09 Sep 2013  Lessons from the Classroom

Teaching Climate Change to Skeptics

The Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School aims to shift the debate about climate change from a political discussion to a practical conversation about risk and reward.

 

A few years ago, Joseph B. Lassiter traveled to San Francisco, Houston, and New York to hold discussions with Harvard alumni on the topic of business and the environment. Each time, he surveyed the audience about the touchy subject of climate change and how society should react to it. And while his presentations had been essentially identical and the audiences at first blush quite similar, the attitudes he encountered were disparate.

"In Northern California, 80 percent of the audience thought climate change was largely man-made and that urgent action to address it was both needed and realistic, while 20 percent believed it was a random fluctuation warranting no urgent action," says Lassiter, the Senator John Heinz Professor of Management Practice in Environmental Management at Harvard Business School. "In Houston, it was the flip-flop, with 20 percent [believing climate change was largely man-made and urgent action was needed]. In New York, while nearly 100 percent thought climate change was man-made, only half believed there was the political will--in the United States or abroad--to take urgent actions that would have a material impact on the problem."

"I don't think this ought to be treated as a religious question. I think it's better seen as a classic managerial question about decision-making under uncertainty"

Let alone how to tackle the problem, it seems we can't even agree on whether climate change is a problem at all. To make things more complicated, our viewpoints are often shaped more by the political climate than by the actual climate.

"The issue has become totally intertwined with political ideology," says Richard H.K. Vietor, the Paul Whiton Chertington Professor of Business Administration at HBS, who has been studying government and energy for more than four decades. "There are many people who believe the government is doing too much, and that the government interferes with economic growth if it enacts and implements policies around climate change; therefore, they choose not to believe in climate change."

Is it worth the risk?

Faculty members of Harvard Business School's Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) aim to shift the debate to a practical conversation about business assessment.

"It's striking that anyone frames this question in terms of 'belief,' saying things like, 'I don't believe in climate change,' " says John D. Black Professor and BEI faculty cochair Forest L. Reinhardt. "I don't think this ought to be treated as a religious question. I think it's better seen as a classic managerial question about decision-making under uncertainty."

Indeed, nothing is certain, but scientific predictions are sobering. In May, the ratio of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million. Scientists now believe sea levels could rise three feet by the year 2100. A recent article in the journal Nature Climate Change predicts massive flood losses for the world's 136 largest coastal cities by mid-century, stating that "even if adaptation investments maintain constant flood probability, subsidence and sea-level rise will increase global flood losses to US$60-$63 billion per year in 2050," compared to $6 billion in 2005. To maintain present flood risk, the article continues, "adaptation will need to reduce flood probabilities below present values," adding that failing to do so could lead to losses upwards of $1 trillion annually.

Global warming is an issue of risk for business leaders"Most skeptics I have come across are not skeptical of global warming or climate change itself, but argue that we don't have data going far back enough to really be sure that this is man-made," says Associate Professor Ramana Nanda, who studies entrepreneurial financing issues in the clean energy sector. "Depending on the person I speak to, I try to then make the following two arguments:

"First, I point to data that shows a strong correlation between human activity and CO2 levels, using extremely precise readings over the past five decades and data from Antarctic ice cores going back hundreds of thousands of years. The data suggests that CO2 levels began rising after the Industrial Revolution and continue rising till today. Sometimes the pushback I get then is that 'this is still just a correlation.' My second argument is to then ask whether the correlation is persuasive enough to at least want to buy an insurance policy against the possibility that it is actually causal. That is, even if you believe there is an 80 percent chance climate change is not man-made, the dramatic consequences if indeed it is man-made may be worth trying to do something about it."

Take BEI faculty cochair Rebecca Henderson's response to some readers who left naysaying comments in regard to the article Corporate Leaders Need to Step Up on Climate Change , published in Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

"It seems clear that no one can know exactly what's going to happen--the climate is a hugely complex system, and there's a lot going on," wrote Henderson, the John and Natty McArthur University Professor. "But as businesspeople we should be aware that the vast majority of the world's scientists who study the relevant science from a wide range of perspectives believe that continuing to emit large quantities of CO2 significantly increases the risk of a range of bad outcomes. They may be wrong. But it seems to me foolish to bet that they are certainly wrong."

Nanda advises taking a hint from the reinsurance industry, which runs on risk assessment and which faces financial hits in the wake of any climate-related event. Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on Climate Change: It's Happening Now in July, said reinsurers paid 45 percent of the insured losses from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and they are expected to pay up to 40 percent of the insured losses for Superstorm Sandy. He encouraged governmental action, concluding his presentation with a list of legislative principles or actions for the committee to consider.

Cases in point

In addition to risk assessment, addressing climate change can be good for business in that it can help build a strong brand, reduce negative publicity, and actually save money. In the HBS classroom, faculty illustrate these points through case studies.

Patagonia, for instance, recently teamed up with The Nature Conservancy and Argentine rancher network Ovis XXI to implement a sustainable sheep-grazing protocol that, beyond protecting the namesake Argentinean portion of Patagonia from overgrazing, included plans to release a new line of sustainable merino wool socks. On a larger scale, Henderson says that Unilever has garnered good press with its plans to use only sustainably sourced agricultural raw materials by 2020 (see her case study, Sustainable Tea at Unilever). And in response to concerns that environmental initiatives are too expensive, she offers the case on the private equity firm KKR. "Through its Green Portfolio Program, KKR achieved $160 million per year in cost savings," she says.

"At the moment both political parties distrust market-based solutions"

In lieu of defining climate change as solely a political issue, businesses may be able to "reduce the risk of really badly designed government regulation," says Henderson. For example, she cites the coalition Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), which lobbies US policymakers to pass bipartisan legislation to counter the potential risks of climate change. Coordinated by the nonprofit advocacy group Ceres, BICEP members include eBay, Ben & Jerry's, Gap, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, and Mars.

They have their work cut out for them.

"At the moment, at least in terms of what I've seen, both political parties distrust market-based solutions," Joe Lassiter says. "They simply want different sets of rules that favor what their particular constituents support."

But beyond politics and business, there's the ironic matter of biology. Climate change, says Lassiter, is one in a long list of issues rubbing up against the stubborn human tendency to think in the short term.

"We've got obesity as a problem, we've got government debt as a problem, we've got carbon as a problem," he says. "All of those things are problems in large part because we so value current consumption over future consumption. As many have observed, we are creatures of the Pleistocene who have evolved to survive in the present, and now suddenly we have to think in terms of a world that's far in the future. And that's tough."

About the author

Carmen Nobel is senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

Comments

    • James Selvage
    • Retired Mariner

    I have no doubt that man's lust for consumption will eventually leave the Earth looking like Mars. What I have doubts about is man made climate change. The Sun controls climate change in our Solar system and mankind just has to get over it's ego.

     
     
     
    • Babu G. Ranganathan

    GLOBAL WARMING MAY NOT BE MAN MADE

    Dr. Larry Vardiman (scientist and physicist) of the Institue for Creation Research says:

    "One possible scenario may be found in a recent series of articles by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Marsh, cosmic ray specialists from Denmark, who have shown an indirect connection between galactic cosmic ray (GCR) intensity and global temperature.7,8,9 They are studying the influence of the Sun on the flow of GCR to Earth. The Sun's changing sunspot activity influences the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth permitting more GCR to strike the Earth during high periods of activity.

    When the Sun is active, the intensity of GCR striking the Earth is increased, causing more ionization in the atmosphere, creating more carbon-14, and possibly creating more cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). This increase in CCN, in turn, appears to create more low-level clouds which cool the Earth. When the Sun is quiet the GCR intensity striking the Earth is reduced, allowing the Earth to warm. Svensmark and Marsh have shown a striking statistical correlation between sunspot activity and global cooling and warming over the past 1000 years.

    The recent rise in global temperature may partially be due to current low solar activity supplemented by a recent increase in carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa. The connection which still needs further study is the production of CCN and clouds by GCR."

    There is a good deal of science showing that global warming is not mad made. Yes, we still should have pollution controls, as we already do, but not to the extreme because it will unnecessarily hurt business.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Babu G. Ranganathan B.A. Bible/Biology

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

     
     
     
    • Bruce Romeo
    • Physician

    You fail to recognize that the "vast majority of the world's scientists" predicting ill effects from increasing CO2 levels are all worshipers at the Church of Global Warming with a vested interest in its teachings. There is no demonstration of cause and effect between rising CO2 levels and rising climate temperatures. Despite the increase in CO2 you reference, there has been no measurable increase in the global temperatures for 15 years. You offer the reinsurance industry's seeking to offload their risk of natural disasters to the government as evidence of a cause and effect relationship with global warming. The crying need for scepticism of the claims of global warmists is on display in the refutation of melting arctic sea ice by the recent evidence of a 60% increase in summer arctic ice cover from 2012 to 2013. Please, Harvard, you owe us a better demonstration of critical thinking than this superficial and distorted an alysis of the problem that does not even recognize its own inherent bias. Do not foist upon a solution in search of a problem.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    There are many factors that influence climate change over time, but folks who dispute that human activity is sufficient to influence climate just aren't functioning with an open mind. We are extracting million of years of carbon locked in fossil fuels and belching it into the atmosphere at unprecedented levels. There are billions of us causing increased deforestation and influencing the ecological functioning of major river systems and and oceans.

    It is really quite shocking that some believe that man is just too small and inconsequential to tamper with what is known to be a system that is susceptible to the most subtle of changes in solar activity or changes in the earth's orbit or tilt of its axis relative to the sun.

    What will be even more shocking is if we fail to anticipate the likely influence of human activity in time to make rational decisions about ways to minimize the damage.

     
     
     
    • Tim

    The Church of Global Warming has been deemed factual by the groups with the most volume and most dubious "facts". The fluctuation in temperature is not limited to the post industrial revolution era. To make it more palatable the term Climate Change is introduced with plans resulting in world upheaval and destruction of energy systems as the only solution. In my childhood we were promised a new ice age to punish the people of the world for pollution. When that failed to deliver it was changed to high heat and drowning. These people have no clue! They are only running with imagined data that has been massaged to match the rhetoric. All with a goal of taking down the opponents to the agenda of progressivism.

     
     
     
    • suibne
    • highly skeptical, not likely

    ...and all that new ice in the arctic...

     
     
     
    • Nicholas Reynolds

    This is not what my scientists say: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10294082/Global-warming-No-actually-were-cooling-claim-scientists.html

    Have you ever heard of the iceage ... Jurassic period ... the earth heats and cools over time... Napoleon's army was wiped out by a "mini" iceage .... it happens ... what people like me believe is that it happens more because of volcanos (which produce most of the gasses we do but at much larger volumes) and other natural occurrences. If your worried about something ... how bout the water table going down.... hmmm but the oceans are going up ... well I sense a solution there.. or how bout pumping salt water into oil wells ... different viscosity? I think so! umm there are a million things we do to the planet ... global warming is the least of my concern.... how bout instead of getting caught in the HYPE money making scheme that a lot of liberal fat cats thought up ... we do our own research... and think first... SCIENTISTS: THEY ARE NOT .... PROFITEERS: THEY ARE

    Also where are all the hurricanes this year ... hmmm were even in the 12 yr solar cycle ... should be more radiation heating us up ... but oh no where did it go ... probably to the hot-headed liberals.

    ... plus when did liberals pervert the word theory, which meant LAW in science book of the past, into what used to be coined "hypothesis" ... art and people perverting pure science... that's all that is.

     
     
     
    • JakeChambers
    • Someone who reads all of the article., Center for rational thinking, which you aren't apart of.

    You guys need to really ... read up on the topic at hand. Why don't you go to wikipedia and learn a little something about the laws of conservation, carbon cycles, how the last ice age actually occurred (the stopping of ocean currents), etc. Again, it is not Global Warming, it is Climate Change... The difference is one is in regards to the increase of overall global temperatures and the other has to do with climate changes induced by a MULTITUDE of reasons. You guys solely focus on how much freaking ice there is and you don't even think about ocean acidification (yes water absorbs carbon), chemical composition of the atmosphere, deforestation (which stops the recycling of the carbon), POLLUTION (not just warming people but carcinogens that kill us), water toxicity (your drinking water comes from these fertilizer polluted lakes NPK, Ammonia, etc). You'll never get it... because you don't CARE to.

     
     
     
    • Sam

    Perhaps we should focus note real problem. Population growth .....

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    It is tiresome to fight this debate over and over. Your article references a consumption problem, a government debt problem in addition to a carbon problem. They are all one in the same: outcomes of Liberal Policy.

     
     
     
    • Malcolm Harper
    • Retired Professor, Cranfield School of Management UK

    We learned (in the class of 1961) to discount cash flows; effectively, that the future does not matter as much as the present. It might (or might not) work in investment appraisal, but it certainly does not work when I think about the future of my grand-children, nor in this issue of climate change.

    Your 'business-like' approach may serve to bring this out of the area of belief, and into the area of risk management; that's certainly a more comfortable area for most managers these days, so well done !

     
     
     
    • Tazio Grivetti
    • Innovator, Fortune 50 company

    To the die-hard believers of "global warming" and the seas rising 3 feet in my lifetime, please, sell me (at a steep discount) your beachfront property, before it's too late, and you'll get NOTHING for it.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous
    • Physicist

    Betting that the current consensus is certainly wrong is indeed foolish. But so is betting that it is certainly right, given the amount of uncertainty involved in climate science hypotheses that focus on temperature data and trends spanning no more than a geological blink of an eye. The only causality that can be implied by long term historical ice core data is that global temperature trends drive CO2 levels (ice core data temperature trends always precede CO2 level trends - look it up) not the other way around... Recent upswings in CO2 levels are likely resulting in part from anthropogenic activity, but the degree of causality between this CO2 increase and rising average global temperature is the key relationship that is extremely uncertain and currently relies on multiple positive feedback hypotheses in order to amplify the known heat-trapping effect of CO2. It is sad to see the aforementioned 'scientific community' discourage any questioning of the consensus view. Testing and questioning openly is what good science is based upon. Maybe in another 100 years when everybody notices that still no polar bears are drowning it will be okay to ask questions again...

     
     
     
    • Morris McInnes
    • Professor Emeritus, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University

    Excellent article. However, beyond knowledge and mastery of application, is strength of motivation. Attributes entailed in earning admittance to an elite college can probably be modeled with a pretty high R-squared; but I am pretty sure that a significant residual remains, which is probably arising from unobservable personal traits. The MIT example is revealing in that it exemplifies how an applicant can distinguish him or her self in respect to motivation and ingenuity. Admissions Offices must be sure to be alert to such cues from applicants. Still, I am sure the basic hypothesis of the article is sound and pertinent. Having taught at elite and non-elite universities, I have no doubt that the survivors among the non-elite colleges have the will and the gumption to challenge the value of the prestige factor of the elite institutions.

     
     
     
    • Jim Winkelmann
    • Manager, Blue Ocean Portfolios, LLC

    Can there be any doubt that the universe, our solar system and planet is forever changing? Of course the conclusion must be that the climate is changing, just as it has for a billion years. None of us can begin to fathom the magnitude of the natural powers that fuel this constant and random change. Can human activity, good or bad, have any meaningful impact when properly weighed against these awesome natural forces?

    HBS taught us to focus on variables that we can control. Today I am in the camp that vast majority of factors that really influence climate change are the uncontrollable natural forces. I would be skeptical of any manager that would develop initiatives believing these actions would have any real impact on actual climate change. Then of course there are the managers that have cleverly designed and adopted "green washing" campaigns to paint the public image of their companies and products. Can these types of corporate actions really be any more than emotionally based marketing campaigns? Or are these campaigns themselves a way to trick or even defraud public into thinking that interacting with the company is actually better for the environment?

    An automotive repair shop charged me a $22.00 "environmental fee" to properly dispose of damaged front struts that they were replacing. Still waiting for a satisfactory explanation of where exactly the damage struts and dollars went. One thing for sure the automotive shop got $22 more than their estimate called for. These types of green washing stunts are being pulled off all over the world. Maybe skepticism is justified!

     
     
     
    • Glenn Hall
    • Attorney, yes

    A very timely and important article. In my experience people's react to the subject of anthropogenic climate change ("ACC") in a strongly visceral manner. Even reasonably intelligent people seem to have predisposed and entrenched positions.

    I attribute part of the problem to be that understanding the science underlying the theories about ACC is not all that easy. I'm an environmental professional and I looked at it in some detail from 1989 until almost 2001 before I was fully convinced. It is, however, far easier to propound purportedly "scientific" rebuttals to the theories about the mechanisms e.g., treating CO2 as something that affects only discrete and insular spectrum ranges when, in fact, there is a much broader effect.

    I don't know if the typical visceral response to the issue of ACC is caused by some sense of culpability or guilt or whether the issue and potential problems are just so big that people don't even want to talk about it. I like the idea of discussing it in a risk context though. In fact, I am going to see if Peter Sandman has written anything on it (I regard Peter Sandman as the preeminent environmental risk communication scholar).

    I do think it is important to note that the only way to really accurately quantify whether warming is occurring or not is through ocean temperatures. The oceans have, literally, 1,000 times the heat capacity of the heat capacity of the atmosphere, and in fact have 1,000 times as much retained heat as the atmosphere does. If you aren't studying what is going on with regard to ocean temps, you are not considering the most important thing.

    Unfortunately, the information I have seen regarding ocean temperature changes over the last 30 years is pretty distressing. I'm quite concerned about people failing to understand the full implications of ocean warming. There are HUGE amount of methane contained in gas hydrates in the oceans: any significant ocean warming risks releasing huge amounts of methane--greatly exacerbating the problem.

    Yeah, I'd like a little insurance on this issue. I'd even be willing to pay a substantial premium for it.

     
     
     
    • P.M. Bellace
    • Principal, Bellace & Associates

    Why didn't you just title this article "Teaching Climate Change to the Stupid and Politically Conservative Masses?" If the professors and the bulk of the 'world's scientists' are wondering why they haven't convinced one and all of the correctness of their views on this issue, I suggest that they do the same rhetorical analysis that I just did. Most people, Harvard Ph.D.s or not, recognize this type of condescension -- and react negatively. There are other issues as well -- for example, that scientists of all types tend to find what they are looking for -- aka making the data fit the hypothesis. And, as has been known to happen, when the data doesn't fit...why not alter the data?

    Now, I "believe" that something is happening in this arena we call climate change and, for a multitude of reasons, that it would be wise to take reasonable actions to reduce the impact on the environment while scientists work to truly ascertain "cause" vs. correlation.

    However, if those who accept climate change as human induced insist on patronizing those who don't, then I can almost guarantee that there will be no productive actions until -- perhaps -- it is much too late.

     
     
     
    • Howard Hayden
    • Retired

    Ah, at last an admission that the whole "climate change" folderol was never about science, but only about politics.

    Mr. Gore, Harvard has done you in.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    To the claque of "deniers", both articulate and inarticulate, frolicking among these comments: ain't that Emperor a snazzy dresser!

     
     
     
    • Richard Straub
    • Non-Profit Entrepreneur, Peter Drucker Society Europe

    A very interesting tension between the article and the vast majority of the comments. The article is an expression of the precautionary principle - saying that even if there may be only a small probability of causality we have to act (and spend without counting) or stop whatever....Is this really a good management principle? Is there not a question of risk assessment involved? This is where the community of CO2 believers are weakest - they are not open to any discussion to assess the actual risks and probabilities - they just put you in the pocket of deniers and heretics if you raise and issue. The science is closed - Al Gore thinks he has the authority to stipulate this. They would not allow falsification, which tells us something about the scientific foundation of their theory. The article misses to address the real management issues relating to the climate debate - where would market forces and reduction of energy consumption co nverge? what are sensible strategies to improve the long term energy mix without distorting existing energy markets - as the Germans have done with disastrous consequences? What could be a sensible energy strategy by continent and how could it be enabled via market forces and meaningful regulation. If you would want a cases study for mismanagement of energy and climate related issues just study ther German "Energiewende" - you find all the mistakes concentrated and vast unintended consequences - like the restarting of coal power plants and the increase in CO2 emissions. Not much to add to this.

     
     
     
    • Bill Wallace
    • President, Wallace Futures Group, LLC

    I teach the subject of climate change in the context of sustainability to engineering grad students. I also get into arguments about the causes and consequences of climate change with friends and colleagues. In the case of the latter, the arguments usually start with someone from the climate denier contingent telling me about an article he or she read that states in one form or another that climate change isn't happening, isn't man-made, or is some sort of hoax concocted by Al Gore and his followers.

    My response is,"OK, what game do you want to play? Dueling Factoids or Who Do You Trust?" The National Academies, an institution set up by President Lincoln over 150 years ago has been advising the government and the public on important issues pertaining to science, engineering and technology. To address these sorts of issues, it draws on the best scientific and engineering minds in the country. On the issue of climate change, the position of the National Academies is that the climate change science is settled, and this nation's (and the world's) task should now focus on the hard part: dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, since 2007, the 40 or so other professional science and engineering societies have issued policy statements that either agree that climate change is a real, human caused and an urgent problem. Seven are neutral. Interestingly, the last group to go from negative to neutral was the American Society of Petroleum Geolog ists.

    The counter response is generally, "Oh sure! These guys are all academics who risk loosing their research grants if they they don't follow the party line that climate change is human caused." My counter is, "OK, let's not play Who Do You Trust. Let's play "Follow the Money. Who stands to gain the most? Is it the researcher who gets a few hundred thousand in research grant dollars, or is it the petroleum industry supply chain, whose $20 trillion in fixed assets could become stranded assets if society started taking meaningful action on climate change mitigation."

    To paraphrase an old quote, "It's hard to get a person to understand that climate change is a real, man-made and an urgent problem if his/her whole livelihood depends on not understanding it."

     
     
     
    • Robert L. Bradley Jr.
    • CEO and Founder, Institute for Energy Research

    This is a very incomplete look at the issue from both the question and reaction viewpoints. There is middle ground that the human influence on climate is benign--and that public policy should be carbon based (no cap-and-trade, no carbon tax, no mandated fuel efficiency standards, etc.).

    Climate scientists are at the drawing board, and climate economists might have to recalculate the externality sign given lower sensitivity estimates and the carbon fertilization effect.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC (India) Private Limited

    Climate change is a serious issue which needs to be tackled in all possible ways. It is a natural phenomenon caused by human selfish but avoidable interventions, e.g., via a conscious approach to minimize carbon creation. Man has been misusing Nature for small and big "pleasures" without realising that while Nature is our friend, it can furiously react and cause serious damages if it is disturbed. God knows when prudence will be totally evident in this important matter which must have a workable future long-term action plan.

     
     
     
    • Patrick O'Neill
    • Semi-retired former journalist, Was with ABC TV (Australia)

    It seems to me that there are many very good reasons that have little to do with environmental belief systems or self-interested corporate agenda, to stop pumping carbon pollution into our atmosphere. This is so particularly here in Australia, where we have a largely urban population. The reason is our health. Given the respiratory problems caused by particulate matter in the atmosphere, largely caused by coal-burning power stations, exhaust stacks etc, we can improve the health of our cities through curbing this atmospheric pollution. In 2013, would we seriously argue that maintaining a healthy water supply, free of sewage & pollutants, has had no effect on our health? Of course we wouldn't. So why do we argue that belching particulate pollution into our atmosphere from smoke stacks & exhaust pipes hasn't been proven as a source of poor health, even with the evidence (Beijing LA, Mexico City & Cairo) staring us in the face? Yet our TVs & newspapers are full of arguments put by 'green jihadists' on the one hand & environmental skeptics on the other, arguing about the need for wind power & solar energy, or the relevance of 160,000 year old ice-cores, tree rings & ocean levels; as if it were all part of a dogma debate over the sectarian polemics within a belief system. These so called 'theological' issues have nothing to do with our metropolitan health & everything to do with politics. Oh, & by the way, if you can make a buck out of healthy, clean & potable water, I'm sure someone can make a buck out of clean air & then we can leave the environmental or skeptical polemicists to argue about methane flatulence, while the rest of us wait for the cows to come home.

     
     
     
    • Richard Straub
    • Non-Profit Entrepreneur, Peter Drucker Society Europe

    A very interesting tension between the article and the vast majority of the comments. The article is an expression of the precautionary principle - saying that even if there may be only a small probability of causality we have to act (and spend without counting) or stop whatever....Is this really a good management principle? Is there not a question of risk assessment involved? This is where the community of CO2 believers are weakest - they are not open to any discussion to assess the actual risks and probabilities - they just put you in the pocket of deniers and heretics if you raise and issue. The science is closed - Al Gore thinks he has the authority to stipulate this. They would not allow falsification, which tells us something about the scientific foundation of their theory. The article misses to address the real management issues relating to the climate debate - where would market forces and reduction of energy consumption co nverge? what are sensible strategies to improve the long term energy mix without distorting existing energy markets - as the Germans have done with disastrous consequences? What could be a sensible energy strategy by continent and how could it be enabled via market forces and meaningful regulation. If you would want a cases study for mismanagement of energy and climate related issues just study ther German "Energiewende" - you find all the mistakes concentrated and vast unintended consequences - like the restarting of coal power plants and the increase in CO2 emissions. Not much to add to this.

     
     
     
    • Tom Asacker
    • Author, The Business of Belief

    Framing something as a "belief," has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with human decision-making.

     
     
     
    • Betsy

    I find it hard to believe that the list of long term problems at the end of this article doesn't include overpopulation which threatens to overwhelm any solutions we come up with to address the other problems.

     
     
     
    • Gail Combs
    • retired, Industry

    You have got to be kidding!

    I am a retired scientist and have looked into CAGW for several years. You do not have a scientific leg to stand on when you talk of "Carbon"

    Actually Carbon (Diamonds) are a girl's best friend while Carbon DIOXIDE ( a clear odorless gas) is a trees best friend.

    Far from being a 'Pollutant, without Carbon Dioxide we all die. And the earth is pretty close to that lower threshold.

    See: Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California

     
     
     
    • Tim
    • CS

    Hypothesis: More CO2 means warmer temps and more carbon for photosynthesis, warmer temps = longer growing seasons = more green plants = more oxygen to breath = greater living area as those frigid areas warm to a more suitable living climate.

    Rising seas.....maybe or maybe not

    Yes, we should reduce our pollution whenever possible and feasible without destroying the world economy.

    For those in the flood plains, consider moving.

    The nuclear fission beneath the sun's molten surface warms us, while its fusion recycles it's atomic particulate back into the denser elements for more fission to occur. If we could mimic this process, we could either greatly reduce or even eliminate the toxic nuclear wastes our current fission only plants produce by using a portion of that power to fuse the elements back together to more safe stable ones.

    Oh, by the way, one knows my solar hypothesis is correct just by looking at the stars. Red giants: greater plasma surface, fission deeper inside. White dwarfs: less plasma, fission more visible, brighter.

    copyright 2013

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I had no idea that global warming was still considered a problem amongst the educated elite.

     
     
     
    • Tim Reynolds
    • Common Sense

    Oh, by the way, one knows my solar hypothesis is correct just by looking at the stars. Red giants: greater plasma surface, fission deeper inside. White dwarfs: less plasma, fission more visible, brighter.

    copyright 2013

     
     
     
    • Ciska Servais
    • Lawyer, Astrea

    Climate change needs to be discussed together with the issues on population growth, consumption levels, limits of our resources, exponential growth of energy needs and the consequences of the use of oil and coal. Looking at all research done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its conlcusions, as well as the known limits of our resources, it is unresponsible to remain a skeptic. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored (Huxley) and it is in the nature of human species to reject what is true but unpleasant and to embrace what is obviously false but comforting (Mencken)...

     
     
     
    • Spencer Bader
    • Retired - MBA

    Even if climate change is real another factor in the risk reward assessment is the probability that a proposed solution will in fact be successful in producing the desired results. Spending a lot of money on things like the Kyoto protocols, which most scientists agree will have very little effect on climate change is clearly low on the reward side of the equation. A fundamental question is whether there is a significant causal relationship between CO2 levels and global warming. Until the cause(s) of global warming have been understood, any proposed solution is mostly speculation. There may be multiple causes and CO2 from Man's activities may not be even a particularly important one.
    Closely related to this issue is the fact that many of our "solutions" have unintended consequences that are harmful to both the environment and the economy. For example, ethanol production from corn has made the cost of many crops and food staples significantly higher, without doing much for overall CO2 emissions when the total production through consumption cycle is studied. My last observation is that we never hear about the potential offsetting benefits of climate change. We hear of the destructive effects but there are certainly major benefits as well for many parts of the world. Certainly these benefits must also be taken into account when deciding on actions for the long term risk and reward.

     
     
     
    • Hugh Quick
    • Home, None

    Facts, even if we knew what they are, don't usually matter as much as what people think are the facts. It is usually possible to find an 'expert' to argue any point of view. I was one for 40 years.

     
     
     
    • Rob Houck
    • Partner, Eaton & Van Winkle

    Interesting that even a Harvard (ask Ted Cruz how important THAT is) website is not a place for reasonable discussion. The Yahoos have taken control. It's a bit like counterfeit money - bad money drives out good.

     
     
     
    • Novotny

    All those so-called scientist make me chuckle telling us what will happen in terms of the weather in the next 30, 40 and 50 years and yet they are unable and I repeat unable to tell us with a 50% certainty what the weather will be like in the next 24 hours. I shall not hold my breath.

    Remember Y2K, scientist, the news media and politician relentlessly told the world all the catastrophic incidents will happen on December 31, 1999 at mid-night and not what might happen. Apparently millions were spent to up-grad computers and other related devises. To their embarrassment and to keep the endowments/funds flowing the so-called scientist/consultants had to search for another topic and what better subject then "global warming or climate change" and why because one deals only in hypothesis. And as expected the news media and politicians became a part of all that conjecture. To keep the issue alive and going convincing movies were produced, prices and awards were given and many those who were and/or still involved became multi-millionaires. Somehow this reminds about a Seinfeld TV Series when Seinfeld and his friends planned to produce a show called: All about nothing.