Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Four Studies That Ponder the Road From Here

Joel Makower over at GreenBiz summarizes four year-end studies plotting the path forward.  They include, writes Makower:
  • Managing the Unavoidable - aimed at better understanding the impact of climate change on companies and their investors in four sectors: electric utilities, oil and gas, real estate, and water utilities. The focus was on climate change adaptation, not mitigation -- that is, how companies in these sectors will shift their products, processes, and policies to succeed in a world grown warmer, but not necessarily what they'll do to help prevent warming in the first place.  
The takeaway:

Climate change adaptation strategy is becoming a boardroom issue. It may no longer be enough to measure and manage one's carbon footprint. Companies that don't have a strategy to adapt to climate change may find themselves reeling from "surprises" they might have otherwise anticipated.
  • Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector by the insurance giant Allianz and the nonprofit environmental group WWF.   It ponders the small changes that, at some point, could cause big changes in weather, sea levels, and other things. It chronicles several potential consequences -- sea-level rise along North American coasts, Indian Summer monsoons in Asia, Amazon die-back and drought, desertification of the southwestern U.S. -- and the "insurance aspects" for each.
The take-away:

The impacts of climate change on companies may not come through horrific, sudden hurricanes, fires, or other calamities, but through seemingly small changes that rapidly turn into big ones. Once again, the need to anticipate and plan for various climate scenarios is rising in importance in some industries.
 The Takeaway:

Much as with energy, there's a strong understanding that "business as usual" is no longer an option in the water sector. Water will be an important investment theme for companies and governments in the coming decades, providing opportunities for those that can provide cost-effective solutions. And there is significant "low-hanging fruit," in which existing technology and water-management strategies can close the gap between what's available and what's needed.
  • Betting on Science" (PDF), a report from Accenture that looks at technologies in transport fuels that have the potential to "disrupt" the current views of supply, demand and greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade.
The takeaway, says Makower of this fourth study:

Research and development of oil alternatives is robust, with dozens of companies working to bring a wide range of alternatives to market. The question is no longer if or how these technologies will be commercialized, but when and how fast.

With the mainstream news media mainly bombarding us with heated "debates" over climate change and green economy issues (with some impressive exceptions, of course), it's refreshing to read analyses like this.  Like Makower -- and many of us -- I find the current transitional stage of society to be absolutely fascinating.

I continue to watch and participate with some mix of curiosity, hope, excitement, anticipation, dread, and inspiration.

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