What could be more fitting for Mother’s Day but starting a weekly blog for the NRF on behalf of your Mother. My Mother, Joan Kaufman Levine, is 82.5 years old, and wants me to continue doing NRF work until I am 70 so my intention is to write about 1000 words every Sunday to stimulate interest about climate resilience as well as other relevant topics for the future of Humans.
My colleague, David Gimbel, suggested I read two books: 1) Dieter Helm’s Natural Capital (Valuing the Planet) and 2) Jonathan Rose’s The Well-Tempered City (What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life). I am somewhat less than half way through both of these excellent and highly recommended works as a primer for people who are interested in climate resilience. At the risk of rightfully being accused of egocentricity, I would add Joaquin Matias’ and my book, A Call to Action: How to Save Millions of Lives as the third book in the trinity of writings to help people better understand the myriad ramifications of the emerging field of climate resilience. Ideally, all introductory environmental science courses would include these three books to help prepare our species for the uncertain but potentially exciting opportunities that will abound over the next 50 years and beyond.
The Paris climate accord of late 2015 has always included a provision starting in 2020 of a $100 billion annual transfer from developed countries to developing nations towards climate adaptation for the developing countries. The more I think about this effort, the more I see developing nations having the ability to “leap-frog” ahead of developed nations in terms of climate adaptation or climate resilience. This is a good thing for the overall planet, especially if developed nations can provide the “know how” through our efforts to date in this crucial area to reduce green house gas emissions (GHG Emissions). If young people that have an active interest and ability to understand the process of what we have called the “sustainability + resilience” paradigm and start to employ the PEP measures (Protect, Enhance & Preserve) we have helped developed at the NRF for the built environment, both developing and developed nations, alike, will be better off. I personally would not mind if developed nations benefited by employing trained personnel from their countries to help with this effort. So, rather than an actual dollar transfer perhaps a “like kind” knowledge value could be arranged to transfer proven technologies to developing nations.
Ideally, developed nations have to provide the know-how and training of people in the developing world (mostly in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia) to reduce world wide GHG emissions. At the same time, building settlements and communities to service the burgeoning populations in the developing world, especially outside of flood and drought areas (i.e., primarily upland and not in coastal areas prone to flooding and that have adequate fresh water supplies) is essential to dealing with the massive migration of people to urban areas at the expense of rural areas. One would hope that the rural areas would be maximized for sustainable agricultural practices to provide the sustenance for the 7 billion plus people currently inhabiting our Earth.
The transition to a renewable energy future is on its way and it is somewhat unfortunate that large fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil are not really receptive to a renewable energy future. Having been in California this past week and heard the head of San Francisco’s sustainability efforts including making plans for public facilities for electric vehicle (EV) high speed DC charging stations. For the past several years, I have had this vision (naive though it may be) that large fossil fuel companies would embrace the renewable energy transition and become part of the solution rather than problem. In that vein, high speed EV DC charging, could be a profit center for existing gas stations and would hasten the transition to EVs over gas powered automobiles. The existing gas station networks are already in place and why would we need need centers when the infrastructure is already in place. There is going to have to be a rational pricing of EV charging to facilitate this transition, as well, I think.
The problem with our current society is often a short term obsession with profitability; we also have to take a serious look at the way we subsidize various energy technologies. Perhaps if we took away fossil fuel incentives as well as renewable and other energy solutions and let the proverbial “market” determine the optimal energy technology that might be one possible solution. I am told that solar energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels on its own merits and the thinking has to start to revolve how we best manage the remaining fossil fuel inventory. For example, I am working on a northern Colorado piece of land that has extensive water rights, as well as natural gas reserves and the ability for solar PV, data center and cogeneration plant potential; in other words, a hybrid microgrid that in many ways is the wave of the future. I am trying not use that water to frack for natural gas because fracking has been found to be unhealthy for ground water due to the large amount of chemicals required for the fracking process. We are hoping to find a large corporate or agricultural user as an alternative for the 227 million gallons +++ of water per year that the underground aquifer generates.
We have to start thinking about possibly rationing fossil fuel assets so they can be preserved for non-automotive uses and allow our future generations to benefit from its non-renewable status. Petroleum is utilized in so many of our industries; pharmaceutical, plastics and agriculture all come immediately to mind. My thinking is that sooner or rather than later, we start limiting the extraction of fossil fuels for gasoline generation in conjunction with transportation; these assets are ideally powered by 100% renewable sources worldwide by the year 2030.
As an ending to this first Sunday NRF blog post, the terms Resource Capitalism, Natural Capital and Sustainable Capital are all leading us down the path of true “triple bottom line” accounting that encompasses social and environmental impacts as well as the traditional financial aspects of capital deployment, accumulation and management. I think it might be time for the “dismal scientists” known as economists, accountants and finance people of all ilks to start thinking about how we might be able to redesign the way we look at the term CAPITAL and how we might be able to preserve natural/sustainable/resource capital for future generations.