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Jupiter’s Charlie Thomas: Joining the Dots Between Climate Change and Strategic Risks

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The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 11th annual Global Risk Report named “failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation” as the top global risk for 2016 and beyond, making a case for linking this to other high-ranking risks such as “large-scale involuntary migration” and “water crises”.

The findings reflect a shift in perceptions, to the point where an understanding of the link between these risks should inform political and investment decisions for years to come, according to Charlie Thomas, manager of the Jupiter Ecology Fund.

The release of the 11th edition of the WEF’s Global Risk Report was one of the most compelling aspects of this annual summit in Davos. This insightful report, which shows the results of a survey of 750 WEF members, sent a clear message: climate change risk is now understood as one of the key long term risks faced by the global economy in terms of its perceived likelihood and economic severity.

Syria – where climate change meets government failure?

Particularly interesting is the recognition of the link between failure to deal with climate-change and risks such as “profound social instability” and “large-scale involuntary migration”. Although these links are softer by degrees than, say, climate change risk and extreme weather events, academic research suggests it is indeed a link that needs to be taken seriously: extreme climate events are expected to lead to the further displacement of populations. When combined with poor governance (or even government failure) the level of unforced migration and social instability has the potential to become acute – as the recent exodus from Syria demonstrates.

Particularly interesting is the recognition of the link between failure to deal with climate-change and risks such as “profound social instability” and “large-scale involuntary migration”. Although these links are softer by degrees than, say, climate change risk and extreme weather events, academic research suggests it is indeed a link that needs to be taken seriously: extreme climate events are expected to lead to the further displacement of populations. When combined with poor governance (or even government failure) the level of unforced migration and social instability has the potential to become acute – as the recent exodus from Syria demonstrates.

The conflict in Syria and its causes are obviously immensely complex. However, an academic paper entitled “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought” published in the influential US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has suggested that “human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict”. The paper incorporates climate change modelling and research on the link between climate and conflict.

The Global Risks Landscape

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Source: World Economic Forum

Between 2007 and 2010, Syria and the wider Fertile Crescent suffered the worst drought on instrumental record. This led to massive agricultural failures that were exacerbated by unsustainable policies introduced earlier by President Hafez al-Assad (1971-2000) that led to the depletion of groundwater supplies and left Syria vulnerable to drought.

The 2007-2010 drought forced an estimated 1.5 million people from rural areas, putting pressure on urban centres. Climate models suggest that the extremity of the drought could not be explained as an anomaly due to natural causes, but was rather exacerbated by the longer-term drying trend in the region as a result of human-induced climate change. The report’s authors argue there is “a connecting path running from human interference with climate to severe droughts to agricultural collapse and mass human migration.”

Global Risks Interconnections Map 2016

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Limiting warming a matter of social security

Our environmental and sustainability team at Jupiter monitor research into the link between climate change and conflict as part of our overall research effort, to understand potential drivers behind policy in this area. In November last year, we invited Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti – the UK’s former Climate and Energy Security Envoy special envoy – to speak at an event we hosted in the lead up to the UN climate talks in Paris. During his talk, he painted a picture of a world in which increased climate change stress on food production, water supplies and the health consequences of natural disasters would contribute to social instability and conflict. In a recent opinion, he concluded: “Failure to act [to mitigate climate change] will likely result in a more unstable world, one that will require NATO forces to be deployed, not just in a humanitarian role but also conflict prevention and, ultimately, conflict resolution.” A stark warning, indeed.

Implications

Join the dots between the WEF report, research on the role of climate change in the Syrian conflict and the prescient comments of Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti and it is clear that climate change is no longer an event in the distant future, but a challenge for today. That the interconnections between climate change and other economic and social risks are becoming more widely understood should add to the policy momentum shown at the UN climate change conference in Paris late last year. When it comes to investment, companies that can help build resilience by improving water management or that develop energy systems to mitigate climate change risk should indirectly have a contribution to make in addressing this risk and should, in my view, continue to see high levels of demand.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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