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Can business save us from climate change?

Without a functional international climate policy, and a set of Australian policies that look set to be repealed, it might seem that business offers the greatest hope for mitigating climate change. Business…

While green business is commendable, canola-fuelled elevators will not save us from climate change. monique/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Without a functional international climate policy, and a set of Australian policies that look set to be repealed, it might seem that business offers the greatest hope for mitigating climate change. Business is beginning to see climate change as a strategic risk, and is reducing consumption to avoid the worst climate impacts.

But there are a three key reasons not to rely on business to save us from climate change. Ultimately we’ll need a global response to keep carbon emissions below a safe threshold.

Business as usual?

An increasingly common response to government climate inaction has been to focus on business, and specifically large multinational companies, to “save us” from the worst effects of climate change.

For instance, a recent New York Times story highlighted how global companies like Coca-Cola and Nike were increasingly seeing climate change as a strategic risk. According to the report, these companies were reducing their use of natural resources and analysing supply chains to avoid the impacts of increasingly extreme weather events.

“Green business” has been a familiar refrain for some time. Many large businesses have introduced elements of corporate environmentalism which includes focusing not only on the physical risks of climate change for business operations, but also market, reputation and regulatory risks.

When I began researching business responses to climate change some years ago, the idea of market capitalism reinventing itself around new technologies that would wean us off our fossil fuel addiction was seductive.

But there are a number of problems in placing our hopes on business as our best hope in avoiding the worst of climate change.

Business: 1; environment: 0

First, businesses really only engage in environmental activities when there is a “business case” to justify such action, that is, to increase shareholder value.

Sustainability proponents argue that there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between market and environment, and that “shared value” can often be created.

But what happens when the interests of the environment conflict with those of the market? Based on our research of large Australian companies, these conflicts almost inevitably mean that the interests of the market will prevail.

Indeed, as Peter Dauvergne at the University of British Columbia has cogently demonstrated in his book Eco-Business, much of the recent focus of corporate environmentalism has been aimed primarily at improving productivity and supply chain efficiencies, to expand production and markets, and ultimately be less environmentally sustainable.

“Less unsustainable”

Second, relying on business as a strategy is simply incapable of providing the sort of systemic and fundamental changes that are required to mitigate climate change. For all the potentially worthy efforts of individual companies in reducing their carbon emissions, retired sustainability academic John Ehrenfeld notes this simply equates to being a “little less unsustainable.”

This is very different from sustainability as a way of maintaining economic and social activities over time in harmony with the environment.

Professor Dirk Matten, visiting at University of Sydney from University of York, recently argued that relying on corporate social responsibility simply results in “islands of pet projects in a sea of corporate irresponsibility.”

Distracting from the real issue

Third, placing our faith in business further distracts us from advocating for what is actually required: meaningful government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The only way we as a species can deal with climate change is to dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels and this will require regulation, technological innovation and, most likely, mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel use.

For many on the political right, the idea of increased government regulation and restrictions on the use of fossil fuels is heresy. But government regulation has always been central to the efficient functioning of capitalist economies, particularly in times of crisis.

Witness for instance the role of governments in liberal democracies during the Second World War, where most economic activities came under government control as part of war-time mobilisation. Interestingly, some have sought to explore such a “mobilisation” on climate change. It isn’t pretty but then the alternative of muddling along as we have looks much worse.

Wishful thinking

In 2014 such political scenarios seem outlandish. In the absence of strong government action we are left with the hope that somehow business corporations and the market will save us.

This is beyond wishful thinking. In fact Daniel Nyberg from the University of Nottingham and I recently argued that this belief in corporate environmentalism forms one of three political myths that reinforce our suicidal trajectory as a species in the face of climate change.

I strongly support companies that take meaningful action to reduce their carbon footprint, cut their waste and use of natural resources, and even give back to the environment and society. However, this win-win outcome is far from common. Indeed, as one senior sustainability adviser confessed in one of our research interviews “the best thing a business could do for the environment would be to shut down, but that’s clearly not a viable option.”

Interesting work is being conducted around the type of response needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. It is vastly different from the “business as usual” mantra of the mainstream media and the soothing discourse of the “green business” industry.

To get some idea of the difficult task at hand, Professor Kevin Anderson’s recent presentation at the Tyndall Centre’s Radical Emissions Reduction Conference gives us some idea of what we might need to limit global warming to 2C.

Businesses will clearly be key actors in this social and economic change, but the scale of change also demands government regulation. We cannot afford to simply leave it to business to “save us” from climate change.

Join the conversation

129 Comments sorted by

  1. John Newlands

    tree changer

    With already built coal fired power stations here the cheapest source of electricity (with or without weak carbon pricing) and new coal stations in China driving export demand it's hard for business to say no to coal. In fact the CEOs of both BHP and Rio have said in effect it's their moral obligation to dig up coal to help the economy and the world's poor. Both companies are key donors to the lobby group that has just launched this website
    http://www.australiansforcoal.com.au/

    My suggestion if coal digging is such a noble task then we should export coal for free as an act of charity and put the CO2 under our domestic emissions target. In my opinion government intervention is as necessary as defence and pubic hospitals. With few exceptions the captains of industry will lapse into the opinion that emissions are not a problem.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Newlands

      I was about to post the same link when I noticed your comment John.

      The "Australians For Coal" insanity is the sort of corporate behaviour in response to three IPCC reports that in my opinion deserves the label "criminal negligence" and in a just society would be prosecuted. Given the science and engineering expertise within coal companies and the Mining Council who are responsible for the campaign, they cannot claim ignorance of climate science.
      https://theconversation.com/is-misinformation-about-the-climate-criminally-negligent-23111

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  2. Martin Young

    Senior Lecturer, Centre for Gambling Education and Research at Southern Cross University

    I agree that capital can not structurally speaking save us or our environment. Asking the market to fix the problems created by the market is tautological, but something at which teh ideology of capital excels.

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  3. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Essentially GREED will out.

    The last act of business will be to sell tickets to watch the end of the world.

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  4. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    "Distracting from the real issue - Third, placing our faith in business further distracts us from advocating for what is actually required: meaningful government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The only way we as a species can deal with climate change is to dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels and this will require regulation, technological innovation and, most likely, mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel use."
    Christopher .. thank you thank you thank you ... finally someone is saying this. Please do not stop. You are 100% correct imo, after doing my own research into the hard numbers and then noting what the science has been saying for a long time. 2 C itself is dangerous, and that is now upon us all in 20 years from now. The evidence is out there. Regulating of CO2e out of existence on the planet by 2050 is the only thing that will activate the energies of researchers, industry and business to address the cause and develop workable solutions. imo.

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  5. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Yes, Professor Kevin Anderson and the Tyndall Center is a voice in the wilderness that needs to be heard and loudly. It's about time. His figures are robust, his logic sound, and his rationales well reasoned. Genuine people concerned about CC will learn a lot by looking at everything on this site. http://kevinanderson.info/index.php
    And please note 1 C is the upper safe temp limit and that CO2 needs to go back under 350 ppm asap this century. That is what the planet and the science is telling everyone. The IPCC is pulling their punches due to process and political influence and power. imo.

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  6. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    It has been recently reported that pollution from China is now causing more violent storm and heavy rain in the US. There is also is issue of toxic particles like mercury and industrial chemicals. It will be interesting to watch this issue develop as the US would delight in pointing the finger at China but probable won't due to their record Maybe when the economist model the associated costs a net loss will do the trick. Hoping that politicians in the US or our present lot will become altruistic is a step too far.
    ehow.com/list_6875757_effects-pollution-china-united-states.html

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  7. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Try these and share them with friends (and enemies)
    Kevin Anderson - Rhetoric to Reality May 2012 aka Real Clothes for the Emperor talk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KumLH9kOpOI

    "We Have To Consume Less": Radical Economic Overhaul to Avert Climate Crisis
    Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin post-Warsaw COP with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEQ7cOUjwgM

    Full interview of Prof Kevin Anderson Tues 17th Dec 2013 Post Radical Emissions Conference
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn03oxCb94Y

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    1. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Severn Suzuki's speech at Rio Earth Summit 2012 (20 years after 1992)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaT_s4mYVNs

      If you really wanna know how bad it can get, and grasp the importance of the 'little known' knowledge of CO2 from deep time in our geological past, then take the time today to view this 45 minute lecture by a genuine Paleontologist expert in the field.

      Who is Afraid of the Big Bad Climate? What is the Worst That Global Warming Could Do?
      Nov 26, 2013 - Dr. Peter Ward presents…

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  8. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    Excellent article and analysis. Badge engineering - climate change as marketing angle - is a cynical illusion.

    Rather what is necessary is to create market conditions - via regulation and taxation - in which the interests of shareholders and investors is pushed into delivering real emission cuts (and incidentally, more efficient use of all finite resources).

    But even where this has been attempted in Australia's recent history - say with the subsidies and incentives afforded to the renewable…

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  9. Michael Marriott

    logged in via Twitter

    Terrific article.

    In the end it will require government regulation, however this question is at the very heart of the climate "debate".

    The debate was never about the science, it was always about how society governs itself.

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    1. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      Mr Marriott - "the debate was never about the science". Correct, which explains why your "Recursive Fury" paper has been dust-binned from a scientific journal. No science in it whatsoever.

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    2. Victor Jones

      Freelance

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Nah, it's just you don't understand how variables need to be operationalised. So snipe and that which you don't understand.

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  10. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    Excellent piece. Ultimately, to combat climate change we're going to have to undo the corporate system(s) and reclaim government(s). The notion that either of those institutions in their current form can save us from the disaster they have created is neither likely nor logical. (And we can add the media to that mix - an unholy trinity)

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  11. Brandon Young

    Retired

    Maybe it is time to make a conscious effort to reframe the problem and the debate in terms that might have more impact on business. So, rather than "climate change", we might start to use a term like "Climate Chaos".

    Change can be imagined as gradual, and so in the irrational mind it can be dismissed as far off and nothing to really be concerned about.

    Chaos, which is a far more accurate description of what happens when complex systems cross tipping points, might dislodge the complacency of expecting that we may even be able to manage or mitigate the effects as the destruction progresses in an orderly way.

    Chaos is definitely something that spooks markets and businesses, especially financiers, and it is far more menacing to those sitting on top of hierarchies of political power.

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    1. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Brandon Young

      In the same vein, we could start to focus on greenhouse gas Concentrations, rather than emissions.

      To focus on Emissions is to pick out villains, and to set nation against nation, as we have seen. It is looking at the source of the problem rather than the accumulated outcome.

      Concentrations are an actual physical property, and can only be imagined globally - it makes little sense to think of the concentrations of one country, or one industry. So, to focus on Concentrations is to see the full…

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    2. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Brandon Young

      I quite like that re framing Brandon. Given that business is profit-driven and that shareholders demand profit and profit growth, anything that threatens that over the long term could result in support for action- not out of humanitarian concern- but purely out of self interest.

      From that perspective, if "climate chaos" in the form of say, crop failures or reductions. recurring droughts, or other effects impinging on or threatening profits,it, could lead to a demand for action. But, I fear that such events will have to be quite drastic in extent and severity to overcome the BAU inertia.

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    3. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Good point about concentrations vs emissions.

      Unfortunately, our government(s) will still take the "out" of blaming other countries for increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 despite us producing more per capita than any other country.

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    4. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Thanks Henry. If we wait until significant events play out, we will probably already be past the tipping point. It would not matter what we did after that, and no matter how much the demand for action increased, we would have only chaos.

      This is the message that somehow needs to make it through to those with enough power to change the forces behind the business as usual inertia.

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    5. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Craig Read

      Thanks Craig. Maybe it would help if we encourage people not to pay any attention to what government says.

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Brandon Young

      "we could start to focus on greenhouse gas Concentrations, rather than emissions."

      Indeed. One of the consequences of not focussing on concentrations and just considering emissions is that it provides a reward for bad behavior. i.e. the past bad behavior of generating lots of emissions is not just ignored, it actually provides an excuse for continuing to generate emissions in proportion to previous bad behavior.

      What a system.

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    7. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Good point. It seems we are locked in a stalemate between rich nations wanting to lock in relative advantage, and developing nations that want to catch up.

      If only those with economic and political power could wise up enough to put their humanity and their dependence on this planet ahead of their mad quest for infinite economic growth, they could see that simple global solutions are possible, and necessary, and can be implemented in ways with limited impact on relative competitiveness.

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    8. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Brandon, you are right to focus on concentrations, but isn't this what the IPCC is doing? Their reports are not about individual countries, or individual emitters, yet are being ignored by key world governments. If only we had some effective way to make politicians accountable and personally liable for damages they allow to be done ...

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    9. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      “If only we had some effective way to make politicians accountable and personally liable for damages they allow to be done ...”

      Thanks Doug. I think we can hold governments accountable for climate response via a Global Carbon Fund.

      There is, in my view, an ideal global response to climate change. It does require global agreement, or a large degree of global agreement, and this may be perceived as very plausible once the approach is well understood, and the marketing of the message is complete…

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    10. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Brandon, all excellent suggestions and it would work, if given a chance and if auditing of both emissions and reductions were flawless. I'm not sure how to measure compliance - would it be per capita, or just a flat national amount and those whose populations are growing fastest suffer an implicit penalty for having to reduce more per capita, in the face of growing demand? Interesting thoughts.
      Sadly, human mendacity means this, like any other process, would be subject to rorting and corruption. At least the rorters would be called out by the nations trying hardest to be honest.
      If only we could get world leaders into a room and not feed them until they had reached a binding agreement to follow this path - wouldn't it be wonderful?

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    11. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      I appreciate your thoughts. No calculations based on population are required, just a simple price on total emissions measured. The countries with rapidly increasing populations would be expected to have rising emissions as well, but starting from a relatively low base compared to richer countries. I can not see any implicit penalty, but am open to discussion.

      Rorting is far easier in more complex environments, and almost impossible when the system is as simple as what I have proposed here. Even…

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    12. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Brandon, you make good points. I am more cynical about the proposition that "it would be in the interests of sovereign governments to rule out any rorting", given the number of governments already implicated in rorting on a grand scale in other areas of international commerce and diplomacy. When the rewards are large, there will always be vultures ready to feed.
      Still, I applaud your efforts and would vote in favour of any attempt to implement your scheme. Simple and effective, the bane of a bureaucrat's existence.

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    13. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      I agree that governments would want to play the system, but given they would have to pay for actual outcomes, I can't see how they could get away with it in practice. And yes, weaker governments may struggle to control powerful corporations within their jurisdictions, but ultimately that is their problem. In a way, this approach changes the dynamic between government and business, and having some of their goals in direct opposition may be a good thing for democracy. Thanks again.

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    14. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Hello Brandon, thanks very much for pointing this out and asking for my thoughts on your proposal. I am sorry to say that I do not think it is a very good or workable solution in today's world. Which, imo, proves how brilliant an idea it is! For 'today's world' IS the problem. ( smile )

      OK, if I have this idea correct, a nation that does things like stops cutting down the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests every day will obtain a reduced bill for their annual CO2e emissions. A nation that plants…

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    15. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Also I understand the carbon price would be a fixed price the same for all. I am assuming the credits for sequestration are the same price per tonne. Is that so? Or could the sequestration amount paid be 50% higher for example .... as this has added environmental benefits than simply carbon in the atmosphere, just curious. thx

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    16. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Thanks Sean, your comments are very much appreciated, and pointing out the perceived obstacles has great value.

      Now, how to spread the word, or at least build the conversation? And what sort of mechanism can enforce payments? Hmm

      (The descendants can make do with the Nobel winnings - I'll take mine in economics, just to see all those economists cringe ;)

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    17. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      In the simplest scheme, all the revenue would be paid for carbon sinking - so the rate would be very high in the beginning - making a massive payoff for the first to develop artificial sinks.

      A possible variation is to defer some of the revenue for a time, so that industries can join the race from a standing start - say defer half the revenue for 5 years.

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    18. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Brandon, ok, that sounds even better. I didn't think of that ... all revenue paid out pro-rata on all 'intentionally instigated artificial sinks' Yes, that would a huge motivation, and this si the biggest current problem too ... actions to rapidly drive down concentrations. ( I have some info thoughts about that another time re the Temp Goals of the IPCC, ppm rates, and total global concentrations .. something odd about that ).

      Brandon I have been focusing on 2 items the last ~3 months for my…

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    19. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      If this matters ... In the SPM WGIII they give a reference for 2011: “For comparison, the CO2eq concentration in 2011 is estimated to be 430 ppm (uncertainty range 340–520 ppm) footnote13. Footnote 13: This is based on the assessment of total anthropogenic radiative forcing for 2011 relative to 1750 in WGI, i.e. 2.3 W m‐2, uncertainty range 1.1 to 3.3 W m‐2. [WGI AR5 Figure SPM.5, WGI 8.5, WGI 12.3]” (SPM WGIII).

      and many non-experts who are comparing the numbers of WGII and WGIII are comparing apples with pears. There is no direct comparison possible with the numbers and the metrics given in both reports.

      The other more obvious one is some figures speak about Carbon 'quantities' while others refer to CO2 and then others CO2e .... Best.

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    20. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Me again, you probably know about Anderson, but just in case make sure to view this http://vimeo.com/62871951 ... as it shows how well your idea fits in with a sanguine realistic view of the sceince. Note @ 11 mins where your #1 point about "concentrations" is the only thing that matters ... he uses the term "cumulative emissions & carbon budget". also see here http://kevinanderson.info/

      fwiw We run out of the carbon budget to stay below 2C (dangerous unpredictable climate change) in 2033 at currently projected BAU carbon use rates. Cheers Sean

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    21. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Bleak stuff there from Kevin Anderson.

      Even the models that produce the dire outcomes presume that the emissions from India and China will peak before 2020, while the experts in those two countries do not see that as possible, or even plausible.

      We are in a crisis. The Global Carbon Fund may be our last hope.

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    22. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Happy Easter Brandon. The numbers I have seen for China suggest their Carbon emissions level off circa post 2040. At this point, India has barely begun to rise on all these 'economic' theories and is about one fifth of china carbon emissions. .

      Jeff Masters did WG3 review "Emissions of greenhouse gases are rising at a near-record pace. Greenhouse gas emissions grew 2.2% per year between 2000 - 2010, compared to a rate of 1.3% per year between 1979 - 2000. The increase was 3% per year between…

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    23. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Sean, if you have seen some of my recent posts you will be aware that I have proposed a new kind of media - Systems Media - and this may be what is required to spell out, to ordinary folks and to intellectuals and the elites with the power to change the world, exactly where we are and what we need to do in order to avoid or navigate the unfolding catastrophe.

      Systems media involves modelling of our economic, political and natural systems in the public domain, in a way that we can have meaningful…

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    24. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Other key points from Kevin Anderson's talk, for anyone who stumbles across this thread:

      * Even a complete shutdown of carbon emissions, right now, only offers a slim chance of avoiding Climate Chaos.

      * Economic principles can not be scaled to address climate chaos in terms of "Net Costs".

      * Given the carbon emissions inherent in feeding the global population, we are already down to a 40% chance of avoiding the climate tipping point.

      And a reminder of an earlier point:

      * Even the first few significant climate events constitute a threat to the global economic system, so complacency is not an option.

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    25. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Thanks Sean. I do need the odd reminder that those who value status and pecking orders must follow irrational protocols. But surely a simple comment on an idea like this one is not completely out of order?

      Anyhow, if you have any links to sites where this topic might get a bit more traction, they would be appreciated. Cheers.

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    26. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Try this https://theconversation.com/what-science-communicators-can-learn-from-listening-to-people-25087#comment_357090

      btw I am not being critical nor complaining about academics and scientists per se. I am pointing out they do have their own "way of life" and modes of operating that are valid and logical. On top of that they all have a right to protect themselves. In the hustle and bustle of bs social media such as here, people often forget that "it is their Job, their career" that is at stake .... Store managers at Coles do not go online and say whatever the feel like or really believe and think about Westfarmers' policy and internal systems of "how things are done" in all their subsidiaries and the people who run them. cheers.

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    27. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Brandon, re the list, tread carefully. they all have their own wheel barrows to push, and all barrows have "I care about climate change" painted on the side. Doesn't make it true. Underneath the overt signage you'll probably find their own name, and their own ideas / opinions that are most important. Try Guy McPherson at 350.org first ... do your homework first. Keep your wits about you. :-)

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    28. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Thanks Amanda. I do appreciate knowing that arguments have at least been seen, and it is a pity that this site doesn't collect some simple statistics to automatically show the number of readers. Anyhow, maybe it is the quality of readers that matters to the intellect, and the quantity is more appealing to the vanity of ego. Cheers.

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    29. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Yes, it is a great presentation isn't it - his enthusiasm and humour are great, and he is making a case for exactly what is needed - creative tools to exploit massive access to data in the public domain, and to allow ordinary users to drill into complex things and find instant understanding for themselves.

      The animated charts are very useful to show patterns in macro data over time, and breaking things down into component elements is a powerful way to cut through the boring statistics and gain…

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    30. Amanda Barnes
      Amanda Barnes is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Voter

      In reply to Brandon Young

      What better way to sway business than with accessible data? Let's face it, their expertise in mineral extraction does not set them up with the necessary wherewithal to negotiate complex systems. This is another one that you made me think of in your 'babbling.' I think having two 'tween computer nerds in my house has given me a bit of an idea of how young people access information. This particular site works extremely well in tapping into the way that kids use technology. They dip in & out & take in multiple sources in a second. All that gaming had to have some uses. You will enjoy this: https://www.bighistoryproject.com/portal

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  12. Ken Dyer

    Knowledge Seeker

    Profit over people.

    Those three words say it all.

    Robert Hunziker sums up the relationship of neoliberalism and the climate in this article:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/19/the-climate-of-neoliberalism/

    Why doesn't our Government declare war on planetary ruination?

    He quotes Socrates,“When they are given great power, their shallowness inevitably leads to injustice.”

    Why does the world follow the false prophet, Milton Friedman?

    Hunziker says, "The brutal truth is that…

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  13. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Depends on the business. Certainly not those that flog fossil fuels

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  14. Craig Read

    logged in via Twitter

    Business will always do what's good for profits. That includes tackling climate change. But only if you make doing something about it profitable or not doing something about it unprofitable.

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  15. Mike Kee

    Twixt Cup & Lip

    Maybe CO2 will stuff the world in 100 years time or maybe not?
    Democratically speaking I think "Mr Global Warming" was voted off the island at the last federal election.

    A glass of 59 Grange anyone?

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  16. Craig Read

    logged in via Twitter

    I really think we need to reassess our current "globalism" to deal with this.

    If we put a CO2 tariff on every good shipped between countries based on the CO2 generated when transporting the good the inverse % of renewable energy produced in the source country. You'd suddenly find a lot of countries building more renewable energy sources and working on more efficient ways of transporting goods.

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    1. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Craig Read

      I liked what you said Graig in a cpl comments and then you went and did this "a CO2 tariff on every good shipped between countries" which is the complete opposite of the thrust of the article and your prior comments = Govt Regulation is the #1 first step ... globally by all Govts .... using global 'concentrations' as the the ONLY yardstick worth using. Regulation with Legal Force of fines or jail motivates Company Boards and Shareholders to make different decisions and to act in a particular way to protect their profits, their Capital value (stock price) and their long term survival. A key reason why the East India Company stopped shipping tons of Opium to London ... or they would still be doing it today.

      The issue is only about CO2 and CO2e (equivalent) Concentrations in ppm that arises from Cumulative Global Emissions since 1750 to today, and more coming tomorrow. With no global agreement, then no solution will work. imo.

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    2. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Sean, I agree that global agreements and solutions are what we need.

      But in the absence of those, taxing incoming goods based on CO2 "content" would have several beneficial impacts. It would give us a tax base that could be used to finance green initiatives in Australia. Dumping would become less profitable while local production would become more profitable.

      Most businesses won't change their practices without a profit incentive. If we want Australian businesses to be competitive in the future, we'll have to impose something similar internally. And at some point there will have to be costs imposed for having energy inefficient production on businesses in every country. Whether that takes the form of a world-wide ETS, tariff regimes or other means doesn't really matter. What does matter is whether or not we're ready for it.

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    3. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Craig Read

      Craig, the trouble with applying tariffs is the same as applying emissions control: if it is not done globally, it will not work. Imagine if we palced such a tariff on imports from China: their reaction would be to cease trading with Australia altogether, getting their coal and iron ore from alternative sources. The key is to find some international action that will not be shooting ourselves in the foot.

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  17. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    For academics and scientists @ TheCon from Stanford Edu
    Consensus For Action - Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century.
    Join us in keeping our planet healthy, productive, and enjoyable. We're trying to communicate what we've learned in the course of working on global-change issues over decades of hands-on research and teaching in our field sites, laboratories, and classrooms. We're trying to reach outside the Ivory Tower to give information to the people who most need…

    Read more
    1. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Quoting Dr James Hansen:
      “What makes me sick is the realization that climate change and air pollution were both preventable. Thus they are true human-made tragedies. And I know that we in the West bear a moral burden.
      “We scientists have special responsibility. We had knowledge 25 years ago that should have allowed climate change and air pollution to be manageable problems, not tragedies. However, we failed to communicate the implications well enough with political leaders and we did not achieve…

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    2. Mike Kee

      Twixt Cup & Lip

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      " An idea is not responsible for the people that support it"

      Why do an increasing number of people in Australia not accept, support or more worryingly give a damn about global warming?

      Initial success in promoting the idea was nothing more than overreach using the antediluvian rhetoric of the righteous Greens.

      I think that political mistake by the scientific community has put adoption of the idea & its consequences back 10 -20 years in Australia.

      Apologies but all the scientific bloggs, UN reports , above average daily temperature reporting , etc will be water of the ducks back for some time to come in middle class Australia.

      Maybe if an idea is initially promoted by a crazy the idea will always be considered crazy.

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    3. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Mike Kee

      Miker, "Why do an increasing number of people in Australia not accept, support or more worryingly give a damn about global warming?"

      I believe it's a normal psychological aspect called "cognitive dissonance". It's also closely aligned with human reactions to shock and grief and misplaced guilt for unexpected outcomes. fyi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=korGK0yGIDo

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  18. Leigh Ackland

    Professor

    Nice article Christopher.

    Also, it is a significant issue that many politicians do not understand science.

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  19. Gregor Napier Cutlack

    Builder/Farmer

    Plan it………..Planning IT..…………………………PLANET
    Know before anyone starts thinking politics, religion, beliefs, and ideological interpretations.
    We’ve all got one thing in common. Air Soil and Water. The three complex wonders that sustain life on earth. Together with the Heat and Light from the Sun.
    The question is can the two “opposing sides”, one of which I am a member, unite.
    So instead of even contemplating or actuating blame guilt, for past and present actions.
    We unite to introduce through…

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  20. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Christopher Wright, I again commend your article. Why? Because I suspect we are drinking from the same well of 'wisdom'. (smile ) I first published the following extracts online on Friday, 28 March 2014.

    Part 1) Carbon Pollution is a global problem, but ENERGY USE and SUPPLY is a LOCAL DECISION.
    From the IEA 12 November 2013 - World Energy Outlook Executive Summary "As the source of two-thirds of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy sector will be pivotal in determining whether or not…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Thanks Mr Douglas. Responses to your five points follow.

      1) While excess atmospheric CO2 ("Carbon pollution" is no more and no less than the Jargon of The Clueless - ie our political, diplomatic, economic, financial and corporate elite, who are almost to a person utterly clueless about and completely uninterested in understanding the earth system science around climate change - but they can all smell the gravy long before the train stops at their station) is a problem everywhere in the world…

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  21. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to John Nicol

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. In reply to John Nicol

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. In reply to John Nicol

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to John Nicol

      As our community standards say:

      "Keep comments relevant to the article and replies relevant to the initiating post. We reserve the right to delete off-topic comments to keep threads on track.

      For example: in an article about the policy response to climate change, comments that deny the science of climate change will be considered off topic."

      Your post does not touch on the topic of the article – business responses to climate change – and has been removed.

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  22. john miller

    taxpayer

    Wait up, stop for a moment. Can you think of a corporation that does not ultimately serve the individual? All that coal and everything else ultimately finds its way to satisfying the wants of an individual. Without a consumer there is no payoff for a corporation. Whether it be a fridge, a microwave, hot shower, comfortable room, hot dinner, cold beer. Consumers are the engine of global carbon dioxide production. Look to thineself. Governments keep consumers happy, so no point blaming a government elected to keep the voters in the comfort they have come to expect. Putting up electricity prices to dissuade consumers from causing more coal to be burnt is like shooting the mailman to stop bills arriving. Change must be personal, that will change business behaviour not vice versa. Businesses are a collection of individuals, change at the grass roots will feed through to the highest branches.

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    1. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to john miller

      "Businesses are a collection of individuals, change at the grass roots will feed through to the highest branches."

      I will remember that the next time I am making a TV advertisement for Businesses to influence their behaviour, and when moving into my next home working out what I will use for heat to cook my dinner inside the house, and where I will get the water for the cuppa tea. Ah, the smell of all this free choice consumerism in the morning. So many choices, so little time. :-)

      "Can you think of a corporation that does not ultimately serve the individual?" Sure, how much time do you have?

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    2. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to john miller

      A Letterman style Top 10?
      #10 Lehman Brothers
      #9 Enron
      #8 Worldcom
      #7 British East India Company
      #6 Jardine, Matheson and Co.
      #5 Countrywide Financial
      #4 HIH Insurance
      #3 Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC
      #2 Brown Brothers Harriman, and its affiliate, the Union Banking Corporation

      #1 James Hardie Industries Ltd. (and their Lawyers)

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    3. john miller

      taxpayer

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      This seems to be a list of companies you dislike, irrespective of their business practices, they were all serving some ultimate consumer, who bought their services and products. We the consumers (humanity) are ultimately responsible for corporate CO2 emissions. Couldn't we get by with smaller refrigerators without freezers, or household airconditioners? Could we not walk more?

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    4. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to john miller

      You asked, I answered, now you say it's a list of companies I do not like irrespective of their business practices? Now I'm the 'problem' here? Wow. They were all serving some ultimate consumer ... you say. Are you kidding me? UBC got done in 1942 for trading with the enemy (Germany) .... you live in an interesting world John Miller. Bernie Madoff was 'serving his customers', or some other 'ultimate customer' aka himself? (was that serving or 'servicing' ?) Hello ... anyone home? Ever heard of 'history' they teach it at school you know and they teach Law and Economics at Uni. Try it one day. ( smile )

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    5. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      I think the kindest thing I could say to that dear Dr. is it was a poor attempt at humour that went horribly wrong. But in case you actually were interested in my personal views and feelings on the matter raised over Frontiers, i think Jane here sums up the situation rather nicely. http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/04/06/a-conspiracy-and-dunces-journal-frontiers-tosses-authors-under-bus/#comment-155797
      A long time ago a dear friend taught me a wonderful truism. When we point the finger at others remember there are always three other fingers pointing right back at our self. As hard as it is at times, I do try to be nice. ( smile )

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to john miller

      John, are you saying educate the consumers and everything will work out fine? If so, you have a point: because of the abdication of responsibility by mass media, the 'common herd' are being hoodwinked into buying the latest gizmo from XYZ Corporation, instead of being informed about the dangers being posed by their lifestyle.
      I thought governments were supposed to be better informed and smarter than the average man in the street. What happened to governments being informed by the science (eg through the IPCC) and making policy decisions truly in the best interests of their electors? Change the laws to penalise emissions and change the media so they must report the truth: then we might see grass roots support for radical change, but it has to be done with or without grass roots support. Who but governments can make such laws?

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    7. ernest malley

      farmer

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Dear DrB - at first I thought that you'd created a neologism with <I>idealionalist</I> & read on, to see what you chose to mean, HumptyDumpty style.
      Then I dun got all <b>pathelogical</B> after realising that you simply can't spell. Or are as bad a typist as I. Or both.

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    8. john miller

      taxpayer

      In reply to Sean Douglas

      Sean, you worry me, obviously Madoff and others were criminal enterprises, however I cannot see the relevence of your worst 10 to the climate issue currently before us. Your posts seem to be predicated on proving me wrong, where as I would have hoped you could contribute to finding a solution.
      Let me ask you this, do you concede your personal actions contribute directly to the incresing CO2 in the atmosphere? You seem fixated on blaming anyone else but yourself, in particular you blame corporations and governments both of which are acting out the wishes of individuals.
      Try to be less argumentative and more contributive, you'll feel better too.

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    9. john miller

      taxpayer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      In a way I am, but it seems to me that we are to ready to heap the blame for CO2 pollution on anyone but ourselves. We can all act positively but it will require some sacrifices and there we hit the brick wall. For 200 years in Australia Europeans got by without airconditioning now it must be present 24/7 even in our cars on a mild day we will find windows up and a/c going.
      It takes personal thoughtfullness and effort to keep litter off our public places, but look what we can do when we all accept personal responsibility for achieving a public good.

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    10. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to john miller

      Not really an either/or issue is it ... individual actions and self-control is a useful thing to do but of itself alone it will not shift a system dominated by a production and consumption system utterly dependent on fossil fuel use. Only economics will do that in anything like the timescales on offer.

      But that said, we should all try and eat less, consume less, waste nothing and try and show our kids, neighbours and friends that one is much happier when less encumbered with stuff.

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    11. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to john miller

      Hey John, mate I feel fine. My top 10 has nothing to do with CC, nothing ..... you said "Can you think of a corporation that does not ultimately serve the individual?"

      I said "Sure, how much time do you have?" and you asked ... and so I answered. Nothing else to it. ( smile )

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  23. Catherine Marten

    Student

    I find this an interesting topic and I may have missed something somewhere, but to me there are two fundamental things missing. One is consumers and the other is motivation.

    On consumers - something aside from human beings that we all seem to be...don't we have the ability to sway businesses by simply not buying from them?

    I'm reasonably informed - also ignorant on many levels, but I do try and make choices that support the environment as far as I can - and my personal ethics - in terms of…

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    1. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Catherine Marten

      "what motivates a business (shareholders) to maintain practices that are destroying the life on this planet? Are there personality types here? Psychological disorders even?" Profit. While it is profitable to destroy the carrying capacity of our planet, that destruction will continue. Homo Stupidus stupidus.

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  24. David Bindoff

    manager

    To move market mechanisms in favour of alternatives to fossil fuels, it seems to me the simplest regulatory boundary would be to ban fossil fuel exploration globally. As soon as a ban is in place (with an agreed policing body in place ) business will simply shift investment to the obviously enormous opportunities in renewables and energy storage and fossil fuel pricing will inevitably shift to reflect the new reality. Societal safety net mechanisms are already in place to adjust to price shocks and…

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    1. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to David Bindoff

      Hi David. I may or may not be worthy of your respect, but my argument for a Global Carbon Fund on this thread might meet your worthy objectives. Be interesting to get your thoughts. Cheers.

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  25. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    “islands of pet projects in a sea of corporate irresponsibility” and the Liberal's Direct Action Plan will create a number of these islands.
    Business will do what is in its best interest, so it is up to Government to set rules which penalise activities which pollute the Commons. Looking to current so-called Right Wing governments to do this is presently just wishful thinking.

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  26. Ted O'Brien.

    Farmer.

    One very necessary thing that must be done to alleviate our carbon emissions is to increase the efficiency of our transport system by building more and better railways.

    This will require in the short run an increase in carbon emissions while the new infrastructure is being built.

    OUr local carrier hauls 43 tonnes with a 23 tonne payload with 420 horsepower.

    Our local trains haul 11,000 tonnes with an 8,600 tonne payload and 12,000 horsepower. The most modern trains appear to be doing even better than that.

    Huge efficiency gains can be made with rail.

    Then, if you go to Sydney, you can watch an endless procession of a ton and a half of tin hauling one person.

    There's got to be a better way. And without forcing people, too.

    These things are necessary even if AGW is not the problem some would have us believe.

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