Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture

September 28, 2020 by  
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Demand for furniture is rising in the United States and … The post Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture appeared first on Earth 911.

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Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture

Washington bans wildlife-killing competitions

September 21, 2020 by  
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On Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to ban the killing of wildlife in contests. This makes Washington the seventh state to ban such contests with the aim to conserve wildlife. Washington now joins California, Vermont, Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Mexico in implementing a ban on hunting competitions. The successful vote means that the residents and visitors of Washington cannot kill wildlife for competitions, allowing only a limited number of coyotes and other wild animals to be hunted. Hunting contests have proven detrimental to wildlife populations over the years. Popular hunting events, such as the Washington Predator Coyote Classic and the Lind Gun Club Coyote Hunt, have led to the deaths of thousands of animals. These two events alone led to the killing of 1,427 coyotes between 2013 and 2018. Unfortunately, these events are often celebrated and the winners crowned as heroes. To make matters worse, the ethics of the games also allow the winners to post images and videos on social media with piles of coyote carcasses. Related: New rules allow hunting of Alaskan bear cubs and wolf pups “I’m so grateful the commission has finally banned these cruel, unsportsmanlike competitions,” Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity , said. “These wasteful contests don’t reflect the values of most Washington residents or proper, science-based wildlife management.” In many states, similar contests still continue under the justification of population control. But president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) , Kitty Block, says the organization has a mission of stopping such games. “We have made it our mission to end all wildlife killing contests — gruesome events that make a game out of recklessly and indiscriminately killing animals for cash, prizes, and bragging rights,” Block said. “These competitions that feature piles of animal carcasses are not only cruel and unsporting, but they are also at odds with science .” Block argues that population regulation is not the work of humans but a natural process, and that mass culling will not help resolve human-wildlife conflicts. “Wild carnivores like coyotes and foxes regulate their own numbers, and the mass killing of these animals does not prevent conflicts with livestock, people, or pets.” + Center for Biological Diversity Image via U.S. Forest Service

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Washington bans wildlife-killing competitions

ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave?

September 21, 2020 by  
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ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave? Terry F. Yosie Mon, 09/21/2020 – 00:30 Amidst four concurrent crises — health, economic, race relations and climate — one stand-out 2020 development has been the rebound of major stock markets and, particularly, the growing performance and prominence of environment, social and governance (ESG) traded funds. ESG portfolios not only have outperformed traditional financial assets this year, but also a data analysis prepared by Morningstar, a financial advisory research firm, concluded that almost 60 percent of sustainable investments delivered higher returns than comparable funds over the past decade. Morningstar also found that ESG funds have greater longevity than non-ESG portfolios. About 77 percent of ESG funds that existed 10 years ago are presently available, whereas only 46 percent of traditional investment vehicles maintain that survivorship. These developments raise two overriding questions: what factors have converged to catapult ESG portfolios into the front rows of investment strategy, and what challenges can transform (for better or worse) ESG fund performance in the future? ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. ESG’s arrival at the Big Dance Since the rebound from the 2007-08 financial crisis, it would have taken a singularly motivated unwise investor to lose money in U.S. equity markets. ESG investors were not unwise. Several sets of factors converged to make these funds an even better bet than the S&P 500, Dow Jones or NASDAQ exchanges that covered a broad array of individual equities, mutual funds or indexed portfolios. These factors include: Less risk and volatility. ESG asset managers and their customers generally prefer a longer-term planning horizon than many of their traditional competitors whose reliance upon program trading or other methods result in more frequent turnover in holdings. In retrospect, it also turned out that ESG portfolios contained less financial risk because they had more accurately identified risks from climate change and considered other variables — such as resilience — for which no accepted risk methodology exists. The response to the international COVID-19 pandemic has become a de facto surrogate to measure corporate resilience and has previewed the economic and societal chaos that is increasingly expected to arrive from accelerating climate change. For investors, ESG portfolios have provided a welcome shelter in the storm and a more profitable one at that.   A declining investment rationale for fossil fuels. What was once a trend is now a rout. ESG asset managers, closely attuned to climate-related risks, recognized the receding value of first coal, and now, petroleum investments that are in the midst of an historic decline. Prior to the 2007-08 financial crash, ExxonMobil enjoyed a market capitalization in excess of $500 billion. By 2016 (and accounting for the rebound from that crash), it stood at about $400 billion. Today, it is $159 billion even as overall equity valuations reach historic highs. Asset write-offs from the oil sector continue to mount and include BP’s write-down of $17.5 billion and Total’s cancellation of $9.3 billion in Canadian oil sands assets. By virtually any established financial metric — net income, capital expenditures, earnings per share — petroleum companies are shrinking. As an industry group, energy is one of the smallest sectors in the S&P 500.   Convergence of transparency and governance. While there are frequent complaints about the lack of robust financial metrics to evaluate ESG investment opportunities, the fact is one of growing convergence around some critical reporting measures. For climate change, these include the information obtained from companies adhering to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) that provide for voluntary and more consistent financial risk reporting. CDP is widely respected among asset managers, and there is growing interest in the efforts of the Global Reporting Initiative-Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to arrive at a simpler, sector-specific, financially relevant set of performance metrics. Governance expectations also have accelerated as more financial firms seek not only fuller disclosure but understanding of actual plans to achieve an impact through, as one example, Scopes 1, 2 and 3 reductions within specific time frames.   Collaboration among financial asset management firms. No longer is it necessary for nuns organized through the Sisters of St. Francis or the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to maintain their lonely vigil to persuade management of their social and environmental concerns. In recent years, their cause has been transformed by the world’s largest asset management firms that have the added advantage of being very large investors in the companies whose practices they wish to change. These organizations — including BlackRock, BNP Paribas Asset Management, CalPERS and UBS Asset Management — generally have no difficulty in meeting with CEOs or, more recently, obtaining increasingly large support for the shareholder resolutions they support. Most significant, in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, these firms increasingly collaborate through organizations such as Climate Action 100+, known as CA100+ (which presently has more than 450 investor members with over $40 trillion in assets), Ceres and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change. Their climate change action agenda includes setting an emissions reduction target, disclosing climate-related financial risks through the TCFD reporting framework and ensuring that corporate boards are appropriately constituted to focus upon and deliver climate results. In reflecting on this evolution, long-time sustainability investor John Streur of Calvert Research & Management wrote, “We need to spend more of our engagement time pressing for change, as opposed to asking for disclosure.” Disrupting and being disrupted — the road ahead The ESG investment movement has every reason to be optimistic in the short term. There is growing investor and stakeholder momentum for the goals of expanded disclosure, improved corporate governance and measurable plans and impacts, especially for climate change. There is significant expansion in the staff sizes and expertise that better enable firms with ESG portfolios to evaluate financial risks. And their financial performance continues to impress. What could go wrong, come up short or require adaptation? Several factors bear a closer scrutiny. ESG’s value proposition is principally based on de-risking assets. This is too limited a value proposition to meet future needs . For example, ESG data does not reveal much insight for identifying research and development priorities, product innovation opportunities or effective branding and marketing strategies. As Brown University professor Cary Krosinsky has commented, “ESG data doesn’t tell you the most important thing: who will win the race” in future business competition and success for the long-term. In short, is ESG investment too disconnected from the very purpose of an enterprise — to innovate new products, gain customers and make money over time through business development?   As ESG investment goes mainstream, it will face new challenges and risks. A current advantage that ESG managers possess is that their decisions focus more on pure-play outcomes such as de-risking companies from climate change or other sustainability challenges. As more traditional investment firms acquire or expand ESG capabilities, more complexity will enter into investment decisions to reconcile clients’ needs or manage the trade-offs between ESG performance measures and those applied through shareholder value driven outcomes (earnings per share, quarterly financial reporting). Aligning expectations concerning executive compensation, independence of directors and future investment opportunities are major unresolved issues between ESG and traditional investment practitioners.   To be more impactful, the composition of ESG portfolios will need to change. Currently, ESG funds are dominated by equities, but significant capital is invested in other sectors such as bonds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and real estate. The methodology for evaluating these asset classes will need to be modified from that applied to the assessment of equities. At the same time, ESG funds are heavily weighted in ownership of technology stocks, particularly the so-called FAANG companies — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google — in addition to Microsoft. A number of these firms have inadequate data security and privacy protections, weak corporate governance and poor business ethics. The long-term wisdom of piling so many investment eggs into a single sector basket, combined with the multiple ESG problems of current technology portfolios, challenges ESG asset firms to become more transparent about their own evaluation criteria and decision making about portfolio diversity.   ESG assessments should assign a higher priority to social issues. The “S” in ESG is the least understood of the three factors, and it will be the most challenging to apply. As diversity, inclusion and equity become a greater focus of corporate sustainability policies and programs, the methodology for their evaluation is the least advanced. In part, this reflects the cultural and racial filter of a largely white and wealthy investor class lagging in its comprehension that race and social justice are material investment criteria. Simultaneously, data on social indicators will be more difficult to collect. Large numbers of companies are reluctant to disclose such information because it will expose gender and racial gaps in pay and promotion and general under-representation of minorities. Again, the technology sector is a major laggard on such issues. More broadly, the collection of social data, especially for racial diversity, is made more difficult as a matter of policy by many governments outside the United States, including in Europe where it is illegal in some countries to collect ethic and racial information. Some ESG investors are beginning to expand their dialogue around these issues, but they are much further behind when compared to their assessments and investment policies on environmental and governance issues. ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. Karina Funk, portfolio manager and chair of Sustainable investing at Brown Advisory, sees an approaching convergence between ESG and traditional investment philosophies. “ESG is a value-add,” she noted in a recent conversation. “It provides an expanding array of tools — financial screening, data analysis, issue-specific consultations with companies, proxy voting and an emerging focus on social risks — so that, in five years, ESG will be a standard expectation in asset evaluations. The key will be to focus on all risks facing a company, quantifiable or not, the exposure of business models and identifying what factors are within a company’s control.” Will management listen to ESG investors? Voices as varied as the U.S. Department of Labor and Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw are urging company executives and fund managers to tip the scales against what they consider to be economically risky and materially irrelevant ESG factors. In re-asserting the primacy of shareholder value, they remind us that voice of Milton Friedman still echoes from the crypt even as it grows fainter within the rapid humming of today’s marketplace and changing society. Pull Quote ESG investing has made important strides in the past decade and possesses significant momentum to expand its reach into the broader economy. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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ESG investments: Exponential potential or surfing one wave?

Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

September 17, 2020 by  
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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture Heather Clancy Thu, 09/17/2020 – 01:30 Early this month, McDonald’s made headlines when it teamed with Cargill, Target and The Nature Conservancy to put $8.5 million toward helping Nebraska farmers cultivate regenerative agriculture practices over the next five years. The initiative, like others emerging in the past several years from Cargill , General Mills, Danone and other big companies in the food system, is aimed at promoting natural carbon sequestration practices — and it is piloting ways farmers can be rewarded for embracing them. As much as I’m encouraged by these efforts, I’ve often wondered: What metrics are being used to evaluate them? What does success look like? What will it take to scale these pilots? And how on earth is this all being measured? A new relationship between Microsoft and Land O’Lakes points to part of the answer. The multiyear alliance centers on the farmer cooperative’s agtech software portfolio, including its Winfield United forecasting tools and Truterra , a platform developed to manage sustainability programs such as no-till cultivation, precision nutrient management and cover crop planting. The deal calls for the Land O’Lakes apps to become part of Microsoft’s burgeoning cloud service focused on agriculture, Azure FarmBeats ; the two companies are developing a resource specifically for serving dairy farmers and are collaborating to deploy broadband in rural communities to help make the connections. It turns out that grain silos and elevators are pretty good hosts for wireless antennae. We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. What is particularly intriguing to me is the future of an app called Data Silo, which captures historical data. Microsoft and Land O’Lakes plan to create a cloud service that combines that data with artificial intelligence and other data streams, such as weather forecasts, to suggest better management practices. Considering more than 150 million acres of cropland are in the Land O’Lakes network — nearly half of the 349 million acres under crop production in the United States — that’s pretty valuable information. “We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions,” Teddy Bekele, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Land O’Lakes, told me when we spoke about the deal this summer. “Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices.” One organization that’s already gathering this sort of insight is the U.S. division of Tate & Lyle, the 160-year-old U.K. food and beverage ingredients company. Two years ago, Tate & Lyle began enrolling corn suppliers in a sustainability program focused on emissions reductions, soil wellness and water conservation. The initiative covers 1.5 million acres of sustainably grown corn, which represents the yield Tate & Lyle buys globally on an annual basis, according to information it has published about the results . Corn was chosen because this crop represents the majority of the company’s emissions in the U.S. Using Truterra, the company has gathered some compelling insights from 148,000 acres it has been tracking since 2018, noted Anna Pierce, director of sustainability for Tate & Lyle. Among the 100 data points it is measuring are fertilizer applications, pest management practice, nitrogen levels, the use of cover crops and other practices advocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here are four specific results for those fields: 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 38 percent increase in nitrogen efficiency (applications are more targeted) 6 percent reduction in sheet and topsoil erosion 4 percent improvement in the “soil conditioning” index, which is an indicator of how well soil can absorb carbon dioxide Pierce took pains to note that Tate & Lyle doesn’t dictate what farmers should be doing on their land. “They match the right practice to the field,” she told me. But Tate & Lyle has signaled it intends to refine its procurement policies around certain priority ingredients as part of its science-based Scope 3 commitment to reduce absolute CO2 emissions in its supply chain by 15 percent by 2030. And it is sharing this information with its own customers, which could become a point of differentiation. “We provide environmental impact data to those customers who opt into the program equating to acres used to produce the ingredients they procure from Tate & Lyle,” she noted. Among the ingredients that will receive particular attention are corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and palm oil. Tate & Lyle is not paying farmers for participation; rather, the focus is on illustrating the linkage between certain soil wellness practices and their crop yields. “They’ve never connected some of this data before,” Pierce said. As the focus on regenerative ag scales, data will be central. Multiple projects for farm management software suggest a big increase in adoption by 2025, with Grand View Research projecting $4.2 billion in sales that year — in large part because of concerns over sustainability of the farm system. What makes the Microsoft-Truterra combination so compelling is that the data is being considered from the farmer’s point of view, not someone trying to sell seeds, fertilizer or farm equipment. You should also keep your eye on upstarts such as OpenTEAM, an open-source resource that Stonyfield Farm is championing, and Farmers Business Network , which raised $250 million in venture funding in August. It represents 12,000 members who farm 40 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. Tell me more about the other organizations I should track by emailing heather@greenbiz.com . Pull Quote We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. Topics Food & Agriculture Information Technology Agtech Climate Tech Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Carbon Neutral Universities in the United States

September 16, 2020 by  
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Carbon Neutral Universities in the United States

Maven Moment: Kitchen Gloves

September 16, 2020 by  
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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

September 16, 2020 by  
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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes Myisha Majumder Wed, 09/16/2020 – 01:30 Skyven Technologies, founded in 2013, is a company with a unique proposition for companies in the industrial sector — a way to save money through decarbonizing. Skyven CEO Arun Gupta said the idea came when he applied the thinking behind his Ph.D. dissertation in microelectronics to an entirely different field: climate change. “I was able to figure out how to apply the technological concepts of the work that I was doing for Texas Instruments for a partial solution for climate change, and that inspired me to start working on is basically a technology that captures heat from the sun and uses that heat to reduce fuel consumption,” he said. The component of the industry sector emissions Skyven seeks to decarbonize is process heat — such as the creation of steam — which accounts for a large component of the emissions from the industry sector. In order to manufacture products, companies in the industry sector must burn fuel, typically natural gas, to create heat. Technologies such as geothermal, biomass and solar, which Skyven initially focused on, can provide an alternative to natural gas to generate heat for industrial processes. This is particularly relevant in the sectors Skyven works in: the food and beverage manufacturing industry; pulp and paper; chemicals; pharmaceutical manufacturing; textiles; and primary metals and lumbers. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the three largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions were transportation (28 percent), electricity (27 percent), and industry (22 percent). Even with decarbonizing the electric and transportation sector, to reach long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, the United States would need an 80 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide emissions by 2050. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found five core imperatives to reaching climate neutrality, including electrifying or switching to low-carbon fuels in the industry sector. While providing an alternative using solar technology was the original technological goal for Skyven, the company has evolved significantly, adapting to the individual needs of different companies in the industrial sector, Gupta said. Rather than focusing solely on deploying the company’s initial in-house solar technology, Skyven transformed quickly into a company offering a multipronged approach for decarbonizing the industrial sector. “The need for decarbonization in the industrial sector spans far beyond solar. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs,” Gupta said. “It makes a lot more sense to meet those unique needs with unique solutions.” Typically, in order to determine these needs and gauge applicable solutions, Skyven employs a four-step procedure: initial plant analysis; addressing and mitigating concerns about potential solutions; deployment and implementation of solution; and operations and maintenance (O&M). This highly customizable procedure allows Skyven to determine the best fit solution company-to-company, and within that company, plant-to-plant, rather than deploying a general technology. As part of this process, Skyven’s team completes a thorough initial analysis using its custom platform, asking the customer specific questions and collecting data about where in the plant thermal energy is consumed. From there, Skyven identifies where there are opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce fuel consumption and save money. Interacting with the customer is especially important for the manufacturing industry, where production is profit, Gupta said. Using that analysis, Skyven implements the technologies best suited for the plant, which can include Skyven’s solar technology, but does not always. Because of this, Skyven frequently partners with other startups and technology manufacturers. When the new system is in place, Skyven hires a third-party maintenance contractor with extensive experience with industrial hardware. Typically, Skyven pays for everything involved in the process — from initial analysis to equipment and to O&M, Gupta said. The only cost to the customer is a newly lowered fuel cost amount, he said. These payments cover more cost-efficient and sustainable thermal energy at a cost that is less than the customer otherwise would have paid for fossil fuel, according to the company. While Gupta did not communicate the names of Skyven’s current customers, citing sensitivity around publicly disclosing information about manufacturers, he discussed recent press coverage around the Copses Dairy Farms in New York state.

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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

How the climate crisis will crash the economy

September 14, 2020 by  
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How the climate crisis will crash the economy Joel Makower Mon, 09/14/2020 – 02:11 The chickens are coming home to roost. Even before the western United States became a regional inferno, even before the Midwest U.S. became a summertime flood zone, even before an annual hurricane season so bad that the government is running out of names to attach to them, even before Colorado saw a 100°F heatwave swan dive into a 12? snowstorm within 48 hours. Even before all that, we’d been watching the real-world risks of climate change looming and growing across the United States and around the world. And the costs, financially and otherwise, are quickly becoming untenable. Lately, a steady march of searing heat, ruinous floods, horrific wildfires, unbreathable air, devastating hurricanes and other climate-related calamities has been traversing our screens and wreaking havoc to national and local budgets. And we’re only at 1°C of increased global temperature rise. Just imagine what 2° or 3° or 4° will look like, and how much it will cost. We may not have to wait terribly long to find out. It’s natural to follow the people impacted by all this: the local residents, usually in poorer neighborhoods, whose homes and livelihoods are being lost; the farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock are withering and dying; the stranded travelers and the evacuees seeking shelter amid the chaos. And, of course the heroic responders to all these events, not to mention an entire generation of youth who fear their future is being stolen before their eyes, marching in the streets. So many people and stories. But lately, I’ve been following the money. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Some of it has been masked by the pandemic and ensuing recession, but for those who are paying attention, the indicators are hiding in plain sight. And what we’re seeing now are merely the opening acts of what could be a long-running global financial drama. The economic impact on companies is, to date, uncertain and likely incalculable. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report addressing climate risks to the U.S. financial system. That it did so is, in itself, remarkable, given the political climes. But the report didn’t pussyfoot around the issues: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy,” it stated, adding: Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity. Over time, if significant action is not taken to check rising global average temperatures, climate change impacts could impair the productive capacity of the economy and undermine its ability to generate employment, income and opportunity. Among the “complex risks for the U.S. financial system,” the authors said, are “disorderly price adjustments in various asset classes, with possible spillovers into different parts of the financial system, as well as potential disruption of the proper functioning of financial markets.” In other words: We’re heading into uncharted economic territory. Climate change, said the report’s authors, is expected to affect “multiple sectors, geographies and assets in the United States, sometimes simultaneously and within a relatively short timeframe.” Those impacts could “disrupt multiple parts of the financial system simultaneously.” For example: “A sudden revision of market perceptions about climate risk could lead to a disorderly repricing of assets, which could in turn have cascading effects on portfolios and balance sheets and therefore systemic implications for financial stability.” Sub-systemic shocks And then there are “sub-systemic” shocks, more localized climate-related impacts that “can undermine the financial health of community banks, agricultural banks or local insurance markets, leaving small businesses, farmers and households without access to critical financial services.” This, said the authors, is particularly damaging in areas that are already underserved by the financial system, which includes low-to-moderate income communities and historically marginalized communities. As always, those least able to least afford the impacts may get hit the hardest. This was hardly the first expression of concern about the potentially devastating economic impacts of climate change on companies, markets, nations and the global economy. For example: Two years ago, the Fourth National Climate Assessment noted that continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” It placed the price tag at up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100. Last month, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that while previous research suggested that a 1°C hotter year reduces economic output by about 1 percent, “the new analysis points to output losses of up to three times that much in warm regions.”’ Another report last month, by the Environmental Defense Fund, detailed how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980. “Researchers are only now beginning to anticipate the indirect impacts in the form of lower asset values, weakened future economic growth and uncertainty-induced instability in financial markets,” it said. And if you really want a sleepless night or two, read this story about  “The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California,” published recently in Mother Jones magazine. Even if you don’t have a home, business or operations in the Golden State, your suppliers and customers likely do, not to mention the provenance of the food on your dinner plate. Down to business The CTFC report did not overlook the role of companies in all this. It noted that “disclosure by corporations of information on material, climate-related financial risks is an essential building block to ensure that climate risks are measured and managed effectively,” enabling enables financial regulators and market participants to better understand climate change’s impacts on financial markets and institutions. However, it warned, “The existing disclosure regime has not resulted in disclosures of a scope, breadth and quality to be sufficiently useful to market participants and regulators.” An analysis by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure found that large companies are increasingly disclosing some climate-related information, but significant variations remain in the information disclosed by each company, making it difficult for investors and others to fully understand exposure and manage climate risks . The macroeconomic forecasts, however gloomy, likely seem academic inside boardrooms. And while that may be myopic — after all, the nature of the economy could begin to shift dramatically before the current decade is out, roiling customers and markets — it likely has little to do with profits and productivity over the short time frames within which most companies operate. Nonetheless, companies with a slightly longer view are already be considering the viability of their products and services in a warming world. Consider the recommendations of the aforementioned CFTC report, of which there are 20. Among them: “The United States should establish a price on carbon.” “All relevant federal financial regulatory agencies should incorporate climate-related risks into their mandates and develop a strategy for integrating these risks in their work.” “Regulators should require listed companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As reliable transition risk metrics and consistent methodologies for Scope 3 emissions are developed, financial regulators should require their disclosure, to the extent they are material.” The Financial Stability Oversight Council “should incorporate climate-related financial risks into its existing oversight function, including its annual reports and other reporting to Congress.” “Financial supervisors should require bank and nonbank financial firms to address climate-related financial risks through their existing risk management frameworks in a way that is appropriately governed by corporate management.” None of these things is likely to happen until there’s a new legislature and presidential administration in Washington, D.C., but history has shown that many of these can become de facto regulations if enough private-sector and nongovernmental players can adapt and pressure (or incentivize) companies to adopt and hew to the appropriate frameworks. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. And there’s some news on that front: Last week, five NGOs whose frameworks, standards and platforms guide the majority of sustainability and integrated reporting, announced “a shared vision of what is needed for progress towards comprehensive corporate reporting — and the intent to work together to achieve it.” CDP , the Climate Disclosure Standards Board , the Global Reporting Initiative , the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have co-published a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting, and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal. They say they will work collaboratively with one another and with the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council. Lots of names and acronyms in the above paragraph, but you get the idea: Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. To the extent they manage to harmonize their respective standards and frameworks, and should a future U.S. administration adopt those standards the way previous ones did the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we could see a rapid scale-up of corporate reporting on these matters. Increased reporting won’t by itself mitigate the anticipated macroeconomic challenges, but to the extent it puts climate risks on an equal footing with other corporate risks — along with a meaningful price on carbon that will help companies attach dollar signs to those risks — it will help advance a decarbonized economy. Slowly — much too slowly — but amid an unstable climate and economy we’ll take whatever progress we can get. I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How the climate crisis will crash the economy

How the climate crisis will crash the economy

September 14, 2020 by  
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How the climate crisis will crash the economy Joel Makower Mon, 09/14/2020 – 02:11 The chickens are coming home to roost. Even before the western United States became a regional inferno, even before the Midwest U.S. became a summertime flood zone, even before an annual hurricane season so bad that the government is running out of names to attach to them, even before Colorado saw a 100°F heatwave swan dive into a 12? snowstorm within 48 hours. Even before all that, we’d been watching the real-world risks of climate change looming and growing across the United States and around the world. And the costs, financially and otherwise, are quickly becoming untenable. Lately, a steady march of searing heat, ruinous floods, horrific wildfires, unbreathable air, devastating hurricanes and other climate-related calamities has been traversing our screens and wreaking havoc to national and local budgets. And we’re only at 1°C of increased global temperature rise. Just imagine what 2° or 3° or 4° will look like, and how much it will cost. We may not have to wait terribly long to find out. It’s natural to follow the people impacted by all this: the local residents, usually in poorer neighborhoods, whose homes and livelihoods are being lost; the farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock are withering and dying; the stranded travelers and the evacuees seeking shelter amid the chaos. And, of course the heroic responders to all these events, not to mention an entire generation of youth who fear their future is being stolen before their eyes, marching in the streets. So many people and stories. But lately, I’ve been following the money. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Some of it has been masked by the pandemic and ensuing recession, but for those who are paying attention, the indicators are hiding in plain sight. And what we’re seeing now are merely the opening acts of what could be a long-running global financial drama. The economic impact on companies is, to date, uncertain and likely incalculable. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report addressing climate risks to the U.S. financial system. That it did so is, in itself, remarkable, given the political climes. But the report didn’t pussyfoot around the issues: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy,” it stated, adding: Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity. Over time, if significant action is not taken to check rising global average temperatures, climate change impacts could impair the productive capacity of the economy and undermine its ability to generate employment, income and opportunity. Among the “complex risks for the U.S. financial system,” the authors said, are “disorderly price adjustments in various asset classes, with possible spillovers into different parts of the financial system, as well as potential disruption of the proper functioning of financial markets.” In other words: We’re heading into uncharted economic territory. Climate change, said the report’s authors, is expected to affect “multiple sectors, geographies and assets in the United States, sometimes simultaneously and within a relatively short timeframe.” Those impacts could “disrupt multiple parts of the financial system simultaneously.” For example: “A sudden revision of market perceptions about climate risk could lead to a disorderly repricing of assets, which could in turn have cascading effects on portfolios and balance sheets and therefore systemic implications for financial stability.” Sub-systemic shocks And then there are “sub-systemic” shocks, more localized climate-related impacts that “can undermine the financial health of community banks, agricultural banks or local insurance markets, leaving small businesses, farmers and households without access to critical financial services.” This, said the authors, is particularly damaging in areas that are already underserved by the financial system, which includes low-to-moderate income communities and historically marginalized communities. As always, those least able to least afford the impacts may get hit the hardest. This was hardly the first expression of concern about the potentially devastating economic impacts of climate change on companies, markets, nations and the global economy. For example: Two years ago, the Fourth National Climate Assessment noted that continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” It placed the price tag at up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100. Last month, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that while previous research suggested that a 1°C hotter year reduces economic output by about 1 percent, “the new analysis points to output losses of up to three times that much in warm regions.”’ Another report last month, by the Environmental Defense Fund, detailed how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980. “Researchers are only now beginning to anticipate the indirect impacts in the form of lower asset values, weakened future economic growth and uncertainty-induced instability in financial markets,” it said. And if you really want a sleepless night or two, read this story about  “The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California,” published recently in Mother Jones magazine. Even if you don’t have a home, business or operations in the Golden State, your suppliers and customers likely do, not to mention the provenance of the food on your dinner plate. Down to business The CTFC report did not overlook the role of companies in all this. It noted that “disclosure by corporations of information on material, climate-related financial risks is an essential building block to ensure that climate risks are measured and managed effectively,” enabling enables financial regulators and market participants to better understand climate change’s impacts on financial markets and institutions. However, it warned, “The existing disclosure regime has not resulted in disclosures of a scope, breadth and quality to be sufficiently useful to market participants and regulators.” An analysis by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure found that large companies are increasingly disclosing some climate-related information, but significant variations remain in the information disclosed by each company, making it difficult for investors and others to fully understand exposure and manage climate risks . The macroeconomic forecasts, however gloomy, likely seem academic inside boardrooms. And while that may be myopic — after all, the nature of the economy could begin to shift dramatically before the current decade is out, roiling customers and markets — it likely has little to do with profits and productivity over the short time frames within which most companies operate. Nonetheless, companies with a slightly longer view are already be considering the viability of their products and services in a warming world. Consider the recommendations of the aforementioned CFTC report, of which there are 20. Among them: “The United States should establish a price on carbon.” “All relevant federal financial regulatory agencies should incorporate climate-related risks into their mandates and develop a strategy for integrating these risks in their work.” “Regulators should require listed companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As reliable transition risk metrics and consistent methodologies for Scope 3 emissions are developed, financial regulators should require their disclosure, to the extent they are material.” The Financial Stability Oversight Council “should incorporate climate-related financial risks into its existing oversight function, including its annual reports and other reporting to Congress.” “Financial supervisors should require bank and nonbank financial firms to address climate-related financial risks through their existing risk management frameworks in a way that is appropriately governed by corporate management.” None of these things is likely to happen until there’s a new legislature and presidential administration in Washington, D.C., but history has shown that many of these can become de facto regulations if enough private-sector and nongovernmental players can adapt and pressure (or incentivize) companies to adopt and hew to the appropriate frameworks. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. And there’s some news on that front: Last week, five NGOs whose frameworks, standards and platforms guide the majority of sustainability and integrated reporting, announced “a shared vision of what is needed for progress towards comprehensive corporate reporting — and the intent to work together to achieve it.” CDP , the Climate Disclosure Standards Board , the Global Reporting Initiative , the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have co-published a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting, and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal. They say they will work collaboratively with one another and with the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council. Lots of names and acronyms in the above paragraph, but you get the idea: Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. To the extent they manage to harmonize their respective standards and frameworks, and should a future U.S. administration adopt those standards the way previous ones did the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we could see a rapid scale-up of corporate reporting on these matters. Increased reporting won’t by itself mitigate the anticipated macroeconomic challenges, but to the extent it puts climate risks on an equal footing with other corporate risks — along with a meaningful price on carbon that will help companies attach dollar signs to those risks — it will help advance a decarbonized economy. Slowly — much too slowly — but amid an unstable climate and economy we’ll take whatever progress we can get. I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How the climate crisis will crash the economy

Commercial trucking’s future is in the details

September 8, 2020 by  
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Commercial trucking’s future is in the details Rick Mihelic Tue, 09/08/2020 – 01:45 One downside of a career as an engineer is that you are trained to notice detail. Robert Downey Jr., playing Sherlock Holmes in the 2011 movie “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows,” is asked what he sees. His answer: “Everything. That is my curse.” It can make you the invaluable go-to person for information and analyses, and it also can make you the brunt of sarcasm and stereotyping. You are what you are. I had my son snap this photo as we were driving. I thought this one image captured a great deal of salient points I’ve learned after several years of researching medium- and heavy-duty alternatives such as battery electric, fuel cell electric and a variety of hybrid systems for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Let’s start with the obvious first: Feeding North America requires trucks and truck drivers. Trucks require energy. This energy has to be replenished regularly. COVID-19’s impact on the North American supply chain, hopefully, has heightened everyone’s appreciation that while food does grow on trees, a truck and driver probably has to get it to you. Over 70 percent of all freight moved in the United States is on trucks. If the trucks don’t move, you do not get food, toilet paper or masks. Those trucks are driven by people. They are taking risks now, and always have, to get you products you need to survive. The trucks need energy, whether diesel, gasoline, natural gas, electricity, hydrogen, propane, etc. That has to come from somewhere on a reliable and consistent basis or you do not get fed. Diving deeper into the photo: Fleets are commercial businesses that exist to deliver product to you. “Free delivery.” It’s a great advertising tag line, but there are no free rides; someone always pays somewhere. Buried in the cost of products are the costs of getting the product from its point of origin to you, the consumer. You may never see it, but fundamentally at some level you understand that the primary purpose of businesses is to be profitable. Embedded in the price you pay for goods are things such as vehicle maintenance, insurance, driver labor, warehouse labor, packaging labor, fuel energy, transport tolls, packaging disposal and, of course, profit margin. Profit is the whole reason a business exists in the first place. Companies that do not make a profit eventually collapse. Little of this detail is visible to you as a consumer. You generally have just a price and applicable taxes on your receipt. Occasionally “shipping and handling” are itemized, but this is probably only the last leg of the delivery. The “supply chain” is all of that infrastructure that gets the product to your door. Many corporations exist to make money from finding and delivering energy to transportation. There is a phenomenal amount of money invested, profits made and infrastructure tied to transportation related energy. They know change is coming. Energy providers such as Shell want to be around for a long time, so they are diversifying into a number of possible energy streams. Vehicle and component manufacturers are similarly diversifying with examples such as Cummins trying to cover most of the alternative technologies in their product portfolio. Utilities such as Duke Energy are getting engaged as well, forecasting major growth in demand for electricity, whether that’s for charging battery electric vehicles or for producing fuels such as hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles. Fleet operators such as UPS are experimenting with many alternatives trying to get experience to aid in planning investments. Venture capitalists also are everywhere seeking the next great investment. NACFE presented in its ” Viable Class 7/8 Alternative Vehicles Guidance Report ” the “messy middle” future, where a wide range of powertrains and energy forms are competing for market share. The future is not known yet. This diversity of choices is powering investment in all the alternatives as companies try to position themselves for this future. Prudent regulators are attempting to be technology-neutral while incentivizing significant improvement in market adoption, performance, affordability, emissions and durability. Fifteen states have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop action plans to ensure 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales are zero-emission by 2050 with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission sales by 2030. California already has enacted regulations requiring all trucks and vans sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. The near future may be the “messy middle,” but the longer view is heading toward zero-emission technologies. The gas station/truck stop paradigm is not necessarily the future. It’s an easy trap to fall into that we predict the future based on past experience. Psychologists label this sometimes as a familiarity bias. The gas station/truck stop paradigm we have evolved into may not reflect the future of transportation. Think of past examples. When the Eisenhower administration rolled out the national highway system in the 1950s, fuel stations and towns on venerable Route 66 suddenly found that they had been bypassed by the new multi-lane freeways. Higher speeds enabled by the freeways enabled fuel stations to be farther apart and co-located at key exits. The transition from coal steam trains to diesel electric ones in the 1940s and 1950s saw many fundamental shifts in infrastructure, with trains no longer needing water and coal refill stops. The development of jet commercial aviation in the 1960s largely eliminated the passenger rail system in the U.S. The advent of portable cellular phones has eliminated the ubiquitous phone booth system and all its infrastructure. Today, transportation is seeing daily innovations in alternative energy powertrains in parallel with major innovations in automation. The future is not known, but I bet the traditional gas station/truck stop will not look or operate like the ones of today. Even simplistically, a fully autonomous truck will not need to stop for food, snacks or a bathroom break. It won’t need to be located near convenient shopping or restaurants. As the alternative powertrains mature and become more capable, ranges will improve dramatically. When EVs come into existence that are capable of traveling 500 to 600 miles, energy stations planned around vehicles with a 100- to 200-mile range may be as endangered in the future as were the Route 66 gas stations in the past. Concepts in Europe to electrify highways with either in-pavement wireless or overhead catenary charging might eliminate fuel stations entirely. Some regions with growing numbers of EV cars have found that they primarily charge at home, and they rarely see a commercial charging station. Other regions see heavy use of commercial charging stations, but they may be tied to locations such as shopping centers or grocery store parking lots. In predicting the future, I like to refer to the cautionary note required on nearly all investment advertising, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Predictions are easy. Really knowing the future is easier once you get there. Topics Transportation & Mobility Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Connor Mihelic Close Authorship

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