Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sustainable Long-term good for R&D, Patents and Profits

Here's exerts from the blog over at IPzine, a sister blog spot.

A recent study shows how long-term focus pays off. This study concentrated on switching the CEO compensation to longer-term. From that point forward, what happened, on average to several things related to the performance over time.

Great study was by Flammer and Bansal (2016) and summarized in the WSJ, CEOs should focus on the long term, a study says. Although the study is coming out soon in the Strategic Management Journal, you can find it here.

The researchers selected companies that were long-term focused based on those companies that had a long-term compensation package presented to the board that was narrowly approved. The narrowly approved implies that this was a bit of a surprise to the executives resulting, potentially, in a paradigm shift toward longer-term focus. The board voting was reviewed from 2005 through 2012 so that there would be room for performance analysis.

There are many positives related to long-term focus all around. Companies with a long-term focus do better all around (profits, net profit margin, sales, stock price, etc.). Those long-term focus had a statistically significant improvement over the longer term (2 years and longer). Interestingly, they had a small dip insignificant dip in the short term.

[Methodology and results related to patents is discussed here in the IPzine blog. There are lots of assumptions made about the close vote by the board to align compensation with long-term results in conjunction with the subsequent financial performance of these publicly traded firms. Patents were monitored to see how they cited past patents and the citations of the companies patents in the future. This gives a good proxy of the value of the patents and how revolutionary they are (to the firm).]

Verdict. Boards should focus on long-term for compensation. This means that they have to be willing to take lesser profits in the short term.

There are also very strong correlations to the KLD factors, collectively and all four components: employees, environment, consumers and society.
Verdict. Corporations should focus on sustainable, long-term targets for goals and for compensation.

They have some limitations to this study, but they also combine it with good literature support for long-term-centric management practices. And minimizing the principle-agent problem common to executive compensation.
We want everyone highly motivated by the long-term, sustainable success of businesses (& not-for-profits & Gov)...
Anything else is, well, short-sighted!

Azoulay P, Graff Zivin JS, Manso G (2011). Incentives and creativity: evidence from the academic life sciences. RAND Journal of Economics 42(3): 527–554.
Flammer, C., & Bansal, P. (2016). Does a long-term orientation create value? Evidence from a regression discontinuity. Strategic Management Journal. doi:10.1002/smj.2629

Monday, December 5, 2016

World Soil Day the down-and-dirty on Ag

When you eat, and as you eat today, give thanks to the soil that made it all possible.
USDA on Soil Day. December 5th.

Today is World Soil Day, and the the truth is in the soil. Neglect the soil long enough and all you have is depleted crops. AND no, it does not come in the usual 6-6-6 fertilizers that concentrate on only 3 components in the fertilizer while neglecting how the soil got depleted in the first place.

It has to do with cycles. Farms were never meant to have all the crops hauled away to the cities, with no mechanism to return the nutrients. We experienced this during dust bowl of the great depression, where top soil had been depleted and the ag practices tilled the land so the remaining topsoil was readily blown away.

We all need to think more about closed-loop ag systems. All crops begin with the nutrients and the soil. We neglect and deplete them at our own demise.

Eat well today, and think about fertile soil and healthy food systems.

Bon Appetite.

Corps report on sustainability, kinda

Good news corporations are reporting on sustainability-related issues, especially those risks associated with operating a business that does not account or consider the areas where they are not sustainable. Operations in the UnSustainable Zone have lots of risks such as, for example, the company may not really be profitable. Cheap coal, is not nearly so cheap when you figure in all the negative externalities: pollution, health, CO2, coal ash...

Check out this WSJ article about the reporting, or lack thereof, of sustainability by large companies. First, 81% of companies report something, but 52% of those reporting used "boilerplate language to flag the risks without articulating management response strategies."  That would mean, if I understand it correctly, that only 42% of big firms report meaningful information on sustainability and the risks to the organization. But using Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB, would give the reader/investor meaningful information about the true profitability (economic profit) and the underlying risks. (See wikipedia on SASB or

I know what you are thinking... These area the same types of risks that Sarbanes-Oxley was supposed to address. If the risks are real, and material, then they must be meaningfully assessed and reported. Right?

Top Companies Are Disclosing Sustainability Risks, But Not The Way Investors Want

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump of Sustainability - Paul Bunyan tromps again!

Sustainability efforts take a big hit with the Trump election to president.
Some forces are bigger than he, however.
Congress didn't act on most things sustainable-ish, so much of the Obama efforts have been by executive order and by regulations. The EPA on coal, for example. The right way to regulate emissions in general -- and fossil fuels specifically -- is by a carbon tax (or cap n trade). With a carbon tax, then all subsidies of all kinds can be readily removed and let the markets take care of resource allocation. New power and retirement of existing production takes care of itself.
So now, we can expect the EPA restrictions to be systematically eroded.
But, even if the EPA is removed from the picture, we should never expect to see another coal power plant. NatGas is so much cheaper -- in all the spellings of the word -- and dirt cheap. See our blog post on coal here.
One would hope, however, that Trump would take on bigger and more immediate issues before attacking the Paris agreement on climate change (COP21, and COP22 starting as we speak in Marrakesh). That is taking on a big segment of the US population and the will of the entire world that, up until Paris a year ago, has never agreed on many thing since the Montreal agreement on reducing fluorocarbons (and the recent extension of this in Oct-Nov 2016).
When we saw Virginia coming in all red, and only flipping blue based on metro areas (DC), you knew that Trumps message had really grabbed traction with the blue collar coal miners and such.
Sadly, the idea of putting coal back to work, is a painful lie to the mining community. Coal is never going to come back. Countries like Germany have totally retired the coal power. Even China may not put any more coal power plants to work; they're trying to get the air clean enough for people to breath.
The idea from Hillary was that she would make efforts to transition the "dead and dying back in my little [coal] town". The promise from Trump to put coal miners back to work is sadly a very cruel promise. Wishing it were true, does not make it so.
You have to feel for the miners though.
First we backed out of the Kyoto protocol, now we will back out of Paris. You have to really feel for those countries 200 countries that have been pushing so hard to address the huge footprint we are having on the planet, while the US, the Paul Bunyan of footprints, is putting on his BIG boots to go tromping again.
An added note is the horror story of a team that has been advising Trump on Energy and Environment, aka the agency formerly know as the EPA. This Scientific America article was in Sept 26th.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Oh Frack... Ain't no such thang clean oil n gas!

You've heard that there ain't no such thing as "Clean" Coal. Maybe scrubbing some of the sulpher and removing some of the heavly metals. But certainly not clean. And then there's the dirty little secret of Coal Ash!.

But this article sums up the current research related to fracking. Ouch. Evidense keeps mounting about the down-side of oil fracking. This article really sums it up. 

Link to the Ecologist article on Fracking.

Of course, our argument here at SustainZine, is focused around the sustainability nature of fossil fuels in general. It's okay, kinda, to use fossil fuels, but only do so when you have a long term plan that is sustainable, and this is the bridge to the future.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace. - The Washington Post

Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace. - The Washington Post:

This is a great article about the "open air" cubicle farm for workers. Or "fish bowl" for employees.

Telecommuting would help this work better. If someone has a real deadline and real work that needs to be done, they could work at home. Try to schedule meetings priority days so people who need to meet can all be on campus on specific days of the week (or month).

Productivity will go up. Huge amounts of savings will occur for everyone, and employees will be a whole lot happier. Wait until we really hit full employment and watch the fish start to migrate to better working conditions. (Economists used to think that 6% was full employment, now 5%. Moving past full employment tends to produce wage inflation as the only available human resources can be obtained by enticing talent from a friendly competitor.)

Teleworking might save the fishbowl, but it seems likely that the fishbowl has cracks.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

ipZine: The world's first super light folding electric bike | YikeBike

ipZine: The world's first super light folding electric bike | YikeBike:

This posted over at ipZine.The world's first super light folding electric bike | YikeBike: )

Even cooler than the Segway, and multiple times as functional.

Give a look at this YikeBike. When you see this bike, you will say Yikes!

It is reminisce of the old High Wheeler bikes with the monster wheel in front, and no gears (1-speed). But with a twist.

The question to ask is this new bike a true invention? Is it innovation? Or is it both?

It won the Time Magazine's intention of the year in 2009. Finalist in Nobel's Prize for Sustainability.

Part of that question might be answered by how many patents the technology harbors.

The main international PCT patent (2008-2009) has been filed in about 8 countries and does not appear to be issued yet. There are other interesting patent technologies integrated into the design. Here's the main patent WO2010007516A1 from the EPO.

It seems like a great alternative to the idea of our usual approach to jump into our SUV and drive a few streets to work or for a latte -- 180 pound person being transported by a 2,000 vehicle using a 300-400 horse power motor.

This idea seems to solve several problems with the bike as a mode of transportation, some problems that we never really knew we had.

When you look at the product, you will wonder where the motor and the batteries hide.

How does it keep from falling over in 3 different directions?

What is a "farthing" and how can it possibly be considered a great selling point? Even if you call it a "mini-farthing". Do we really need a secondary axis, orthogonal to the primary axis?

Can you take your YikeBike on your man bike (Harley) without being called out for having a "girlie-man bike"?

Where can you get a YikeBike? Apparently, they have free international shipping.

YikeBike comes with "the freedom to park wherever I DAMN please!"

Will people say, "Wow", "Cool" and "hip", or will they say:


Translation to English: The Carbon Fiber Model C weighs 25 lbs. goes about 14 mph max with a range of 12 miles. The model V weighs 30lbs (or 34 for the 3-wheeled V version).

Colour means Color in English and pictures pretty much speak for themselves without translation. Bet they even drive on the wrong side of the road?!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

2015 Earth fails another annual physical. Ugly Temp Rise!:-(

BAMS State of the Climate | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC):

State of the Climate: Earth fails another annual physical. Or, maybe better stated, human activity resulted in another horrible annual reading of Earths temps. Beyond time to move Earth from a Private room to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Unfortunately, 2015 blasted past all records set in 2014. The El Nino effect help somewhat, and looks like it will assist somewhat with 2016 setting even more records. Although el Nino is a natural occurrence, the effects can be removed statistically; plus, it should have less of an effect on 2016 which is on pace to shoot past the monthly and annual records of 2015.


The word used to describe the report was "Grim".

"Ugly", would be descriptive too.

Of the 50 or so metrics used, only Antarctica showed a few positive signs, mixed with some serious negatives. Highlights include:
  • Greenhouse gases hit records, passing the 400ppm of CO2, to blast past all modern records.
  • Surface temps set records by a mile, breaking the record set in 2014.
  • Sea surface temps set a record, breaking the record set in 2014. (Part of the El Nino effect as it pertains to the Pacific.)
  • Globally, upper ocean heat content exceeded the record set in 2014, "reflecting the continuing accumulation of thermal energy in the upper layer of the oceans. Oceans absorb over 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat from global warming."  Which brings us to thermal expansion, as water heats it expands. If average depths of oceans are 2 miles, that thermal expansion eventually adds up as temps permeate throughout the oceans.
  • Global Seal Levels highest on record. (Especially precises since the use of satellites over the last 20 years.) 
  • Extremes in water cycles and precipitation. 
  • And extreme weather. Thousands of people dies from heat in India/Pakistan, for example. 
  • In North America we don't realize what an ugly year 2015 was for cyclones because it was very tame for hurricanes. "There were 101 tropical cyclones across all ocean basins in 2015, well above the 1981–2010 average of 82 storms. The eastern/central Pacific had 26 named storms, the most since 1992." 
The main report site ( said this:

"The report, led by NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from 62 countries around the world and reflects tens of thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets (highlightsfull report (link is external)). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice and in space."

Lots of good places to go view more details about any and all discussions, statistics and assertions.

You choose the word: Ugly? Grim? @#$@#$@ ???

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Obama’s Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess - WSJ

Obama’s Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess - WSJ:

Bjorn Lomborg may have been best know for his massive tomb of a book entitled The Skeptical EnvironmentalistLomborg (2007) in The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World "may be the best source for reviewing the facts about quality of life, global
warming, and the optimal approaches for addressing the issues." (Hall, Taylor, Zapalski, & Hall, 2009, p. 5)

Apparently he has since gone off to consult for oil & gas interest. That's not all bad, but it does mean that he may not be unbiased as seemed to be the case during his Skeptical days.

Bjorn talks about, essentially, the bang for the buck ($US, in this case). The current Obama plan doesn't do much to move the global warming needle, especially given the costs. On the one hand, Obama will say that we have to start somewhere. In this case, and in several others, Bjorn simply says that this won't do much good. A smart guy like that should suggest better alternatives.

We, at SBPlan, argue that there are two monster places to start. AND neither requires the special help of government, really. Both are energy efficiency (EE) focused. Two EE business models that SBP especially likes are related to telecommuting using remote work centers and a pay-forward model
of promoting energy efficiency in all buildings – residential, commercial and
government. Since both of these initiatives save money, they offer a special win-win-win of sustainability (Employees, Employers and Environment, in this case).

I'm a little disappointing that Bjorn has been simply complaining about the expense and the likely lack of success from various government initiatives, not offering up his own recommendations. It's easy to complain and stop progress, but I give no respect to someone who does not offer up better alternatives. In the case of our non-sustainable practices of energy, the olde business as usual (BAU) model is a failed business model; it is only a matter of time for this living beyond our means model of existence will come crashing down.

Bjorn offers up more research, presumably to make renewables more affordable. And touts the Fracking-NatGas revolutions as a massive windfall for reducing our pollution and greenhouse gases away from coal. NatGas is both good and bad; it shifts us away from really dirty energy associated with coal. Yeah!:-) But it reduced the costs and availability of all oil, gas and coal such that we may have tagged on another 50 years worth of fossil fuels to global economies before we really start to run low(er) and basic economics starts to really solves our addiction to fossil fuels. 

If you read Bjorn's Skeptical Environmentalist, you will find that he totally believes that there is global warming and that man is a big (?major?) contributor. When you read this book you will agree, even before including the 10 record hot years since he published in 2007. What he does say, forcefully then, and now, is that we need to focus on the efforts that will result the move benefits. Huge government spending on reducing CO2, especially in developing countries, may have little, none, or even negative results. 

Bjorn ended up in a big tiff over the 2007 book Skeptical Environmentalist. If it was an opinion piece then it would be okay to take the liberties that he did with interpreting the results; but as a scientific book, he had gone way to far. The  Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) in Bjorn's home country, charged him with academic dishonesty in the book. This ruling went against Bjorn. On appeal the charge of scientific dishonesty was sent back for a do-over, where it stalled out.

Bjorg's follow Skeptical Environmentalist book(s) have titles that start with "Cool it!", concentrating on what to do that will likely have the most (short-term) benefits. 

Bjorg, don't just complain in op-eds about Obama and the other 200 countries who signed the Paris greenhouse deal this April (agreed to in Dec 2015). The average person reading this op-ed would think that we all should do nothing and wait for Bill Gates Foundation to find a cure. Give people real suggestions for actions. Or, are you simply trying to sell your books and consulting?


Hall, E., Taylor, S., Zapalski, C., & Hall, T.
(2009). Sustainability in education: Green in the facilities, but not in the
classrooms. Proceedings of the Society for Advancement of Management,
Lomborg, Bjorn. (2007). The skeptical environmentalist: Measuring the real state of the world. NY:
Cambridge University Press.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cleaning up our garbage patch takes a 21 year old

Cleaning up our (garbage patch) act is going to take some work.  It takes a 21 year old... see the refs to new studies. 700 pieces of plastic in the ocean for every man woman and child on Earth! And the problem is, that there will never be an end to the plastic until we stop producing it and shipping it off to Sea...

Everyone being simply more aware of the problem, that's actually a good start as well.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

State of the Profession 2016 | GreenBiz

State of the Profession 2016 | GreenBiz:

They dynamics of Sustainability professionals, like Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs), has had amazing change over the last 10 years.

This report is impressive in so many ways. One is that CSR and sustainability are merging. Another is that both seem to be merged (embedded) into the divisions of organizations.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Eat or Knot to eat Knot Weed - WSJ

Pittsburgh Tries to Eat Its Way Through a Savage Weed - WSJ:

What do you do, with Kudzu?

Invasives like kudzu and Japanese Knotweed, can take over square miles. They really go wild in strip mines and disturbed areas, and completely take over. Once started, the weed pushes out anything and everything in the surrounding areas -- an ugly mono-culture that disrupts entire ecosystems much like Melaleuca has done in Southern Florida.

Melaleuca trees transplanted to Florida to attempt to dry up the Everglades is not the same type that is found in herbs, incense  and oils. Ours tree apparently burn toxic, so firewood is out. One of the best uses of it is to make mulch... A rather cool business model where there's an endless supply, and land owners will typically pay you to take it. Getting paid twice for the same job, land owners and customers, while doing a good turn for the environment and society, has got to feel both good and green.

One of the best uses of kudzu, that invasive vine that has taken over the South (all the way down through Georgia), is to feed it to goats. Goats will eat anything. Once they eat all the kudzu in a field, they simply have to rest a while while it grows back.

Eating Knotweed is an interesting idea. It tastes a little like chicken, oops, no, that's an invasive animal. It apparently tastes somewhat like rhubarb. There is a limit to how much garnish people are willing to eat, however. I'm not sure that we could get everyone in the US to eat a couple helpings of rhubarb each day. Knotweed might require three helpings a day.

Unfortunately, knotweed often grows in disturbed soils like river banks and spent strip mines where the quality of the soil is not only poor, but often semi-polluted. Metals and heavy metals from coal dust/mines will make many knotweed harvests non-nutritious, at best. Modestly toxic at worst.

One of the best uses of knotweed would probably be biomass uses that go directly to incinerate, or are processed into ethanol. But, yet another kick in the pants: transporting knotweed  to the refinery/incinerator when in bloom, will spread the seed of invasion into fresh new virgin territories.

The weed is easily propagated from "cuttings" so 4-wheelers or trucks can readily spread the weed to places where it is not.

As with most (all?) invasives, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Song Of Fire And No Ice: We Just Had Our Fourth Record-Breaking Hottest Month In A Row This Year | ThinkProgress

A Song Of Fire And No Ice: We Just Had Our Fourth Record-Breaking Hottest Month In A Row This Year | ThinkProgress:

Oh poop, crap, scat!.

Each month of 2016 has been a record hot month. (Even though 2015 was wicked record hot with 10 months matching or exceeding record highs!)

April blew past the last record in 2015 by a mile or two (+0.28 C or +0.43 F). [See NASA summary data here. Note that you have to go back to 1992 to find the first negative monthly number (-1) below average, and much further to the 1970s to find a year with a good spattering of negative numbers (below the mean).]

If the first quarter holds true in predicting the full year, 2016 will take us to about +1.3 d C, almost three-forths of the way to that magical +2 d Centigrade that so many scientist warn we need to stay away from.

Good news, we'll be able to navigate the north pole by boat & barge form months this year. China's gonna love that, avoiding the Panama Canal.

The early thaw and dry conditions results in ugly fire conditions as demonstrated by the Alberta fires.

Ironically, the fires caused by global warming, aggravate and accentuate the very factors that cause -- you guessed it, global warming.

And, in a double irony, the oil sands have a very heavy carbon footprint and environmental footprint. (Do a Google search on Alberta "Oil Sands before and after".)  Visit Canadian TV News to look at McMurray fires.

Fire and no ice!.

Hot. Sad, True.


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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Volusia County Water Summit – Stetson Today

The Volusia County Water Summit – Stetson Today:

The water summit discussed here, turned out to be a rather big event. Really good information & analysis. The right people thinking about the right issues.

It seems that everyone agreed to do something about improving water management and water quality in the county. Although this is a non-binding agreement among the players, it is a really big step forward.

Once everyone realizes those few areas where most of the efforts should be focused, it really helps get a concerted effort from all of the players, private, public and individuals.

When we have these wicked algae blooms, that demonstrates a massive overshoot of what our waterways can handle. Such blooms cause problems all the way out to the reefs, accelerating the reef kill-off that has already been accelerating from record warm temperatures and increase acidification.

The quality of life as we know it, is being eroded by the quality of our water and waterways.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A single round (1 round) Delphi study. Conundrum of HR – Scenario Plans

A single round (1 round) Delphi study. How can that be? – Scenario Plans (:

Give a look at the two blogs related to Scenario plans and Delphi studies related to the 2007 research by Dr. Cheryl Lentz. Notice how Delphi-type research can be used for all kinds of studies.

These are two blog posts. One on the actual Delphi research doing two things that make it a modified Delphi: 1 round, and quantitative.

The second post is
We love Delphi for scenario planning and a mechanism for innovation. But scenario planning is absolutely critical for sustainability planning. 

See what you think?

Keywords: Scenario Plans, Horizon Planning, innovation, Delphi, Future, innovation, perpetual innovation, 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lagoon faces unprecedented peril |

Lagoon faces unprecedented peril |

Henderson does a great job of addressing the issues, the sources of the problems and various solutions.

Volusia County is not alone in dealing with these problems. Tampa Bay, St Lucy and more have similar problems. Lawns and septic tanks are mentioned. Many people have their lawns on automatic, so it gets irrigated, rain or shine, winter or summer. They want to have beautiful green lawns year round in Florida. Especially in the rainy season, the fertilizer washes off so they add even more.

Fertilizing at the right time, and careful water management is critical to avoiding all of the runoff of fertilizer. Systems are starting to get really smart, in fact, by sensing the moisture in the ground and checking weather forecasts. No need to water if it is likely to rain tomorrow.

But what do you do with people who won't be proactive in water management. In Florida, you have snow birds who are gone a lot. Renters who are less attentive and vacant houses.

Septic is another issue. Passing a law that everyone has to have it pumped and inspected every couple years is overkill. Probe tests are ineffective, the last I heard, so opening it and pumping it, is the only sure way. And moving to a mandatory municipal service has lots of problems.

In most of these areas, it seems that a combination of carrot and stick must be used.

And that's just two of the sources. There's Ag, industrial, traffic, boating and other sources of pollutants.

At the source types of remedies are always easiest. Identifying the biggest issues and concentrating on those big issues and are actionable is a critical place to start.

Imagine that almost every community everywhere (Flint, Michigan) is have medium to major water issues. Droughts, floods, contaminants, and aging water systems.

There are some good sources on the topic(s):
  • Out of water: From abundance to scarcity and how to solve the world's water problems by Chartres and Varma (2011).
  • Aqua Shock: The water crisis in America by Marks (2009)
  • World Water Day (at UN): 
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal:

The WSJ's big forum on ECOnomics seems to have been a great learning and sharing session for divergent ideas on how to blend economic growth/development with environmental needs.

A special report in the WSJ on Wed, April 13, 2016 offers several takes and interviews covering the spectrum of associated topics.

A couple base statistics are that coal generated electricity has dropped from half of all US generation to less than 1/3 within about 10 years. The big gain is Nat Gas, but that too is changing. In 2015 solar was the #1 install base with 9.5 gw (37% of new), NatGas 8 gw (31%), wind 6.8 gw (26%). Only 4% new nuclear and fractions of other.

Related to the switch from coal to NatGas, this is only a stop-gap measure: moving from one really bad non-renewable, coal; to a relatively better non-renewable, NatGas. Michael Brune from the Sierra Club comments on the methane and other issues that brings NatGas closer to parody with coal (really ugly vs. relatively ugly).

Coal is really taking a hit, as Peabody goes bankrupt this week, bringing down all of the big coal companies. No victory laps here; the pain and suffering in the mining communities is going to be horrendous. (Also, bankruptcy doesn't mean the mines will all stop, just that the debt associated with the companies will replace the equity positions.)

Even against crashing oil/coal prices, solar & wind are winning major solid footing. Even with the likelihood of subsidies going away, are now starting to be very price competitive (especially if you consider externality costs). BUT when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine (night) we still need regular power generation. Or battery-type storage.

You have to marvel at the gain of renewables during the second year of record low fossil fuel costs. That is really, really impressive.

Check out all the articles on the ECOnomics conference and interviews at the special business & energy section of the WSJ:

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Study Confirms World's Coastal Cities Unsavable If We Don't Slash Carbon Pollution | ThinkProgress

Study Confirms World's Coastal Cities Unsavable If We Don't Slash Carbon Pollution | ThinkProgress:

This article discusses the melt-off of Antarctica as discussed in a new Nature article. They did a better and more detailed analysis of the volume of water that would move into oceans as the Antarctic melts. They resolved a few of the issues that were not fully addressed by other studies. In addition to the models of ice volume/dynamics, they compared current warming with other times in history, thus offering benchmarks for validating their analysis.

Even as many areas of Antarctica have been collapsing at an alarming rate, there has also been evidence of the snow building in the center of the (island? of Antarctica). This Nature study seems to resolve these apparent inconsistencies. They build a strong argument that we need to do a LOT now, not later. Many coastal cities will partially or totally under water if we continue for several more decades under the old business-as-usual model of carbon emissions.

DeConto and Pollard (2016) in their article Contribution of Antarctica to Past and Future Sea-Level Rise look at ice dynamics to better analyze the volume of ice that should be displaced into the ocean waters as temperatures rise. They ran models under business-as-usual and more aggressive action scenarios. Then, they paired their results with key times in history where temperatures where high and sea-levels rose.

They concluded that a likely scenario if we delay action is 1 meter (3.28 ft.)  of sea-level rise by end of century and 15 meters (~50 ft) by 2500 that would be attributable to antarctic ice melt. Add thermal expansion and other factors and this represents an ugly, ugly prospect.

DeConto, R. M., & Pollard, D. (2016). Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise. Nature, 531(7596), 591–597. doi:10.1038/nature17145

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Call for Civility and Values-Based Leadership | Starbucks Newsroom

A Call for Civility and Values-Based Leadership | Starbucks Newsroom:

About March 20, there was a full-page add in the Wall Street Journal that had a heading of Howard Schultz calls for Civility and Value-Based Leadership and two column of words, 15 pairs. They were generally antonyms:
Division  < ==>  Unity
Cynicism  < ==>   Optimism
Limits < ==>  Opportunity
Isolation < ==>  Community
Apathy < ==>  Passion
Exclusion  < ==>  Inclusion
Partisanship < ==>  Leadership
Blame < ==>  Responsibility
Status Quo < ==>  Daring
Vitriol < ==>  Respect
Cowardice < ==>  Courage
Nostalgia < ==>  Vision
Fear < ==>  Love
Indifference < ==>  Compassion
Bystander < ==>  Upstander

... every day, we have a choice.

The next full page is essentially an open letter to America. Essentially a challenge from Schultz and Starbucks. It says when negative news every day ('cause only bad news is news) and the viscous political environment (including the next presidential cycle), "You could easily mistake America as a nation, lost. A people who have severed the common bonds that hold us together -- compassion, respect, shared responsibility, a belief in service, a willingness to unite despite our differences.

The add asks us to put aside hatred, vitriol and negativity and look at all the good. We are 300m plus people who mentor kids, help neighbors, and nurse the sick.

This positive story is the one that Schultz and all partners (employees) believe in; and they think every American should too.

The letter/add finishes with:

"This is not about the choice we make every four years. This is about the choice we make every single day."

Visit the newsroom to see the ads: Howard-Schultz-on-role-and-responsibility-of-citizens

There's an 8 min video where Schultz makes this same discussion to shareholders. Two years ago he make a challenge to corporations to be more socially responsible; this year he challenges all citizens.

The whole be-good-and-responsible effort caught a lot of attention from many media sources and the whole twitter scene. A lot of twitter love, but ironically, a lot of hate going on by people who were offended (trying to push individual values and virtues on them is just not right for a company).

Fox News took up the kinder-gentler America story. Ironically, after a rather fare and civil discussion about the civility campaign, they concluded that the left column was actually referring to only one American: Donald Trump. Hmmm? No one else has been throwing mud? Super PAC ads are measured in Pinocchio; a nose that grows with every second of airtime.

It seems that many people/groups need to get together, have a cup of Starbucks coffee, and listen. Notice, the word wasn't "talk". Lots of people talk, but almost no one listens.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The mercury doesn't lie: We've hit a troubling climate change milestone - The Boston Globe

The mercury doesn't lie: We've hit a troubling climate change milestone - The Boston Globe:

Bill McKibben gives a quick notice of the unbelievable occurrence. The 2 degrees Celsius above normal is that critical milestone that governments have arbitrarily chosen as the drop-dead level for the planet.

We'll congratulations, we have gotten there!

Somewhat humorously, you gotta laugh or you will cry, Anchorage, Alaska is importing snow for the great dog sled race. First year for no-show of snow!

Bill was active in the effort to try to roll back the CO2 levels of the planet to 350ppm from the 400 level we now find ourselves. Of course it has been only upward since then.


Double ouch!

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

The State of Green Business, 2016 | GreenBiz

The State of Green Business, 2016 | GreenBiz:

The latest report by GreenBiz (and Trucost) on the State of Green Business is great. Optimistic, but no green-colored glasses. There was a lot of progress in Paris (COP21) in December, but the progress from businesses is were major progress seems to be forming.

It is great to see businesses taking more control and starting to shape sustainability arguments and the form the solutions. We at SustainZine are not great proponents of big government efforts coming to "help" solve all the world's sustainability issues; businesses can avoid this help by being proactive (and no, proactive does not mean and army of K-street lobbyists protect smoke-stack industries and to inhibit all forms of progress).

More and more companies are offering more transparency about social and environmental impacts. More companies are stepping forward with transparency on the labels (Campbell's "non-GMO" labeling, for example) and more transparency on the footprint of the supply chain, and cradle-to-cradle efforts. Management should monitor their full impact on the environment, and investors should care about progress in the most critical areas of the business. Employees are critical to any and every sustainability effort, on corporate facilities, in transit, or in their personal lives.

It is possible to develop new business models. The sharing economy is kicking huge industries in the rears.  The sharing economy is causing massive and dynamic reallocated of time and resources of homes, cars, crowd funding and innovation on a time-share basis. The old economies of taxis and hotels are going to have to scramble to stay relevant, often sending them to court and to congress to try to stop the renegades from tipping over the ship. The time and resources savings from a sharing economy, often have profound savings to the environment. Many of these improvements in performance will go unmeasured by the traditional metrics of performance (like GDP).

On a leadership level. Just saying it out loud, seems to be the GIANT step: measurement, forming initiatives and the monitoring progress toward goals. As of 2014, about half of the companies had Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets. That percentage seems to be increasing at about 2-4% per year since this reporting was started a decade or so ago.

The current targets by companies represents only about 28% of what is needed in reductions by about 2030 of about 3 gigatons of GHG emissions reduction per year. With the magic of compounding geometric growth, the required reductions per year would need to be about 32 gigatons each year if we wait until 2050. (Or 51 gigatons reduction per year if we continue business as usual until 2100; obviously far too late to consider seriously since CO2 persists in the atmosphere for about 100 years.)

Sidebar on GHGs. In terms of greenhouse gasses, this year has blasted through the 400 ppm level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Look at the Keening Curve on this. January 2016 was 402.5 ppm. We may never be below 400 ppm again. Since this is an El Nino year, the September-to-September increase should be about +4 ppm, not the current trend of +2.2ppm per year base on the lowest month of the year (September in Mauna Loa, Hawaii). Paul Keening developed this curve starting with observatory data starting in 1958 when the CO2 level in the atmosphere was below 320 ppm. At that time the annual increase was about +0.75 ppm but quickly jumped during the global industrialization to the current average increase of +2.2 ppm each year. Many (rapidly becoming most) scientist believe that we need to get down below the 350 ppm level to avoid massive impacts from warming and climate change.

A decent percentage of companies are reporting on water, about 20% in the US and 15% globally. This seems unnecessary for many companies.

There is an interesting discussion and presentation related to natural capital (R&D, investments, profits and savings).  Natural capital costs are the unpaid costs to the economy from pollution, natural resource depletion and related health costs (see the Natural Capital Project and at Stanford). Natural capital takes into consideration factors that tends to elude normal accounting and finance. A company's financials may show profits, but when all costs are considered -- including externalities -- those profits might evaporate. In fact, the S&P 500 have natural costs of about $1T per year and overall natural costs have escalated about 22% since the great recession. If all costs were considered, about 115% (to 153%) of corporate accounting profits would be wiped out in the US (and globally). (Even if you question the cost assignments for natural costing, the general methodology is sound; and this is not a pretty picture of corporate sustainability in terms of true profits.)

So, in the real world, with full costing, corporations, on average, are not profitable. And, if the company is not sustainable, then the true costs and profits are not real. Right?

Innovation and patents: Lot's of CleanTech patents, but the number is way down. The measure of Clean Tech patents is fuzzy and getting fuzzier. Electronic and auto companies (Toyota & Honda) are at the top of the list of patents. But IBM is not listed.

GreenBiz and Trucost have a wonderful 2016 report; and lots of progress is being made, in large and small ways. But keep in mind that too much reporting is, well, too much. We don't want businesses to adopt (or have forced on them) the same approach from education where testing and reporting has replaced much (most) of the teaching/learning!:-(

But, for the 50% of business that is not reporting (may not be monitoring at all), no metrics and no reporting has multiple implications. First, you obviously don't have a business plan, if you don't also have a sustainability plan in it. Second, you definitely don't know your true costs if you don't assess externalities and supply chain. Third, you have no idea what all your risks are, so you have no ability to manage or mitigate them. Even Sarbains-Oxley would have to kick in at some point when it becomes "material" to the company. Lastly, you don't know if you are actually, and truly profitable, your accounting system misrepresents the business.

If you like Sarbains-Oxley, then you will have no end of joy if/when governments starts requiring more environmental or natural capital reporting. Seems like businesses should take initiatives voluntarily, and on their own terms. A sustainable leader would insist on knowing a fully sustainable path forward. Investors, business partners and employees would want to know.

Note that this report is based on a Trucost database of 12,000 global companies that represents 93% of the world markets by market cap.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

2015 hottest year, by a mile

Sadly, 2015 was really hot. Record hot. And it set a record for breaking the record (set last year in 2014).
Ouch, ouch and double ouch!.
This was a wicked El Nino year. Only an El Nino year last century competes with the hottest 14 years this century. Apparently, the follow through from El Nino starting in 2015 should leave 2016 as a rather hot year.
One of the best summations on the subject came from NPR. Or Global Warming in Wikipedia, where you will find the best, most current, information on sustainability in the world.
Starting in 2014, we had half of the months as record hottest months. 2015 had most of the months being the hottest on record; 10 months in 2015 matched or exceeded all time recorded history records! (Ask when we last had a record COLD year, or even a record COLD month, and you will get goose bumps!)
Fortunately -- finally -- most of the people in the US are finally coming around to the fact the we do, in fact, have global warming. See blog here.
As CO2 blasted past 400 ppm in 2015, we have only just begun this journey into uncharted territory. And, CO2 can be expected to persist in the atmosphere for about 100 years.
It took the earth 50 to 500 million years to store up the coal and oil we seem determined to burn up in about 2 centuries. And in the process we are releasing mass quantities of carbon into earth's ecosystem that has been happily sequestered, like diamonds in the rough, for 100 million years or more.
We at SustainZine, propose actions that we all could take immediately. Within a day or so, we all could have taken energy efficiency actions on our homes, businesses and churches. Wa-la... Save energy, save money, save the environment (a little for each of us). A perpetuity of savings.
Telecommuting/telework is a wonderful place to start with businesses. Huge savings of energy, time and life. A perpetuity of savings if the non-drive to work, continues to work.
And there are many things like this that we can do without the "help" of government.
Education, likewise, is critical for us all to start making more informed decisions. There are easy things that we all should be doing, right here, right now. We also need to be continually aware of the BIG factors, so that they are in the forefront of our future decisions and actions.
Business as usual is something we need to continually question. That's what got us into this situation. Unconscious decisions are still decisions.
A business without a sustainability plan, does not really have a business plan.
2016 seems like a year when sustainability will start to gain firm footing in the US. Each of us can start by save a watt and save a gallon.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

FDA miss, more or less!

Uncle Sam Just Told Us To Drink Water, Not Soda. You Might've Missed It

The guidelines, and the pictures, should be, and could be, very simple.
More... fresh fruits and vegetables. More water. More exercise.
Less... Processed foods, red meat, and sugary soft drinks.
Simple. And fits nicely into almost any diagram you want to make.

Manatees, and turtles, back from the extinction vortex

Finally, Some Good News For Manatees And Green Sea Turtles