PwC Low Carbon Index Report is a call to arms for decarbonisation

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is the world’s largest professional services firm, and the largest of the “big four” accountancy firms. As such, it is by definition, a careful, conservative organisation.

Last November PwC released their annual Low Carbon Economy Index report (discussed by the authors in the video above) and it makes for very sobering reading. Especially given this report comes from PwC, not an organisation particularly known for its activism on climate matters.

Here at GreenMonk we have tended to dial back on the climate rhetoric in recent years because of the divisiveness of the reactions it tends to generate. However, we felt a responsibility to give this report an airing given the consequences of its conclusions.

What does the report say?

Its key findings are:

  • The average rate of decarbonisation globally has been 0.8% a year since 2000 (it was 0.7% in 2011)
  • The required rate of decarbonisation globally to meet a 2°C warming target is now 5.1% a year, every year from now to 2050, so
  • Businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world – not just 2°C, but 4°C, or even 6°C

In case you are unfamiliar with centigrade that translates to planning for a warming world of not just 3.6°F but 7.2°F or even 10.8°F.

These temperature rises are against the baseline of the global temperature in the year 1800. And against that baseline the planet has already warmed up by 0.8°C, only allowing us another 1.2°C before we hit 2°C of warming. 2°C is the amount of warming which politicians agreed should be the upper limit at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference.

So a quick recap – to limit warming to 2°C, we need to increase our global decarbonisation from its current 0.8% per annum, to 5.1% per annum every year for the next 39 years. This is an Herculean task, to put it mildly, and the longer we put it off, the more difficult it becomes. Had we started in 2000, we would have had to reduce emissions 3.7% per annum, for example. To put that in some sort of perspective, 3% is the amount of emissions which the global aviation industry is responsible for.

What does a 2°C rise in global temperatures mean?

Well, NASA’s chief Climatologist James Hansen put it well when he said:

The paleoclimate record makes it clear that a target to keep human made global warming less than 2°C, as proposed in some international discussions, is not sufficient — it is a prescription for disaster. Assessment of the dangerous level of CO2, and the dangerous level of warming, is made difficult by the inertia of the climate system. The inertia, especially of the ocean and ice sheets, allows us to introduce powerful climate forcings such as atmospheric CO2 with only moderate initial response. But that inertia is not our friend — it means that we are building in changes for future generations that will be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.

So, it is all doom and gloom?

Not necessarily. As we mentioned above, this is going to be a massive undertaking. Decarbonisation of all of our systems is now more urgent than ever. If there were ever a time to start investing in decarbonisation projects, this is it.

Disclosure – PwC is not a GreenMonk (or RedMonk) client and no financial relationship exists between Red/GreenMonk and PwC.


Rich Lechner Sept ’09 on “Global Electric Utilities – the adaptation challenge” report

Rich Lechner is IBM’s VP Energy and Environment and comes on GreenMonk TV every month.

This month we discussed a report IBM sponsored and which was written by Acclimatise called Global Electric Utilities – the adaptation challenge

Some points to note from the report:

  • 87% of businesses in the FTSE 350 acknowledge that their business is at risk from climate change
  • Less than 33% have any plans in place to address that risk
  • Over 90% of utilities acknowledge that their business will be impacted by climate change
  • Less than 30% of the utilities reported having documented plans to manage or avoid that risk
  • Only 6% identified opportunities associated with climate change

Do you take your sick child to a gerontologist?

Dennis Howlett is a good friend. He writes about enterprise software over on ZDNet and is a regular viewer and commenter on the GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show.

You can imagine my dismay then when in his latest post he discusses climate change and asks if we are being hoodwinked! Dennis trots out the old one that

CO2 is an effect, not a cause of global warming and that there is more likelihood that natural activity by the sun is causing climate change.

Sorry Dennis but there is plenty of evidence that that is not the case. To whit:

there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny (pdf document).

Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend .

Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity.

Dennis then goes on to use the Great Climate Swindle to back up his case. Oh dear! Seriously. Even the scientists who were quoted in that film have criticised it! Another scientist who considered working with the producer said:

To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were wrong — and may have been deliberately faked… it does show what abundant experience has already taught me — that, left to their own devices, TV producers simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Incredibly Dennis then compares the climate crisis to Y2K

In retrospect the principle reason put forward – that there would be a mass failure of equipment essential to our industrial well being coupled with possible loss of life – was little more than a fraud. At 00:01 1st January, 2000 nothing happened.

Was there some hyperbole in talking about the risks associated with Y2K? I have no doubt there was but just because very little went wrong that is a sign that we were well prepared, not that it was a fraud. That is the same logic which says “I got a vaccination for hepatitis and I never got hepatitis, that vaccination was a complete waste of time.”

Dennis even throws out the old chestnut that

recent media reporting has been skewed firmly in favor of the green lobbyists

Even if this were true, and it is not (actually the reverse is true climate skeptics are receiving vastly more media attention than their numbers justify), reporting for decades has referred disparagingly to anyone talking about climate change as ‘looney lefties’, ‘treehuggers’, ‘sandle-wearers’, etc. It is great to see this message being taken a little more seriously by mainstream media at last.

The real crux of Dennis’ argument is one of the credibility of the science though. He says:

The problem for most of us is that the science on which we’re encouraged to think green is, as Jeff points out, something very few of us truly understand. That means we have to take on faith that what we’re being told is correct.

Dennis goes on to refer to my post last week where I say enough of the half-measures, time to get the thumb out…

Tom’s a good friend and another Irregular but his comment is based upon the recent report by MIT on Climate Change which is making polemic predictions about climate change

[my emphasis]

I’m sorry Dennis but you may have missed the bit where I said the MIT study was the:

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

This was by the numbers research, peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Climate – nothing polemic about that.

I could go on further dissecting Dennis’ post line by line but you get the gist.

Basically it comes down to a question of credibility. We live in an age of specialisation. If my child is unwell, I bring him to a paediatrician, a doctor who specialises in the care of sick children. I do not bring him to a gerontologist – who, although also a doctor, specialises in the care of the elderly. By the same token, if there is a problem with the climate, I am more likely to believe the opinion of climatologists than I am that of geologists, chemists or even famous botanists, for that matter. And the climatologists are pretty much unanimous in their belief that mankind is the cause of climate change.

I am disappointed that Dennis chose to publish this post before having a chat with me about it. I would certainly have helped him write a better post by pointing out some of the flaws in the article (and hopefully he’d have written a better post as a result).


Enough of the half-measures

I’m worried. I’m very worried.

The recent report by MIT on Climate Change was the

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

It found that

without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.

Specifically the peer-reviewed study projects a 90% probability range of a global warming of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 with a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius.

To put that in context, John Holdren, Barack Obama’s Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that the last time the earth was 3 degrees Celsius warmer was 120 million years ago. At that time there were palm trees in Wyoming, crocodiles swimming off the coast of Greenland and sea levels were 20-30m higher. Note – that was 3 degrees Celsius warmer, not the 3.5 degrees which is at the low end of the 90% probability the MIT paper.

The planet and more importantly, all life on it has had 120m years to adapt to the 3 degree cooling which has occurred since then and we have adapted well. However, a rise of 3 degrees in less than 100 years would have catastrophic consequences for most plant and animal species on the planet who are designed to adapt to changes in geological timeframes, not generational ones.

Against this backdrop you have the Barack Obama administration back-pedalling furiously on their climate commitments. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jon Wellinghoff recently announcing no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States!

Further, the current climate bill working its way through the system in the US calls for a 17% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the 2005 figure. Compare that to the much more ambitious 40% reduction on 1990 emissions that the Chinese are calling for and you start to see just how uninspired the US position appears to be.

People need to watch the video above, grow a pair and act decisively on the problem. Enough of the half-measures.


What will it take for America to wake up to the threat of climate change?

Open for Questions

President Obama hosted an interesting experiment yesterday. On his Open For Questions site, he requested people to submit questions to him and vote on submitted questions. Subsequently, in a special online Town Hall, he answered several of the most popular questions – fabulous stuff.

However, despite hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, one of the US’s best known cities and now Fargo and many parts of North Dakota under threat of 43 foot floods, the top two questions in the Green Jobs and Energy category were related to legalising marijuana, not climate. Wtf?

Unbelievable, to me at least.

92,935 people submitted 104,032 questions:

  • 7,444 were in the Green Jobs and Energy section.
  • 2,136 contained the term “Marijuana” (another 31 contained “Marajuana”, 6 contained “marijana”, 7 contained “marijuna”)
  • 262 contained the term “cannabis” (and another 9 contained “Canabis”)
  • Only 294 contained the term “Warming”
  • And a measly 207 contained the term “Climate”


I used to think Jonathon Porritt, founder director of Forum for the Future and chair of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, was being a bit extreme when he said:

I have occasionally fantasised about a low mortality-count scenario where a Force Six hurricane takes out Miami, but with plenty of warning so the entire city is evacuated with zero loss of life. The insurance industry in America would collapse because this could be a $50-60 billion climate-related ‘natural’ disaster. The industry wouldn’t be able to cope with that. There would be knock-on pain throughout the global economy, massive, traumatic dislocation. This would act as enough of an injection of physical reality, coupled with financial consequences for leaders to say: ‘Ok, we’ve got it now. This isn’t just about some nasty effects on poor countries: this is devastating for our entire model of progress.’ The response to that would be a negotiated transition towards a very low-carbon global economy that builds increased prosperity for people in more equitable and sustainable ways.

But, unfortunately now, I’m not even sure that’d do it.


John Holdren on Global Climatic Disruption

John Holdren has been appointed by Barack Obama as as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

From his bio on Wikipedia

Holdren earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT in 1965 and a PhD in plasma physics[3] from Stanford University in 1970. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley for more than two decades. His work has focused on global environmental change, energy technologies and policies, nuclear proliferation, and science and technology policy[4]. Dr. Holdren served as chairman of the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science from February 2007 until February 2008[5](AAAS) and is director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

Dr. Holdren is the author of some 300 articles and papers[citation needed], and he has co-authored and co-edited some 20 books and book-length reports, such as Energy (1971), Human Ecology (1973), Ecoscience (1977), Energy in Transition (1980), Earth and the Human Future (1986), Strategic Defences and the Future of the Arms Race (1987), Building Global Security Through Cooperation (1990), Conversion of Military R&D (1998), and Ending the Energy Stalemate (2004).

Last year he gave this talk about climate change (or Global Climatic Disruption as he prefers to call it) at the American Response to Climate Change Conference at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake New York – June 25 & 26, 2008.

That such a highly qualified and passionate climate aware scientist has been chosen to be the president’s science advisor gives me great hope for the presidency of Barack Obama.

I contacted The Wild Center after seeing the video to ask if they had any problem with my reproducing the talk on this site fully accredited and very graciously, they said they’d be delighted!

The copyright of the video obviously remains with The Wild Center – please do not reproduce this video without explicit permission of The Wild Center.


Climate Change: It’s The Economy, Stupid. Half a Bail-out.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Flying Kites

I read a headline in the FT this morning, and then twittered it, planning to blog it later. The headline in question was Climate groups’ revenue hits $300bn. I think the number was so big I didn’t really take the implications in. I mean – what is $300bn after all, other than just under half what it takes to bail out the entire US financial system?

According to the FT:

“Companies providing goods and services that tackle climate change now form a bigger industry grouping than the global software and biotechnology sectors combined, according to new research.”

That’s the analysis of HSBC’s global banking and markets research team.  We’d love to see the report in more detail, but its good to see the headline numbers. Its very important to build real momentum around energy and climate change markets now, because as the recession kicks in energy costs are sure to drop again, as they did in the early 1970s, killing that green revolution pretty much stone dead.

The story concludes:

“The HSBC index of climate change companies excludes those that derive only a small proportion of their revenues from low-emissions products or services. The company’s index was designed to help investors gain exposure to companies that are expected to profit from dealing with climate change. HSBC said there was now a “clearly identifiable sector”


Small island nations petition to the UN

Nowhere to go..
Photo Credit Sir Mervs

I received the following email this afternoon – it is a request by small island nations for the UN to address the international climate crisis with at least as much urgency as it gives to matters of war and peace.

I think it is worth reproducing here:

Dear friends,

Imagine the sea rising around you as your country literally disappears beneath your feet, where the food you grow and the water you drink is being destroyed by salt, and your last chance is to seek refuge in other lands where climate refugees have no official status. This is not a dream, it’s the fearful reality for millions of people who live on islands around the world, from the Maldives to Papua New Guinea.

That is why these small islands are taking the unprecedented step of putting an urgent resolution before the United Nations ahead of next week’s global climate talks, calling upon the Security Council itself to address climate change as a pressing threat to international peace and security.
This is a creative move born of desperation, a challenge to global powers to end their complacency and tackle this lethal crisis with the urgency of wars. But the island states’ campaign is meeting fierce opposition from the world’s biggest polluters, so they need our help. Sign the petition now to raise a worldwide chorus of support for this call — it will be presented by the islands’ ambassadors to reinforce their resolution at the UN next week:

For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated — the Arctic ice is melting quicker than many anticipated, accelerating sea level rise. Now small island nations, whose highest points are often only a few meters above sea level, are preparing evacuation plans to guarantee the survival of their populations. They are on the frontline, experiencing the first wave of devastating impacts from climate change which soon will threaten us all.

President Remengesau of Palau, a small island in the Pacific, recently said: “Palau has lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high tides. These are not theoretical, scientific losses–they are the losses of our resources and our livelihoods…. For island states, time is not running out. It has run out. And our path may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet”.

Beyond the islands, countries like Bangladesh, whose population of 150 million people is already suffering, face losing large parts of their landmass. The experience of our planet’s most vulnerable communities serves as a warning sign of the future world we can all expect: extreme weather growing in intensity, conflict over water and food supplies, coasts disappearing and hundreds of millions made refugees.

The small islands’ brave campaign for survival is our campaign too — and the more signatures we raise to be delivered to the UN next week, the more urgently this call will ring out to protect our common future:

With hope,

Ben, Iain, Alice, Paul, Graziela, Pascal, Ricken, Brett, Milena — the Avaaz team

PS: For a report on Avaaz’s campaigning so far, see:

PSS: These are the States who are sponsoring the resolution: Canada, Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

For a draft of the Small Islands States Resolution please see:

For more information about those presenting the petition please visit:

For information on Tuvalu’s evacuation plan and climate refugees:

For information about how rising sea levels will affect us all:

For more information on the Ice melt:

For more information about all of the Island States:


The sooner oil hits $200 per barrel, the better!

Four bucks a gallon
Creative Commons License photo credit: johnmarkos

Back in 2004 the government’s worst case scenarios had oil reaching $26 per barrel by 2025. This afternoon oil reached $125.98, the fifth day this week we had a record high price for oil. And we are not even halfway through 2008 yet.

Goldman Sachs recently pronounced that oil may soon reach $200 per barrel. I hope they are right. In fact the sooner the better, to my mind!

Why do I say that?
We need to get off our dependence on carbon as an energy source. The CO2 given off by burning oil for energy is poisoning the planet and wiping out animal and plant species at a hitherto unprecedented rate.

We have known this for quite some time now. Scientists were discussing Global Warming and climate change up to 40 years ago. The reason we have done very little to move off oil is that the alternatives were always too expensive. This also meant that raising money for research into renewable power sources was difficult and so alternative energy sources remained high cost.

However, now with oil at $126 per barrel and rising, renewables are starting to look very attractive. Suddenly money is pouring into companies who are trying to research and commercialize Green energy. This is a good thing! This will only continue as long as it is perceived to be profitable. In other words, as long as oil is expensive.

The worst thing that could happen right now for the future of the planet is if oil prices dropped. Roll on $200 per barrel, I say.