Green your life at home, work & play

Recent Extreme Weather Caused by Climate Change December 22, 2011

Climate change “believers” have been saying for years what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed today: that recent incidents of extreme weather has climate change partly to blame. The IPCC tells us to expect more extreme weather in the future-heat waves, heavy rainfall, and of course higher temperatures. But the IPCC isn’t the only organization who is linking climate change with the weather. Findings by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (a collaboration between 13 federal government agencies) support those of the IPCC.

The occurrence of extreme weather in the U.S. has been increasing over the past 50 years, but recent increases have caused significant damage, dollar-wise. Drought has caused $9 billion in property losses in Texas and $45 billion in damages have been caused by the last 10 weather disasters. It is also estimated that the destruction caused by October’s snowstorm in the northeast could cost up to $3 billion.

So how will this affect you and your business? Well, depending on where you are, you will be affected in different ways. Some areas will experience increased rain, others like the southwest U.S. will experience extreme drought. The important thing to take away from these findings is that we can no longer wait to see what will happen because of climate change. We need to mitigate, by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, and also find better ways to adapt to our new weather, right now. If short-lived climate forcers are reduced, such as hydrofluorocarbons, black carbon and ground-level ozone, the rate of global warming could be reduced by half. Fortunately, there are already laws and technology that can assist in this reduction, allowing it to happen quickly if we take the initiative. But of course, it is up to each of us to do so.

Photo courtesy of San Angelo Standard Times


What’s next after sustainability? December 6, 2010

The question has emerged at conferences, talks and sessions that I have participated in recently. Environmental sustainability is recognized to be important and necessary. Sustainability refers to surviving in the current state of the world, and neutralizing our impact on the planet. But, once we have managed to do this (and we have a long ways to go, so I am not suggesting this has already happened), the question is – how do we not only survive but thrive? This is where the concept of resilience comes into play. Resilience is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress’. Depending on whom you ask, resilience is a key component of sustainability or it is the next step after the sustainability. It refers to adaptability, ingenuity,flexibility – a certain ruggedness that will enable us to thrive in changing circumstances. I believe it is a necessary next step after sustainability, and that we should look to it even as we are aiming to achieve environmental sustainability.

The concept of resilience in the environmental arena is not new. It was discussed in the 1970s in the context of ecosystem dynamics.  It has recently re-emerged as a topic of discussion as some ecologists and economists have focused on it, looking at it from an economic, social and environmental perspective. It has been a theme at past conferences, such as the ICLEI conference in Korea in October, and will be the main theme of a conference in early 2011.

Resilience is evident in the natural world, where evolution has favored those who can adapt to new circumstances. It has also been adapted by the business world, where companies must respond to changing market demand, new competitors, and new technology. Systems that are not designed to adapt quickly will fail (some examples that come to mind are our banking system and energy infrastructure). The question is whether they will be able to learn from their failures and rebound. Resilience has also been adapted by communities, as can be seen in the example of Transition Towns, which have been in existence for many years overseas and in the United States.

There are increasingly more books written on the topic. To learn more, take a look at some of these:


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