Wednesday, April 25, 2007

5 things for global warming

Check out this recent piece by NASA Climate scientist James Hansen - it touches on (once again) the gap between what the scientists know, and what the public and policy-makers understand.

This gap lies at the heart of why we need to move away from reductionism, where we study and address everything in isolation in separate disciplines /departments /silos / sectors / drill holes, to a whole-system approach where policy makers and scientists, engineers and biologists, economists and consumers, businessmen and school teachers, can understand eachother because they have a shared, relevant view of the whole-system. This is the first step in taking a strategic appraoch to sustainability.

But I digress, Hansen's article offers 5 things we need to do, now, to address global warming. I think there are more inspiring ways we could go about addressing the challenge - and people are starting to do that, finding synergistic solutions through sustainable urban planning, green building, sustainable product design, permaculture, and the like - but these would certainly help, and are straight forward, necessary actions, regardless if they come about through transformational change of global society or through regulation:

1) Put a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants until we have the technology to capture and sequester the CO2
2) Put a price on emissions
3) Establish and enforce energy-efficiency standards (buildings & vehicles)
4) Study and report on ice-sheet stability (not sure how knowing more about the symptom helps us cure the root cause, but it's certainly important research, especially as we are forced to focus on adaptation as well as mitigation)
5) Reform of communication practices (so we can avoid the disasters of reductionism)

The full piece is brief, and available here:

Stay going.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Changing Fortune

Picked up the Fortune 'green issue' on the way to Atlanta last week for the SoL Sustainability Forum (more on that soon), and I highly recommend it. There is some good stuff in there & it represents another big (though still very preliminary) milestone for the movement toward sustainability - last year Vanity Fair this year Fortune....

The issue covers 10 companies and their sustainability initiatives, leaving out the already heavily covered GE and WMT stories they look at Honda, Continental, HP, Tesco, Suncor, Alcan, PG&E, S.C. Johnson, Goldman, & Swiss Re - for the most part usual suspects for people following the scene (with the exception of Continental, I didn't realize how much they've been doing) - but still a great rundown for the mainstream business types. Also focus pieces on the good, bad, & ugly at DuPont, the inspiring passion at Patagonia, and the muscle of the Governator.

Check out the stories here:

But one of the most intriguing pieces in the issue is not in the 'green section'. It is a one-pager called "Opening the Capitalist Mind" and it lays out a scenario for shifting the $500 billion per year health care burden from corporate America to government It would be financed with a carbon tax - thus relieving business of big burden without taxing them directly for it (all carbon consumers would share the burden), without increasing the deficit, and all the while sending a huge signal for a carbon-free economy and helping Americans realize the dream of universal healthcare. It has the potential to make both Republicans and Dems happy and apparently has the support of some of those conservative think-tank analysts. I think it has the potential to be another small but powerful example of how pursuing sustainability can bring disparate forces together for our common good and that of the biological systems upon which we all depend. Stay going…