Climate Protection Manual
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Chapter 2: Why Act Now (Drivers of Change)
This is the first of three sections which each serve as individual arguments: Drivers of Change, The Business Case for Climate Protection and Risk Mitigation. Feel free to use these three sections individually or together.
The below table of contents is "click-able" if you wish to jump to different sub-sections on this page.
Humans love to predict the future. Few succeed. Those who come closest do so by understanding the trends that are driving change. In a meeting of experts convened to create a “Greenprint” to guide the city of Denver, Hunter Lovins stated that cities must be aware of the existing global forces that will shape their future. As these forces begin to impact cities like Denver, they could dramatically shift the metrics by which a Mayor judges whether or not a program to save energy or reduce carbon emissions is cost effective. Mayor John Hickenlooper answered by recounting his visit to New Orleans a year following Hurricane Katrina. “It is an awesome experience,” he stated, “for a big city Mayor to drive for blocks and see no one living there. We lost a major American city. The unthinkable is no longer unthinkable.”
One hurricane is not a trend. But as the impacts of global warming become more obvious, Mayor Hickenlooper’s reaction will become more common. And climate change is only one of the drivers facing us.
This chapter discusses some of those drivers. They will bring change to your community whether you like it or not. These drivers may seem out of your control, but if you can understand the nature of them you can put in place the sorts of programs that can enable you to cope. Understanding these drivers can also enable you to create new businesses, reduce costs for existing companies and capture an array of opportunities that will arise in your community as the future unfolds.
ride the waves of change instead of being engulfed by them by exploring:
How larger forces may make “business as usual” difficult or impossible;
How you can take action to minimize these negative impacts; and
How larger forces may create opportunities that can enhance the success of your programs.
The list of trends that follows is far from a comprehensive accounting of the challenges facing us, but it covers the primary drivers relevant to global warming that will shape the future, including:
Each of these trends is discussed in more detail below.
When asked to name a global trend many people reply, “terrorism.” That is indeed a phenomenon of modern life. But terrorism is far less likely to impact you personally than an array of other changes sweeping the planet.
Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, stated, after assessing the total insurance losses due to the September 11th events, that it is more concerned about climate change than future terrorist risks.
This trend may be the central driver that led you to pick up this manual. A stable climate is of inestimable value to companies, to residents of cities and ultimately to all life on earth. Yet, we are losing this essential foundation of a successful economy.
As the climate changes, the intensity and frequency of what have been considered “natural” disasters like flooding and hurricanes are increasing. The changing climate is forcing cities to deal with such acute challenges as storms, heat waves and water shortages. It also imposes a wide array of long-term impacts such as droughts, the spread of diseases and the demise of historically important industries.
In December 2005, at the International Climate Conference in Montreal, Munich Re Foundation released figures showing $200 billion in weather related losses that year, breaking the previous record of $145 billion  in 2004. In contrast, the World Trade Center losses were less than $40 billion. The money paid out by insurance companies for weather-related losses in 2004 was more than double its payouts in 2003 ($65 billion) and more than four times its payouts in 2001 ($36 billion). This reflects the number of people at risk in storm-prone areas like coasts, and the increasing value of their property. But it also results from larger areas along and inland from the coasts experiencing more severe weather patterns that cause more extensive and expensive damage. Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 was only one of the catastrophic storms around the world.
The frequency of major natural disasters is now three times what it was in the 1960s. CGNU, the largest insurance company in the U.K., forecasts that at the current rate of increase of the property damages, by the year 2065, the cost of these disasters will be higher than the entire world economic production.
The following figure shows the evolution of the economic costs, and insured costs of natural disasters worldwide over the past decades.
Figure: Evolution of Economic Costs and Insured Costs of Natural Disasters Worldwide 
In 2005, insurers faced claims for seven of the ten most expensive hurricanes in history. In response, insurers like AIG, one of the world’s largest, announced that they would give customers who reduce their carbon emissions a break on their rates.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator D. James Baker says, “Our climate is warming at a faster rate than ever before recorded. Ignoring climate change and the most recent warming patterns could be costly to the nation. Small changes in global temperatures can lead to more extreme weather events including, droughts, floods and hurricanes.” Hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 destroyed much of New Orleans, may cost insurers as much as $60 billion.
Early in 2007 the Director of the National Hurricane Center resigned in frustration that politicians were refusing to listen to his warnings that, "We're eventually going to get a strong enough storm in a densely populated area to have a major disaster." The Los Angeles Times reported, “Mayfield, 58, leaves his high-profile job with the National Weather Service more convinced than ever that U.S. residents of the Southeast are risking unprecedented tragedy by continuing to build vulnerable homes in the tropical storm zone and failing to plan escape routes.”
His is only the latest voice in a rising chorus of concern. The prestigious American Geophysical Union (AGU) is an apolitical international organization of scientists. Its 35,000 members include most of the foremost specialists who study both historical and current evidence of global climate change in the atmosphere, glaciers, oceans, forests and deserts. In a 1999 report, the AGU concluded that, "Greenhouse gases rising into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and other pollutants will increase the pace of global warming and disrupt many regions of the world. Those gases could persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years, and despite uncertainties about just how high worldwide temperature might go and how to combat the climate changes, new strategies must be developed to deal with the problem."
In January 2005, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body charged with establishing the science of climate change, told an international conference attended by 114 governments that the world has “already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere,” and called for immediate and “very deep” cuts in emissions. He cited a multi-year study by 300 scientists showing that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, and that its ice cap had shrunk by up to 20% in the past three decades. Remaining ice is 40% thinner than it was in the 1970s and is expected to disappear altogether by 2070. As he spoke, arctic temperatures were eight to nine degrees centigrade higher than normal.
Pachauri stated that because of inertia built into Earth’s natural systems, the world is now only experiencing the result of pollution emitted in the 1960s, and much greater effects would occur as the increased pollution of later decades works its way through. Carbon released into the atmosphere today will still be insulating the earth for decades. Pachauri concluded, “Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose. We are risking the ability of the human race to survive.”
In April 2005, a NASA study demonstrated a rise in the temperature of the deep oceans that matched the predictions of computer models. Announcing the results, Dr. Jim Hansen, the chief scientist on the NASA study stated, “We have found the smoking gun. There can no longer be substantial doubt that human-made gases are the cause of most observed warming.” The study also found that the ocean is slowly releasing this stored heat, worsening the changes in climate already measured. Previously, skeptics claimed that the models linking human GHG emissions to observed changes in the temperature of the world’s atmosphere could not account for all of the warming that should be taking place, if the connection between human activity and climate change were as strong as some scientists claimed.
In March 2006, the UN’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that greenhouse gases (GHGs) including carbon dioxide (CO2)—the main cause of global warming and climate change—had reached their highest atmospheric levels ever in human history. Such emissions, WMO stated, must be slowed and reduced if the earth is to avoid climatic havoc with devastating heat waves, droughts, floods and rising sea-levels sinking low-lying island states and hitting seaboard cities. 
Human activity has increased the CO2 content of the atmosphere by 20% in the last four decades, and today adds three times more annually than in 1960. The levels of CO2 have leapt abruptly over the past two years, suggesting that climate change may be accelerating out of control.
Scientists are growing increasingly worried that climate instability will pass a threshold, after which human action will be unable to stop “runaway climate change.” In 2001, the New Scientist reported, “Climate scientists have for the first time formally warned that global warming could unleash catastrophic and irreversible changes to key planetary processes that make the world habitable” 
Indeed, recent science has raised the concern that global warming may be happening faster than the models predicted; raising the threat that abrupt climate change could occur. This increases the urgency of corporate and municipal action.
The International Energy Agency projects global emissions to climb another 60% by 2030.
Many scientists now state that to stabilize climate, the world will need to reduce emissions of CO2 and other GHGs 60-80% below current levels. In June 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for that state to achieve an 80% reduction by 2050.
The United Kingdom had already pledged to implement such cuts and sees the economic feasibility of doing so. In October 2006 a report to the British Government concluded, “Global warming could cost the world's economies up to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) if urgent action is not taken to stop floods, storms and natural catastrophes. . . Sir Nicholas told the Cabinet the world would have to pay 1 per cent of its annual GDP to avert catastrophe. But doing nothing could cost 5 to 20 times that amount. He told them: "Business- as-usual will derail growth.". . . The massive 700-page report - commissioned by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown - was described as "hard-headed" and "frighteningly convincing". It focused on the economic peril now confronting the world, unless action was taken to combat harmful CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
The planet faces unprecedented perils. However, as described in the body of this manual, the answers exist and are cost effective. The problem is that we have failed so far to implement them.
Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels will not be easy, but it can be done. Using a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy, communities can shift from an economy based on hydrocarbons to one running on carbohydrates. All of the technologies exist to shift from coal and oil to much more benign sources of energy. In his book, Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, Lester Brown describes a policy to cut carbon emissions in half by 2015.
An analysis by the German Environment Agency showed that world GHG emissions could be halved by 2050 at a cost of just 1% of global gross domestic product. Without action to restrain emissions, the cost of global warming-linked weather changes could cut 10% of world GDP.
This Climate Protection Manual describes how you can implement such a plan.
A stable climate is an important contributor to economic stability, but it is only one of the many services that intact ecosystems provide to our economy. Healthy ecosystems provide the provision of clean water, productive soils, the ability to detoxify society’s wastes and dozens of other services that we take for granted, but which we would sorely miss if they were to cease to function.
Such scientists as Dr. Gretchen Daly and economists like Dr. Robert Costanza estimate that the economic value of the services that intact ecosystems provide to our economy is at least $30 trillion dollars a year, or the same as the entire value of the economy that is counted. None of this “capital” appears on conventional balance sheets, however, so “business as usual” treats these “ecosystem services” as having a value of zero.
Because the way in which people around the world meet their needs does not make protection of the environment as a priority, every major ecosystem on the planet is in decline. The loss of the services that these ecosystems provide to us for free, will force businesses and communities to pay for replacements. This, of course, assumes that humans are even capable of creating substitutes for the contributions that intact ecosystems deliver.
Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute points out that. "Accounting systems that do not tell the truth can be costly. Faulty corporate accounting systems that leave costs off the books have driven some of the world’s largest corporations into bankruptcy. The risk with our faulty global economic accounting system is that it so distorts the economy that it could one day lead to economic decline and collapse."
In the same article, Brown also quotes Øystein Dahle, former Vice President of Exxon for Norway and the North Sea, who stated, “Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.”
In 1992, 1,600 scientists, including a majority of living Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, issued the warning that: "A great change in stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not be irretrievably mutilated...If not checked, many of our current practices may so put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world, that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about." 
In 1998, the American Museum of Natural History surveyed professional biologists. A striking 69% of them agree that we are living now through the “sixth extinction.” This species extinction seems to be happening more rapidly and affecting a wider range of biodiversity than any of the previous five. It is even faster than the last extinction, over 60 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared. The scientists claim that we will lose between 30% and 70% of the planet’s biodiversity within a time span of only 20 to 30 years. The difference from all previous extinctions is that this one is due to the actions of one species—our own—the species that claims to be endowed with intelligence and consciousness.
In April 2005, the United Nations released the Millennium Ecological Assessment. The study by 1,360 experts in 95 nations drew on the work of 22 national academies of science from around the world. It reported that a rising human population has polluted or over-exploited two-thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water, in the past 50 years.
“At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning,” said the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. “Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan observed, “The Assessment shows how human activities are causing environmental damage on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity—the very basis for life on earth—is declining at an alarming rate.”
Asked what we should do now and what we should plan to do over the next 50 years, the Assessment’s Director, Dr. Reid replied that there must be a fundamental reappraisal of how we view the world’s natural resources. “The heart of the problem is this: protection of nature’s services is unlikely to be a priority so long as they are perceived to be free and limitless by those using them.”
“We simply must establish policies that require natural costs to be taken into account for all economic decisions,” he added. The Board of Directors of the Millennium Assessment stated: "The overriding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the natural services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all . . .Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making and new ways of co-operation between government, business and civil society. The warning signs are there for all of us to see. The future now lies in our hands."
Strategic Resource Trends: Peak Oil and Sweet Water
There are two key resources that communities have taken for granted for at least a century: cheap fossil energy and the availability of sweet or sufficient drinking, water. There is a growing consensus that the availability and cost of these two vital resources are going to significantly change over the next few decades. They are both intimately wrapped up with the issue of climate change.
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