Sustainability In The News: The Individual Collective
2017 has been marked by significant momentum from the individual collective. We can all partake in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals—in making the world a better place. How we decide to lead our lives can improve the world through our food habits, through how much we throw away, through our daily actions and our wallets. Click here for the UN's fun and easy guide to saving the world.
2016 #climatechange and U.S. public opinion polls are out! The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released new data today. Here are a few national numbers:
- Global warming is happening? 70% of Americans say yes.
- Global warming is caused mostly by human activities? 53% of Americans agree.
- Trust climate scientists about global warming? 71% say somewhat/ strongly trust.
- Global warming is already harming people in the US? 51% say now/ within 10 years.
- Global warming will harm people in developing countries? 63% say great/ moderate amount.
- Global warming will harm future generations? 70% say great/ moderate amount.
- Should we fund research into renewable energy sources? 82% support this.
- Would we regulate CO2 as a pollutant? 75% support this.
- Should we set strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants? 69% support this.
- How many people hear about global warming at least once a week? 24% say at least weekly.
Has everyone watched Shell’s 1991 film depicting the severe risk climate change poses on humans and the planet? Even with this knowledge, Shell has spent millions lobbying against action on climate change—spending over $20 million in 2015 alone. We can no longer debate the effect fossil fuels will have on our world, but we can understand that our government does not side with future generations. This week, the House held a hearing on the Social Cost of Carbon, a metric which estimates the monetary cost of climate change’s damage to society. The US federal estimates are currently at $37 per ton of CO2 pollution; while most economists believe $37 is too low, Republicans argued for its decrease for two reasons: 1) the estimate should only account for impacts on America, and 2) the discount rate used should be higher. The underlying message of these arguments is 1) America should not pay for American pollution because it will overwhelmingly affect third-world countries, and 2) there should be a lower value placed on preventing future damages of climate change.
Climate change is happening, and developing nations are being hit the hardest. 70% of Zimbabwe's economy is based on agriculture, with almost 80% of the population's livelihood connected to agricultural production. Crops are rain-fed, meaning that any small change in rain or temperature severely affects yield. Starting in 2015, Zimbabwe began experiencing a severe drought, after years of increasing heat. Maize, the country's staple crop, has been most affected as it relies heavily on water. The IIED Climate Change Working Paper states that if no adaptation measures are taken, yields from rain-fed agriculture will decrease by 50% by 2020. These changes in weather patterns have not only hurt production, but also significantly reduced access to water. When 65% of the population lives in rural communities, relying on rainwater to fill wells is crucial. Sadly, access to safe and reliable water has already decreased by 40-60% nationwide. DRI Africa is a social entrepreneurship organization that is helping tackle these issues. Through the Climate Change Virtual School, Zimbabwean youth are being empowered to tackle climate change adaptation and natural resource sustainability.
Seeing an untapped potential mixed with a desire to do go in the world, Julius Ibrahim founded a coffee shop in East London which trains and employees those affected by homelessness—@secondshotcoffee. After hours, the café opens as a hub for those in need and provides advisory services. Funding originally began with impact investors who seek to increase societal wellbeing, as well as financial returns, specifically benefiting from the UK’s social investment tax relief (SITR). The SITR allows individuals to deduct 30% of the cost of their investment from their income tax liability if held for a minimum of 3 years. This not only encourages long-termism, but emboldens individuals to fund social enterprises. Towards the end of 2016, the UK released a statement securing the future of the SITR. As of April 6, 2017, seven+ year old social enterprises will be able to raise £1.5 million, up from the original £1 million.
In light of the International Day of the Women and #ADayWithoutWomen, SSE-GIZ released a report on how stock exchanges can advance gender equality. At the current rate, the gender pay gap will not close for another 100 years and it is unlikely women will comprise 30% of issuer boards until 2027. As of now, only 3% of women are CEOs and 4% are chairpersons. Yet, studies show “female representation correlates to better returns on equity, net profit margins and EPS, along with lower volatility.” The private sector, specifically stock exchanges, are uniquely positioned to influence capital markets as they sit at the nexus of companies and investors. One way to achieve change is requiring listed companies to report on diversity metrics, policies supporting equality, and performance against SDG 5 targets.
Can the GOP lead the way on climate change? A WSJ op-ed released February 7th by George Shultz and James Baker, key members of Reagan’s administration, make a strong case for a carbon tax and dividend program. Alongside this was the release of the Climate Leadership Council’s “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” (co-author includes Henry Paulson). || Four main points: (1) Implementing a carbon tax, allowing companies to find the most effective solutions to decrease greenhouse gas emissions; (2) Instating a carbon dividend payment, which would distribute the proceeds from the carbon tax back to the American public; (3) A border adjustment for carbon content relying on imports and exports—if an American company exports to a country without a similar carbon pricing mechanism, the U.S. company would receive a rebate; meanwhile, imports from the same country without the mechanism would come with fees or higher prices—all of which would incentivize global commitment to carbon reduction due to unfair trade advantage; (4) Eliminating unnecessary regulation that cost the U.S. billions—an estimate of $111 billion a year was spent during the Obama administration. Advantages? Last month’s report by the Treasury Department estimates that a carbon dividend could increase incomes of about 70% of Americans.
The March on Science will focus on humanizing scientific research. Scientists will be speaking and holding “teach-in tents” to explain their research, making the data more approachable. First held in 2014, the People’s Climate March is the second of its kind, holding significantly more meaning today than two years ago. “We’re fighting for climate rooted in racial and economic justice, and we want to hold this administration to account,” said national organizer Paul Getsos. “We want a reaction from the administration, we don’t want to roll back our climate progress.”