Paris is back, Sir Paul finds his carbon voice, the "Great Derangement" & corporate climate denial
The newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate
|Walter McLeod||Jan 24||5|
(source: USA Today)
Issue No. 62
Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.
President Biden recommits the U.S. to the Paris climate accord.
U.S. climate policy took a U-turn this week, with President Biden using his Inauguration Day to launch a domestic and international response to climate change that is diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor.
The new administration marked the day by rejoining the Paris climate agreement, revoking the Keystone XL pipeline’s federal permit, pledging to “review” a laundry list of Trump administration anti-regulatory actions and reestablishing the Obama-era interagency process implementing the social cost of carbon and methane.
A letter to the United Nations signed by the president on Wednesday formally started the 30-day process of bringing the United States back into the accord.
While most national attention this week will focus on the Senate impeachment hearings, the Biden Administration continues to fill out the next round of appointments to the climate team. I expect the Biden team to release the Covid-19 stimulus bill sometime in February/March, which should include parts of the climate policy plan. In the interim, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will take the lead in undoing the Trump executive orders and regulations they don’t like.
We’ll keep you posted on the latest carbon policy information and insights of the Biden Administration as they happen.
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NOW, LET’S GO DEEP!
3 climate quotes that will inspire you
1. “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” ~ Marshall McLuhan
This short but powerful quote comes from the influential Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan. The idea of “Spaceship Earth” is that our planet is like a spaceship, hurtling around the sun in space. Because we are all stuck on it together, we must do what we can to protect it.
McLuhan hammers home this point by saying Spaceship Earth is not like a luxury cruise ship, where passengers get to relax while the crew toils away. Rather, we are all crew because we all must work to ensure the ship survives.
2. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” ~ Haida Proverb
Climate change touches all generations. This timeless proverb can be traced back to many peoples and lands (i.e., Navajo, Kenya, Denmark, China).
It prods us to consider the future, and not to focus on the present or on the past. Instead of living for today and gratifying our own immediate needs, we should think about how our current actions will affect the planet and the future generations who will live on it.
“We must be humble stewards of the land and its resources, not users and consumers of everything that happens to be on it. Each generation deserves a sustainable planet to call home. Remember, stewardship is not ownership.” - Walter McLeod, Carbon Creed
3. “Below decks the engineer cries / The captain’s gonna leave us when the temperatures rise / The needle’s going up, the engine's gonna blow / And we’re gonna be left down below” ~ Paul McCarthy
In 2018, the legendary Paul McCartney released the album Egypt Station, and with it “Despite Repeated Warnings,” a powerful song that expresses his frustration towards climate inaction.
As McCartney explained to the Sun, this song challenges “This idea of: ‘It’s all gonna be fine, don’t worry.’ Oh yeah, sure, there are icebergs melting but it doesn’t matter because they’re not melting in London, so no need to worry.”
McCartney goes on to describe, “The person in the song will be symbolic of politicians who argue that climate change is a hoax.” The lyrics reveal a skeptical view of leadership (“gonna leave us when the temperature’s rise”) versus the common people ( “gonna be left down below”) when the climate crisis strikes.
So take a listen to the “wokeness” of Sir James Paul McCartney, as he gives voice to the danger of putting off climate action any longer.
The Great Derangement:
Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Written by Amitav Ghosh
In his book The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh examines why the human imagination—especially in literary fiction—has so often failed to come to terms with what he considers the greatest crisis of our times: climate change. He calls this a failure of our collective imagination—a “great derangement”—born out of an assumption that the earth is a separate and inanimate thing on which we live, rather than a living entity of which we are a part.
Amitav Ghosh is best known as a novelist, whose stories traverse continents and are populated by characters who resist our assumptions about race, culture, and nation. The Great Derangement, however, is a concise set of essays based on lectures Ghosh delivered at the University of Chicago. The three essays, titled “Stories,” “History,” and “Politics,” discuss the shared deception—or misperception common in the past three hundred years or so—that human beings exist separate from the nonhuman, from nature. The result is that in art and literature, even more than in social science, there is an ignorance—a persistent ignoring—of our interrelationship with the earth and its climate. And so when climate change events take place they have proved “peculiarly resistant to the customary frames that literature has applied to ‘Nature’: they are too powerful, too grotesque, too dangerous and too accusatory to be written about in a lyrical, elegiac, or romantic vein.”
In a compelling, teacherly move, Ghosh concludes the book by comparing the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement with Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s encyclical letter. Where the Paris Agreement is mired in corporate terminology, veiled militarism, and rhetorical half measures, Laudato Si’ highlights, simply and lucidly, the connection between social and environmental justice. The Pope’s words, moreover, reflect an “acceptance of limits and limitations,” a posture that is “intimately related to the idea of the sacred” and thus veers defiantly from the violent thrust of empire and capitalism. For Ghosh, it is not the language of politics but the language of religion that reveals a way toward thinking the unthinkable. In this sense, perhaps his “new forms” of fiction may also be forms of moral storytelling: retrograde writing that takes the grim present as seriously—and as compassionately—as the catastrophic future.
Creed Comments: Written in 2016, The Great Derangement will change the way you think about globalism, carbon and climate change. Ghosh succinctly connects the roots of the climate crisis to capitalism and imperialism, and how those roots grow up into the forest of our western culture and common worldview.
At first glance, this book might appear to be a socialist polemic, but I didn’t find that to be the case. Ghosh surprised me by pivoting to a religious model as a philosophical way to re-imagine a new type of capitalism to address the climate dilemma. If you have never considered the connections between climate, empire and capitalism, this book will open your eyes. Read it.
U.S. corporate boards are unprepared to address the climate crisis
Many corporate boards in the U.S. are unprepared to tackle the environmental risks posed by the climate crisis, primarily because few of their members have the background to truly understand what's at stake.
Of the 1,188 directors at 100 of the biggest U.S. companies, just 6% had "relevant credentials" in environmental protection and only 0.3% had expertise in either climate- or water-related issues as recently as 2018, according to a study released by New York University's Stern Center for Sustainable Business.
The numbers are especially alarming given that about 1,500 companies have announced net-zero emissions goals, and just a small fraction of them have "concrete plans" in place that will get them to their targets by 2050, according to a survey of more than 600 corporate and institutional investors by Bank of America Corp.
The situation is worse when assessing ESG preparedness. Almost all corporate boards suffer from "inadequate expertise in financially material ESG matters," said Tensie Whelan, the director of NYU's Stern Center for Sustainable Business.
Climate change, water scarcity and pollution, as well as employee diversity, human rights abuses and supply chain scandals, represent a handful of the environmental, social, and governance issues that are creating material risks and opportunities for corporations and investors, and still many boards have little related oversight or expertise.
The U.S. is broadly recognized as a consumer economy, where consumption is nearly 70% of GDP. Yet, none of the 13 consumer discretionary companies in the Fortune 100 had a board member with environmental credentials despite the sector's large energy, waste and water footprint; health-care equipment and services companies, which have a similarly large environmental footprint, had only three of 120 board members with environmental credentials. Insurers have material environmental risks and also incorporate ESG-related investment policies to incentivize good behavior, yet only 11 of 149 board directors had relevant "E" credentials.
Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and life sciences, utilities, household and personal products, and telecommunication services companies had the highest percentage of board members with relevant ESG credentials, Whelan said. By contrast, the industries with the lowest representation were media, retail and transportation companies. Transportation, which has significant environmental challenges such as high-energy use, recently had only one of 66 board members with environmental credentials.
So what is a board to do? Directors have to first understand and pinpoint ESG risks, prioritize them and then bring on the expertise. But will they?
[This post was adapted from the original analysis which appeared in Bloomberg.]
Creed Comments: This problem is significant and rampant, and must be addressed by boards themselves if we ever hope to arrest the climate crisis or social inequity. More corporate boards must recruit ESG-savvy board members.
Boards need members who understand the risks and opportunities of material ESG issues, specifically, those with lived experience. No, an “E” savvy board member doesn’t have to be a climate change scientist; the board can hire that kind of specialized expertise. But, more board members must have a strategic understanding of material ESG issues.
Today, most corporations have a preponderance of former CEOs on their boards. Those CEOs were in charge 10-20 years ago when ESG issues were not specifically identified as financially material and may burden boardrooms with an out-of-touch mentality. This is a fatal flaw in the current composition of most corporate boards - it is imperative that groups like the Business Roundtable do more than publish statements on this issue. Leadership requires action.
The Keeling Curve a daily record of global atmospheric CO2 concentration.
Congressional Policy Tracker a summary of current federal energy legislation.
Click Clean your favorite apps and tech company clean power rankings.
Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy Jobs a report by the Brookings Institute.
Understanding ESG a series of ESG-focused thought leadership webinars for business and investors, presented by Baker McKenzie.
Temperature Check, a weekly podcast about climate, race, and culture hosted by Andrew Simon.
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