Can a Climate Change Film Be As Memorable As TERMINATOR?

by Alex Duff, Corporate Affairs Manager, Kingfisher – Net Positive

Can you tell a story about climate change that’s as memorable as Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies, Titanic or Avatar?  James Cameron, the acclaimed director of all of those blockbusters, clearly thinks it’s worth a shot given his involvement in a nine part docu-series that had its premier screening in London this week.  He’s not alone – a long list of movie stars, movie makers and many others have joined him in creating "Years of Living Dangerously" which has already been launched to critical acclaim in the USA.

Hollywood glamour

Whilst we weren’t at the Leicester Square Odeon, there was no red carpet and not a Hollywood movie star in sight, for those of us in sustainability more familiar with finding our stories knee-deep in a peat bog or skip-diving, the London premier held at the Soho Hotel certainly provided more than a glimpse of Hollywood glamour.  Perhaps more importantly though, it served as a powerful reminder of how clever interventions and effective storytelling can reach an audience beyond (excuse the pun) "The Usual Suspects."

Happy endings

"Years of Living Dangerously" is a beautifully shot series told from those already coping with the destruction of climate change yet it’s a far cry from the doomsday endings of the likes of "The Day After Tomorrow."  Indeed, one of the series’ most refreshing aspects is that it offers hope and shows how working solutions are being put into place – we just need to do more of it and faster.

Humanising climate issues

None of us know how our climate change narrative will unfold or who it will touch as it does but what ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ does is humanise climate issues, make them accessible through film and help galvanize people on the need for climate action now.  I left the theatre feeling optimistic, having been shown not only what’s at stake but what we can do to help ourselves.  You don’t have to take my word for it though – you can check out the first episode for yourself and, if you enjoy it, please spread the word: www.yearsoflivingdangerously.com

Premier screening

Kingfisher sponsored the London premier screening of "Years of Living Dangerously," which was kindly hosted by Rt Hon Greg Barker MP, former Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and supported by Tom Murray from Environmental Defense Fund – an organisation working to accelerate environmental innovation in business products, services and operations.

Blockbusting carbon and cash savings

The episode screened at the London premier showed how in the last six years, 600 MBA students have been placed by Environmental Defense Fund into major U.S. corporations where they analyse the energy waste of that business and then propose efficiency solutions to save them carbon and cash.   Those placements have saved each organisation on average $1 million and avoided the equivalent yearly carbon emissions from 260,000 cars.  Environmental Defense Fund opens a London office this autumn.  With its track record in helping corporates save significant sums of carbon and cash, I’d imagine that, just like a blockbuster movie, people will be queuing up to see them.

Transparency Makes for Good Neighbors in Port Communities

By: Christina Wolfe, Ports and Transportation Analyst

Green Marine logo

Source: green-marine.org

Day-to-day operations at ports are often associated with negative impacts on public health. For example, heavy-duty equipment and on road trucks play a critical role in the movement of cargo around the globe, but they also emit diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen. There is certainly room for improvement, and some ports are making efforts to be good neighbors by increasing transparency with respect to their environmental performance.

I had an opportunity to learn about these leading ports at the Green Marine GreenTech 2014 conference, held in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. The purpose of Green Marine’s conference is to share both environmental successes and challenges, as well as to recognize participants (ship owners, ports, terminals, and shipyards in the US and Canada) for their leadership in the voluntary Green Marine environmental program. This program provides a framework for participants to identify specific environmental goals, establish baseline environmental metric values, self-report progress that is verified by a third-party, and earn recognition for their efforts. I wanted to share two notable examples of how some ports are opening their lines of communication and sharing their environmental performance.

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Join EDF and Ceres Experts for “Truck Talk”

As July 4th fades away, grills cool down and the remains of fireworks are swept away, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. In my case, I’m preparing for a webinar Ceres’ Carol Lee Rawn and I are holding this Wednesday, sharing the findings of our recent report on how strong medium- and heavy-duty truck standards would cut freight costs and emissions.

It’s a topic we’re both passionate about – and think you should be too —  and with good reason: U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services, which account for over half a billion tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a year, the fastest growing single source of GHG emissions. Fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating a heavy-truck, accounting for 39% of total costs.

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Our report finds that new, bold fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty trucks could end up reducing the cost of moving freight by 7% and owners of tractor-trailer units could save $0.21/mile, an annual savings potential in excess of $25 billion given that class 8 trucks in the US logged 120 billion miles in 2013.

The Obama Administration is in the process of developing new fuel economy and GHG standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and its determination will affect both your company’s freight costs and GHG emissions.  Join us on July 9th for this webinar, where we’ll walk through the savings associated with strong standards and how you can help ensure that stringent standards are adopted.

Register now for the webinar!

Changing Behavior Means Changing Beliefs

At EDF, all our advocacy and education around climate change aims to change behaviors — of individuals, corporations, utilities, governments and communities. But in order to change behavior, we must first change their belief systems.

Sitar ModyThat point was made eloquently in last month's final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, the Showtime documentary series about the human impact of climate change. The episode featured a conversation with President Barack Obama, a report on the impact of accelerated glacier melt in the Andes and the far-reaching effects of human-induced ecosystem changes in Bangladesh on the economy and society.

For me the takeaways were:

  • It's vividly clear that climate change is an issue of national security in poor countries, where extreme weather creates huge groups of impoverished, resource-strapped people who easily end up in slums and ghettos, often refugees in countries far from their homes. For instance, the incursion of ocean water in Bangladesh is disrupting rice farming.
  • Abrupt climate events can destroy overnight the societies and self-sustaining lifestyles that agrarian communities have built up over many generations.
  • The United States is responsible for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and it's only a matter of time before we become a target of worldwide anger for the damage climate change is wrecking on our planet.
  • We must guard against cynicism, especially among the youth. Obama's recently released energy plan paints an optimistic vision of an achievable future with reduced dependence on foreign oil, affordable clean energy technologies and improved energy efficiency.
  • Putting a price on carbon is one way to change mindsets, by forcing people to recognize the true cost of a resource differently.

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Financial Sector Focuses on Risks from Methane

Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.

stock graph

Source: Ash Waechter

Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.

These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.

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Feeding the Planet—Without Ruining It

Nestle. Unilever. Walmart. Kellogg’s. Colgate-Palmolive. What do these companies have in common? They’re just a few of the global companies that have committed publicly over the last few years to work towards ridding their supply chains of raw agricultural commodities that directly cause deforestation.

Deforestation in Brazil

Global deforestation is responsible for roughly 12 percent of world-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC)—more than double those generated by the entire U.S. electricity sector (EIA). In addition, deforestation is the greatest driver of biodiversity loss in the world, displaces indigenous populations and can drive major regional changes in weather patterns. Agricultural production drives 85 percent of global deforestation (Union of Concerned Scientists).

You may be thinking, “Why should that concern my company? We aren’t in a sector tied to agriculture or buy, sell or use commodities from countries engaged in deforestation.” That may be true if you only consider your company’s direct operations. If your company, however, produces or sells personal care or food products, or uses paper packaging, chances are high that deforestation causing commodities like soy, palm oil, timber, cattle, or derivative products of them are part of your supply chain.

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Summer Heat Brings Industry Call for Climate Deal

Andrew Hutson photo

As I write this blog, it’s hot outside.  I mean really hot.  At 97 degrees today here in the North Carolina Piedmont – with a heat index of 100 degrees – it’s thirteen degrees above the average high for June.

Summers have been getting hotter here, as they have in most parts of the world, since I moved to the South from my native Michigan fifteen years ago.  And the weather has gotten weirder. Way weirder.  Too much rain at times, not enough at others.  Hot when it should be cold, cold when it should be hot.  Bigger storms. You get the picture… you’re experiencing it too.

Yet, somehow, I’m hopeful.

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Save Your Company Costs: Support Stronger Truck Efficiency Standards!

New, bold fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty trucks could end up reducing the cost of moving freight by 7% and owners of tractor-trailer units could save $0.21/mile. These are among the key findings of a new report from EDF and Ceres.

The report, which is based on analysis by MJ Bradley and Associates, examines one potential technology pathway to achieve the stringency target of 40% over 2010 set forth by our groups and other advocates.

PrintFuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating a heavy-truck, accounts for 39% of total costs. Strong fuel efficiency standards will target these costs largely by requiring the use of cost-effective, fuel saving technologies. As the new analysis demonstrates, fuel savings will be significantly greater than increases in equipment costs.

A $0.21 per mile savings, for example, has an annual savings potential in excess of $25 billion given that class 8 trucks in the US logged 120 billion miles in 2013.

Our finding of significant financial benefits of strong fuel efficiency and GHG standards is consistent in magnitude with previous analysis. A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America looked at similar Phase 2 standards and found net savings of $250 to consumers, rising to $400 per household in 2035 as fuel prices and transportation services increase.

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Changing the Methane Numbers Game

Adding to the drumbeat for action on the supercharged climate pollutant methane, Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” series recently spotlighted methane emissions leaking from America’s oil and natural gas infrastructure.

YOLD_well_photo

One theme of the May 19 episode hinged on a numbers question: Just how much methane is getting out? This question, a common one in the methane arena, refers to the national methane leakage rate for the entire oil and gas supply chain.

Various numbers, as low as 1 percent, were suggested for the national average with 4 percent, 11 percent and even 17 percent reported by scientific studies in some oil-and-gas producing regions. The problem is, it’s the wrong question.

We should stop fixating the debate on just how bad the problem is, when we know there is a problem and we can address it with confidence today.

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Smithfield Foods, world's largest pork producer, works with EDF to cut emissions

Corn is a common hog feed.

First, the facts: We will have 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. That's 2 billion more than we have today – stretching Earth's land and water resources to meet nutritional needs in a dramatically changing climate.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency calculates that agriculture is the fifth-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 8 percent of total GHGs. Fertilizer use and soil management are responsible for half of those emissions.

Next, the challenge: Many farmers encounter difficulties in determining the precise amount of nitrogen fertilizer their crops need. It gets tricky. Using too little fertilizer can limit crop production. Too much fertilizer pollutes water and emits a potent greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The stark reality is that crop production must increase approximately 70 percent by 2050 to feed our growing human population. We cannot choose between agricultural productivity and sustainability – we must have both.

To address the challenge, Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, and its hog production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown, are working with grain farmers to reduce excess fertilizer on crops grown for hog feed. The project will help farmers save money on fertilizer, while maintaining high crop yields, improving water quality and reducing climate impacts. The initiative is the first of its kind among animal agriculture companies.

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