, you’ll also want to understand the perspective and roles that others will play in the transformation and work in concert with them to achieve progressive alignment across all the powers with a stake in the game.

A great example of this is playing out in the renewable energy space, especially in the solar industry. Ultimately, deep penetration of renewables will require broad acceptance by electric utilities. However, management and engineers within today’s utilities often see renewables as a major nuisance with technical and economic hurdles that are not worth overcoming compared with the alternates at hand. While most entrepreneurs and renewables advocates are spending their energy and precious resources lobbying for mandates to force utilities to use renewables, a few are starting to understand they might gain more by working with utility leadership to envision solar and other renewables as a problem-solving asset.

Avoid a too big a focus on quick wins or buzz about the latest and greatest technology. Instead, measure progress one step at a time and in terms of potential scalability. Solutions to messy problems including climate change, national security and economic competitiveness take a long time to develop and rarely take the shape or form expected at the outset, so it’s really hard to predict and measure progress.

That’s OK, and as such it’s essential to see and celebrate small wins and to recognize that in many ways the ultimate scalability of what we are doing today may contribute more than the specific ideas themselves.

For example, many of today’s very successful solar business models and products, which work really well under subsidies, are likely not terribly scalable since they are often unintentionally customized for success within an artificial market. Conversely, some of today’s more moderately successful solar business models and products are slowly proving themselves in unsubsidized and less solar-friendly markets, likely building on a core set of customer-oriented values, which will serve them well in when all the subsidies fade away.

As visionary business leaders have shown, we can all take immediate actions in this grand effort to transform the biggest and most complex system in modern society. Beyond the first steps, diligent application of tested approaches including systems thinking to look beyond narrow boundaries will, in time, create solutions to some of the most wicked problems of our time.

3 Must-Have Apps for a Sustainable 2012

3 Must-Have Apps for a Sustainable 2012

2012 is not going to be easy. Against a backdrop of economic stagnation in the west, civil society unrest in all sorts of places, and continued volatility in commodity markets, the going will be tough for business. It’s also possible that progress towards sustainability might falter.

But not if you download these apps, designed to do two things: Help any forward-thinking sustainability practitioner respond positively to three key trends for 2012, which in turn will help navigate the likely turbulence of the next 12 months.

App 1: the “How to (Begin to) Rethink Capitalism” App

2012 will see increasing numbers of business leaders question whether the current form of capitalism is fit for purpose. Back in 2008 at the beginning of the current economic crisis hitting the U.S., U.K. and Europe, the response was tactical, with policy-makers and business leaders crossing their fingers, hoping that the glory days of high GDP growth would return soon. We now know that Europe and the U.K., and maybe the U.S., face a decade of austerity, and there are no short-term fixes.

Paul Polman, CEO at Unilever, has publicly said he wants an “equitable, sustainable capitalism.” Even the Harvard Business Review has called on CEOs to “fix the system.”

And there is of course the Occupy movement. Not anti-capitalist as such, just anti-this-current-version — which only works for the minority (probably even less than 1 percent).

This app will help you begin to think about how your business, big or small, could play its role in creating a different, more useful form of capitalism. Enter the notion of sustainable capitalism — where we factor in environmental assets, and recognise their true value.

Without natural resources and a stable climate, it’s hard to see how any form of capitalism will work into the future. Unfortunately, there isn’t a spare planet knocking about on to which the human species can decamp.

On a macro-economic scale, by placing a value on environmental assets, from bees to rainforests, it becomes easier to design financial instruments to protect them (think forest-backed bonds). Similarly, by measuring success in terms of market share, profitability and social impact, investment decisions can be made to deliver outcomes that work both commercially and in terms of improving people’s quality of life.

At the level of an individual business, understanding the true value of the natural resources on which you undoubtedly rely, and working to reduce these input costs, will mean that when the cost of these resources soars in response to rising demand and declining availability, the business has inbuilt resilience.

Similarly, by understanding both the true social cost of getting your goods and services to market, as well as their social value, when transparency trends and rising labour costs in developing economies hit your business, again, the business is not blown off course.

The first question this app asks is, “what happens to your business in the event of the end of free nature and free labor?” Starting to think about your answer to this question in 2012 would be a wise thing to do.

App 2: the “How to Get Serious About Collaborative Consumption” App

Collaborative consumption, the term used to describe the rapid explosion in swapping and renting goods and services, often through peer-to-peer (P2P) businesses, will break through in 2012. An example of a business in the collaborative consumption space is AirBnB, a website where you can rent out your spare room. It started in 2008 and now has rooms in 19,000 cities in 192 countries. That sort of rapid geographical penetration is the kind of success most hotel chains can only dream of.

Next page: The third app, plus some do’s and don’ts for moving forward

Collaborative consumption could mainstream in 2012 for two reasons; first, economic austerity will force people to cut costs, and look for cheaper ways of accessing goods and services; and second, the ongoing digital revolution will increase people’s ability to access these new P2P business models.

This app will help you understand how you could rethink delivery of your own business’s goods and services, using P2P models, and in so doing, avoiding being locked in to market delivery mechanisms (such as an out-of-town retail outlet), which could soon become redundant. And it will also help you understand how to maximise the social value of your product or service. The best thing about collaborative consumption is that it gives people what they need. Imagine that.

App 3: the “Taking Sustainability to Consumers” App

2012 will see the practice of taking sustainability to consumers, rather than waiting for them to demand it, mainstream. Pioneering companies such as M&S and Unilever are already saying they will try to shift what people buy and how they use their products in the home. Going further is the clothing brand, Patagonia, which raised eyebrows with its Thanksgiving advert in the New York Times telling readers “Don’t Buy this Jacket.”

The realization that it is possible to drive brand loyalty through sustainability issues, and that it will be increasingly impossible to be credible on sustainability issues without addressing the use phase (up to 80 percent of a product’s impact), will mean that many more brands will take sustainability to their consumers.

But how? This app will take you through some do’s and don’ts:

• Do wrap sustainability into the brand DNA. Sustainability has to be part of the brand essence, otherwise it appears as an add-on, and won’t be viewed as authentic;

• Don’t talk about sustainability first. Make the primary message the one that you know your consumer really cares about. So, it’s nutritious — and sustainable, it’s well designed — and sustainable, it has the right price point — and is sustainable.

• Do feedback. Make sure your customers know that their actions count. Tell them how their purchasing decisions can both save them money — and make a positive difference to others.

Sadly, these apps aren’t quite ready. But don’t let that stop you. The three trends are very real and how to respond is based on our current reality. Use your imagination, be bold, be creative — and 2012 might well see progress towards sustainability accelerate.