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Why plastic bags suck. Great global overview w/stats & links http://t.co/Fr5jugobnQ

Amazing New Yorker read, bringing sustainability convos into mainstream http://t.co/IiXuFaJkuQ

Important climate risk drum beat for summer’s Risky Business report from Next Generation  http://t.co/r7eRwApRqM

Great job from Greg Harman  on what the skeptics are dishing up next. http://t.co/7xQluh7MaO

Divestment empowerment will have ripple effects. Expect more empowered actions from citizens, like Rutgers students saying “no thanks” to Secretary Rice. http://t.co/T9a76aC7F5

Talking economics, opportunity cost and susty metrics. http://t.co/EdTBCsIo0P

Faith leadership joins for climate action “Blessed Tomorrow.”  http://t.co/kosdLZeXLl

When we get the money people on board, we’ve won. “Why don’t economists get climate change?”. http://t.co/BXU6dWJbcB

Good on McDonald’s for new sustainability plan. Now let’s talk about it. http://bit.ly/McDSusty

The changing tide pulls everything in its wake. Paddle with it. Stanford to divest $18B in coal. http://t.co/bWH5JoQqcT

Message in a bottle of our planet’s plastic burden at @5gyres plastic event. http://t.co/NFkEpajXih http://t.co/PcP0z0NEYT

Love Obama’s climate plan, needs more business.  http://t.co/02yFV91z5I

DEP hosting Northeastern climate change prep conference. http://t.co/IAxJn59rbo

More “consumers speak, brands respond” action | Teen spurs Pepsi & Coke to dump flame retardant chemical. http://t.co/TzvA0sx2dD

Refreshingly transparent talk from UK KFC’s CSR exec 1. KFC doesn’t market 2 kids in the UK. 2. “KFC is a treat.” https://t.co/uwJgy0Yy04

Unilever’s ‘Help A Child Reach 5’ campaign reports that child diarrhea rate are plummeting. http://t.co/5yuZbk2tpA

Here’s my book review of The Big Pivot on Sustainable Brands.

If you’ve ever thought of dropping a book on your boss’s desk, in the hopes of sparking a Ray Anderson-type conversion, here’s a tip. Don’t use the new IPCC report: It’s gloomy, terrifying and a muddle.

Try this instead: Andrew Winston’s business transformation book for the “new normal” of climate change-fueled disruption. It’s called The Big Pivot.

The strategist and Green to Gold author has written a practical, working handbook for teams, organizations and corporations to “recreate their operations to succeed within the scientific reality of a hotter, wilder, more radically open world.”

In the book, which launches April 9 (join us for the launch! See details below), Winston deftly manages a tricky balancing act: talking about humanity’s impending catastrophes while maintaining a rational, business-minded focus on solutions. I’m glad to say that he pulls it off.

And glad for the rest of us, too, because we need a Big Pivot. That’s what Winston calls the kind of rapid and radical business transformation needed to get from today’s normal of insufficient action to new low/no-carbon, climate-resilient practices and strategies.

To start, Winston briskly lays out the science: Failure is what awaits us if businesses don’t prepare for climate-change-fueled weather disasters, resource scarcities and a radically transparent global marketplace.

For sure, Winston is swinging for the fences by calling for “dramatic improvements in operational efficiency and cuts in material and energy use, waste and carbon emissions.” But only because climate science — not the boardroom — demands it.

Then onto examples: Winston knows The Big Pivot is possible because he’s seen and helped companies do it. He shares stories to show that change can come from decisive leadership rather just than the stick of regulation or crisis. These up-to-date case studies are perfect, sharable examples of what leading companies are doing today.

And finally, he offers 10 strategies for how your company can make big, bold moves for equally big returns on business stability and profitability.

Each strategy is stated as an action, such as “Fight short-termism” and “Set big, science-based goals.” And for each strategy, there’s a “How to Execute” section.

For example, one of the simplest (but hardest) things companies can do is to throw out their goal-setting processes that rely on internal or industry benchmarks. Instead, Winston says we have to peg our goals to meeting the true size of the planetary problem, with suggestions for doing that.

Overall, I appreciate Winston’s refreshingly blunt perspective on two points, both of which can mire sustainability work in problems rather than solutions.

The first is that climate change — as a human-caused, dangerous scientific reality — is not up for discussion. Readers who are grappling with climate denialism or its poisonous cousin, climate fatalism, in their workplaces will find Winston a good model for not engaging and getting on with things.

The second is to dismiss the stall tactic he calls “the increasingly absurd question [of], ‘What’s the business case?’” For readers who are genuinely uninformed about why the world’s businesses need to do things differently, the book’s appendix offers a crash course. Readers can also consult Winston’s earlier book, Green to Gold.

I find his use of the pivot metaphor to be really smart. For one, readers who aren’t comfortable with high-stakes sustainability goals might find themselves on more familiar ground by thinking about entrepreneurial pivots. Successful Start-Up 101 is all about trying one thing, then shifting deliberately to another, to find the right customers and positioning. Giving The Big Pivot an entrepreneurial cast, deliberate or not, may help draw in hesitant readers.

What Winston doesn’t talk much about, by necessity of brevity, are the specific people at leading companies who are making Big Pivot changes towards science-based goal-setting, heretical innovation and radical cooperation.

And that’s a shame, because they’re the real story of The Big Pivot — not companies or strategies or tools to get to zero.

I think that The Big Pivot starts with each of us thinking of ourselves this way. And more importantly, by thinking of our colleagues, partners, competitors and elected officials as capable people who are also up for the challenging of creating a better future.

I’m inspired by Winston’s call for businesses to buck the short-term safety of a quarterly profits-obsessed status quo. It’s time to pivot to a focus on long-term, science-based realities. With a certain climate-challenged future ahead of us, The Big Pivot gives us a realist’s path to making sure it’s a prosperous one, too.

 

Remember when your math teacher said, “Show me the work?”

That’s what the people who maintain  Skeptical Science do with climate science denial. They collect and debunk articles and arguments that claim climate change isn’t happening, isn’t caused by humans, and isn’t a grave threat to humanity.

(They are.)

I can’t even imagine the amount of work it takes. Hat’s off to them.

Showing your work–what we call transparency in accounting, business and government–means other people can trace the steps and have confidence in your result.

It’s a fundamental concept for good business, good science, and good policy.

So in the spirit of showing my work, here are my thoughts on a climate change denial article that is about, of all things, climate change denial.

This Fox News op-ed piece is in response to a Guardian article that reported that “Conservative media outlets [are] found guilty of biased global warming coverage.”

Balance is not bias — Fox News critics mislead public on climate change

What amazes is that Abraham and Nuccitelli still pin their hopes on the cult of consensus. Forging an inter-governmental consensus has been the IPCC’s mission for 25 years, unavoidably politicizing climate science in the process. It has long since begun to backfire. People get suspicious when government-appointed experts define “the science” for the purpose of advancing an agenda that just happens to increase government control of energy markets.

Abraham and Nuccitelli have learned nothing if they think that demanding even greater fealty to groupthink will do anything except energize skeptics and increase their popularity.

The good news is that conservative media are not going to take their advice, because doing so would allow one faction of experts to monopolize the discussion. Scores of government agencies, hundreds of mainstream media outlets, and thousands of Web sites serve up daily diets of climate alarm. Presenting contrarian analysis and commentary is balance, not bias.

Nope. That’s not right.

Fox News made it look like there are two equally valid sides to climate change discussions.

But there’s not. The science is compelling, convincing and terrifying.

And the Guardian reporters are right to call them on it.

Anyway, here’s my work on the response.

* * *

Lewis starts by saying that the 97% consensus among scientists worldwide, that humans are causing climate change and it’s a very big problem, is bunk*

Then he says:

That most scientists agree climate change is happening, but that it’s not all man-made.

But even if climate change is happening and is man-made, that there’s no evidence that it’s really a problem.

Furthermore, even if climate change is a problem, the solutions being proposed aren’t any good.

And finally, if you keep on telling the truth, it’s only going to encourage the denialists, so you might as well give up.

* * *

This line of anti-science reasoning comes straight from the Big Tobacco playbook. Sow uncertainty and spread confusion.

I really hate gotcha stories that cherry pick facts and demand absolute certainty. It’s not how we live in the real world. The real world is messy, complicated, and full of daily compromises.

Consensus is pretty much how humans get things done. See also: sharing, caring and cooperation.

Continuing to needle and pick and focus on the edges in an effort to sow doubt is (click the link for the curseword version,) being a not-nice person.

Every minute we spend dithering around about “how truely true is climate change?” is a minute lost to solving our energy needs, helping people out of poverty, preparing for weather extremes, and leaving a habitable planet for our children.

With gratitude to the world’s climate science community, I’m going to focus on covering and sharing news about solutions.

* * *

* I found an error in the first step, where Mr. Lewis makes a misleading assumption.

He says, “University of Delaware Prof. David Legates and three colleagues examined the Cook team’s database, and found that less than 1% of the 11,944 abstracts explicitly endorse the so-called consensus.”

Here’s the error.

The majority of these abstracts don’t explicitly state that “humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change” because, as the Cook report goes on to detail, human-caused global warming is a known fact to scientists qualified to write about it in peer-reviewed journals.

Scientists arrive at consensus, and they stop having to talk about it. Because they are talking about bigger things.

A shorthand example of this would be: “Most peer-reviewed marine biology papers don’t explicitly state that the oceans are salty.”

In everyday life, there are known facts that we assume others know about too. That’s how we are able to go on about our lives.

Here’s the Cook report.

 

**Gratuitous hat tip to me for spotting the typo. Change site to cite.

 

***And one for the editor for a really confusing headline. Most readers I bet are going to miss the word “critic” and read it the opposite of how intended.

I’m all for storytelling.

But when communications go wrong, it can really mess things up.

There’s a time and a place for jokes. And for satire.

A provocative approach can jar readers into thinking about things in a new way.

But when you are talking to an international audience across many languages, keep it simple.

Have you ever noticed how diplomats talk to audiences? They use simple words and talk in simple sentences. The clearer they speak, the better they will be understood.

(I like to think that the world’s political translators appreciate this approach.)

Anyway, something really weird happened this morning in the climate change communications world.

Here’s what happened.

Poland is hosting the world’s UN climate talks next month in Warsaw. It’s an important meeting about a gravely serious topic. It’s a huge honor and responsibility to host this kind of worldwide event.

But for some reason, someone decided to try something a little different.

The official Polish website for the meeting published a blog post. It started off just fine with the famous Northwest Passage. Fair topic. The fact that the Northwest Passage is open to sea traffic for the first time in recorded history due to melting sea ice is stunning physical evidence of climate change.

But then the copy swerves. The next sentences describe Poland’s plans to plunder natural resources previously locked under the ice.

Oh, and pirates. And terrorists.

What? (Click the image to see bigger.)

Warsaw COP19 blog

Via theguardian.com:

Arctic melt means more pirate chases, say Polish climate hosts

Melting ice could open the Arctic to new drilling and the opportunity to “chase pirates, terrorists and ecologists”, according to the organisers of this year’s UN climate talks in Poland, in comments that have been branded outrageous by campaigners.

The blogpost, published this week on the Polish site for November’s Warsaw meeting, said that not only would melting ice allow ships to cut their journey times by taking the north-west passage, but “we may also build new drilling platforms and retrieve natural resources hidden below the sea bed”.

It added that there was also the possibility of, “Chasing the pirates, terrorists and ecologists that will come to hang around …”

This blew up on Twitter this morning with the hashtag #COP19. Shortly thereafter, the blog was updated with an apology.

Via cop19.gov.pl:

Dear Readers,

For the time being we decided to take some time away from our blog. Our idea was to focus attention on important issues that need good solutions and spark discussions on those.  We did not foresee that some readers would take thepresented texts literally as the official Polish position. Notwithstanding we would like to express regret as some of you found the text to be inappropriate. We acknowledge these criticisms. It was certainly not our aim to offend anybody.

We will take due care  that all new articles and posts on this website are written in a clear and sensitive manner so as to avoid misunderstandings. Stay tuned for more ideas.

What the heck happened?

Is this a case of “Lost in Translation?”

One person on Twitter even asked if it could be a hacker prank by The Yes Men.

My communications spidey-sense says no. I’m betting on “Bold Idea Gone Bad.”

RTCC also has a great round-up of this morning’s tweets and a broader look at some of the issues.

In any event, it’s an embarrassment for the UNFCCC, and for the Poland team who is responsible for the event.

Somebody might get fired over this mistake. Bigger picture, this could cost Poland their hosting role for this meeting.

Lesson learned. Know your audience. Keep it simple.

 Update from the Minister of the Environment of Poland:

 

What would you do if your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious illness?

How about if a whole room of doctors said it?

You’d take care of it.

Via the European Commission:

What would you do if your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious illness?

”The issue is not whether to believe in climate change or not.

The issue is whether to follow science or not.

The day when all scientists with 100% certainty warn you against climate change, it will be too late.

If your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious disease, you would immediately start looking for the cure. Why should we take bigger risks when it’s the health of our planet at stake?

The new IPCC report says that climate change is occurring and that is at least 95% certainty that human activities are the principal cause.

OK, got it.

Let’s dig into that 95% number. Seems like there’s some wiggle room there.

But not really. When a scientist says this, he or she is being as precise as possible.

Via AP:

What 95% certainty of warming means to scientists

But in science, 95 percent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty.

Let’s put it into some context. Say, the sun.

 “Will the sun come up in the morning?” Scientists know the answer is yes, but they can’t really say so with 100 percent certainty because there are so many factors out there that are not quite understood or under control.

And why is this OK? Because we don’t demand absolute proof on other things before taking steps to mitigate risk. Like car insurance.

George Gray, director of the Center for Risk Science and Public Health at George Washington University, said that demanding absolute proof on things such as climate doesn’t make sense.

“There’s a group of people who seem to think that when scientists say they are uncertain, we shouldn’t do anything,” said Gray, who was chief scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration. “That’s crazy. We’re uncertain and we buy insurance.”

Give it to me in a more-and-less:

The Associated Press asked scientists who specialize in climate, physics, epidemiology, public health, statistics and risk just what in science is more certain than human-caused climate change, what is about the same, and what is less.

Gravity?

They said gravity is a good example of something more certain than climate change. Climate change “is not as sure as if you drop a stone it will hit the Earth,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “It’s not certain, but it’s close.”

The age of the universe?

Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss said the 95 percent quoted for climate change is equivalent to the current certainty among physicists that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

That cigarettes are bad for you?

The president of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists contacted by the AP said the 95 percent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.

The 95% is solid. Continuing to nitpick is just wasting time.

 

This happened.

http://www.ipcc.ch/

With all the flurry about it, there’s really only 10 words you need to know.

Via Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz  of the Yale Climate Project:

It’s real.

It’s us.

It’s bad.

Scientists agree.

There’s hope.

Let’s get on with it already.

 

Yes. Please.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz will testify before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. EDT at a hearing to discuss President Obama’s climate change policies.

Why does this matter?

Because:

a) This discussion has been a long time coming. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives hasn’t wanted to talk about it.

b) High-ranking Congresspeople who are on record as denying Climate Change will likely, once again, deny that human-caused Climate Change is a problem for our country and the world. That is good, overall. Sunlight disinfects.

So why now?

c) President Obama is set to announce a new EPA Carbon Pollution Standard on Friday. Without Congress’ help. This ruling will limit greenhouse gas emissions from newly built power plants.

Dismiss nonconforming facts as irrelevant to your position.

That’s not what Mr. Nocera meant to say in his latest New York Times column, but that’s what I got out of it.

Mr. Nocera holds that we should let the Keystone XL pipeline go through because it won’t make a greasy drop of difference in the Big Picture.

I disagree with Mr. Nocera. For me, and many others, it’s a line in the (tar) sands.

This position is eloquently stated by this New York Times commentor, responding to Mr. Nocera’s Feb. 10 column on the same topic.

You can always argue that a line drawn in the sand is at an arbitrary place, and could be moved back a bit. But a line has to be drawn, and saying no to this pipeline seems a good place. Shifting to cleaner energy will not be painless, and it won’t happen until we either stop using dirty fuels voluntarily or they run out. If we continually find excuses for waiting until they run out, we will leave our descendants a very nasty planet.

I believe it’s in the best interests of our country’s future prosperity and health to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. For lots of reasons, all well and ably described by Bill McKibben, 350.org and the tens of thousands of people who marched in D.C. this past Sunday.

So rather than rehashing, I’ll put in my $.02 as a communications person.

Mr. Nocera loses credibility in my eyes with two little words: Well, maybe.

The column starts off well enough with the promise of a conversation with climate scientist Dr. James Hansen. When Dr. Hansen finally shows up in the eighth paragraph,  Mr. Nocera dismisses the evidence Dr. Hansen brings to the table nonchalantly. Just so.

Via NYTimes.com:

How Not to Fix Climate Change

He said that such a tax could reduce emissions by 30 percent within 10 years. Well, maybe.

That’s like saying, “Stop smoking and you’ll reduce your cancer risks. Well, maybe.”

With that small, dismissive, statement, Mr. Nocera shows his hand.

It says to me that he’s not really open to accounting for all the costs involved, including the true costs of negative environmental impacts.

This commentor, jb smith from Brooklyn, NY put it perfectly:

Mr. Nocera completely overlooks the other environmental impacts of extracting oil from tar sands. Aside from the fact that processing tar sands produces 12 to 14% more carbon emissions than standard oil production, the effects of water pollution and large scale strip mining necessary to process this source are horrendous.

I am sorry Mr. Nocera, you need to be honest on the true environmental costs if you are going to pontificate on this subject. I am sorry, but solving the problem needs a full accounting of the true costs to the long term viability of our planet, and not some anecdotal analysis that glosses over these problems.

That’s the bigger picture. No maybe about it.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Right?

Take our planet’s climate crisis. Terrifying.

As in:

“Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled”

(This from a banker, no less.)

On the bright side, the coming on of wind and solar energy, of smart grids and resilient planning, is exciting.

So how we talk about climate change, energy policy, and everything else in the sustainability conversation, really matters.

As a communications person, this is my job:

Help people understand. So they take action.

Surprisingly (or not, if you’ve been there), the first hurdle is getting everyone on the team working together. Muddled messaging wreaks major havoc.

A new article talks about this very issue.

Adam James at American Progress wrote a thoughtful piece about resolving differences of opinion and approach in the new energy community.

Via theenergycollective.com:

Energy Innovation vs. Deployment: Addressing Differences on Communications and Policy

He breaks the problem and solution down into three steps:

1. Get clear about messaging

What can be done? First, separate the communications debate from the policy debate, and try to have a real conversation about the merits of each messaging approach given the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

2. Get clear about messages

Second, discuss the policy agenda outside the context of this conversation about messaging, to isolate the items where there is substantial agreement.

3. Rally around agreement

Third, galvanize around the agenda items where there is significant agreement, and push for those policies based on whatever strategy can be salvaged out of the communications discussion.

As an illustration of the above in action, I’d probably swap the first two points (#1).  So the message drives messaging (#2). But that’s just a quibble (#3).

I firmly believe that when people know better, they do better. As a messenger, it’s my job to help that happen.