Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change

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9780809034734: Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change
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Believe in climate change. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter.  But you’d better understand this: the best route to rebuilding our economy, our cities, and our job markets, as well as assuring national security, is doing precisely what you would do if you were scared to death about climate change. Whether you’re the head of a household or the CEO of a multinational corporation, embracing efficiency, innovation, renewables, carbon markets, and new technologies is the smartest decision you can make. It’s the most profitable, too. And, oh yes—you’ll help save the planet.  In Climate Capitalism, L. Hunter Lovins, coauthor of the bestselling Natural Capitalism, and the sustainability expert Boyd Cohen prove that the future of capitalism in a recession-riddled, carbon-constrained world will be built on innovations that cutting-edge leaders are bringing to the market today. These companies are creating jobs and driving innovation.  Climate Capitalism delivers hundreds of indepth case studies of international corporations, small businesses, NGOs, and municipalities to prove that energy efficiency and renewable resources are already driving prosperity. While highlighting business opportunities across a range of sectors—including energy, construction, transportation, and agriculture technologies—Lovins and Cohen also show why the ex–CIA director Jim Woolsey drives a solar-powered plugin hybrid vehicle. His bumper sticker says it all: “Osama bin Laden hates my car.”  Corporate executives, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and concerned citizens alike will find profitable ideas within these pages. In ten information-packed chapters, Climate Capitalism gives tangible examples of early adopters across the globe who see that the low-carbon economy leads to increased profits and economic growth. It offers a clear and concise road map to the new energy economy and a cooler planet.

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Named a Time magazine 2000 Hero of the Planet and called by Newsweek “the green business icon,” L. Hunter Lovins is president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions and Chief Insurgent of the Madrone Project. Her clients include large companies like Walmart; small companies like Clif Bar; the Pentagon; the United Nations; cities around the world; and the energy minister of Afghanistan, to name just a few. Boyd Cohen is CEO of CO2IMPACT and a former professor of sustainable entrepreneurship in Spain, Costa Rica, and Canada.

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  1Entrepreneuring the Solutions: The Business Case for Climate ProtectionEntrepreneurs, companies, and countries are prospering from climate protection even in challenging times. This book describes how you, your family, your community, your company, and the world can profit from Climate Capitalism. The chapters present the good news about how you can become a part of the solution. They show that intelligent use of market mechanisms can solve the climate crisis not at a cost but as an investment, delivering enhanced profitability and a stronger economy as well as a better future for the planet. The best and fastest way to protect the climate is to reduce the unnecessary use of fossil energy. It is also the fastest way to an immediate return on investment. Cutting waste saves money, whether you are a business leader or head of a household.The case stories that follow demonstrate that entrepreneurship is alive and well. Which is good: without it no solution to climate change makes any sense. It is good for another reason. Entrepreneurs discover opportunity even in the midst of financial crisis. Throughout history, the nations that have innovated to meet human needs have ruled the world, economically, politically, and militarily. How we respond to the twin crises defining our generation—economic collapse and climate change—will very likely determine the world future generations will live in.The current economic crisis is extremely fluid. It could go in any of several directions. Commitments by global leaders to unleashing the green economy could turn the world around. Conversely, delay in implementing sustainable measures could deepen the current depression, now recognized as the worst since the 1930s.1Change will occur because past best practices are no longer sufficient to deal with the challenges facing the world. Businesses and industrial policy will implement the measures described in this book, or the world will face crises far exceeding what this young century has already brought.2The choices you make this year and next will determine whether you, your community, and ultimately your country come out of the economic collapse prosperous and in a position to secure the future you want, or whether life will become an unending reaction to emergencies that batter our ability to cope.3 Recent American history suggests there is reason for hope. The Architecture 2030 project points out:
During the 1970s oil crisis (an 11-year period from 1973 to 1983), this country, drawing on American determination and ingenuity, increased its real GDP by over one trillion dollars (in Year 2000 dollars) and added 30 billion square feet of new buildings and 35 million new vehicles, while decreasing total US energy consumption and CO2 emissions. This was accomplished with increased efficiency and with cost-effective, readily available, off-the-shelf materials, equipment and technology.4
A new reality, now recognized as “the sustainability imperative,” is inexorably driving companies to implement practices that are more responsible to people and the planet because they are more profitable.5 When the likes of Goldman Sachs and Deloitte report that companies leading in environmental, social, and good governance policies have 25 percent higher stock values, change is clearly under way.6 Or when an industry giant such as Walmart begins to require its sixty to ninety thousand suppliers to answer a sustainability scorecard tracking their carbon footprint, their impact on water and other resources, and their engagement with local communities, it is clear that behaving in more sustainable ways has moved from a chic niche position to a business imperative.7Melting Capital and the Warming ClimateTwo words define the current era: “climate” and “capitalism.”People raised on images of limitless possibilities, muscle cars, Western superiority in world markets, and a rising standard of living watched in shock as General Motors, the iconic American business, melted into bankruptcy in 2008. For many the magnitude of that collapse has yet to sink in. Nor has the recognition that Toyota became the world’s largest car company—subsequently supplanted by Volkswagen in the top spot—by riding to preeminence on the success of fuel-efficient vehicles that seem an affront to everything that made America great. GM’s reemergence from bankruptcy is similarly based on a small electric hybrid. The economic collapse of 2008 devastated communities and families, leaving more than 15 million people out of work, and sent unemployment over 25 percent in Detroit and other cities.8 It made economic recovery almost everyone’s top priority.Another meltdown, however, poses an even greater threat. In the fall of 2009, the United Nations warned that even if the nations of the world deliver on existing promises to cut emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the globe will still warm beyond levels ever experienced by humankind by the end of the century, perhaps sooner. In his introduction to the film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore called climate change “a moral issue.” But at heart it is neither a moral nor an environmental issue. It is a crisis of capitalism. What is little recognized is that the twin threats, to the climate and to the economy, are linked in both cause and cure. Unless nations move aggressively to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy, key elements of the transition away from fossil fuels and necessary to save the climate, it is difficult to see how our economy can lift itself from recession or avoid further crises. Solving the climate crisis IS THE WAY OUT of the economic crisis.Capitalism to the RescueCritics argue that the science is uncertain. Absolutely. The goal of science isn’t infallibility or unanimity. Scientists don’t know how bad it’s going to be, or how fast climate chaos will proceed. If anything, the science is conservative in its predictions: for example, the observed reality of climate change is outrunning the scientific models, happening faster even than the most alarmed scientists predicted that it would.9But with all due respect to the great climate scientists, let’s assume that the skeptics are correct. They are not, and you would be a fool to go to Vegas on the odds that they might be, but in a sense, the science is irrelevant. For purposes of argument, let’s assume for a moment that the skeptics are right. If all you are is a profit-maximizing capitalist, you’ll do exactly the same thing you’d do if you were scared to death about climate change because smart companies are recognizing that you don’t have to believe in climate change to believe in its solutions. We know how to solve this problem at a profit: through Climate Capitalism. DuPont was among the early climate capitalists. About a decade ago the company’s leaders pledged to cut its carbon emissions 65 percent below their 1990 levels, and to do it by 2010. That’s a bit more ambitious than the United States, which still refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a pledge to cut emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, will accept.Has DuPont joined Greenpeace?No. The company made its announcement in the name of increasing shareholder value.And it has delivered on its promise. The value of DuPont stock increased 340 percent while the company reduced its global emissions 67 percent. DuPont’s program had by 2007 reduced the company’s emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels. Doing this created a financial savings for the company of $3 billion between 2000 and 2005.10 The company’s climate protection program showed it costs less to implement energy savings measures than it does to buy and burn fuel. In short, DuPont was solving the problem at a profit. In 1999, DuPont estimated that every ton of carbon it no longer emitted saved its shareholders $6. By 2007, DuPont’s efforts to squeeze out waste were saving the company $2.2 billion a year. The company’s profits that year? $2.2 billion.11DuPont became a company that’s profitable because it’s protecting the climate. DuPont is not the edge of the envelope. Back in the 1990s, STMicroelectronics, a manufacturer of computer chips, set what Jim Collins, the business author, calls a BHAG: a big hairy audacious goal. STMicroelectronics pledged to achieve zero net CO2 emissions, becoming carbon neutral, by 2010 while increasing production forty-fold. When the company made this pledge it had no earthly idea how to achieve it, but figuring it out drove corporate innovation, taking STMicroelectronics from the number-twelve chip maker in the world to number six. Along with winning awards, ST reckoned that by the time it had reached its goal, it would have saved about a billion dollars.12Natural Capitalism Solutions (www.natcapsolutions.org) and other sustainability consultants work with such companies to help them cut waste, transform how they make products, and implement more sustainable ways of doing business. One company with which NCS worked had a practice of leaving its 6,300 computers and monitors turned on 24/7. Various urban myths about shortening the life of the computer by turning it off, or claims that the IT department required them to be left on, had led the company to waste energy and money. NCS consultants pointed out that simply issuing a policy that employees turn computers off when no one is in front of them would save $700,000 the first year alone.13 In the United States $2.8 billion a year is wasted simply because computers are left on when no one is using them. Such IT costs can represent a quarter of the cost of running a modern office building.14 In March 2010, Ford Motor Company announced that it would save $1 million each year by shutting off unused computers.15A team from NCS worked with a large distribution center, a 7-million-square-foot warehouse, in which five-hundred-watt lightbulbs shone down on the tops of boxes stacked floor to ceiling. The workers below used task lighting so they could see where they were going. Simply flipping a switch would save $650,000 dollars a year.16 Nationally we waste $5 billion to $10 billion each year leaving unnecessary or redundant lights on.17The savings from eliminating this waste are free—or better than free. And they exist throughout American businesses.Even where achieving energy savings that will protect the climate requires an up-front investment of money, it is one of the best investments a company can make. Diversey, a Wisconsin-based global provider of commercial cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene solutions, projects 160 percent return on its investments to cut its carbon footprint by saving energy.18 That is a just a bit better than you’re going to get on your 401 (k).In Europe and Asia, adherence to the Kyoto Protocol is driving competitiveness. Given how much energy was saved in the examples just recounted, it should come as little surprise that in 2008 American businesses, most of which have not implemented aggressive efficiency programs, used twice as much energy to produce a unit of GNP as their European and Asian competitors. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the U.S. economy wastes 87 percent of the energy it consumes.19 Far from constraining innovation, signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges them to save energy to cut carbon emissions, have signed on for innovation, saving money in the process.Risk Management in a World of Climate ChaosSmart companies now recognize that tolerating wasteful energy use and higher carbon emissions is a high-risk strategy. Geopolitical volatility, the unpredictability of energy supplies, price increases, threats to business from extreme weather events, and the risk of liability claims for failing to manage carbon output all make carbon reduction a good business strategy. The FTSE Index, the British equivalent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, put it succinctly: “The impact of climate change is likely to have an increasing influence on the economic value of companies, both directly, and through new regulatory frameworks. Investors, governments and society in general expect companies to identify and reduce their climate change risks and impacts, and also to identify and develop related business opportunities.”20In 2007 Oxfam International released a report showing that natural disasters had increased from an average of 120 a year in the early 1980s to as many as 500 a year.21 Flood and windstorm disasters rose six-fold, from about 60 in 1980 to 240 in 2006. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, 174 million people were affected annually by disasters of all types. From 1995 to 2004 this number rose to 254 million a year. The 2007 floods in Asia alone affected 250 million people. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies agreed, estimating that natural disasters of all types now kill more than 120,000 people per year, double the toll in the 1990s.22These numbers represent not only a humanitarian disaster but also a business risk. In 2003 The Wall Street Journal reported that the second-largest reinsurance firm, Swiss Re, “announced that it is considering denying coverage, starting with directors and officers liability policies, to companies it decided aren’t managing their output of greenhouse gases.”23 The prescience of this statement came clear as claims from weatherrelated disasters rose twice as fast as those from all other mishaps.24 The year 2008 was the third-worst year on record for loss-producing events, with losses jumping from $82 billion in 2007 to over $200 billion, and more than 220,000 lives lost. The all-time record remains 2005, with $232 billion in insured losses. Costs are now growing ten times faster than premiums, the population, or economic growth.25“Nervous investors have begun asking similar questions of the insurers,” The Washington Post reported in 2007. “At a meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Andrew Logan, insurance director of the investor coalition, representing $4 trillion in market capital, warned that ‘insurance as we know it is threatened by a perfect storm of rising weather losses, rising global temperatures and more Americans living in harm’s way.’”26 John Dutton, dean emeritus of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, estimated that $2.7 trillion of the $10-trillion-a-year American economy is susceptible to weather-related loss of revenue, increasing companies’ off-balance-sheet risks.27Not surprisingly, investors are banding together to influence how companies deal with climate change. Large institutional investors are conducting shareholder campaigns urging companies to disclose climate risk and implement mitigation programs.28The Investor Network on Climate Risk comprises over eighty institutional investors collectively managing more than $8 trillion in assets. Launched in 2003, the network announced a ten-point action plan that calls on investors, leading financial institutions, businesses, and governments to address climate risk and seize investment opportunities. American companies, Wall Street firms, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were asked to provide investors with comprehensive analysis and disclosure about the financial risks presented by climate change. The group pledged to invest $1 billion in prudent business opportunities emerging from the drive to reduce GHG emissions.On January 27, 2010, they succeeded, as the SEC issued an “interpretive guidance” advising that public companies ...

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