The devastation in the Philippines reminds us of our responsibility to stop profiting from the wreckage caused by companies whose business plan includes destroying the planet, writes Jamie Henn of 350.org.
We’re paying for the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in more ways than we know.
Earlier this week, the governor of one of the regions in the Philippines hardest hit by Haiyan estimated that the cost of the storm and recovery could top well over $14 billion (£8.7 billion). The cost in lives is now believed to be well over 10,000.
It is moving to see the outpouring of aid from around the world. Thousands of people are donating online. The US has committed to provide $20m in immediate aid efforts and will hopefully contribute much more in the weeks and months to come. The UK has pledged at least £10m, while an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee raised £13m in its first 24 hours.
But we aren’t just paying for the outcome of this disaster. We’re paying for the cause of it.
Haiyan wasn’t a natural disaster: it was a climate disaster; a disaster fuelled by the coal, oil, and gas companies that continue to pour billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, disrupting our climate and loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan.
The fossil fuel industry and its allies are quick to point out that no single weather event can be tied to the climate disruption they’re fuelling, but scientists are making it increasingly clear that there are several ways climate change is affecting typhoons like Haiyan, and will continue to do so in the future.
Much of the global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. The sea surface temperatures near the Philippines are exceptionally warm: 2C above normal in some regions, on top of the baseline warming of 0.6C.
Since warmer air holds more water than cold, climate change is projected to increase the precipitation associated with tropical cyclones by 20% by the end of this century. Extreme rain is one of the largest threats from cyclones like Haiyan, since it can trigger landslides and flash floods.
Much of Haiyan’s destructive power came from the storm surge that the typhoon brought with it, a wall of water that drowned people in their homes, churches, and community centres where they were seeking refuge. Climate change has already caused about eight inches in global sea level rise and threatens to cause much more if left unchecked, making these storm surges all the worse.
The fossil fuel industry has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of changing its business plan, even though scientists and economists have explained that in order to keep global warming below 2C, a globally agreed-upon target, roughly 75% of fossil fuel reserves must stay underground.
To make matters worse, every day corporations like Exxon, Chevron, Gazprom, and Shell are together spending hundreds of millions of dollars looking for new reserves, drilling the Arctic, blowing up mountains for coal and fracking our backyards.
And we’re paying them to do it. We give them the permission to profit from this wreckage with the dollars we invest in their companies. We let them keep their social license to operate by offering sponsorship of our arts institutions, our universities, and our public airwaves. And we let them greenwash by indulging in shareholder advocacy that amounts to little more than arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Any institution or investor that has large amounts of money in the fossil fuel industry should take hard look at the devastation caused by Haiyan. Own a few shares of Exxon? Perhaps that fallen tree or knocked-over wall is your dividend. Own an entire company? Start claiming entire towns that have washed away. Count your profit in lives lost.
We all have a moral responsibility to reduce our emissions, but we have a far greater responsibility to stop profiting from the wreckage caused by companies whose business plan includes destroying the planet. Changing our lightbulbs, taking public transit, reducing our meat consumption: these are all important steps, but they’re not going to come anywhere close to addressing the climate crisis. We need massive structural change and it’s the fossil fuel industry that’s holding it back.
It’s our duty to take them on. It’s time to tell our public institutions to divest from disaster.
The growing fossil fuel divestment campaign has already spread to more than 500 universities, cities, and religious institutions across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. As the campaign continues, we’ll be armed not only with financial graphs and economic models, but with pictures from Haiyan, Bopha, and Sandy, photos of the wildfires, droughts, flooding, and other disasters where climate change has played a role.
And we’ll tell our institutions, “This is yours. You’re profiting from this wreckage instead of investing in the solutions that could help prevent it. Now that you know the science, you have a moral duty to act. And we’re going to make sure you do.”
Jamie Henn wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, non-profit media organisation that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Jamie is co-founder of the activist group 350.org, where he serves as communications director and East Asia co-ordinator.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
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
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.