Depending on where in the world you live, it might be easy to forget that the environment is more than just the air we breathe or the land under our feet. It’s important to keep in mind that the oceans also are being affected radically by climate change. The oceanic problems are too numerous to list. However, this week we are taking a closer look at one issue that people in different parts of the planet face, rising oceans as the polar ice caps melt and more saltwater.
Those of us that live in the United States might not be aware how rich we are in freshwater sources as say countries in the Middle East that are very arid environments. Obviously those countries have other resources that we lack, but water is essential to life. Our planet may be covered in a great deal of water, but much of it is unusable to humans in its natural state because of the high salt content.
Did you know that salt is expelled from seawater when it freezes? Although some brine is trapped, the overall salinity of sea ice is much lower than seawater. So the seas are rising as previously permanently frozen parts of the planet melt. This means that not only is there more water, but it’s becoming salty as it melts.
Desalination is any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water. Unfortunately, it is quite an energy intensive process. Last week, a new renewable energy desalination project was announced in Masdar, Abu Dhabi, which is in the United Arab Emirates. The project seeks to transform seawater into useable, freshwater on land by building a commercially viable and renewable energy-powered desalination plant by 2020.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region of the Middle East is comprised of the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. The GCC formed in 1981 and uses about half the world’s desalinated water.
Of course, accessing renewable energy is not the only impediment to sustainable desalination. Another effect of global warming is oceanic acidification that contributes to massive algae blooms. These algae blooms can shut down a desalination plant. There are other unwanted components that might be present in seawater such as radioactive material from warships and nuclear power plants which would need to be removed before the water could be used safely.
Despite other lingering issues, it is still worth asking the question, “Can these enormous desalination plants powered by renewable energy help mitigate some of the issues we face from rising sea levels?” The answer is, “Every bit helps.” But don’t start thinking it’s a magic bullet since none exists. We still all need to do our parts in reducing our carbon emissions and footprints. However, it is good news that desalination can be a sustainable and environmentally responsible industrial solution and worth noting that low cost, low impact renewable energy technologies do exist.
The United States is one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. What can our country do for the good of the planet with this role?
One thing the U.S. federal government does every few years is engage hundreds of experts to evaluate the impacts of climate change, now and in the future. The resulting National Climate Assessment report, which was recently released, showed that America's current efforts to reduce carbon pollution are too little to avoid dangerous climate change. Last year President Obama announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks such as minivans and sport utility vehicles. Let’s build on this historic progress to limit carbon emissions. There are several ways that the president and federal government can make a real difference in the fight against global warming.
The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool that our nation’s leaders could be leveraging more fully. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with using the Clean Air Act to issue rules to reduce greenhouse pollution. This farsighted law has reduced damaging air pollution for forty years, saving many lives. The EPA has already used it to protect public health and welfare from six extensive and harmful pollutants including: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. Now is the time to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by setting a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has also proposed higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants. These standards need to be fortified, finalized and implemented posthaste. Why stop with power plants? There are other places where higher greenhouse gas emission standards can be successfully applied to help save our planet such as oil refineries, cement plants, and even the airline industry.
Another way to help the environment would be for President Obama and the State Department to decline approval on the Keystone XL pipeline, which proposes moving oil down from Canada through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast. There are no guarantees that the pipeline won’t spring leaks. Furthermore, there is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels. Denying approval would show that America is committed to transitioning away from a dependence on fossil fuels.
Of course, it’s not all up to the federal government. We can all do our parts to speed the transition to a clean energy future. First we can encourage our elected officials to take the climate change actions recommended above. Second we can reduce our own carbon footprints. Consider lowering the heat or air conditioning depending on the season, using a clothesline, rake, hand mower and other manpowered devices, composting, forgoing meat at least one day a week and riding a bicycle. Lastly, we can all find simple ways to be part of the solution such as planting trees and offsetting remaining carbon emissions.
According to a recently released report by the World Wildlife Fund, 58 of the United States’ Fortune 100 companies set goals in 2012 to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or use more renewable energy in their operations. However, oil and gas companies are lagging far behind in this movement. Eight of 11 domestic energy companies on the Fortune 100 have not set internal energy goals.
This is in direct contrast to 68 of the planet’s 100 largest companies who recognize the impact of global warming and are making investments in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals. Sadly, energy companies represent the lowest participation rate of any industry worldwide. The few exceptions are Hess and Chevron who have both set renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, and ExxonMobil who set a greenhouse gas target.
Why have three quarters of the nation's industrial companies voluntarily set some sort of environmental target? There are a variety of potential reasons including: policy pressures, public relations or perhaps even the forward thinking that sees renewable energy’s potential to someday be less expensive than, or at least competitive with, oil and gas.
And why haven’t most oil and gas companies voluntarily set environmental targets? It may be because the very products they put on the market directly contribute to climate change. There is also a lack of urgency to act; little pressure comes from investors or policies. An example of a type of policy that was successful in the past is the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which worked by making large companies publically accountable for which potentially toxic chemicals they use and where they are released. Then the information is posted on the EPA’s website for anyone to see.
The planet would really benefit from a similar policy focusing on oil and gas company emissions, or better yet, a broader climate change policy such as a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. There are other options that could pave the way towards a cleaner energy future. The federal government could require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources and offer further tax incentives for wind and solar production. Many companies are setting their own internal goals, but for others such as the majority of the oil and gas industry, they’re not going to do anything about increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints until someone makes them.
The Earth cannot use words to speak for itself, but if it could what would be on its climate wishlist this holiday season?
Environmental activists and climate scientists have done a good job of communicating the risks of climate change. Part of the issue is that it’s a delicate balance between scaring people so thoroughly that they don’t think there is anything they can do about global warming and encouraging people to make any changes that positively impact the environment, even small ones to start. Perhaps we’ve also underestimated the importance of personal experience.
The facts on climate change alone are not enough. We’ve had solid, scientific evidence for many years that global warming is man-made and happening right now. However, many people need to experience the effects for themselves in order for the light bulb to go off in their heads. Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are helping people to connect the dots, but now that process has begun the question then becomes, “What next?”
We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. That is what the climate needs and wants this holiday season. There are two main changes that we can undertake to fulfill the planet’s climate wishlist. The first is to lower our carbon footprints. Ask yourself, do I really need to leave my lights on all day at home when I am not there? Can I combine trips in the car to drive less or take public transportation instead? What simple steps can I take to save energy and myself some money as well?
The second change is to offset the rest of your carbon footprint. There are many affordable options to make this holiday season a reality, not just for the planet, but for future generations also. Any positive steps you take are welcome and really do make a difference. Although the planet cannot use words to thank you, reducing what you can and offsetting the rest is a beautiful gift and a wonderful place to start this holiday season.
In a telling and ironic move, coal industry giant BHP-Billiton, is replacing one of its coal export facilities in Queensland, Australia because of its vulnerability to increasingly frequent hurricanes from global warming. BHP-Billiton is an Australian coal company that produces one-fifth of globally traded coal for steel making and is the largest mining company on Earth. The upgrade represents a major investment in planning for climate change. In fact, the company’s coal operations are led by Marcus Randolph, who confirmed they are planning, “to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.”
Readers of this blog already know that increasingly extreme weather events are the result of climate change in addition to the fact that many businesses are planning now for climate change’s effects. Why not a coal company too? The announcement makes it obvious that BHP-Billiton understands that climate change is real and the time is now to begin making changes even if the manufacture of their product contributes to the issue.
Randolph has even warned investors about the implications of remaining dependent on the non-renewable resources of fossil fuels by saying, “In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem, how do you think this is going to evolve over a 30- to 40-year time horizon? You'd have to look at that and say on balance, I suspect, the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should.”
When a company that mines and exports coal starts planning for climate change it means the writing is on the wall. Businesses and individuals alike should all be working to decrease carbon footprints and offset the remaining carbon emissions. Let’s give the planet a holiday present and start doing all we can this season to embrace a cleaner energy future.
Bethesda, MD and Dalton, GA (December 3, 2012) – Tandus Flooring, a leading manufacturer of commercial floorcoverings, headquartered in Dalton, GA, has renewed its commitment to offer customers the option to offset the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of its hybrid resilient and modular product lines. This program, offered jointly by Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF International ensures Tandus Flooring has taken a very measured approach to make certain its CarbonFree® Certified product offerings are conducted responsibly through a third-party certification process, producing meaningful results in decreasing the overall level of its GHG emissions.
Tandus Flooring renewed its CarbonFree® product certification, by conducting extensive product Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to determine its products’ per unit carbon footprint. Now in its fourth year, Tandus Flooring’s Carbonfree Flooring program allows customers the option to purchase their products as carbon neutral.
Working in conjunction with Carbonfund.org and NSF International, third party validated carbon offset credits are purchased to neutralize the greenhouse gases associated with the product’s life cycle. Carbon offset credits purchased in the program are ‘retired‘ so that the carbon is essentially eliminated from use. Through the program, Tandus Flooring has provided CarbonFree products to customers, such as, Google, Bank of America, National Life Group, NV Energy, Stanford University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Vermont.
“Many companies are looking for ways to reduce the climate impact of their products and operations,” said Lynn Preston, Technical Environmental Manager, Tandus Flooring. “Tandus Flooring’s Carbonfree Flooring program demonstrates our commitment to take action against global warming and provides customers with a convenient, credible means to decrease the environmental impact of their purchase.”
Carbonfund.org President Eric Carlson commented, “Providing products that are certified CarbonFree® by Carbonfund.org reflects Tandus Flooring’s leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in manufacturing. We are proud to be partners with Tandus Flooring and applaud their environmental leadership.”
The CarbonFree® certification label lets companies demonstrate that their products have been carbon offset as well as helps consumers identify carbon neutral products. “The CarbonFree label on Tandus Flooring’s products exemplifies the company’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of their products,” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF Sustainability.
For nearly half a century, Tandus Flooring has been a pioneer in the research and development of sustainable flooring processes and products while continually advancing business practices to meet the critical environmental challenges facing our industry. Tandus Flooring has employed a multi-faceted approach to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations and products including the reduction of energy, water and solid waste, the increased use of recycled material and renewable energy, along with a continued emphasis on closed loop recycling and post consumer reclamation of its products.
Products included in the Tandus Carbonfree Flooring Program include ethos® Modular, Powerbond® ethos® Cushion, ER3® Modular, Powerbond® ER3® Cushion, Powerbond® Cushion, Medfloor®, Flex-Aire® Cushion Modular, Conserv® Modular.
About Tandus Flooring
Tandus Flooring (www.tandus.com) creates innovative floorcovering solutions through our unique product line of hybrid resilient, modular, broadloom and woven products that work in tandem to enhance spaces for learning, working, healing and living. Through inspired design and leading-edge technology, Tandus Flooring offers its customers a single-source for innovative product design and technology, comprehensive services, and environmental leadership. For more than 40 years,Tandus Flooring has been examining all the ways to be a better corporate citizen and environmental steward — and then taking actions that lead to demonstrable, meaningful, quantifiable results.
About Carbonfund.org Foundation:
Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International:
NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.
NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, services, operations, systems and supply chains. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability assessment standards for products, services and service providers.
The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is allowing more heat to escape there, and the effects from climate change are dramatic. Over 60 years, mid-winter temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula have risen 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature rise has impacted annual sea ice’s seasonal duration and offshore bulk by approximately 40 percent.
As you read this you may be asking yourself, “Okay so Antarctica is melting, but how does that impact me?” Well, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas. Since 1980, eight large ice shelves have broken off the Antarctic Peninsula. As the ice shelves separate from the mainland, they make it easier for glaciers to flow into the sea and melt. As they melt, the seas rise and we have more flooding along coastal areas. All coastal areas, not just on the U.S. coastline, are susceptible to the dangers of flooding. The Wilkins Ice Shelf, which is a floating ice sheet several hundred feet thick the size of the state of Connecticut, is currently hanging on to the Antarctic Peninsula by a thread.
And there’s more. Rapid warming is killing off a priceless resource that we’re just beginning to discover. Sponges, soft corals, starfish, and sea squirts can only live at constant low polar temperatures. These Antarctic seafloor invertebrates could offer cures to human diseases such as cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and infectious diseases. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute have already found one such example. These researchers discovered that a small Antarctic sea squirt contains chemicals that kill melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The Antarctic Peninsula is probably not your backyard, but the losses it’s sustaining from climate change could affect you personally. Take action now. Perhaps start by lowering your carbon footprint. Global warming is having serious, life-threatening impacts and we have to do our parts now to turn the tide.
CarbonFree certification from NSF International and Carbonfund.org Foundation
demonstrate product is carbon-neutral
Sprint, LG Bring Users Carbon Neutral Cell Phone in Time for the Holidays
BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 12, 2012 — The Carbonfund.org Foundation applauded the announcement by LG Electronics USA and Sprint that the LG Mach smartphone with environmentally friendlier features will be available Nov. 11.
LG Mach, available from Sprint for $99 with a two-year contract, has earned the CarbonFree® label under the rigorous product certification program offered by the Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF International’s Sustainability division.
With the CarbonFree Certified Product program, LG has offset the carbon footprint of the manufacturing of the LG Mach at no extra cost to the customer through the use of third-party verified carbon reduction projects
“Being part of the CarbonFree Certified Product program helps demonstrate LG’s overarching commitment to the environment” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF Sustainability.
“With its new CarbonFree certified mobile phone, LG is helping to fight climate change and continuing to provide consumers with cutting-edge products” stated Carbonfund.org president Eric Carlson.
The LG Mach is the latest carbon neutral product in a line of CarbonFree certified offerings. LG Electronics was the first in its industry to distribute home appliances, solar panels and other consumer electronics that were part of the CarbonFree Certified Product Program. These CarbonFreeCertified Products represent another step in LG's commitment to environmental sustainability and energy-efficient products and services, including a wide range of ENERGY STAR® -qualified appliances and electronics products.
# # #
About LG Electronics USA: LG Electronics USA, Inc., based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $49 billion global force and technology leader in consumer electronics, home appliances and mobile communications. In the United States, LG Electronics sells a range of stylish and innovative mobile phones, home entertainment products, home appliances, and air conditioning systems and energy solutions, all under LG’s “Life’s Good” marketing theme. LG Electronics is a 2012 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year. For more information, please visit www.lg.com.
About Carbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards, tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). NSF Sustainability (inserted hyperlink) draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for sustainable products such as green chemicals and building products. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring, and other commercial building materials.
Climate change is causing sea levels to rise, and this week’s super storm Sandy gave us a preview of the devastation that this kind of flooding can cause. In fact, five years ago, a study named, “Nation Under Siege” constructed a series of 3-D maps using federal science agency and the United Nations' climate panel data that demonstrated what areas of the Atlantic coastline will look like as sea levels continue to rise. The maps from 2007 are eerily similar to the destruction we saw from super storm Sandy. The main difference being that the flooding from Sandy is beginning to recede and the rising waters from global warming are permanent.
There’s no denying that sea levels are rising. Since 1900, the world’s oceans rose an average of seven inches, according to data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those of us that live on the East Coast are seeing higher than average sea level rise. According to a report by the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force, sea levels along New York's coast range between 9 and 11 inches over the last 100 years.
Super storm Sandy painfully demonstrated that coastal cities are woefully unprepared for flooding and other dangers from extreme weather, which is increasing due to climate change. According to Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University, there are three reasons why climate change made Sandy that much worse. The first is already higher sea levels made the storm surge more severe. The second is higher sea surface temperatures from global warming provided more energy for the super storm. The third is Sandy may turned towards the coast because of a record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this year.
Preparing at-risk communities for coming floods and coastal erosion includes determining the best way to heighten sea walls or whether to construct surge barriers to protect flood-prone areas. These preparations require study and then construction costs in the billions. However, the latest estimates from IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, calculate that super storm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business. It sounds like the time is now to make those investments before further extreme weather from global warming costs more in the long run. We can couple those investments with our own efforts to lower our carbon footprints, which contributes to slowing down climate change.
Carbonfund.org Foundation Welcomes Macmillan Publishing to the Large Business Partnership Program.
Macmillan is a group of publishing companies in the United States held by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany. American publishers include Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, W.H. Freeman and Worth Publishers, Palgrave Macmillan, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and Macmillan Higher Education.
As a key component of its sustainability initiative, Macmillan has set a goal to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by its annual business activities by 65% (over a 2009 baseline) by the year 2020. This includes the carbon emissions mitigation through Carbonfund.org including supporting renewable energy, forestry and biodiversity preservation.
Macmillan is well on track toward realizing this ambitious goal through the programs and actions undertaken to date. Some examples are:
- Rationalizing sourcing of paper based on the CO2 profile of the various mills that manufacturer the specific grades that Macmillan uses in printing its books.
- By mid-2013, completing the 3-year transition of their car fleet to 90%+ hybrid vehicles which will result in a reduction of over 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year from associated fuel savings.
- Significant investment in lighting retrofits at distribution/returns facilities that are 45-50% more energy efficient than the replaced configurations.
“Sustainability is part of the very mission of our company. Not just as a press release, not just around the edges, but in the very fabric of the place. It is as important as growth, as important as profitability. It may even be more important."
“While we’ve made great headway in reducing emissions in those areas under our immediate control, we know it will take a longer horizon to gain the required savings in areas where we wield influence, but cannot drive change just by force of will. That’s why we have pursued a partnership with Carbonfund.org to mitigate our total annual emissions by offsetting approximately 25% of that total through our sponsorship and support of several of the creative, verified, and geographically diverse programs that they administer,” says John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan.
Macmillan sets an important example for the publishing industry in both internal and external carbon reduction initiatives.
About Macmillan (http://us.macmillan.com)