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Watching Hurricane Sandy shows us the future of our climate

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The scale of Hurricane Sandy is unprecedented, with much of America’s east coast affected in some capacity. But is its devastation a sign of things to come? Welcome to the rest of our lives.

It could be seen to be insensitive to discuss the cause of Hurricane Sandy, when a large number of lives and livelihoods are likely to be lost or affected during its journey. But it needs to be discussed and we urgently need to learn from our mistakes.

Anyone who says there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality”, said Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, in a statement today.

So let’s address the facts. Climate change is happening; North America is seeing more droughts, the North Atlantic is seeing more tropical storms (see chart below) and more intense hurricanes; ocean heat content is over double what it was for the bulk of the 20th century and Arctic sea ice reached its lowest ever level earlier this year.

Annual Frequency of North Atlantic Tropical Storms

And while many journalists and commentators have covered all bases by not categorically stating that climate change is the real driver behind Hurricane Sandy – and other extreme weather events – all the evidence points to it being a key influence.

Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms”, wrote Mark Fischetti, senior editor of the Scientific American.

For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.”

Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow in May, Asher Minns, communications and centre manager at The Tyndall Centre – a partnership of eight UK universities that are sharing expertise to develop responses to climate change – said, “Though you can never say that one extreme weather is due to climate change, there is an increasing likelihood that there are particular weather patterns that are only explained if you factor manmade emissions into the calculations.”

Indeed, the 2003 heat wave in Europe, for example, can only be explained when an increase of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is factored in, as relayed in an investigation by a group of scientists for the science journal Nature in 2004.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the foremost climate change research organisation in the world – has connected extreme weather events to climate change in many reports – the most recent of which was published in March this year.

What’s more, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re – which essentially insures insurance companies – is so certain that extreme weather events are inflated by climate change that it places the issue right at the centre of its business plan.

For the insurance industry the effects of global warming are clearly a game changer”, it said.

The enormous losses translate into increasing payouts by insurers which ultimately reduce their bottom lines. Consumers are also affected through higher insurance rates in the long haul.”

We know that climate scientists across the globe are in unified agreement that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. As James Balog put it in the soon-to-be-released documentary film, Chasing Ice, scientists are not arguing about this anymore.

But it’s important to distinguish the difference between climate and weather at this point. A popular argument from the climate sceptic or denier camp is that the weather fluctuates all the time, and that just because there is snow or a cold spell, global warming can’t be happening. This is a big fallacy in climate debates.

As NASA puts it, “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”

With less than a week to go until the presidential election, Barack Obama is presented with an opportunity to display strong leadership in the face of extreme adversity – at a time when direction and reassurance is what the American people desperately need.

As the current incumbent of the White House, Obama’s performance and character during this period of crisis over the next few days might just decide his fate for the next four years.

Cutting back on fossil fuels now won’t stop Hurricane Sandy from wreaking havoc across the east coast over the next few days. We can only hope that its impact will be accounted for, its death toll minimal and its long-lasting effects limited

But sadly, this seems unlikely.

It remains to be seen how long the US – and indeed, the rest of the world – will go on witnessing and cleaning up after devastatingly extreme weather events, despite strong evidence that climate change is ramping up the frequency of such occurrences. The human race, after all, is only so resilient.

Investment in clean and sustainable energy, agriculture and transport is desperately needed if we are to quell the impact of future disasters and leave a hospitable planet to future generations.

We’re reaching the point where we might want to consider naming hurricanes after oil companies”, author and founder of environmental organisation 350.org, Bill McKibben, told Blue & Green Tomorrow.

Let’s hope we learn from these mistakes.

Blue & Green Tomorrow writes about sustainability and, in particular, sustainable investment. Investment trade outstrips real trade 26:1 and shapes the world we live on. We’re currently crowdfunding our next few reports. Please support us at http://www.sponsume.com/project/blue-green-tomorrow.

Further reading:

IPCC report links weather extremes with climate change

Impacts of climate change already evident

Climate confusion

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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