Climate News Scan: February 1, 2011
Some highlights from this weeks News Scan:
- Smaller US companies lagging in climate change reporting
- 2010 hits global temperature high
- Many shades of green: diversity and distribution of California’s green jobs
The PICS News Scan is a weekly summary of the major climate-change related science, technology, and policy advances of direct relevance to B.C. government, business, and civil society and Canada at large. Originally posted here. Reposted with permission.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Smaller US companies lagging in climate change reporting
January 17, 2011. A new report, entitled Risk and opportunity in a low-carbon business climate: small and mid-caps & climate change demonstrates just how far small and mid-cap companies in the US have yet to go in preparing for the transition to a low-carbon economy. The report, authored by Clean Air – Cool Planet (CA-CP), examines the disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities by 364 companies representing the top 50 percent of market capitalization among the Russell 2000 Index of small to mid-cap companies. Although 56 of the 364 companies published sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, the CA-CP study found that only 39 (10.7 percent) recognized climate change at all, while only four of 364 companies reported their greenhouse gas emissions.
98% of businesses in British Columbia employ fewer than 50 people, and are therefore classified for tax purposes as small businesses. According to BC Stats, they number 395,900 in the province and generate 32% of the province’s GDP, higher than the Canadian average of 28%. In 2009, Livesmart BC sponsored 20 small and medium-sized businesses to create their own emissions inventory and in 2007, with the launch of the carbon tax, Ecotrust began offering services to help small businesses decrease their carbon footprint. Small businesses in BC now pay 2.5% of profit as income tax on earnings over $500,000. The tax rate was lowered from 4.5% when the carbon tax was introduced, and will be reduced to zero in 2012. The carbon tax, therefore, will likely become the largest tax BC small businesses pay, providing a great incentive to emit as few greenhouse gases as possible.
Research Theme II: Sustainable communities
Shale gas moratorium in UK urged by Tyndall Centre
January 17, 2011. The Co-operative Group, a UK food-to-banking conglomerate, and the Tyndall Centre have published a report calling for a moratorium on all extraction of natural gas from the UK’s shale formations until all the ecological implications are fully understood. The report raises serious questions about environmental and human health risks. Also of note in this area, in the US this week, a group of investors have filed shareholder resolutions with nine oil and gas companies, asking them to disclose their policies and strategies for reducing environmental and financial risks from chemical use and water impacts from fracking for shale gas extraction.
Concerns over shale gas extraction in British Columbia have been raised recently. In August 2010, for example, PICS published a White Paper, “Shale Gas and Climate Targets: Can They Be Reconciled?”, by Mark Jaccard and Brad Griffin of Simon Fraser University. The paper focused on the greenhouse gas implications of shale gas extraction. Furthermore, the Calgary-based Canadian Society for Unconventional Gas, an industry-backed association, stated in October of last year that in northeastern BC the full-blown development in some of these shale regions will tax water availability if industry proceeds with a traditional, business-as-usual approach to water use. Researchers at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto have warned that provincial and federal regulations covering hydraulic fracturing haven’t kept pace with development of the resource, which could threaten water supplies for communities near water reserves.
2010 hits global temperature high
January 20, 2010. The year 2010 ranked as the warmest year on record, together with 2005 and 1998, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO concludes that 2010 was 0.53C (0.95°F) warmer than the average for the period 1961-90, a period commonly used as a baseline. These statistics are based on data sets maintained by the UK Meteorological Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit (HadCRU), the US National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Over the ten years from 2001 to 2010, global temperatures have averaged 0.46°C (0.83°F) above the 1961-1990 average, and are the highest ever recorded for a 10-year period since the beginning of instrumental climate records. The WCO is the United Nation’s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water.
The year 2010 was also characterized by a high number of extreme weather events, including the heat wave in Russia, severe monsoonal related floods in Pakistan, and the worst Amazon drought in recent history. The state of Queensland in NE Australia experienced extensive flood damage, which in financial terms is expected to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia’s history.
Such events focus attention on British Columbia’s adaptation strategy, which is designed to increase resilience in the face of a changing climate.
Research Theme III: Resilient ecosystems
Blue carbon initiatives emerging as promising carbon sinks
January 24, 2011. Scientists from the US Geological Survey are praising peaty wetlands for their carbon storage capabilities. The emerging ‘blue carbon’ initiative, so named for its ability to capture and store carbon dioxide in coastal and ocean environments, highlights wetland restoration as a mechanism to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In addition to the ability to sequester carbon, wetlands also help the land keep pace with rising seas by accumulating more underwater plant mass as water rises. Wetlands protect coastal communities from severe storms and floods, and support recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing, boating and birding.
The evidence presented by these scientists shows that we can protect and restore wetlands and sequester carbon at the same time, while also enjoying the adaptation benefits that wetlands provide to our waterways. This information can be used to inform policy development around the Province’s Climate Action Plan. The mitigation and adaptation benefits that wetlands provide should also be considered when the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands considers land use change in the Province.
Research Theme IV: Social mobilization
Many shades of green: diversity and distribution of California’s green jobss
January 18, 2011. A new study has found that green jobs are flourishing in California, with nearly a quarter of hiring companies based in Los Angeles. Employers offering jobs in fields such as solar power generation, electric vehicle development, environmental consultation and more added 5,000 jobs in 2008. The non-profit research group Next 10 said approximately 174,000 Californians were working in eco-friendly fields by early 2009, compared to 111,000 in 1995. This green workforce expanded 3% from January 2008 to January 2009 or around three times the growth of overall employment throughout the state. Figures show that green hiring is down slightly in both the Los Angeles area and the ‘Inland Empire’ region, where the impact of the economic downturn on the construction industry trickled into energy-efficiency retrofit companies. Green transportation companies buoyed the green economy as they are developing battery technologies and alternative fuels such as algae.
The Globe Foundation released a report on BC’s green economy stating that it was responsible for nearly 166,000 direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs in 2008 – equal to 7.2% of total provincial employment. The largest number of green jobs can be found in areas that include wholesale trade for green products, professional environmental-related services and research, administrative and support services, green construction, and public transit and ground passenger transportation. The report highlighted that a limited supply of skilled greentech workers may be one of the largest constraints to greening BC’s economy. Importantly, the California and BC studies show that climate policy and pricing of carbon does not have a detrimental impact on the local job market.
Ban Ki-Moon addresses young future energy leaders at world future energy summit
January 17, 2011. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to young future energy leaders at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, and told them they were on the brink of an exciting, sustainable future. To get there, he said, they needed to become scientists, engineers, business people and policymakers who are passionate about using the Earth’s resources responsibly and about sustainable development. The Secretary-General noted that engaging with the youth of today is a vital part of tackling the challenges of climate change.
BC’s youth seem to be engaged with climate change on a number of fronts. Livesmart BC reports that post-secondary institutions have taken a very collaborative approach in responding to their carbon neutral commitments. Meanwhile, goBeyond is a youth-led project working to educate, inspire, engage and support our peers in taking climate action at British Columbia’s schools, colleges and universities. Sophie Harrison, a Grade 11 student at Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver, started the youth group Kids for Climate Action last year: the group has a website, a facebook page, an article in the Tyee and has organised several flashmobs and letter-writing campaigns to the federal government.
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