June 22, 2006
Global Warming Real Estate Tip: Don't Buy Beachfront Property
June 21, 2006
Green Tags, Terra Pass, Carbon Fund
Rapanos - ELI Seminar
A fractured Supreme Court provided conflicting views of when ecologically valuable wetlands are protected by federal law. With four Justices arguing for a constrained reading that would hobble the Clean Water Act, and four Justices arguing in favor of robust federal protection, Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion, citing ELI’s first amicus brief, emerged as the one most likely to shape the law in future cases. Read ELI’s full press release.
Also, RSVP today for the July 11 ELI Seminar After Rapanos and Carabell, co-sponsored by ABA s Section on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources, Constitutional Law Committee; and the D.C. Bar Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Section.
We all might want to take a deep breath before we discuss Rapanos -- we start with good stuff from Lazarus and Buzbee. Let's not get too hysterical: the world hasn't come to an end -- it's only the plurality that doesn't understand hydrology, the hydrological cycle, and the significance of wetlands.
PLF blog (I know they announced one. I haven't visited it. I don't care to make them money.) I can't resist posting this reaction though Hugh Hewitt
Global Warming Attitudes
Americans express relatively little concern over global warming, especially when compared with publics of other major nations. Barely half of the Americans who have heard of global warming say they personally worry about the issue a great deal (19%) or a fair amount (34%). Nearly as many say they worry only a little (26%) or not at all (21%). The Japanese express the highest level of concern over global warming among the publics of major industrialized nations. Fully 66% of Japanese say they worry about this a great deal, while another 27% say they worry a fair amount. In France, a combined 87% express a great deal (46%) or fair amount
(41%) of concern. Roughly the same percentage in Spain (85%) says they worry at least a fair amount about global warming. Smaller percentages in Great Britain (67%) and Germany (64%) voice significant concern about global warming. The American public is deeply divided politically in
concerns over global warming. Only about a third of Republicans (34%) say they worry a great deal (10%) or a fair amount (24%) over global warming, based on those who have heard about the issue. About two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and 57% of independents express at least a fair amount of concern over global warming. Roughly four-in-ten white evangelical
Protestants (41%) express have at least a fair amount of concern
about global warming; that compares with 53% of white mainline Protestants, and 64% of seculars. Pew Global Attitudes Survey
Investors Seek Climate Change Information - New York Times
Investors worried about the possible financial fallout from greenhouse gas emissions have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that companies disclose their financial vulnerability to changes in climate.... 27 investors who collectively manage more than $1 trillion in assets sent a letter to the S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, asking that financial risks linked to climate change issues be included as part of routine corporate financial reports.
The letter, whose signers included several state officials, including the New York Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, defines risk broadly.
"Investors have a right to know if a company's buildings are in the path of hurricanes that might be exacerbated by climate change, or if it will face high costs when greenhouse gas emissions are regulated," said James Coburn, a policy adviser at Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups that sent the letter. "They need that information to reduce their portfolio risk."
Just as important, Mr. Coburn said, companies that are forced to quantify and disclose their vulnerabilities are far more likely to address them. "What is measured is managed," he said.
World Scientists Address Disease Surveillance and Energy
The national science academies of 12 nations [G8 nations, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa] issued two joint statements to the leaders of the G8 countries who meet at their annual summit in Russia next month. One endorses reinvention of the world's disease surveillance system; the other urges major expansion of energy research to address the global crisis in energy supplies.
The academies argue that global efforts in both infectious diseases and energy sourcing are tremendously inadequate given the scale of the problems. Current systems of national and international disease surveillance are fragmented and uncoordinated. The world needs a tightly coordinated global system with animal and human health experts working closely together, in light of the bird flu and other pandemic threats that we are likely to face. Similarly, the academies argue that G8 must address serious inadequacies in funding and incentives for energy research.
In particular, the academies recommend:
Reinventing disease surveillance
Efforts to coordinate disease surveillance across national and international agencies and research bodies
Independent audit to recommend how to develop global surveillance
Research into more rapid vaccine production methods
Greater cooperation between human- and animal-health communities
Better collection and sharing of clinical and epidemiological data Investing in energy R&D
Investing in energy R&D
Highlight 'reality and urgency' of global energy supply
Big, long-term infrastructure investments in cheap, clean, sustainable energies
Boost developing countries' capacity in innovative energy technologies
Incentives to develop clean fossil, nuclear and renewable technologies
Focus public research and technology efforts on energy efficiency, non-conventional hydrocarbons and clean coal, innovative nuclear power, distributed power systems, renewable energy sources, and biomass production.
The academies' statements seek to build on the seeming influence that their statements had last year on G8 commitments for African aid.
The joint statements are described in more detail and linked below.
<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/[environment]" rel="tag">[environment]</a>
Joint science academies’ statement: Avian influenza and infectious diseases
14 Jun 2006
The national science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China, India and South Africa have signed a statement on avian influenza and infectious diseases.
The statement stresses that the world faces the possibility of a new human influenza pandemic caused by the spread of avian influenza. All countries of the world should cooperate to address the present issues surrounding avian influenza, as well as continuing with long term global strategies to address other major and emerging infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The statement calls on world leaders, particularly those meeting at the G8 Summit in St Petersburg in July 2006, to implement the following recommendations.
- Provide support to developing nations in the implementation of their own national strategies to address avian influenza and other infectious diseases.
- Improve the coordination of global surveillance for the control of emerging and zoonotic diseases.
- Mobilise global scientific and medical communities in order to develop new vaccines and drugs and new more rapid methods for the production of vaccines. Governments and the scientific community should also promote international cooperation between human health and veterinary experts to elaborate new methods for detection, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.
- Encourage Governments to collaborate in the collection of clinical and epidemiological data implement strategies that allow clinical data to be accessed and shared, particularly in the early stages of a pandemic.
- The world community must ensure that the focus on avian influenza does not compete with, but rather motivates the development of broad-based and sustainable infrastructure with the capacity to address an array of infectious disease threats globally.
The Royal Society issued a press release highlighting this statement on 14 June 2006.
- Joint science academies’ statement: Avian influenza and infectious diseases (Adobe PDF File, 733kb)
Joint science academies’ statement: Energy Sustainability and Security
G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption, and should play a leading role in assuring global energy sustainability and security. The national science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China, India and South Africa, have signed a statement on this issue.
The statement calls on all countries of the world, especially those meeting at the G8 summit in July 2006, to cooperate in identifying common strategic priorities for sustainable and secure energy systems, in implementing actions towards those strategic priorities, and to:
- Articulate the reality and urgency of global energy security concerns
- Plan for the massive infrastructure investments, and lead times required for a transition to clean, affordable and sustainable energy systems
- Intensify cooperation with developing countries to build their domestic capacities to use existing and innovative energy systems and technologies, including transfer of technologies
- Promote by appropriate policies and economic instruments the development and implementation of cost-competitive, environmentally beneficial, and market acceptable clean fossil, nuclear, and renewable technologies
- Ensure, in cooperation with industry, that technologies are developed and implemented and actions taken to protect energy infrastructures from natural disasters, technological failures, and human actions
- Address the serious inadequacy of R&D funding and provide incentives to accelerate advanced energy-related R&D, also in partnership with private companies
- Implement education programs to increase public understanding of energy challenges, and to provide for energy-related expertise and engineering capabilities
- Focus governmental research and technology efforts on energy efficiency, non-conventional hydrocarbons and clean coal with CO2 sequestration, innovative nuclear power, distributed power systems, renewable energy sources, biomass production, biomass and gas conversion for fuels.
The Royal Society issued a press release highlighting this statement on 14 June 2006.
This statement follows on from the statement on climate change released by the G8
academies in the lead up to the 2005 G8 summit in
- Joint science academies’ statement: Energy Sustainability and Security (Adobe PDF File, 706kb)
June 21, 2006 in Africa, Asia, Climate Change, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Results of the Vienna Summit
The U.S. - EU summit concluded in Vienna. The joint statement contained a substantial discussion of energy policy. The most significant commitment is the US agreement to conduct a high level dialogue on long range climate change policy.
Promoting Strategic Cooperation on Energy and Energy Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Development
We recognise the strategic role of security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability in the energy sector. In this connection, we strongly reaffirm our commitment to the energy security principles enunciated by the International Energy Agency. We have agreed to reinforce our strategic energy cooperation to:
• support diversification of energy sources and supplies;
• secure our energy infrastructure;
• promote market-based energy security policies that ensure competition, transparency, respect for contracts, and non-discriminatory trade, transit, and access;
• speed development of new lower-pollution and lower carbon technologies;
• accelerate investment in cleaner, more efficient use of fossil sources and renewable sources in order to cut air pollution harmful to human health and natural resources, and reducing greenhouse gases associated with the serious long-term challenge of global climate change.
We will cooperate to ensure sufficient, reliable and environmentally responsible supplies of energy at prices reflecting market fundamentals, facilitating sustained global economic growth as well as expanding access to energy in developing countries. Thus, we agree to:
• Improve energy security by enhancing the dialogue with the main transit, producer and consumer countries and by promoting diversification of energy sources and supply routes worldwide and notably in the Caspian sea region, Middle East, continental Africa and Latin America;• Analyse geopolitical implications of the worldwide energy situation as it develops, its impact on our external policies and to develop mutually reinforcing policies where appropriate;
• Promote energy security policies in key third countries by encouraging a gradual transition to market pricing and behaviour, and coordinate capacity-building assistance to emerging economies, including to increase energy efficiency, adopt clean technologies and build strategic stocks;
• Support maintenance and improvement of pipeline infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted deliveries and facilitate diversification of investments in large transnational projects by ensuring convergence of legal and regulatory frameworks and supporting collaboration among energy regulatory authorities, notably with Ukraine;
• Coordinate where appropriate technical assistance to improve energy legal and regulatory frameworks and investment climates in third countries;
• Improve the security of global energy networks and develop standards for physical security of critical energy infrastructure;
• Facilitate development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG);
• Increase our coordination within international fora, notably the G8, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Energy Forum (IEF);
• Use energy in a more efficient and environmentally responsible manner, and in particular cooperate on improving the efficiency of world-wide traded products. In this context we have just initialled a new Energy Star Agreement;
• Make more and better use of renewable energy sources and reinforce technological cooperation and partnerships, notably on environmentally-friendly low emission power generation technologies, hydrogen energy, carbon sequestration, cutting gas flaring and biofuels;
• Promote diversification of fuel sources in the transportation sector, including through increased use of biofuels;
• Continue cooperation through the International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy and increase collaboration over regulatory, standards and trade issues affecting alternative fuels and emerging technologies, especially hydrogen;
• Cooperate on developing efficient, transitional transport technologies, and fuel standards, such as plug-in hybrids or efficient diesel engines;
• Continue scientific exchanges among EU and US research and development organisations focused on energy efficiency in buildings;
• Promote, consistent with national energy policies, safety standards in the production of nuclear energy.
To monitor and guide this process, we will conduct an annual strategic review of EU-U.S. energy cooperation.
We also agreed to promote
energy security worldwide by applying the following Energy Security Principles:
We also agreed to promote energy security worldwide by applying the following Energy Security Principles:
a. Contractual commitments should be upheld and market-based principles should prevail at all stages of the energy supply chain.
b. Diversifying sources of energy and modes/routes of transit and ensuring nondiscriminatory third-party access to transit infrastructure will improve the functioning of energy markets worldwide.
c. Open, transparent, non discriminatory and stable legal conditions that ensure fair and equitable treatment for energy investment and trade are essential to helping producing and transit countries meet market demands.
d. Further development of production and export capacities in producer countries in a safe and secure environment, and the upgrading of existing and development of new energy transportation infrastructures by producer and transit countries as well as further development of refinery capacity in all countries are critical.
e. Bolstering and ensuring the highest levels of physical and environmental security and safety of energy infrastructures, as well as the highest level of nuclear safety, is crucial to the durability and sustainability of the global energy system.
f. We should encourage the most economic and efficient use of energy worldwide notably through the use of market-based instruments to minimise negative environmental consequences, and should promote in particular the use of cleaner and more efficient use of fossil fuels and the development of economically competitive non-fossil energy sources based on appropriate policies and market-based instruments.
g. We should promote continued research, development and deployment of alternative energy sources and the facilitation of technological and industrial cooperation.
h. Supporting effective implementation of transparency and data sharing initiatives, such as the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI), including on the evaluation of oil reserves, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) will improve transparency and predictability of the market for all stakeholders.
i. Addressing energy poverty
endured by many of the world’s poorest people who will still lack access to
modern energy services is a priority.
We will work more closely to address the serious and long-term challenge of climate change, biodiversity loss and air pollution and will act with resolve and urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will continue our dialogue and efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including work on long-term cooperative action in the process established in Montreal in December 2005. To this end, we have agreed to establish an EU-U.S. High Level Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development to build on existing bilateral and multilateral initiatives and further advance implementation of the G-8 Gleneagles Plan of Action for Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development. This dialogue will be guided by the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC and will initially meet in fall 2006 in Helsinki. Among topics of importance for this dialogue will be experience with different market-based mechanisms to promote cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, advancing the development and deployment of existing and transformational technologies that are cleaner and more efficient, producing energy with significantly lower emissions, efficiency and conservation, renewable fuels, clean diesel, capture of methane, lower emitting agricultural operations and energy production and distribution systems, as well as other environmental issues.
Rocky Flats Grand Jury Wins: The District Court Must Decide Whether to Disclose the Grand Jury Proceedings
WHO links 25% of all disease to environmental degradation
WHO reports that 13
million deaths annually and nearly a quarter of all disease
worldwide—including 33 percent of illnesses in children under age
five—are due to environmental causes that could be avoided or
prevented. The four main diseases caused by environmental factors are diarrhea,
lower respiratory infections, various forms of unintentional injuries,
and malaria. These disease could be prevented by providing safe drinking and domestic water supplies, promoting better hygiene, using cleaner and safer fuels, reduced use and better management of use of toxic substances, and better water resource management. The report
"shows very clearly the gains that would accrue both to public health and to the general environment by a series of straightforward, coordinated investments. We call on ministries of health, environment and other partners to work together to ensure that these environmental and public health gains become a reality." Video message by Dr. Maria Neira, Director, Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization
June 21, 2006 in Africa, Air Quality, Asia, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
June 20, 2006
Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicity<>
Nanotoxicology is back in the news. For background on nanotoxicology, see Nanotoxicology Review. Nanotechnology has been widely dispersed without much understanding of the biological effects of nanoparticles. An animal study by Veronesi published June 7 in Environmental Science and Technology on biological effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles suggests that some nanoparticles cause substantial neurological damage. Given the widespread use of such nanoparticles, some quick research to confirm these findings is in order. Link: ScienceNOW>
Hundreds of tons of engineered, microscopic particles enter the environment every year, yet little is known of their biological effects. Now, a study of ultrafine particles of titanium dioxide (TiO2)--used in manufacturing, personal care and food products, and as drug carriers--indicates that even low concentrations can produce harmful "free radicals" in brain cells. The findings underscore the need to learn more about how such tiny particles interact with living tissues, the researchers say.
Previous studies have revealed that many nontoxic materials become harmful at particle sizes of less than 100 nanometers. Specifically, they can trigger the production of biologically reactive, oxygen-containing molecules such as free radicals. In addition, some types of particulate matter can enter the brain once they get into the bloodstream. Little is known about the biological effects of TiO2, but its widespread use and distribution means that humans and other animals could be widely exposed.
To investigate the biological effects of TiO2, Bellina Veronesi, a neurotoxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and her colleagues exposed mouse microglia--cells that protect the brain from invaders such as viruses and foreign chemicals--to a solution containing minute concentrations of TiO2. The microglia engulfed the particles and released bursts of reactive oxygen molecules for 2 hours. This didn't damage the microglia, but Veronesi says prolonged exposure to these compounds can damage neurons. In fact, a similar mechanism is thought to underlie some cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
The Science of Global Warming: Permafrost -- Another Tipping Point?
Zimov, Schuur, and Chapin noted yesterday in Science the enormous potential contribution of permafrost to the global carbon budget. The amount of carbon stored in permafrost is more than that stored in global vegetation. Science article Thus, as global warming thaws permafrost, it releases this enormous reservoir of carbon to the atmosphere, thus accelerating global warming. This is the type of positive feedback mechanism that causes "tipping points" and "cliffs." See yesterday's post on tipping points. If the 1000 Gt of carbon contained in permafrost thaw quickly over the course of 100 years as Zimov indicates, the annual carbon release from permafrost will be 150% of the annual carbon release from fossil fuels.
The carbon content of Earth's atmosphere has increased from ~360 gigatons (Gt)--mainly as CO2--during the last glacial maximum to ~560 Gt during preindustrial times and ~730 Gt today. These changes reflect redistributions among the main global carbon reservoirs. The largest such reservoir is the ocean (40,000 Gt, of which 2500 Gt is organic carbon), followed by soils (1500 Gt) and vegetation (650 Gt). There is also a large geological reservoir, from which ~6.5 Gt of carbon are released annually to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.>
Permafrost (permanently frozen ground) is an additional large carbon reservoir that is rarely incorporated into analyses of changes in global carbon reservoirs. Here we illustrate the importance of permafrost carbon in the global carbon budget...We estimate the carbon reservoir in frozen yedoma to be ~500 Gt (2). Another ~400 Gt of carbon are contained in nonyedoma permafrost (excluding peatlands) (3), and 50 to 70 Gt reside in the peatbogs of western Siberia (4). These preliminary estimates indicate that permafrost is a large carbon reservoir [about 1000Gt], intermediate in size between those of vegetation and soils.... Given this estimate of permafrost carbon storage on land, the redistribution of carbon during glacial periods is a fertile area for reassessment. Permafrost is a globally significant carbon reservoir that responds to climate change in a unique and very simple way: With warming, its spatial extent declines, causing rapid carbon loss; with cooling, the permafrost reservoir refills slowly, a dynamic that mirrors the past atmospheric record of CO2. In a warmer climate, permafrost carbon is thus likely to become part of more actively cycling carbon reservoirs. Factors inducing high-latitude climate warming should be mitigated to minimize the risk of a potentially large carbon release that would further increase climate warming.
Worth watching?: Addicted to Oil
This may be a resource for those of you teaching natural resources, energy, oil & gas:
On Saturday, June 24 at 10 PM (ET/PT), Discovery Channel is airing ADDICTED TO OIL, a one-hour presentation about one of today’s most pressing issues -- the political, economic and environmental consequences of America’s fossil fuel dependence and ways to solve it.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman analyzes the political, strategic
and economic impact of America’s fossil fuel addiction and proposes business,
technological and governmental solutions for beating it.
June 19, 2006
Forest Guardians Protect Informal Consultation
Findlaw link: Forest Guardians
Many years ago, I represented ASARCO in Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. We established a precedent that if, after a biological assessment, the agency modified its proposed federal action to avoid adverse impacts on a listed species, then a formal BiOp was not required. Our argument, inter alia, was that allowing mitigation planning during the biological assessment process created an incentive to mitigate adverse impacts.
The consultation regulations codified that approach as informal consultation and retained avoidance of formal consultation as an incentive to mitigate. Unfortunately, the problem is assuring that the mitigation plans or modifications are performed, not just promises. In Sierra Club v. Marsh, the 9th Circuit shut down the "empty promise" strategy. In Forest Guardians, the 9th Circuit has now dealt with the "you can't tell whether its an empty promise if I don't monitor" strategy. So those of us who think the incentive structure of informal consultation is good can sleep easier tonight.
EU Sustainability Strategy
The EU heads of government adopted a revised EU sustainable development strategy in Brussels on Friday, which focuses on the need for short-term action to counter Europe’s “unsustainable consumption and production patterns”. The strategy is a revision of the one adopted in Gothenburg in 2001. The new strategy details objectives, targets, and more detailed targets, objectives, and initiatives to meet seven “key challenges” – climate change and clean energy; sustainable transport; sustainable consumption and production; conservation and management of natural resources; public health; social inclusion, demography and migration; and global poverty and sustainable development challenges.>
The strategy calls for the commission to produce an EU action plan on sustainable consumption and production by 2007. It sets a target of bringing average level of EU green public procurement up to the standard currently achieved by the best performing member states by 2010.
The strategy signals the preeminence of sustainability as a focus for EU policy. It shifts the relationship between the sustainability strategy and the EU’s Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs -- underscoring the need to achieve the economic development goals of Lisbon within the framework of sustainability.
Principles of Responsible Investment
Original post 6/5/06
The Principles for Responsible Investment launched by the UN S-G in late April at the NYSE are intended to extend corporate social responsibility concerns into the mainstream of corporate financing -- not just the marginalized social responsibility funds that so many institutional investors and investment managers have created. The Principles have been adopted by investors controlling US$4 trillion in assets. For those of you who have not reviewed them, here they are. I have a question for anyone who is in the know -- why isn't TIAA-CREF on the list?
The Principles for Responsible Investment
As institutional investors, we have a duty to act in the best long-term interests of our beneficiaries. In this fiduciary role, we believe that environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios (to varying degrees across companies, sectors, regions, asset classes and through time). We also recognise that applying these Principles may better align investors with broader objectives of society. Therefore, where consistent with our fiduciary responsibilities, we commit to the following:
1 We will incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.
- Address ESG issues in investment policy statements
- Support development of ESG-related tools, metrics, and analyses
- Assess the capabilities of internal investment managers to incorporate ESG issues
- Assess the capabilities of external investment managers to incorporate ESG issues
- Ask investment service providers (such as financial analysts, consultants, brokers, research firms, or rating companies) to integrate ESG factors into evolving research and analysis
- Encourage academic and other research on this theme
- Advocate ESG training for investment professionals
- Develop and disclose an active ownership policy consistent with the Principles
- Exercise voting rights or monitor compliance with voting policy (if outsourced)
- Develop an engagement capability (either directly or through outsourcing)
- Participate in the development of policy, regulation, and standard setting (such as promoting and protecting shareholder rights)
- File shareholder resolutions consistent with long-term ESG considerations
- Engage with companies on ESG issues
- Participate in collaborative engagement initiatives
- Ask investment managers to undertake and report on ESG-related engagement
3 We will seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues by the entities in which we invest.Possible actions:
- Ask for standardised reporting on ESG issues (using tools such as the Global Reporting Initiative)
Ask for ESG issues to be integrated within annual financial reports
Ask for information from companies regarding adoption of/adherence to relevant norms, standards, codes of conduct or international initiatives (such as the UN Global Compact)
- Support shareholder initiatives and resolutions promoting ESG disclosure
4 We will promote acceptance and implementation of the Principles within the investment industry.Possible actions:
- Include Principles-related requirements in requests for proposals (RFPs)
- Align investment mandates, monitoring procedures, performance indicators and incentive structures accordingly (for example, ensure investment management processes reflect long-term time horizons when appropriate)
- Communicate ESG expectations to investment service providers
- Revisit relationships with service providers that fail to meet ESG expectations
Support the development of tools for benchmarking ESG integration
Support regulatory or policy developments that enable implementation of the Principles
5 We will work together to enhance our effectiveness in implementing the Principles.Possible actions:
- Support/participate in networks and information platforms to share tools, pool resources, and make use of investor reporting as a source of learning
- Collectively address relevant emerging issues
- Develop or support appropriate collaborative initiatives
6 We will each report on our activities and progress towards implementing the Principles.Possible actions:
Disclose how ESG issues are integrated within investment practices
Disclose active ownership activities (voting, engagement, and/or policy dialogue)
- Disclose what is required from service providers in relation to the Principles
- Communicate with beneficiaries about ESG issues and the Principles
- Report on progress and/or achievements relating to the Principles using a 'Comply or Explain'1 approach
- Seek to determine the impact of the Principles
- Make use of reporting to raise awareness among a broader group of stakeholders
1The Comply or Explain approach requires signatories to report on how they implement the Principles, or provide an explanation where they do not comply with them.
The Principles for Responsible Investment were developed by an international group of institutional investors reflecting the increasing relevance of environmental, social and corporate governance issues to investment practices. The process was convened by the United Nations Secretary-General.In signing the Principles, we as investors publicly commit to adopt and implement them, where consistent with our fiduciary responsibilities. We also commit to evaluate the effectiveness and improve the content of the Principles over time. We believe this will improve our ability to meet commitments to beneficiaries as well as better align our investment activities with the broader interests of society.
We encourage other investors to adopt the Principles.
The Science of Global Warming: Are we reaching the "tipping points?"
Gabrielle Walker reported in Nature last week on whether we are reaching the tipping point in climate change. The phrase "global warming" suggests to the uninitiated a gentle, linear increase in temperature with predictable linear effects on the earth. But both the complex system that is climate, and the more subtle and difficult to identify biological systems affected by climate, cannot be captured by neat linear equations. They have non-linearities: cliffs that are points of no return and tipping points when internal dynamics start to propel changes and small changes produce exponential impacts. See Real Science post on tipping points. (tipping point post) Are there tipping points or cliffs in climate change? When will they be reached? When and if they are reached, are they not just tipping points, but cliffs -- points of no return?
Although there's no strong evidence that the climate as a whole has a point beyond which it switches neatly into a new pattern, individual parts of the system could be in danger of changing state quickly, and perhaps irretrievably. And perhaps the most striking of these vulnerable components are in the Arctic. Farthest north is the carapace of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean. South of that is the vast ice sheet that covers Greenland. And then there is the ocean conveyor belt, which originates in a small region of the Nordic seas and carries heat and salt around the world. All three seem to have inbuilt danger zones that may deserve to be called tipping points. And the outside forces pushing them towards those points are gathering.
Even as it published the piece on tipping points, Nature noted in its editorial that there are dangers in focusing on those concepts:
there are three dangers attendant on focusing humanity's response to the climate crisis too much on tipping points. The first is the uncertainty of the science; the second is the tendency of such an emphasis to distort our responses; the third is the danger of fatalism.
The models through which our understanding of the climate system are channelled into assessments of how it might behave in the future are impressive by the standards of human investigation, but crude with respect to the details of the Earth system. All sorts of phenomena, from the formation of clouds to the respiration of soils, are hard to capture accurately, and it is on such details that an understanding of possible tipping points depends. Anyone claiming to know for sure when a particular tipping point will be reached should be treated with suspicion — and so must anyone who suggests that no tipping point will ever be reached.
The second problem is that an emphasis on tipping points not yet reached increases the focus on the future. Such an increase tips the balance away from adapting to climate change and in favour of trying to avoid it. A rational response to the challenge of the twenty-first century's climate is to do both: to reduce the rate at which greenhouse gases force climate change, but at the same time build up the ability to cope with adverse climates.
The third issue is that tipping points can induce fatalism. The concept may encourage the belief that a complete solution is the only worthwhile one, as any other course may allow the climate system to tumble past the crucial threshold. This sort of all-or-nothing approach is already over-stressed in climate policy by the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which calls for the complete avoidance of dangerous anthropogenic climate change, rather than the more reasonable and more feasible goal of minimizing and controlling it.
The first tipping point is Artic ice, which shrank 20% in the last 20 years of the 20th century:
"There is near-universal agreement that we are now seeing a greenhouse effect in the Arctic," says Mark Serreze from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. Serreze studies sea ice, the member of the arctic triumvirate that has had most recent attention. In the winter, sea ice more or less covers the Arctic Ocean basin. Summer sun nibbles at the pack ice, shrinking it at the edges and creating patches of open water within. Open water reflects much less sunlight than ice — it has what is known as a lower albedo — so the greater the area of dark open water, the more summer warmth the ocean stores. More stored heat means thinner ice in the next winter, which is more vulnerable to melting the next summer — meaning yet more warmth being stored in the open water in the following year, a cycle known as the 'ice–albedo feedback'. "Once you start melting and receding, you can't go back," says Serreze. It seems that some of this process is under way. Serreze and his colleagues have found that the summer sea ice has shrunk by an average of 8% a decade over the past thirty years2. The past four years have seen record lows in the extent of September sea ice, and in 2005 there was 20% less ice cover than the 1979–2000 average, a loss of about 1.3 million square kilometres, which is more than the area of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. It was this finding that triggered a raft of alarming headlines. The ice's volume, rather than its extent, would be a more useful figure, but this is hard to estimate. Radar measurements showing how proud the ice sits with respect to nearby water would help, but the European Cryosat mission intended to provide these data was lost on launch in October 2005. A reflight is planned, but at present the only way to determine the pack thickness is from below. In 2003 Andrew Rothrock and Jinlun Zhang of the University of Washington in Seattle analysed results from a series of submarine cruises from 1987–97 and concluded that the ice thinned by about one metre during that period3.
A natural swing in wind and weather known as the Arctic Oscillation may have played a key role in the decline.In 1989, this index began to approach its positive mode,in which a ring of strong winds circles the pole. Zhangand his colleague Roger Lindsay, also at the University of Washington, believe these winds flushed large amountsof thick ice out of the Arctic through the Fram Strait, eastof Greenland. Last year, they published a model suggesting that because the replacement ice was thinner and morevulnerable to the ice–albedo feedback, this extra loss pushed the Arctic over the edge. Their paper's title: "The thinning of Arctic Sea Ice, 1988–2003: Have We Passed a Tipping Point?"4.
But given that sea ice was disappearing even before the Arctic Oscillation lurched into its positive state, it is unlikely to have been the sole trigger. "The Arctic Oscillation was a strong kick in the pants," says Serreze, "but if we hadn't had it we would still have seen the ice loss."
Whatever the precise mechanisms, the decrease in ice seems to be warming the atmosphere, as heat pours from the open water into the air above it. Springtime temperatures began rising throughout the Arctic basin in the 1990s5. This year, the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard experienced a remarkable heatwave. January was warmer than any previously recorded April, and April was more than 12°C warmer than the long-term average.
Lindsay and Zhang suggest that the ice–albedo effect has indeed passed a tipping point, with the internal dynamics more important than external factors. But neither observations nor models suggest that the effect will now run away without outside help. According to climate modeller Jason Lowe of the UK Met Office in Exeter, the relationship between sea ice and temperature is reassuringly linear. "When you plot sea ice against temperature rise, whether from observations or models, it forms a remarkably straight line," he says. "It's not a runaway effect over the sorts of temperature ranges that we're predicting here." Lowe says that although the planet will almost certainly lose more ice, it does not have to lose it all. But if current trends in greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming continue, a planet that used to have two permanent polar caps will have only one.
Losing the sea ice would be bad news not only for polar bears and other charismatic megafauna, but also for some of the Arctic's smaller inhabitants. Photosynthetic plankton that live in pores and channels within the ice are the foundation of the area's food supply, and are not well adapted to ice-free life. Open-ocean plankton might benefit, but the Arctic is so poor in nutrients that this would probably not be much compensation6.
Compared with the overall scale of human-induced climate change, the additional warming expected if the ice–albedo feedback goes all the way would not be immense. The 4.5% of the Earth's surface above the Arctic Circle is simply too small to make a radical difference to the planet's energy balance. There are, however, some hints that the loss of sea ice may have more far-reaching effects beyond the simple number of watts absorbed per square metre. Tim Lenton, an Earth-systems scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, points out that our current, relatively stable pattern of winds, which is caused by three circulatory air systems in each hemisphere, depends in part on a white and cold North Pole.
Sinking air in the Arctic is an integral part of an air system called a Hadley cell; there is another Hadley cell over the tropics. Between these two cells are the fierce westerlies and the high-altitude jet streams that drive storms around the middle latitudes. "If any part of the current structure broke down, that would be profound," says Lenton. "If the system starts to switch seasonally between three cells and a less stable structure, you change the position of the jet streams, you change everything." Models of this possibility are scarce, but Jacob Sewall and Lisa Sloan of the University of California, Santa Cruz, have shown that an ice-free Arctic could shift winter storm tracks over North America, drying the American west7.
The second tipping point, with much more potential to dramatically change life on Earth, is the melting of Greenland ice.
The local warming caused by less sea ice could also affect the second tipping point, the size of the Greenland ice sheet. Here the effects could be dramatic, although delayed by centuries; there is enough ice on Greenland to raise sea levels by seven metres. "After hurricane Katrina, the deepest water in New Orleans was six metres," says glaciologist Richard Alley from Penn State University. "Greenland is more than that for all the coasts of the world. Do you move cities, do you build seven-metre walls and hope they stay, or what?" Until recently, nobody had painted a convincing portrait of how Greenland is responding to Arctic warming. A glacier here may recede while one over there grows; ice may be accumulating inland and eroding near the coast. But in the past couple of years, almost all of the indicators have started to point in the same direction. Greenland is melting...
Although satellite measurements of Greenland's interior suggest that snow has recently been accumulating there, the margins are receding8. Laser measurements taken from planes suggest that this coastal melting is probably enough to outweigh the build-up of snow inland9. Also, Greenland's glaciers seem to have been speeding up. A few months ago, Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Pannir Kanagaratnam of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, published satellite evidence that between 1996 and 2000, Greenland's more southerly glaciers had begun to accelerate, and that by 2005 the northerly ones had followed suit10. They estimate that over the past decade this lurching has more than doubled Greenland's annual loss of ice, from 90 to 220 cubic kilometres per year....
"In the past decade there has been a lot of warming," says Alley. "There's plenty of room to argue whether that's a natural fluctuation or not, but there's a clear relation between Greenland getting warmer and Greenland getting smaller."
Modelling by Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading and his colleagues suggests that it would require an average warming worldwide of 3.1 °C to drive this shrinking to its ultimate conclusion of an ice-free Greenland11. This climatic point of no return is around the middle of the range foreseen by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but is higher than a previous estimate made by the same group12. ...
But these models do not take into account the dynamism of Greenland's glaciers. In 2002 Jay Zwally from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, found that as soon as summer meltwater appeared on the surface of west-central Greenland, the ice began to slip more quickly13. This is surprising, as slip rates should depend on processes at the base of the ice rather than at its surface. But Zwally points out that the great lakes of water produced by the melting could slip down conduits in the ice and be delivered directly to the bed.
This result doesn't necessarily make a big difference to the fate of Greenland, as the increase in the ice's speed was relatively small. But it points to a new way in which the ice sheet could react to climate change quicker than anyone had realized. "In places inland where the ice is frozen to its bedrock, if you warm the surface and wait for heat to get conducted to the bottom it takes 10,000 years," says Alley. "But if you send water down through a crack it takes maybe 10 minutes, maybe 10 seconds." If this process started to move inland, even the interior of Greenland's ice sheet could be vulnerable to warmer air. That could point to the sort of self-sustaining feedback that tipping points are made of.
The models don't incorporate this mechanism, because they can't. The cliff fronts of many Greenland glaciers are shot through with bright blue conduits, but nobody knows how widespread these veins are inside the ice. Still, the responsiveness of Greenland's glaciers makes that point-of-no-return figure of 3.1 °C even less comforting. What's more, a lot of damage can be done without losing all of the ice. The ice sheet did not vanish during the last interglacial, around 130,000 years ago, when temperatures in the north were a few degrees higher than they are today. And yet the latest analyses suggest that meltwater from Greenland increased the sea level by between two and three metres. The only good thing about such an increase is that it would take centuries....
The third tipping point is thermohaline circulation, the ocean conveyor belt that distributes heat and salt in the ocean.
Thanks to its cold temperatures and high salinity, water in the Nordic seas between Greenland and Scandinavia is unusually dense and sinks. Surface water is drawn northwards to replenish this. One result of this flow is that Britain is warmer than its latitude would seem to deserve.
The sinking process sets a global mass of water in motion, transporting vast amounts of heat around the oceans. In the 1980s, models began to suggest that melting ice in the north could weaken this system, by putting a plug of fresh water over the sinkhole. This led to fears of abrupt climate change and snap ice ages in Europe and eastern America. These days most scientists think that the power of this flow to affect European temperatures under current conditions, or in a globally warmed future, has been overestimated14. But changes in the system could still have far-reaching implications. And models suggest that the thermohaline circulation has its own tipping point.
Comparing the output from 11 different ocean and climate models, ocean modeller Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany, has concluded that it would take between 100,000 and 200,000 cubic metres of fresh water per second to shut down the thermohaline circulation — similar to the outflow from the Amazon River15. And once the circulation is stopped, restarting it would take a lot more cooling than just reversing the system into the conditions in which it was previously working.
The good news is that although the Arctic does seem to be getting fresher, it is nowhere near the danger point. Add together the increased output from disappearing sea ice (which moves fresh water from the point where sea water freezes to the point where the ice melts), the melting of Greenland and increased Arctic river flow and you still have barely a quarter of the lower bound of the model threshold.
However, measurements of flow in the deep ocean suggest that the circulation might be fluctuating in ways not considered by the models16. And if the melting of Greenland were to gather pace, the thermohaline circulation would be vulnerable. If the lower bounds of the models turn out to be right, a rate of melting that would get through the ice in 1,000 years would trouble the ocean overturning in centuries. "The fate of the thermohaline circulation will be decided by Greenland," says Rahmstorf. "If that goes quickly it will be bad news for the deep-water formation. But if Greenland is stable, the risk of shutting down the circulation completely is very small."
Any such shutdown would probably have only a small effect on European temperatures. But thanks to the Coriolis effect, says Rahmstorf, such a large shift in the ocean circulation would redistribute sea water so that the North Atlantic rose by up to a metre17. There are also suggestions that Atlantic fisheries could collapse.
But the biggest danger would come farther south. In the past, similar changes in ocean circulation seem to have led to significant shifts in tropical rainfall. "If you switch off the thermohaline circulation, the tropical rainfall belts shift. All the models show this. It's quite simple robust physics," says Rahmstorf. General circulation models, which try to simulate the workings of the climate system as a whole, often including the ocean, predict at least some weakening of the thermohaline circulation by the end of the century, with a knock-on effect on tropical rainfall — the system that provides much of Asia with food. And as with Greenland, the change doesn't have to be complete to have consequences. "Just weakening the system is by no means harmless," says Rahmstorf. "You'd get the same pattern of effects as for a total shutdown, but just a smaller amplitude."
June 19, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Fire Sale in the Forests - New York Times
The Bush administration is drastically out of step with the West. It embraces states rights and individual rights so long as the outcome benefits monied Republican party benefactors and the Administration's opportunistic social conservative (not fiscal conservative) agenda. Otherwise, it is perfectly happy to tromp on both states and people. Western and Eastern states can't set vehicle emission standards. States can't choose to protect federal lands in their states from degradation. States can't decide who can marry... Anyone care to build the list?
Here's the NY Times editorial on the Bush administration's decision to sell timber in Oregon in roadless areas despite the state's attempts to stop the sale.
Link: New York Times.
Fire Sale in the Forests
Published: June 19, 2006
The Bush administration has been having a tough time selling the nation's governors on its misguided decision to stop protecting nearly 60 million acres of roadless national forest from new logging and development. Thanks to the administration's own missteps, that task just got tougher.
Rescinding the "roadless rule" imposed by President Bill Clinton in 2001 was the centerpiece of a broader administration strategy to make things easier for the timber industry by rolling back an array of environmental protections. Claiming that the governors had not been properly consulted in 2001, the Forest Service proposed a new rule that invited states to make recommendations about which roadless areas should be protected but left the final determination to Washington.
The administration also promised — including in a letter to The Times last year from Mark Rey, the new policy's main architect — that it would provide "interim protection" to all roadless areas until the governors had submitted their plans.
The administration broke that promise earlier this month when it took bids on a logging project in Oregon's Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, despite Gov. Theodore Kulongoski's repeated and urgent pleas to leave the forest alone. Mr. Rey's underlings defend the sale as a necessary salvage and cleanup operation in a forest badly damaged by wildfire in 2002. Leaving aside the question of whether burned forests should be logged or allowed to regenerate — a matter of scientific dispute — this was a highhanded gesture that can only generate ill will.
Which is the last thing Mr. Rey needs. California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington State have gone to court to restore the Clinton plan, arguing that the Bush rule gives lip service to states' rights while opening the door to excessive logging and destruction of important watersheds. Several other states have told Washington that they want all their roadless acreage protected, as it was by the Clinton rule.
Mr. Rey, a wily veteran of the timber wars not previously known for shooting himself in the foot, would be well advised to reconsider his strategy, beginning with a cancellation of the Oregon sale.