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Is Hargreaves Lansdown’s head of investment research an ‘open-minded’ climate sceptic?

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Dictionaries define research as, “The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.” By any standard, impartial research into climate change has set a very high bar in proving human causation.

Climate change will affect investment performance. When the world’s biggest investors call for urgent action on climate change, anyone working in finance should sit up and listen and probably include it in their investment research and analysis.

We were therefore surprised to see what looked like a climate sceptic tweet from Hargreaves Landsdown head of research, Mark Dampier. Hargreaves Lansdown is a major financial services provider and asset management specialist. Its mission is “to help investors make more of their investments by providing the best information, the best service and the best prices.”

Dampier regularly appears in the national press decrying the folly of ethical investment. It is hard to believe any systematic investigations on the impact of climate change on investment performance are happening, if his starting point is that those who accept the science have a “zealot self-righteous approach of pro-climate side.”

Accepting the science and being right is not self-righteous. We accept the consensus science on gravity, so why not climate?

Futhermore, understanding the impact of climate change on our planet and future generations and demanding urgent action is not zealotry.

We would also like to think most people are ‘pro-climate’. What is the alternative? No climate. Anti-climate?

While Dampier’s opinions are clearly his own, his perspective goes to the heart of Hargreaves Lansdown’s “best” advice to the client. He is head of research after all.

It is widely recognised that climate change will have a significant effect on fund and equity performance in the coming years. Commodities, and the economies that depend on them as both importers and exporters, will become increasingly volatile and unstable.

In an email exchange with Blue & Green Tomorrow in March, when asked, “Are there no moral or ethical issues to consider when investing?” Dampier said it was “for an individual to decide, not me for them.”

Presumably, the financial services industry therefore needs to advise on the long-term risks in continuing as we are. Advocating ever-greater investment in mining and fossil fuels exacerbates the risks to his clients, who investment managers have a duty to protect. Scepticism of the science suggests one is ignoring that systemic risk.

Dampier also tweeted the myth that it is our “absurd energy policy predicated on climate change” (renewable energy subsidies, we guess) that are driving up energy prices, rather than the considerably larger subsidies for fossil fuels, rising wholesale prices for fossil fuels and the alleged collusion of Big Energy and Big Oil in fixing prices.

Never mind the massive healthcare bill, our “absurd” policy of burning fossil fuels leaves us with increasing respiratory problems and heart disease.

Adding context to the brevity of Twitter, Dampier expanded on his comments to Blue & Green Tomorrow: “It is of course my job to challenge and, climate change or not, our energy policy seems governed by it, meaning thousands of people won’t be able to afford to heat themselves. Solar and wind as yet at least are not a replacement.

We need to get to the stage that you buy these irrespective of climate etc, because they are the most efficient and the cheapest.”

He also tweets the lie that global temperatures have not increased for 15 years. He questions, “What happened to hot summers promised!?” But the science never said summers would be sunnier; just hotter and wetter.

Even casual research into global temperatures shows that over the long-term, “Empirical measurements of the Earth’s heat content show the planet is still accumulating heat and global warming is still happening. Surface temperatures can show short-term cooling when heat is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, which has a much greater heat capacity than the air.”

As climate scientist James Hansen pointed out on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to Sarah Montague (who was trotting out the same lazy journalism about temperatures stopping), air particulates produced by the increased burning of fossil fuels in China and India have a short-term cooling effect as they reflect sunlight back into space. The key point is that this is short-term effect. Over time, this means we are storing a far greater problem as CO2 levels rise.

It is a well-known fact that air particulates cool the planet. Volcanoes, plane contrails, clouds and pollution are some of those cooling factors. The problem is that this cooling effect is short-lived and we will reach a tipping point where no amount of particulates can halt the accumulating heat. The record summer melting of the big mirror at the top of our planet (the Arctic) should even give sceptics cause for concern. Though many simply rub their hands over the mineral rights and new trading routes.

Dampier also bizarrely tweeted, “We live in a democracy too so the sceptics should be allowed a voice, silencing them just increases scepticism!”

Non-scientists and, more importantly, non-climate scientists are given acres of column inches and airtime in the national press and on television and radio to spout their climate sceptic nonsense. Delingpole, Monckton and Lawson do not have a science degree between them.

Far from silenced, they are given equal billing in the broadcast media and are overwhelmingly disseminated in the climate sceptic press. If this is silenced, we can’t imagine how cacophonous they would be if they were given free rein.

Just before we published this piece, Dampier tweeted, “But in politics and science unless you sign up for the new religion you don’t have a career.”

In politics, George Osborne, Nigel Lawson and Peter Lilley all seem to be doing quite nicely without ‘signing up to the new religion’. In science, consensus is not a dirty word; nor is it a religion. Quite the opposite, in fact. Calling it one means you do not understand the very principles of scientific research and have nothing valuable to contribute to the debate.

This goes to the heart of why sustainable investment is not more mainstream and mainstream investment is not more sustainable. If investment researchers and journalists allow their profound prejudice and ignorance about climate change to influence their research in any way, then it’s junk.

Were this the 19th century, we’re fairly confident these people would be happy to recommend investing in slavery due to the excellent returns.

After all, ethics are for an individual to decide, not me for them.”

UPDATE: Dampier sent the following additional comments to B&GT.

– “A great misrepresentation of my views, but interesting to note that anyone who questions anything on climate change is immediately attacked

B&GT responds: Defending our children against those who would seek to ruin their future and profit from the fallout, is not an attack. It is our responsibility. The investments you recommend are an attack on our planet and its people.

– “Germany has embraced green energy so much that it is now having to build new coal power stations

B&GT responds: Germany is investing in coal as it has divested from nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. It has nothing to do with renewables. 

– “The truth is that renewables are so heavily subsidised that they are creating unintended consequences

B&GT responds: Renewables are far less subsidised than fossil fuels. This creates expected consequenes such as the funding of climate denying organisations.

– “I think a degree of healthy scepticism on most things is exactly what you need from a head of research

B&GT responds: Healthy scepticism is fine; it’s what scientists do. Calling climate scientists “zealots” is not healthy scepticism.

Further reading:

How denial works: from geocentrism to tobacco to climate change

Honesty, subtlety and complexity in science reporting

Climate sceptics are our generation’s slavery apologists

Pick-and-mix dogma is unethical and intellectually dishonest

The four horsemen of the climate apocalypse

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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