It's doggone hot, the Art of climate change, and the power of social influence on carbon

The newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate.

STEWARDSHIP

Dogs will suffer from a warming climate

The last five years are the warmest on record—and humans aren’t the only ones affected. In 2016—the hottest year globally—at least 395 dogs in the U.K. received veterinary care for heat-related illnesses; 56 of these died, a 14% mortality rate.

How canines respond to extreme summer weather is an under-studied phenomenon, according to a new study Scientific Reports that draws on anonymized records from more than 900,000 veterinary visits in the U.K. in 2016. 

“Dogs are going to be affected by climate change in incredibly similar ways to humans going forward,” says Emily Hall, senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and the study’s lead author. “When we think about mitigating strategies to protect humans from heat, we’re going to need to consider dogs in just the same way.”


People and dogs share common risk factors including obesity and overall respiratory health—even exposure to second-hand smoke. But diagnosing heat-related illnesses in dogs is tricky. The authors analyzed the data to determine which breeds suffered most in the heat and, to the extent possible, why they were more vulnerable. Three main qualities corresponded with heat illness and death, the study found: weight, age, and skull anatomy.

The authors gained sometimes surprising insights about individual breeds. Golden Retrievers are 2.7 times more likely than Labradors to suffer from heat-related illness “despite being of similar size, temperament and purpose,” they write. The difference may come down to the coat, which is thicker for Golden Retrievers. Even more surprising, Greyhounds were found to have 4.3 greater susceptibility to heat than Labradors.

The authors are also credited with pulling together for the first time all heat-related diagnoses in dogs, a category that includes heat stroke, heat exhaustion, overheating, and hyperthermia. The researchers were able to capture data about dogs in early stages of illness, which have been overlooked in prior studies.

The researchers looked only at the characteristics of dogs who were diagnosed with heat illness and didn’t parse out how particular heat conditions contributed to any breed’s risk, nor did they look at how animals’ individual hydration, fitness levels, or average physical activity affected their outcomes. The next steps in the research include more granular data on when heat inside cars is most dangerous to dogs, the triggers of heatstroke, and how temperature and humidity affect dogs’ body temperatures. To see the 10 most vulnerable dog breeds, email me or go here (subscription) LINK.

Creed Comments: This is an ode to our 4-legged child Pinky, a Pom-a-Pug (Pomeranian Pug mix) whom my family would be desperate without. We often forget how attached people are to their pets. I thought this article would be a great conversation starter with someone who loves their dog but is on the fence about climate. A love for fido can be a great bridge to common ground.

(image: Pinky)


Issue No. 32 - June 21, 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.

My name is Walter McLeod, and I’m glad you’ve joined our tribe! We hope to hear from you as we navigate this weekly journey through the good, bad and ugly of carbon and climate. 

This week was slow for climate, but the news media discovered Juneteenth and its place in American history. I read, watched and listened attentively and found most of what was said and done extremely positive. The most insightful words I have considered thus far, come from the late novelist, poet, and playwright James Baldwin.


I actually tweeted a James Baldwin quote to connect the social and climate change issues:


I would add to my comments, “People can change.” During these times of cultural change, i try to stay focused on what connects us all - our shared humanity.

As always, feel free to ping me at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com.

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Now, LET’S DIVE DEEP!


ARTS & SCIENCE

Seeing climate change through Art

(artist: Beric Henderson, “The Family Tree’)

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merten


Climate change is a big concept that can be hard to grasp, and it is easy to glaze over when confronted with a raft of scientific statistics about temperatures and predicted sea level rises.

Art, however, is a medium that is often more likely to engage people on an emotional level and international art exhibitions are increasingly focusing on environmental themes and climate change.

One such creative is Beric Henderson. An artist and former research scientist, Henderson hopes to increase awareness of global warming and encourage people to be more aware of the environment.

"I think the Equilibrium exhibition distinguishes itself, in that it involves input from actual scientists, engineers and ecologists.” Beric Henderson, Artist

Mr. Henderson has created five paintings which are part of a 'Tree of Man' series. They were featured at the “Equilibrium” exhibition in Venice, Italy in 2019.

(artist: Beric Henderson, “Terra Nova”)

The 'Family Tree' by Beric Henderson shows human figures full of life and nature and aims to highlight the need for more connection with the environment. For more about Henderson’s works and Equilibrium, go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: We have all stood in front of that special image that sang to our soul. The art we choose to hang on our walls is often a visual representation of who we are and what we believe in. Find joy and inspiration in the art you consume.


INSIGHTS

Using social influence to fight carbon and climate


Thinking about installing solar panels, buying an electric vehicle, or eating less meat? You probably have your friends and neighbors to thank for that.

A growing body of literature suggests that our spending habits are contagious. When you see solar panels sparkling atop someone’s rooftop, for example, your roof suddenly looks barren by comparison. Likewise, when you receive a bill comparing your electricity usage to that of your neighbors, you’re more likely to adjust your energy usage up or down to match.

recent paper in the journal Nature Energy reviewed the existing research on social influence and personal energy habits and concluded that peer pressure plays a major role in why we do what we do. “In some instances,” the authors write, “these social influences are even more powerful than cost or considerations such as convenience or effectiveness.”

Perhaps you’ve seen the black-and-white Candid Camera clip from the 1960s, where an unsuspecting man enters an elevator where everyone’s facing the wrong way — and eventually turns around to face the back. It’s kind of hilarious, but there’s logic behind people’s impulse to conform.

“Life is complicated,” says Robert H. Frank, an eminent economist and the author of the new book Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work. Following the crowd is an adaptive behavior; we’re hard-wired for it. If other folks in the cave are eating those red berries without dying, then the berries are probably safe to eat.

In the book, Frank shines a light on how that old instinct helped mess up the planet. “The behaviors that spawned the climate crisis are perhaps even more contagious than smoking,” he writes. Flying to destination weddings, driving oversized SUVs, building ever-expanding mansions: the main reason why people do these things is simple — their friends do them first.

These same social forces can also be harnessed to take on climate change, as individual decisions gather strength. In the United States, the meatless Impossible Burger has surged in popularity, making its way to Burger Kings everywhere. The transportation industry is also susceptible to peer pressure, Frank writes in his book, and lucky us: Bike-share services and electric cars and bikes are on the rise.

Peer pressure can have a most powerful effect when people don’t have a strong opinion about the issue at hand, according to the recent Nature Energy review. If somebody’s already made up their mind that they’re a meat-eater and proud of it, they’re probably less likely to order the Impossible Burger at the counter, even if everyone else is doing it.

“Policies and programs that seek to promote low carbon technologies may benefit from enlisting the help of peers who have already adopted them.”

-
Kimberly Wolske, University of Chicago


The messenger matters. A raving review from a new Prius owner will probably matter more to you coming from your best friend instead of from strangers. “Friends and family are often among the most trusted sources of information,” said Kimberly Wolske, the lead author of the Nature Energy study and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: The emerging research on the power of peer pressure lends credence to the idea that individuals can make a difference. Under the Influence uses a combination of psychology and economics to illustrate how the human "herd instinct" can be put to good use to solve the climate crisis. I can attest to the truth of these data. My friend Mike leased a new Tesla and it made me want one too. We need more positive peer pressure like this to shape our carbon habits.


CORPORATE CITIZEN

BP predicts a future with less oil and gas

BP sent a signal to investors that the economic shock of the pandemic would reverberate for years, and that less gas and oil would probably be needed in the future.

The London-based oil giant told shareholders the company expected to write down as much as $17.5 billion of its oil and gas holdings in its next quarterly report.

The write-downs are an acknowledgment that the oil and gas fields on BP’s books are not worth as much as they used to be, and will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future. The move reflects broad changes in the energy industry as companies adjust to a new environment.

“Everywhere I have been — inside BP, as well as outside — I have come away with one inescapable conclusion . . . We have got to change.”

Bernard Looney, BP Chief Executive Officer


With the write-down, which could amount to as much as 12 percent of the previous book value of the oil and gas assets, Mr. Looney, 49, is preparing the company for a future in which it will produce less fossil fuel than previously expected. It is likely to be the largest write-down since 2010, when the company recorded a $32 billion hit related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Looney, an Irish citizen who was head of BP’s oil and gas exploration before moving into the top role, has been focusing on these issues. Promptly after becoming chief executive in February, he pledged to bring the London giant’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 or sooner and embarked on a sweeping reorganization to aid this quest. Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: BP's mammoth asset write-down is certainly a big story, but whether it's a big climate change story is a trickier question. Axios gave it a qualified “yes” and we agree. We expect COVID-19 to accelerate the pace of transition to a lower-carbon economy and global energy system. They must change or be disrupted.


RESOURCES


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