Archive for the ‘Express 150’ Category

Making Waves: Introducing Business Sustainability & Green Accounting

Posted by admin on August 24, 2011
Posted under Express 150

Making Waves: Introducing Business Sustainability & Green Accounting

Now we have Waves, or Wealth Accounting and
Valuation of Ecosystem Services, which recognises the under-valuation of
ecosystem services as one of the main causes of ecosystem degradation and
biodiversity loss, introduced by Conservation International (CI). Chief
scientist at CI Dr Andrew Rosenberg feels companies can make a start by
applying green accounting principles to their own business strategies. Ultimately,
companies should realise that green accounting helps management to improve the
decision-making process, save costs and assess potential liabilities. Jessica
Cheam has the full story. Read More

Published : Sunday, July 24th, 2011

By : Jessica Cheam

The review of Singapore’s economic growth
forecast made front-page news last week. Amid concerns from the Government,
business leaders and citizens on what impact the European sovereign debt crisis
and other risks would have on the nation’s growth, jobs and pay cheques, I
found myself wondering: What does GDP really mean?

Some economists may disagree with me when I
say that the current definition of gross domestic product, or GDP, as we know
it, is deeply flawed.

But I’m not the only one who thinks so. In
fact, awareness of the shortcomings of GDP as a measure of a nation’s
well-being and an economy’s sustainability has grown steadily in recent years.

GDP measures the value of output produced
within a country in a given time period, usually a year or a quarter.

The key flaw is this: Any depreciation
included reflects only changes to man-made capital such as equipment, but does
not include growth’s negative impact on public goods such as water, forests and
clean air – that is, the environment.

The European Commission recognised this when
it launched an initiative called ‘Beyond GDP’ in 2009, which aimed to develop
indicators that are ‘as clear and appealing as GDP, but more inclusive of
environmental and social aspects of progress’.

Economic indicators such as GDP, the European
Union’s Beyond GDP website says, were ‘never designed to be comprehensive
measures of prosperity and well-being’ – yet today, we see almost all
countries, including Singapore, pursuing it as the ultimate sign of success.

Today, a combination of economic crises
(think the 2008 financial crisis, and the more recent United States and
European debt woes) and environmental disasters (flood, famine and
deforestation) has created a global momentum for a radical revision of national
accounting methods.

The World Bank accelerated this momentum
earlier this year when, working with non-profit organisations such as
Conservation International (CI), it launched Waves, or Wealth Accounting and
Valuation of Ecosystem Services, which recognises the under-valuation of
ecosystem services (such as tourism, clean air and water) as one of the main
causes of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

In an interview with The Sunday Times last
week, Dr Andrew Rosenberg, chief scientist at CI, explained how Waves seeks to
engage finance ministries and economic planning agencies across the globe in
implementing a process that values natural capital such as ecosystems in the
national income.

National income measures the monetary value
of the flow of output of goods and services produced within an economy over a
period of time.

National income accounts are crucial because
they form the primary source of information about the economy, such as GDP, and
are widely used for assessment of economic performance and policy analysis in
all countries, said Dr Rosenberg.

This is why it is important to integrate the
economic value of ecosystems into national income accounts. This helps to
address shortcomings in managing the environment and natural capital.

For example, while the income from harvesting
trees for wood is recorded as income in national accounts, the simultaneous
depletion of natural forest assets is not seen as a loss in capital.

This is despite the fact that deforestation
would lead to lower air quality, increased risk of soil erosion and flooding,
which have far-reaching consequences.

By focusing only on flows of output, GDP
provides misleading signals to policymakers. This can result in leaders making
wrong and misinformed decisions, said Dr Rosenberg. ‘That’s why we need to have
green accounting… putting a market value on things like fisheries, forests and
natural foods,’ he added. ‘One way to think about it is how much would it cost
to replace the function that this environment provides?’

Hypothetically, the argument for green
accounting is robust. However, in reality, the implementation has been

Nanyang Technological University
environmental economics professor Euston Quah said the big question is how to
get everyone to agree on a common method of valuing natural capital.

‘There is tremendous disagreement within the
scientific, business and government communities as to how we can put monetary
valuations on the environment,’ he said. This is why, even though the subject
gained much attention when it first emerged in the 1980s, interest in it
eventually fizzled out.

But Prof Quah recognises this: The concept is
making a comeback now. ‘Across the world, we have become more environmentally
aware. There are big multilateral treaties on climate change being discussed,
and people are putting pressure on governments to factor in the cost of the
environment in the pursuit of economic growth,’ he said.

‘The world needs to sit down and convene more
meetings to discuss this, and agree on a methodology of evaluations.’

The ramifications of this overhaul of GDP and
national income are great. If the world succeeds and countries take stock of
economic growth in relation to the depletion of their natural assets, net growth
will be smaller, said Prof Quah.

‘Society will then be able to decide, is it
worth it? For example, if growing output by 10 per cent requires an 8 per cent
loss in natural capital… this would affect how governments pursue policies of
economic growth, and will also affect government spending.’

One interesting question: If all countries
had been equipped with such accounting methods, say, 50 years ago, and it had
been the standard, would it have changed the growth path of all the economies?

Singapore, for example. If we had had to account for our natural capital before
our development years, would it have changed our industries or physical

The answer depends on how much natural
resources a country has, said Prof Quah. In the case of Singapore, which has
few natural resources, stable employment and income were, rightly, big
priorities in the early development years.

Green accounting would unlikely have made a
big difference to economic decisions as land would still have to be cleared to
make way for housing and industries, he added.

What’s interesting is, as the country
develops, citizens now put a higher priority on the quality of life, and on
things such as noise and air pollution, and clean, green spaces, he observed.

For resource-rich countries, however, green
accounting becomes more important. The government needs to recognise the
trade-offs involved in pursuing certain economic policies and the extensive
impact they could have on its environment and the future cost of losing certain
resources, especially if they play a big part in generating ‘unseen’ income,
like providing regular rainfall, or tourism locations.

But if poor, developing countries wanted to
do this, they would not likely have the capacity. Rich, developed nations can
help build this capacity.

‘It is right that we should put some
resources into it to come up with a framework… the EU’s efforts in driving
‘Beyond GDP’ are encouraging,’ Prof Quah said.

Meanwhile, Dr Rosenberg feels companies can
make a start by applying green accounting principles to their own business

will be increasing requirements for transparency and sustainability… I wouldn’t
be surprised if ultimately, stock exchanges, for example, demanded green
accounts from their listed firms,’ he said.

Ultimately, companies should realise that
green accounting helps management to improve the decision-making process, save
costs and assess potential liabilities, he said.

This can only be a good thing. And the
earlier governments start to catch on, the better.

This article originally appeared in The
Straits Times.


Calling all scientists: skeptics, deniers and believers!

Posted by admin on August 24, 2011
Posted under Express 150

Calling all scientists: skeptics, deniers and believers!

Historian Arnold Toynbee — one of the
greatest of all experts on the rise and fall of civilizations — when asked what
critical mistake seemed most often to lead to a collapse said “failure to
support and believe in the society’s creative minority.” In our own
technological, enlightenment nation and civilization, that creative minority,
in large part, is one of science, says David Brin. We do not have to worship
their feet, or obey blindly. But we’ll be fools, treading the downhill slope
followed by Babylon and Rome, if we despise them. Thanks to Richard Cassels of
Climate Leadership in Brisbane for bringing this long article by scientist and
author Brin to our attention. Read More

By David Brin, Ph.D.

Among the many battlefronts in culture war,
few have raised a specter of worry among scientists more than the great big
imbroglio over Human-generated Global Climate Change (HGCC)… also called
Anthopogenic Global Warming (AGW). Especially in America, positions are staked
and fiercely held, by parties who claim they are evidence-based, while their
opponents are either conspirators or the gullible “koolaid-drinking”
tools of a propaganda machine. An especially vexing aspect of this polarization
is the near perfect correlation of one side in this controversy with a
pre-established position along the left-right political axis. Even worse is an
undercurrent of spite for expert opinion, as a basis for guiding public policy.

Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who
research planetary atmospheres, I tend toward listening to expert advice on
this complicated issue — especially since the policy endeavors that they are
recommending consist of things we should be doing anyway, for other reasons
(e.g., to attain energy independence, to reduce the influence of foreign
petro-oligarchs, and to increase economic efficiency). Perhaps because my
graduate studies included some cellular fluidics models, I have some
appreciation for the folks who do such things well, propelling (for example)
spectacular advances in weather forecasting. My first instinct is to give such
people the benefit of the doubt.

(Ironically, I am also the one who coined the
term “age of amateurs” and have preached expanded respect for citizen
power, the only thing that actually worked during the 9/11 tragedy. These two
views are not inconsistent. Amateur scientists, especially, will avow that
expert knowledge matters. It is the starting point from which paradigm-dissent
then proceeds.)

In earlier missives, I appraised HGCC Denial
on both technical terms and in the context of a broader war on science. On this
occasion, I want to be primly specific, because there is a fine distinction to
be made among those who cast doubt upon the HGCC consensus.

Not every person who expresses doubt or
criticism toward some part of this complex issue is openly wedded to the shrill
anti-intellectualism of Fox News — nor do all of them nod in agreement with
absurd exaggerations, e.g., that a winter snowstorm refutes any gradual warming
of Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, you are likely to know some individuals who
claim not to be “global warming deniers” but rational, open-minded

I find this distinction attractive, at the
surface, because I too find some parts of HGCC theory unclear, ill-supported or
poorly explained. In such a complex field, there are sure to be gaps. For
example, the oceans are evidently drawing more carbon dioxide out of the
atmosphere than anyone can explain. Will this fortuitous extra-absorption reach
a limit soon? Might some of the stored CO2… or the hydrated methane now
locked in sub-sea ices or in permafrost, reach some temperature tipping point
and suddenly flood forth, quickly transforming the greenhouse warming effect
from sub-linear to runaway super-linear? Also, as a contrarian-modernist, I
have some affinity for geoengineering proposals that are unpopular on the left.

Hence, if I meet a person who makes the
“denier-skeptic” distinction, I start from a willingness to be
persuaded. I have met a number of people who seem convincingly to fit into the
latter category. Several are fellow science fiction authors or engineers, and
you can quickly tell that they are vigorous, contrary minds, motivated more by
curiosity than partisan fever. One I could name is the famed physicist Freeman

Alas, I have found that a much larger number
use the term “skeptic” simply as a trick of re-labeling, while
wallowing in the standard narratives of distraction and delay. Hence, the matter
at hand:

What traits distinguish a rational,
pro-science “skeptic” — who has honest questions about the AGW
consensus — from members of a Denier Movement that portrays all members of a
scientific community as either fools or conspirators?

After extensive discussions with many AGW
doubters, I believe I have found a set of distinct characteristics that
separate the two groups.


Skeptics first admit that they are
non-experts in the topic at hand. And that experts tend to know more than they

Sound obvious? Since the Neolithic, human
civilizations have relied on specialists, a trend that accelerated across the
20th Century. Reasonable people begin their paradigm-dissent by stipulating
respect for the decades that intelligent people invested in complex realms like
radiative transfer, ocean chemistry, or microcell computer modeling.

This does not mean experts are always right!
But this simple admission separates our Skeptic from the Deniers, who partake
in the modern notion that vociferous opinion is worth as much as spending
twenty years studying atmospheric data and models from eight planets.


Next, the Skeptic is keenly aware that, after
4,000 years of jokes about hapless weathermen who could not prophesy accurately
beyond a few hours, we recently entered a whole new era. People now plan three
days ahead pretty well, and more tentatively as far as 14 days, based on a
science that’s grown spectacularly adept, faster than any other. Now, with
countless lives and billions of dollars riding on the skill and honesty of
several thousand brilliant experts, the Skeptic admits that these weather and
climate guys are pretty damn smart.

The Skeptic further avows that this rapid
progress happened through a process of eager competitiveness, with scientists
regularly challenging each other, poking at errors and forcing science forward
– a rambunctious, ambitious process that makes Wall Street look tame.

Deniers also share this utter reliance on
improved weather forecasting. They base vacations and investments on forecasts
made by… the same guys they call uniformly lazy, incompetent, corrupt hacks.

Miraculously, they see no contradiction.

(Side note: There is a distinction between
weather and climate. Both deal in the same oceans, vapors, gases and sunlight,
using almost identical basic equations and expertise. Both are extremely
complex, and deal with that complexity with simplifying assumptions and
boundary conditions. Clearly, climate modeling is more primitive, right now.
Perhaps it is even rife with errors! Still, the overall tools, methods,
community and eagerly-skilled people overlap greatly.)


Skeptics go on to admit that it is both rare
and significant when nearly 100% of the scientists in any field share a
consensus-model, before splitting up to fight over sub-models. Hence, if an
outsider perceives “something wrong” with a core scientific model,
the humble and justified response of that curious outsider is to ask “what
mistake am I making?” — before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong.

In contrast, Deniers glom onto an anecdotal
“gotcha!” from a dogma-driven radio show or politically biased blog
site. Whereupon they conclude that ALL of the atmospheric scientists must be in
on some wretched conspiracy. Uniformly. At the same time.


At the 2008 Future in Review Conference,
Harvard professor James McCarthy, former co-chair of the IPCC, was asked how
many of the world’s top 1000 climate experts would disagree with the basic
scientific consensus that the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations over
the last 50 years to levels not seen in 650,000 years is primarily
anthropogenic and is the cause of an increase in global temperatures. He
replied, “Five.”

This fits with my own anecedotal experience,
asking the same question of about a dozen top atmospheres people, over the
years. But the smoking gun, again, is the “dog that hasn’t barked in the
night.” Despite publicly bruited offers of jobs, publicity and lavish
rewards from fossil fuel companies and neoconservative media, very few
qualified experts in climate have stepped forward to object to the overall
consensus on AGW, and those have couched their doubts very specifically, so as
to be almost useless to the Denial Community.


We cannot say too often that, just because
nearly all of experts are in consensus, their paradigm might still turn out to
be wrong. Still, the Skeptic admits this is rare in science history. Moreover,
a steep burden of proof falls on those who claim that 100% of experts are
wrong. That burden is a moral, as well as intellectual geas.

The Denier, in contrast, cares little about
the history of science, and especially has no understanding of how the Young
Guns in any scientific field… the post-docs and recently-tenured junior
professors… are always on the lookout for chinks and holes in the current
paradigm, where they can go to topple Nobel laureates and make a rep for
themselves, in a manner much like Billy the Kid. (Try looking into the history
of weather modeling, and see just how tough these guys really are.)

This is a crucial point. For the core Denier
narrative is that every single young atmospheric scientist is a corrupt or
gelded coward. Not a few, or some, or even most… but every last one of them.
Only that can explain why none of them have “come out.” Especially
given that Exxon and Fox News offer lavish rewards for any that do.

One Denier narrative claims that the experts
are corrupted by “millions pouring into green technologies”…
without showing how a space probe researcher, studying Venus at JPL, profits
from a contract going to a windmill manufacturer in Copenhagen. But we’ll
return to conspiracy theories in a bit.

No, I am not proclaiming that all young
scientists are noble, brave, insightful and incorruptible. On average, most
scientists are propelled by adventure, curiosity and macho-competitive guts,
but I’ve known plenty who weren’t. Nevertheless, after working with folks in
dozens of scientific fields, I know that the best of the Young Guns have the
knowledge, tools and ambition to start screaming when they spot “holes in
the consensus.” If all the post-docs and junior-tenureds in atmospheric
studies have timidly laid down – and this has also silenced experts in related
fields like meteorology — then this is the first time it happened in any large
scale field of science. Their acceptance of the AGW model means something.

Still, one is drawn to imagine why a Denier
can imagine that all the Young Guns are either cowed by authority figures or
suborned by greed for measly five figure grants… perhaps because that is the
way things work in the Denier’s own field. It is a natural human mistake, to
assume that others are like yourself. Nevertheless, it remains a mistake.

The Skeptic takes the absence of Young Gun
dissenters into account, adding it to the burden of proof borne by the other


Alas, still fizzing with questions, the
Skeptic hasn’t finished “admitting things” yet, in order to have her
curiosity taken seriously. For example, she openly admits who the chief
beneficiaries of the current status quo are: those who spent two decades
delaying energy efficiency research and urging us to guzzle carbon fuels like
mad. But let’s have it out, in the open.

The guys who benefit from keeping us on the
oil-teat are… foreign petro-princes, Russian oil oligarchs, and Exxon. That
is where the money flows.

Our Skeptic admits that these fellows have
Trillions (with a T) staked on preserving things as they are — on preventing
America from moving toward energy efficiency and independence. He admits that a
conspiracy among fifty petro oligarchs seems more plausible than some
convoluted cabal to “push green technologies” — a supposed conspiracy
involving tens of thousands of diverse people, most of them nerdy
blabbermouths, squabbling over far smaller sums of money.

Though a comparison of relative plausibility
doesn’t prove anything, it does illuminate the starkly uneven way that paranoia
is allocated in the Denier Movement.


While looking at this aspect of things,
consider some eerie parallels in methodology with the Great Big War over
Tobacco. Some of the very same consulting groups who formulated Big Tobacco’s
“deny, delay, and obfuscate” strategy – providing that industry with
nearly four decades in which to adjust to growing societal awareness of its
problems — are working on the Climate and Energy Denial Front today, with
precisely the same agenda. As one analyst recently put it:

“I think that the main driver for this
movement is that when you compare the US economy ‘before’ and ‘after’
acceptance of human-induced warming contributions, one of the most significant
differences will be the value of owning particular stocks. It’s impossible to
dump onto the market a trillion dollars or more worth of stocks in industrial
sectors that generate much of the CO2, without those stock prices dropping
through the floor. But with enough smokescreens raised to delay public
acceptance, there is far more time to gradually unload stock, and perhaps even
reposition the companies in the most vulnerable industries.

“This strategy became especially crucial
for them, when their earlier gambit — investing Social Security trust funds in
the stock market — fell through. This would have allowed brokers to unload half
a trillion dollars in failing assets on millions of naive new stockholders. We
now know retirees would have lost hundreds of billions.”

This parallel with Big Tobacco is creepy in
the short term, but in the longer view it actually gets puzzling. Because in
the end, the tobacco industry faced severe public ire and prodigious liability
judgments as punishment for these very tactics. Judgments that they escaped
only through fast-footed political maneuvering. This raises a fundamental

If the Denier Movement’s knowing and
deliberate obstruction of climate remediation can be plausibly shown to have
contributed toward vast losses of real and intangible property and the
displacement of millions of refugees, will the top-most Deniers then be liable
for damages, under common and tort law, as well as precedents set by the tobacco

This appears to not have been discussed
anywhere that I know of. But neither was the possibility of tort penalties
against Big Tobacco, back when the cancer findings were new. The relevance to
our Skeptic/Denier distinction becomes crucial:

Those who merely ask scientific questions,
while simultaneously helping push for energy independence, will be safe enough.
Differences of opinion, over science, won’t be actionable, whichever side
proves right.

On the other hand, those who directly and
deliberately obstructed reasonable precautions and progress toward efficiency
may face an angry and litigious world, if the expert forecasts prove to have
been right, all along. Preventing action that, upon expert advice, might have staunched
or curtailed harm, is legally culpable.

Are they so very sure that they will be able
to control politics and the courts next time the chickens come home to roost?
In effect, the topmost promoters of Denialism are betting everything they own.


Shifting from a legalistic to a polemical
point — Denialism demands that “no rash measures should be taken, until
there is proof of danger.” That paraphrasing sums up the reasonable-sounding
surface premise.

The rash measures to which they point are
typically draconian carbon taxes, slapped as a burden across the entire
economy. If one assumes that the world and American economies would be severely
affected by such taxes, then the picture is of a zero sum game, a tradeoff
between two grievous harms. And since the harm wrought by taxation is
considered concrete and that from climate change is still abstractly nebulous,
any shift to concerted AGW remediation requires extreme justification. In other
words, this reasoning alone shifts the burden of proof onto the shoulders of
those urging action. A burden that — as we have seen — cannot be met even with
99% scientific consensus.

But there are several logical problems with
this pillar of the movement. First, economists generally have less than
expected fear of diversionary taxes — levies that are applied consistently and
predictably, to permanently shift markets over to a new equilibrium position,
where costs that had been intangible are now made tangible and where it is
deemed in society’s interest to encourage a shift to alternate spending.
History shows that markets adjust to such alterations of the playing field. So
long as consistency is maintained. For example, “sin” taxes on
alcohol, and especially tobacco, had the desired social effect of gradually
shifting consumer habits, while incorporating many of the formerly intangible
costs of smoking into the purchase price. Predicted devastating impacts upon
whole farming regions did not materialize, as markets and producers adapted.
But this portion of the argument is a bit arcane and complex. It merits a completely
separate discussion.

What can be established more compactly is
that carbon taxes are an extremum, a worst case bogeyman, especially since the
political wing that incorporates Denialism has also blocked almost every other
endeavor that might help society move toward efficiency, including even
expansions in energy research. Hence, “rashness” has never been the
criterion for opposition.

Indeed, were carbon taxes the core villain, conservatives
who were otherwise sincere about “energy independence” would have
been vigorous in promoting alternative means of remediation. They have not

But let’s return to the basic matter of
Burden of Proof.

A widely-touted notion called the Precautionary
Principle holds that some kinds of danger call for preventive action, even if
the peril in question has not yet been proved. This principle is not lefty
nostrum. It was put forward most insistently by that icon of the
neoconservative right, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who explicitly
proclaimed the Precautionary Principle, over a matter far less fell and
threatening than Human-generated Global Climate Change. According to Cheney’s
so-called “One-Percent Doctrine”:

“If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani
scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to
treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.”

Cheney went on to state that even
aggressively peremptory acts of war, leading to great pain and cost, are
justified if there is a small likelihood that greater pain and cost can be

So, how much more compelling is it, to act on
AGW, if the potential overall harm to both planet and nation is vastly worse
than a couple of dirty bombs? Are we to believe that 99% of the experts are so
discredited that there is less than a one-percent chance that continuing to
pump anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would cause catastrophic
climate change?

Clearly, the Skeptic accepts that some things
ought to be done, urgently and with full force of national and public will,
even-though and even-while he nurses doubts about the likelihood of the full
Global Warming scenario. She does not armwave vaguely against “rash
actions,” but actively engages in negotiation over which urgent efficiency
measures to promote. Even if only as a precaution.


Further, the Skeptic admits something pretty
darned creepy and suspicious — that the main “news” outlets pushing
the Denier Movement are largely owned by those same petro-moguls who have
benefited from delayed energy independence. (Just one Saudi prince holds 7% of
Fox, while other princes own smaller shares, plus a lot of Rupert Murdoch’s
debt, stock and commercial paper. Russian oligarchs and international oil
companies own other portions.) Because of this, the Climate Skeptic has moved
away from getting any of his news or sense of “reality” from
propagandists who are paid to keep America divided, weak, passively addicted to
dependence, respectful of aristocracy, and mired in “culture war.”

The Denier, in contrast, suckles from the
Fox-Limbaugh machine. He shrugs off any notion that oil sheiks, Russian
oligarchs or Exxon moguls could possibly have any agenda, or ever, ever connive
together. They are pure as driven snow… compared to weather and climate
scientists. Right.

Elaborating a bit: the Skeptic has noticed
that the Denier Movement is directly correlated — with almost perfect
predictability — with a particular “side” in America’s calamitous,
self-destructive Culture War. The same side that includes “Creation
Science.” The same side that oversaw the worst economic collapse since the
Great Depression, based on mythological asset bubbles and magical
“financial instruments.” The same side that promised us “energy
independence” then sabotaged every single effort, including all of the
energy-related research that might have helped us get off the oil-teat. (And
that research gap is a bigger smoking gun to pay attention to than carbon

While the Denier sees this association of
parallel anti-intellectual movements as a good thing, one that enhances the
credibility of Denialism Movement, the Climate Skeptic has the mental courage
to be embarrassed by it. Even while remaining a conservative, she is pulling
herself away from all that.

(See an accompanying article “A War on
Expertise” for a concise theory as to what the underlying agenda of the
propaganda really is.)


Having admitted all of those things, the
Skeptic now feels sufficiently distanced from madmen, oiligarchs and
reflex-puppets to express legitimate curiosity about a scientific matter much
in the news. Moreover, he knows that this is his perfect right!

We do not live in a society where elites are
gods. Not the rich or even scientists. The Skeptic refuses to get caught up in
the reflex anti-intellectualism being pushed by the faux-right. But he also
knows that amateurs can be smart, and that curiosity was God’s greatest gift to

Moreover, our Skeptic feels like a smart guy!
He’s generally pretty well-educated and good in his own field. Above all, he is
a free citizen of the greatest and most scientifically advanced republic ever!
And so, by gum, having admitted all that stuff (see above), he now wants his
curiosity satisfied! He wants the atmospheric experts to answer hard questions
about some things that SEEM contradictory between the data and the model.

Fair enough.


Ah, but there is one more thing our poor
Skeptic has to admit, if she truly is honest and ready to start peppering the
experts. She needs to acknowledge that atmospheric scientists are human.

Furthermore, having tried for twenty years to
use logic, reason and data to deal with a screeching, offensive and nasty
Denial Movement, these human beings are exhausted people. Their hackles are up.
They have very, very important work on their plates. Their time is valuable
and, frankly, they see little point in wasting any more of it trying to reason
with folks who:

– deny that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse

then deny human-generated burning of carbon fuels has increased greenhouse gas
content in the atmosphere

then claim the increase won’t affect temperatures

then claim there is no warming

while the US Navy is furiously making plans to traverse an “ice-free”

then claim humans have no role in the warming

then admit we’re causing it

– but
claim it’s already too late

– and
anyway they’ll have a longer growing season in Alberta

then shout that we can’t afford efforts to wean ourselves of greenhouse

even though the things that would address AGW happen to be stuff we should be
doing anyway, to gain energy independence, increase productivity, reduce the
leverage of hostile petro powers, and a dozen other important things.

Mr. or Ms. Skeptic, can you see how wearing
it has been, dealing with a storm of such BS? Can you admit that the
professionals and experts may not, at first, be able to distinguish sincere
skeptics, like you, from the maniacs who have been chivvying and screaming at
them (on puppet-orders from Fox and Riyadh and Moscow) for years?

AGW “Skeptics” like you are
saddened to see that many of the scientists are prickly, irritable and sullen
about answering an endless stream of rehashed questions, only a few of which
aren’t blatant nonsense. (Some have even resorted to less-than-professional
tactics.) But you Skeptics — the smart and honest ones — understand what’s
happened. And so, you’ll cooperate about helping the experts feel safe to come
out and share what they know. And maybe then they will answer some of the Skeptics’
inconvenient questions.


This is when the honest Climate Skeptic
recites what I suggested earlier.

“Okay, I’ll admit we need more
efficiency and sustainability, desperately, in order to regain energy
independence, improve productivity, erase the huge leverage of hostile foreign
petro-powers, reduce pollution, secure our defense, prevent ocean
acidification, and ease a vampiric drain on our economy. If I don’t like one
proposed way to achieve this, then I will negotiate in good faith other methods
that can help us to achieve all these things, decisively, without further delay
and with urgent speed.

“Further, I accept that ‘waste-not, want
not’ and ‘a-penny-saved, a-penny-earned’ and ‘cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness’
and ‘genuine market competition’ used to be good conservative attitudes. But
the “side” that has been pushing the Denial Movement — propelled by
petro-princes, Russsian oligarchs and Exxon — hasn’t any credibility on the
issue of weaning America off wasteful habits. In fact, it’s not conservatism at

“And so, for those reasons alone, let’s
join together to make a big and genuine push for efficiency.

“Oh, and by the way, I don’t believe in
Human-caused Global Climate Change! But if I am wrong, these measures would
help deal with that too.

“So there, are you happy, you
blue-smartypants-eco-science types? Are you satisfied that I am a sincere
Climate Skeptic and not one of the drivel-parroting Deniers? Now can some of
your atmospheric scientists put on an extended teach-in and answer some
inconvenient questions? (Oh, and thanks for the vastly improved weather
reports; they show you’re smart enough to be able to explain these things to a
humble-but-curious fellow citizen like me.)”

As I said earlier, when I meet a conservative
AGW skeptic who says all that (and I have), I am all kisses and flowers. And so
will be all the atmospheric scientists I know. That kind of statement is
logical, patriotic and worthy of respect. It deserves eye-to-eye answers.

But alas, such genuine “skeptics”
are rare.


Have I wasted my time, here? Because, while
the species of sincere, conservative-but-rational AGW Skeptics does exist (I
know several, and kind-of qualify as one, myself), they turn out to be rare.
For the most part, those calling themselves “climate skeptics” are
nothing but fully-imbibed Denialists, who wallow in anecdotes and faux-partyline
talking points, participating in something that is far more insidious and
devastating to our civilization than mere Energy Company Propaganda.

As I have suggested elsewhere, the real
purpose of it all may be to undermine the very notion of expertise in our civilization,
leaving no strong force to challenge any ruling elite. But whatever the
underlying purpose, one result is clear: Tens of thousands of Denialists
egotistically assume that their fact-poor, pre-spun, group-rage opinion
entitles them to howl “corrupt fools!” at the men and women who have
actually studied and are confronting this important topic.

Historian Arnold Toynbee — one of the
greatest of all experts on the rise and fall of civilizations — when asked what
critical mistake seemed most often to lead to a collapse said “failure to
support and believe in the society’s creative minority.”

In our own technological, enlightenment
nation and civilization, that creative minority, in large part, is one of
science. We do not have to worship their feet, or obey blindly. But we’ll be
fools, treading the downhill slope followed by Babylon and Rome, if we despise

Brin is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels
include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The
Uplift War. (The Postman inspired a major film in 1998.) Brin is also known as
a leading commentator on modern technological trends. His nonfiction book –
The Transparent Society — won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American
Library Association. Brin’s newest novel Kiln People explores a fictional near
future when people use cheap copies of themselves to be in two places at once.
The Life Eaters — a graphic novel — explores a chilling alternative outcome
of World War II.


Is this Sustainability in Practice? Make Money and Do Good

Posted by admin on August 24, 2011
Posted under Express 150

Is this Sustainability in Practice? Make Money and Do Good

Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter and
Mark R. Kramer of the Kennedy School of Government, make a strong case for “Creating
Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism — and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and
Growth.” They are championing the shared-value thesis in conferences, meetings
with corporate leaders, and even a conversation with White House advisers. Companies
like GE have adopted this with their ecomagination programme as cross the
board. Read More

First, Make Money. Also, Do Good.


New York Times

Published: August 13, 2011

CORPORATE social responsibility efforts have
always struck me as the modern equivalent of John D. Rockefeller handing out
dimes to the common folk. They may be well-intentioned, but they often seem
like small gestures at the margins of what companies are really trying to do:
make money.

As well they should, an argument most
famously made by the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman decades ago. He called
social responsibility programs “hypocritical window-dressing” in an article he
wrote for The New York Times Magazine in 1970, titled “The Social
Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.”

But Michael E. Porter, a Harvard Business
School professor, may have an answer to the Friedman principle. Mr. Porter is
best-known for his original ideas about corporate strategy and the economic
competition among nations and regions. Recently, however, he has been promoting
a concept he calls “shared value.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Porter and Mark R.
Kramer, a consultant and a senior fellow in the corporate social responsibility
program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, laid out their case in
a lengthy article in the Harvard Business Review, “Creating Shared Value: How
to Reinvent Capitalism — and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth.” Since
then, Mr. Porter and Mr. Kramer have been championing the shared-value thesis
in conferences, meetings with corporate leaders, and even a conversation with
White House advisers.

Shared value is an elaboration of the notion
of corporate self-interest — greed, if you will. The idea that companies can do
well by doing good is certainly not new. It is an appealing proposition that
over the years has been called “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profit),
“impact investing” and “sustainability” — all describing corporate initiatives
that address social concerns including environmental pollution,
natural-resource depletion, public health and the needs of the poor.

The shared-value concept builds on those
ideas, but it emphasizes profit-making not just as a possibility but as a
priority. Shared value, Mr. Porter says, points toward “a more sophisticated
form of capitalism,” in which “the ability to address societal issues is
integral to profit maximization instead of treated as outside the profit

Social problems are looming market
opportunities, according to Mr. Porter and Mr. Kramer. They note that while
government programs and philanthropy have a place — beyond dimes, Mr.
Rockefeller created a path-breaking foundation — so, increasingly, does

The shared-value concept is not a moral
stance, they add, and companies will still behave in their self-interest in
ways that draw criticism, like aggressive tax avoidance and lobbying for less
regulation. “This is not about companies being good or bad,” Mr. Kramer says.
“It’s about galvanizing companies to exploit the market in addressing social

The pair point to promising signs that more
and more companies are pursuing market strategies that fit the shared-value

Several years ago, executives at General
Electric began looking across its portfolio of industrial and consumer
businesses, eyeing ways to apply new technology to reduce energy consumption.
They were prompted by corporate customers voicing concerns about rising
electrical and fuel costs, and by governments pushing for curbs on carbon

The result was G.E.’s “ecomagination”
program, a business plan as well as a marketing campaign. In recent years, the
company has invested heavily in technology to lower its products’ energy
consumption, and the use of water and other resources in manufacturing.

To count in the program, a product must
deliver a significant energy savings or environmental benefit over previous
designs. G.E. hired an outside environmental consulting firm, GreenOrder, to
help in measuring performance. To date, more than 100 G.E. products have
qualified, from jet engines to water filtration equipment to light bulbs. In
2010, such products generated sales of $18 billion, up from $10 billion in
2005, when the program began.

“We did it from a business standpoint from
Day 1,” says Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E.’s chief executive. “It was never about
corporate social responsibility.”

Technology has opened the door to markets
that have shared-value characteristics. For decades, I.B.M. sold its computers,
software and services to city governments around the world, though mainly for
back-office chores like managing payrolls. But the Internet, the Web,
electronic sensors and steady advances in computing have helped transform
I.B.M.’s role, as it now helps cities track and analyze all kinds of data to
improve services.

“We’ve moved from the back office to the core
mission of cities — managing traffic, monitoring public health, optimizing
water use and crime-fighting,” says Jon C. Iwata, a senior vice president.

I.B.M. is now working with about 2,000 cities
worldwide as part of its “Smarter Cities” business, which began three years
ago. One advanced project is in the sprawling city of Rio de Janeiro, where
I.B.M. is designing a computerized command center. It is intended to pull data
from dozens of city agencies, as well as weather stations and webcams. One
assignment is to closely track heavy rainfall and to predict its impact — where
flooding might occur, how traffic should be rerouted, and what neighborhoods
may need to be evacuated. The goal is to predict and prepare for the kind of
mudslides and floods that killed hundreds of people in April 2010 and left
15,000 homeless.

THE evolution of low-cost Internet and mobile
phone technology has also let Intuit pursue opportunities with shared-value
attributes. The company offers free online income-tax preparation software and
filing services for lower-income households (now earning $31,000 or less).
Since 1999, nearly 13 million people have taken advantage of the service.

The cost is relatively inexpensive for
Intuit, as the service exploits the efficiency of online distribution; the
charge for paying customers is $20 to $50. And the program blurs the line
between charity and marketing, because millions of people who are sampling the
company’s product, may well become paying customers as their incomes rise.

In India, Intuit has begun offering a free
information service for farmers that can be accessed on any cellphone.
Part-time workers check crop prices at local markets and send the information
to Intuit. The company then relays the latest, local price quotations in text
messages to subscribing farmers. As a result, the farmers can make smarter
decisions about when and where to sell their produce.

The service in India began last year, and
300,000 farmers now use it. In follow-up surveys, farmers report that their
earnings are up 25 percent, says Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit and chairman
of the executive committee. The company, he adds, is testing ways to make money
off the service, perhaps with text ads for simple tractors and fertilizers.

Mr. Cook points to other new business forays
that are part of the same strategy. One is an Intuit health debit card for
American small businesses that want to pay for some of their employees’ medical
care but cannot afford conventional health insurance.

“We look for places we can use our strengths
as a company to help solve big problems,” he says. “You can call that shared
value if you like. But I look at it as the business we’re in.”

A version of this article appeared in print
on August 14, 2011, on page BU3 of the New York edition with the headline:
First, Make Money. Also, Do Good..


World’s Tallest Green Building is Taipei 101

Posted by admin on August 24, 2011
Posted under Express 150

World’s Tallest Green Building is Taipei 101

Like a giant bamboo jutting out of the earth,
the 508m-high Taipei 101 was once the world’s tallest building. Now it has a
new feather in its cap: the tallest green building, being awarded the top, or
“platinum”, standard in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(Leed), a United States-developed certification system. Among other things,
Taipei 101 scored high marks on water and energy efficiency, indoor
environmental quality and waste reduction.

Lee Seok Hwai – Straits Times & Jakarta
Globe  | August 10, 2011

Taipei 101 skyscraper is seen through a
natural park setting in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Taipei. Like a giant bamboo jutting out of
the earth, the 508m-high Taipei 101 was once the world’s tallest building.

Last year, the eight-year-old icon of Taiwan
lost that title to Dubai’s 828m-high Burj Khalifa. However, it now has a new
feather in its cap: the tallest green building.

Last month, the structure was awarded the
top, or “platinum”, standard in Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (Leed), a United States-developed certification system for
green buildings. Among other things, Taipei 101 scored high marks on water and
energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and waste reduction.

For example, plants in and around the
building, which resembles a huge bamboo with its stacked segments and green
windows, are watered with harvested rainwater. Sixty-one per cent of its waste
is recycled, and all lighting, toilets and taps have been replaced in the past
two years to minimise energy and water use, said spokesman Anne Wang.

At the award ceremony on July 28, Premier Wu
Den-yih said: “The building is the pride of Taiwan and a model for others
to follow.”

Thousands of buildings on the island are
trying to catch up in the green stakes. Government agencies, corporations and
schools have been shrinking their carbon footprint through conservation
measures similar to Taipei 101′s.

Indeed, all new government buildings are
required to obtain a Green Building Label (GBL), a home-grown assessment based
on nine criteria, from energy and water conservation to biodiversity, before
construction can even begin.

According to the Taiwan Architecture and
Building Centre (TABC), 864 completed buildings have qualified for GBL since
2000 and another 2,340 proposed buildings have obtained provisional GBL based
on their design plan. Of these, about 89 per cent are public structures.

“All completed government buildings must
pass our checks before they can be inaugurated,” said Ke Lih-wen, a TABC
engineer responsible for the program.

One of the most stunning examples is the public
library in Beitou, a leafy district in the north of Taipei. The three-story,
NT$120 million (S$5 million) wooden building uses balconies and vertical wood
grating to cut the amount of heat that enters the building.

In addition, the building collects rainwater
to water plants and flush toilets, uses eco-friendly paint, and has solar
panels that can generate 16kw of electricity.

It attained the highest, or
“diamond”, standard of GBL in 2007.

Together, all the GBL buildings will cut
nearly 600 million kilos of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to
the effect of 42,375ha of man-made forest, said Mr Ke.

Water savings are estimated at 42 million sq
m, enough to fill 16,747 standard swimming pools.

The private sector has taken its own green

Flat panel display maker AU Optronics’
fabrication facility in Taichung, central Taiwan, scored the Leed platinum
certification earlier this year. Chunghwa Telecom, the largest telecom services
provider in Taiwan, is installing photovoltaic cells on some of its buildings
to produce its own solar-powered electricity.

For Taipei 101, the Leed honour is the reward
for two years of improvement works at a cost of NT$60 million and 10,000 man
hours. But it expects to save millions of dollars a year on electricity and
water consumption.

Its environmental-friendliness has rubbed off
on the nearly 10,000 occupants of the skyscraper.

About 84 per cent of them take public
transport to work, compared to the city-wide average of 34 percent.


There was no one remotely like him, nor will there ever be

Posted by admin on August 24, 2011
Posted under Express 150

There was no one remotely like him, nor will
there ever be.

The following eulogy was delivered by Paul
Hawken at the memorial service honoring Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface,
held 11 August 2011 in Atlanta, and reprinted from Green Biz.


We, who were so fortunate to know Ray
Anderson, were in awe. He was many people: a father, executive, colleague,
brother, speaker, writer, leader, pioneer. He could walk into an audience and
leave listeners transfixed by a tenderness and introspection they never
expected or met.

Was he really a businessman? Yes. Was he a
conservative southern gentleman with that very refined Georgia drawl. Yes. Was
he successful? For sure.

He was also courageous. He stood up again and
again in front of big audiences and told them that pretty much everything they
knew, learned, and were doing was destroying the earth. He meant every word he
spoke and those words landed deeply in the hearts and minds of the hundreds of
thousands of people he addressed. There was no one remotely like him, nor will
there ever be. Read More



When we featured Ray Anderson in a Profile in
the last issue – which was emailed from Singapore on Sunday 7 August – we
obviously had no idea what was to befall the “greenest CEO of all
time”. He died in Atlanta, USA, on 8 August, succumbing to liver cancer’s
fatal blow. We dedicate this issue to the memory of Ray and in recognition of
his company’s achievements. Significantly, this issue also presents the first
100 Global Sustain Abilities Leaders list. He would have had a primary place on
that list had he survived a few more weeks. But in his place are many who have
followed his example, or at least attempted to tread in his footsteps. May his
Ray of sunshine continue to light the way and lighten the load.

the World Was a Responsibility”

By Paul

August 11, 2011 in Green Biz

following eulogy was delivered at the memorial service honoring Ray Anderson,
held today in Atlanta, and reprinted with permission.

We, who
were so fortunate to know Ray Anderson, were in awe. He was many people: a
father, executive, colleague, brother, speaker, writer, leader, pioneer. But I
am not sure any of us quite figured him out. On the outside, Ray was
deceptively traditional, very quiet sometimes, an everyman, all-American,
down-home. He was so normal that he could say just about anything and get away
with it because people didn’t quite believe what they heard. He could walk into
an audience and leave listeners transfixed by a tenderness and introspection
they never expected or met. Business audiences in particular had no defenses
because they had no framework for Ray.

Was he
really a businessman? Yes. Was he a conservative southern gentleman with that
very refined Georgia drawl. Yes. Was he successful? For sure.

then where did these radical statements come from? Ironically, because people
could not connect the dots, he was extraordinarily credible. He was also
courageous. He stood up again and again in front of big audiences and told them
that pretty much everything they knew, learned, and were doing was destroying
the earth. He meant every word he spoke and those words landed deeply in the
hearts and minds of the hundreds of thousands of people he addressed. There was
no one remotely like him, nor will there ever be.

called Ray a dreamer. To be sure, he was, but he was also an engineer. He had
definitely seen the mountain, but he also dreamed in balance sheets, thermodynamics,
and resource flow theory. He dreamed a world yet to come because dreams of a
livable future are not coming from our politicians, bankers, and the media. For
Ray, reimagining the world was a responsibility, something owed to our
children’s children, a gift to a future that is begging for selflessness and

reminds us that though all good people die, goodness does not perish. The
metaphorical spear in his chest was not an injury but an awakening that led Ray
to give talks all over the world and in so doing he became a great teacher. He
used business as a means to educate and transform, but his life was not about
money or carpets. Ray’s life was about the sacred. His covenant was with God;
the marketplace is where he labored. He gently laid down that spear this Monday
morning but his teachings are a lineage that will live for centuries to come.

To we
who remain, Ray’s passing is startling, a summons, maybe even a provocation.
Before we die, may we know that to be alive is astounding, inconceivably
precious, a privilege beyond reckoning. When we know and cherish this
existence, the rest of our life is a shimmering field of light because we have
come to recognize one unalterable truth—that we are one with all living
entities and beings, and that we are never alone. The consciousness of
interdependence and connectedness, and its attendant responsibility to do no
harm, was Ray’s epiphany.

years ago he had a realization. At that time, Ray came home. He rediscovered a
sacred earth with all its complexity, beauty and mystery, free from the
constraints of this or that ideology, free from narrow-minded thinking, and he
was freed to reimagine the relationship between humanity and nature with
Interface as the model. No longer were there human systems and ecosystems. They
were one system and he understood that the laws of physics and biology
prevailed. He believed in Emerson’s words, that there is an innate morality in
the laws of nature: I have confidence in laws of morals as of botany. I have
planted maize in my field every June for seventeen years and I never knew it to
come up strychnine. My parsley, beet, turnip … acorn, are as sure. I believe
that justice produces justice, and injustice injustice. Ultimately, Ray’s work
was not about making a sustainable business, it was about justice, ethics, and
honoring creation. Zero waste was the path to 100% respect for living beings.

Ray, when we become literate in the sweet treasures of creation, there arises a
sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude for one’s very existence and the swirl of
living beings around us. Do you remember the videos of the Chilean miners
coming out of the elevator shaft one-by-one from the San Jose mine in Copiapo,
Chile last October? The miners arose from a half a mile below the earth after
being trapped for 69 days, and when they emerged they danced, they sang, they
kissed the earth, they kissed their wives, kissed their mistresses—sometimes
both—and they were ecstatic. They knew what they had nearly lost: the sun and
the moon and the stars, cool air made sweet by plants and trees, the succulent
foods that come from the soil, the sound of a child’s voice; they were
rapturous and joyful and deeply grateful. Although it was a real event, the San
Jose miners are metaphors for being reborn in this life to what we overlook and
take for granted. Ray woke up and saw what we will lose unless we change.

don’t know exactly what happened to Ray in 1994. Yes, he read a book. But
something remarkable was already there within his being that came to life. What
we do know is that from that point seventeen years ago, Ray could see. He saw
benevolence and beauty, the tightly knit longleaf pine forests, the undulant
riverine corridors of the Chattahoochee, the tantalizing pure light of life
reflected on bracts and fronds, the drifting silvery spider silk that takes
tiny passengers to new forests. Once your eyes open to the magnificence of
creation, you cannot unsee.

never looked back. He did not ponder long. He went to work. He was not
satisfied by being able to see, he was destined to do one thing only, and that
is serve life itself, for what else is there to do once you see how
phenomenally we are stitched together by the living world?

He did
not see nature as an abstraction to be worshiped but as the matrix of
reformation, the source of goodness, the architecture of our spirit, the
template of a future delineated by people who know that business has no purpose
lest it serve and honor all of life, that our lives rely upon the kindness of
strangers and the damp forest floor and spirited grasses and on you, his
family, friends and fiercest admirers who loved this man. He loved us all.

life is a testament to that love. He passed on Monday morning but it is up to
us as to whether he will die. Actually, that is not even a question. He will
live. His physical presence has vanished into a mystery we will all follow but
never fully understand. His dream, his yearning for commerce that regenerates
life and does no harm, his intention to re-conceive what it means to be a
manufacturer, to bring industry and biology together into one entity, burned in
him, a flame that never seared or ceased, and it will live on in his company
and thousands more.

Ray has
now traveled to a new forest. We who gather know that the greatest man of
industrial ecology, the businessman who defined and showed us how commerce will
be for centuries to come if we are to continue our life here on earth, was our
friend, patron, and teacher, and we are the most blessed people in the world
for having known him.

Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author. His work includes
starting ecological businesses, writing about the impact of commerce on living
systems, and consulting with heads of state and CEOs on economic development,
industrial ecology, and environmental policy.