Georg Kell: Businessmen, the Planet Needs You

11 December 2009

Georg Kell’s op-ed on the role and responsibility of business in tackling climate change ran on The New York Times/International Herald Tribune website today. It will also appear in tomorrow’s print edition of the IHT.


The Frightening Specter of Climate Poverty

9 June 2009

MIT researchers Melissa Dell, Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken have looked at the correlation between climate change and economic development. Among the sobering findings:

For example, our estimates imply that global climate change would lower the median poor country’s growth rate by 0.6 percentage points each year from now until 2099. Extrapolated over 90 years, the median poor country would then be about 40% poorer in 2099 than it would have been in the absence of climate change. While this estimated effect of higher temperatures is quite large, it is actually quite consistent with what one would predict just by looking at the cross-section of countries in the world today. Since we find no effects on rich countries, the results imply that future climate change may substantially widen income gaps between rich and poor countries. (Source:

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Way to Go on Climate Risk Disclosure

3 June 2009

CERES, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Center for Energy and Environmental Security have come out with a sobering assessment of climate risk disclosure by large corporations. Reclaiming Transparency in a Changing Climate, one of two studies on the issue released today, looked at references (risk assessments, strategies, policies) in thousands of SEC filings between 1995 and 2008. Money quote:

While the study finds some modest improvement in climate risk disclosure since 1995, in 2008 75% of annual reports filed by S&P 500 corporations failed to even mention climate change and only 5% articulated a strategy for managing climate-related risks. 

(Hat tip: The Guardian)

At the risk of comparing red apples (climate risk disclosure) and green apples (emissions disclosure), it is worth noting recently published research by Yale University, looking at the way in which Caring for Climate signatories are reporting climate data in their COPs or CDP filings.  

Update:  Check out this Businessweek piece on climate-related shareholder activism.  

Yale University, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and The Center for
Business and the Environment at Yale

Caring for Climate Series

26 May 2009

On Sunday, at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the Secretary-General launched the Caring for Climate Series, a number of new reports and studies on role of business, investors and governments in tackling climate change. Here is a listing:

  • Best Practices and Policy Frameworks: the 2009 Survey of Caring for Climate Signatories. By GlobeScan.
  • Energy Efficiency and Low Carbon Intensity: Are We Making Progress? By Yale University, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Centre for Business and the Environment at Yale
  • Change is Coming: A Framework for Climate Change – A Defining Issue of the 21st Century. By Goldman Sachs.
  • Investor Leadership on Climate Change: An Analysis of the Investment Community’s Role and Snapshot of Recent Investor Activity. By the Principles for Responsible Investment.
  • Building a Green Recovery. By HSBC.
  • Carbon Markets – the Simple Facts. By Mission Climat of Caisse des Dépots.

All reports can be downloaded here.

World Business Summit on Climate Change

20 May 2009

This is just another reminder of the upcoming World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen (24-26 May). Time permitting, we will be doing some live-blogging and twittering (tweeting? twitting?). With now over 600 participants, this promises to be the key business event on the road to COP15. We’ll keep you posted.

From the Alarmed to the Dismissive

19 May 2009

The Yale Project on Climate Change and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication have released Global Warming’s Six Americas: An Audience Segmentation Analysis, the results of a comprehensive survey of climate change perceptions  in the US. Key findings:

The Alarmed (18%) are fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and are already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it. The Concerned (33%) – the largest of the six Americas – are also convinced that global warming is happening and a serious problem, but have not yet engaged the issue personally. Three other Americas – the Cautious (19%), the Disengaged (12%) and the Doubtful (11%) – represent different stages of understanding and acceptance of the problem, and none are actively involved. The final America – the Dismissive (7%) – are very sure it is not happening and are actively involved as opponents of a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It would be interesting to see what these figures – applying the same methodology – look like for other countries, including emerging and developing economies.

Consumption Matters

19 May 2009

UK apparel wholesaler Continental has just completed a comprehensive exercise to determine the carbon footprint of its cotton clothing. The methodology used was British Standards’ PAS 2005:2008.

Here’s what they found for a small charcoal women’s short-sleeve T-shirt with a colour print. The values refer to kg of CO2e (total carbondioxide and other GHGs)  per lifecycle:

The carbon footprint of a T-shirt.

It’s probably not a surprise that consumer use leads the pack here, particularly tumble drying and ironing, which – if avoided – could cut the total by another 37 percent.  The simple message is, of course, one about sustainable consumption patterns – which is still often overlooked. 

The one issue I see is the standard lifecycle definition. The executive summary speaks of 25 washing cycles. Is that cutting it too short? My oldest T-shirt (which I still wear occasionally) is 18 years old. Imagine that footprint! 

(Hat tip: Maya Forstater)