16 November 2010

Sea level rise, peak oil, Unilever's bold plan, illegal paper, unintended consequences and other green business news

Top Stories

"As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas"reliability high.
Feature story about research showing world's ice sheets may be melting faster than previously thought, and the potential impact on sea levels. "researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica. As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over. And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia." From The New York Times. [A good in-depth article about the science and practical issues around sea level rise. The current consensus is around three feet over the rest of this century. That's a lot. Costs will be enormous.]

"Unilever’s big, broad, bold sustainability plan"reliability medium.
Global fast-moving consumer products company Unilever "intends to improve the health of 1 billion people, to buy 100% of its agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources, and to reduce the environmental impact of everything it sells by one-half, while doubling its revenues." Post links to the plan, and includes highlights. Unilever recognizes that much of the life-cycle emissions associated with their products result from the way consumers use them. So, for example, "To save water and energy, Unilever says that 'We aim to reach and persuade 400 million consumers to change their shower habits by 2020' and 'if we can persuade 20 million people to cut a minute from their shower time, it would save emissions of 1 million metric tonnes of CO2 a year'." See Marc Gunther's blog. [Cutting environmental impact of products while doubling sales--doesn't that suggest total environmental impact will not decline? But at least it will not increase as much as it would without these efforts.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Risk Free? Paper and the Lacey Act"reliability medium.
The 2008 amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act, which prohibit trade within the United States of products made from plants that are harvested in contrary to international law or the law of their countries of origin, including in theory plants used to make paper products. WRI investigations demonstrated that illegally harvested fibers are in many paper products traded in the U.S., and thus the firms trading them are potentially liable. Article lists the steps companies should be taking to avoid running afoul of the act. See WRI site. [The post says "it is possible to detect potential Lacey violations for paper, thanks to modern technology," but the wood anatomy they describe is 200-year-old knowledge. Nevertheless, like genetic analysis this exposes the presence of problem materials throughout the supply chain, and means paper users must be conscientious to avoid liability.]

"Green Building Market Grows 50% in Two Years"reliability high.
"The value of green building construction starts was up 50% from 2008 to 2010--from $42 billion to $55 billion-$71 billion--and represents 25% of all new construction activity in 2010, according to a new market report. The green building market size is expected to reach $135 billion by 2015, state McGraw-Hill Construction’s "Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth" report." More highlights of report. From Sustainable Business.

"5 Tips for a Smooth Carbon Management Software Installation"reliability high.
Interview with Intuit's sustainability manager on their experience with implementation of an enterprise carbon accounting system. See GreenBiz.

"World's major economies suffering 'extreme' water stress"reliability high.
"The world's largest emerging economies could be fast running out of water as demand from businesses and domestic users continues to outstrip supply, according to a major new report." Risk analyst Maplecroft has calculated a water stress index that suggests "India and China's fast-expanding industries and populations were putting  extreme pressure on their renewable water supplies." More on future water challenges. From BusinessGreen. More about the report here.

"Is 'Peak Oil' Behind Us?"reliability medium.
John Rudolf posts that the latest report from the International Energy Agency says conventional oil has peaked, and will plateau over coming decades. "According to a projection in the agency’s latest annual report ... production of conventional crude oil ... probably topped out for good in 2006, at about 70 million barrels a day." It says production of unconventional oil and gas liquids will continue to increase over the next 25 years. See New York Times Green blog. [Post again warns of significant oil price increases.]

Government and Regulation

"Biofuel plan will cause rise in carbon emissions"reliability high.
"Britain's promise to more than double its use of biofuels by 2020 is "significantly" adding to worldwide carbon emissions, the Government admitted yesterday. ... ministers have said that the policy is proving counter-productive and the greenhouse emissions associated with biofuels are substantially greater than the savings." More on biofuels policy issues. From The Independent. [More for the "Not So Green--Unintended Consequences" file.]