Friday, October 9, 2015

Meet the President Trying to Save His Island Nation From Climate Change

For millennia, the people of Kiribati have lived off the land, dwelling on their small islands located in the central Pacific Ocean.

President Anote Tong

But over the last several decades, rising sea levels due largely to climate change have slowly eaten away at the country’s 313 square miles. Without action, the country of 102,000 people may disappear altogether over the next few decades.

Kiribati President Anote Tong has been advocating for bold action to address climate change for years, making his pleas around the world. Now, Tong says his country’s citizens won’t be able to remain on the physical islands of Kiribati much longer without drastic change on global warming. Whatever happens, his country won’t look the same in 50 years.

“We have constantly been calling the international community to do something about reducing emissions, but the reality for us is that it really does not matter,” Tong told TIME in a recent interview. “The gas is already in the atmosphere… either we leave or we spend a lot of resources to build up the islands.”

Around the world, sea levels have risen nearly 3 inches since the early 1990s due to ice melt caused by global warming. Even if countries are able to reduce emissions as much as policymakers have promised, global sea levels will still rise by one to two feet by 2100. Without carbon cuts, that rise could top three feet. In Kiribati, where land is rarely more than few feet above sea level, even a moderate rise could be catastrophic. And the island nation is also at risk from an expected increase in the number of extreme weather events, such as storms and typhoons.

Tong’s plan for dealing with this is two-fold. First, he wants to fortify at least one island in the Kiribati chain so the country’s physical presence doesn’t disappear in its entirety. The president is light on details on how exactly he plans to save an island, but he says the technology exists (he has reportedly considered employing a Japanese company that has proposed engineer islands floating). The exact shape of the plans may depend on the support offered by other countries, Tong said. He’s met with representatives of the Netherlands and other flood-prone regions about how to best protect the islands.

But even if some of the country can be saved from the rising seas, Tong doesn’t expect to be able to accommodate all of the country’s residents. For those forced to leave, Tong says there must be “migration with dignity.” Last year, Kiribati purchased 5,000 acres of land in nearby Fiji as insurance policy and world leaders have indicated that they would be willing to support Kiribati refugees if it becomes necessary.

Catastrophic one-off events like hurricanes and tsunamis tend to prompt international sympathy. (Think of the $14 billion donated to relief efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.) Kiribati has benefited from some of that support, primarily from other Pacific island countries and development groups. But development commitments have measured in the millions, far from the hundreds of millions, if not billions Tong says his country needs to fully adapt to climate change.

Other countries have been less eager to offer support. In a moment that startled many Pacific Islanders, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was captured on tape last month laughing at a joke about how Kiribati would soon have “water lapping at [its] doors.” Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who made the off-color remark, apologized but not before Tong had earned the world’s sympathy condemning the joke as “morally irresponsible.”

Despite the attention his country’s plight has received, Tong doesn’t like to linger on the topic. Instead he emphasizes the damage caused by the policies of Australia and other developed countries that have emitted the carbon that is endangering the very existence of Kirbati, where the average resident emits less than 1 ton of carbon dioxide each year or 7% of the global average. “Climate change is not an issue that really respects any sovereignty,” he said. “If it’s a national issue, keep your emissions within your borders, which you cannot do.”

In December, negotiators from around the world will gather in Paris at a United Nations conference aimed at creating a binding agreement for countries of the world to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. Asked about his hopes for the conference, Tong said his goal was simple: “Give us a proposition that will guarantee that our people will remain above the water.” More



Antigua, Malta to Advance Interests of SIDS

Antigua and Barbuda and Malta have pledged to work together in advancing the interests of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), according to an Antigua and Barbuda government statement issued in New York.

“As Small Island Developing States and with our nations poised to take up leading roles on the international stage, I believe that we have an obligation to put the interests of SIDS at the forefront,” said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a meeting in New York, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, with the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat.

Both leaders expressed gratitude at the warm relations between the two countries and agreed that both nations face similar challenges regarding development and climate change, the statement said.

Muscat thanked Antigua and Barbuda for its commitment to climate change and its leadership role regarding climate change initiatives within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the statement said.

It said that Muscat hopes Antigua and Barbuda will continue that leadership role into the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.

Browne also utilized the opportunity to introduce Ambassador to the United States Sir Ronald Sanders to Muscat and Sir Ronald’s candidature for the secretary general of the Commonwealth.

Browne also highlighted his desire that the incoming Secretary General of the Commonwealth be “a catalyst for change in reforming the grouping into an organization that can serve to assist the development of member states and generate investment opportunities,” the statement said.

“The secretary general must have this vision, and I believe that Sir Ron is up to the challenge,” Browne said.

The Antiguan leader noted Muscat will become the European Union chair and that he can use this opportunity to further put the interests of SIDS at the forefront.

Additionally, both leaders discussed their respective countries’ Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) and expressed congratulations at the successes of each program, “noting that Malta has the leading CIP in Europe, and Antigua and Barbuda has the leading program in the Caribbean,” the statement said.

It said Malta expressed interest in partnering with the Antiguan government and also investing in the growing energy sector in Antigua and Barbuda, particularly regarding sustainable and green energy. More


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Welcome to a New Planet Climate Change “Tipping Points” and the Fate of the Earth

Not so long ago, it was science fiction. Now, it’s hard science -- and that should frighten us all. The latest reports from the prestigious and sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make increasingly hair-raising reading, suggesting that the planet is approaching possible moments of irreversible damage in a fashion and at a speed that had not been anticipated.

Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a “linear” fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years. Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience “non-linear” climate shifts (also known as “singularities” or “tipping points”) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature. This was the premise of the 2004 climate-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. In that movie -- most notable for its vivid scenes of a frozen-over New York City -- melting polar ice causes a disruption in the North Atlantic Current, which in turn triggers a series of catastrophic storms and disasters. At the time of its release, many knowledgeable scientists derided the film’s premise, insisting that the confluence of events it portrayed was unlikely or simply impossible.

Fast forward 11 years and the prospect of such calamitous tipping points in the North Atlantic or elsewhere no longer looks improbable. In fact, climate scientists have begun to note early indicators of possible catastrophes.

Take the disruption of the North Atlantic Current, the pivotal event in The Day After Tomorrow. Essentially an extension of the Gulf Stream, that deep-sea current carries relatively warm salty water from the South Atlantic and the Caribbean to the northern reaches of the Atlantic. In the process, it helps keep Europe warmer than it would otherwise be. Once its salty water flows into sub-Arctic areas carried by this prolific stream, it gets colder and heavier, sinks to lower depths, and starts a return trip to warmer climes in the south where the whole process begins again.

So long as this “global conveyor belt” -- known to scientists as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC -- keeps functioning, the Gulf Stream will also continue to bring warmer waters to the eastern United States and Europe. Should it be disrupted, however, the whole system might break down, in which case the Euro-Atlantic climate could turn colder and more storm-prone. Such a disruption might occur if the vast Greenland ice sheet melts in a significant way, as indeed is already beginning to happen today, pouring large quantities of salt-free fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its lighter weight, this newly introduced water will remain close to the surface, preventing the submergence of salty water from the south and so effectively shutting down the conveyor belt. Indeed, exactly this process now seems to be underway. More


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What it takes to be a great leader - TED

What makes a great leader today? Many of us carry this image of this all-knowing superhero who stands and commands and protects his followers. But that's kind of an image from another time, and what's also outdated are the leadership development programs that are based on success models for a world that was, not a world that is or that is coming.

0:45We conducted a study of 4,000 companies, and we asked them, let's see the effectiveness of your leadership development programs. Fifty-eight percent of the companies cited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles. That means that despite corporate training programs, off-sites, assessments, coaching, all of these things, more than half the companies had failed to grow enough great leaders. You may be asking yourself, is my company helping me to prepare to be a great 21st-century leader? The odds are, probably not.

1:28Now, I've spent 25 years of my professional life observing what makes great leaders. I've worked inside Fortune 500 companies, I've advised over 200 CEOs, and I've cultivated more leadership pipelines than you can imagine. But a few years ago, I noticed a disturbing trend in leadership preparation. I noticed that, despite all the efforts, there were familiar stories that kept resurfacing about individuals. One story was about Chris, a high-potential, superstar leader who moves to a new unit and fails, destroying unrecoverable value. And then there were stories like Sidney, the CEO, who was so frustrated because her company is cited as a best company for leaders, but only one of the top 50 leaders is equipped to lead their crucial initiatives. And then there were storieslike the senior leadership team of a once-thriving business that's surprised by a market shift, finds itself having to force the company to reduce its size in half or go out of business.

2:48Now, these recurring stories cause me to ask two questions. Why are the leadership gaps widening when there's so much more investment in leadership development? And what are the great leaders doing distinctly different to thrive and grow? One of the things that I did, I was so consumed by these questions and also frustrated by those stories,that I left my job so that I could study this full time, and I took a year to travel to different parts of the world to learn about effective and ineffective leadership practices in companies, countries and nonprofit organizations. And so I did things like travel to South Africa, where I had an opportunity to understand how Nelson Mandela was ahead of his time in anticipating and navigating his political, social and economic context. I also met a number of nonprofit leaders who, despite very limited financial resources, were making a huge impact in the world, often bringing together seeming adversaries. And I spent countless hours in presidential libraries trying to understand how the environment had shaped the leaders, the moves that they made, and then the impact of those movesbeyond their tenure. And then, when I returned to work full time, in this role, I joined with wonderful colleagues who were also interested in these questions.

4:26Now, from all this, I distilled the characteristics of leaders who are thriving and what they do differently, and then I also distilled the preparation practices that enable people to grow to their potential. I want to share some of those with you now.

4:44("What makes a great leader in the 21st century?")

4:46In a 21st-century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets donewithout some kind of a complex matrix, relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader. In fact, traditional assessments like narrow 360 surveys or outdated performance criteria will give you false positives, lulling you into thinking that you are more prepared than you really are. Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced by three questions.

5:29Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?The answer to this question is on your calendar. Who are you spending time with? On what topics? Where are you traveling? What are you reading? And then how are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities, and then making a decision to do something right now so that you're prepared and ready? There's a leadership team that does a practice where they bring together each member collecting, here are trends that impact me, here are trends that impact another team member, and they share these,and then make decisions, to course-correct a strategy or to anticipate a new move.Great leaders are not head-down. They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.

6:28The second question is, what is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network? You know, we hear often about good ol' boy networks and they're certainly alive and well in many institutions. But to some extent, we all have a network of people that we're comfortable with. So this question is about your capacity to develop relationships with people that are very different than you. And those differences can be biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, socioeconomic. And yet, despite all these differences, they connect with you and they trust you enough to cooperate with you in achieving a shared goal. Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions,because you have people that are thinking differently than you are.

7:29Third question: are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? There's an expression: Go along to get along. But if you follow this advice, chances are as a leader, you're going to keep doing what's familiar and comfortable. Great leaders dare to be different. They don't just talk about risk-taking,they actually do it. And one of the leaders shared with me the fact that the most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or just plain stupid.Now interestingly, the people who will join you are not your usual suspects in your network. They're often people that think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap. And it's a leap, not a step. More than traditional leadership programs, answering these three questions will determine your effectiveness as a 21st-century leader.

8:45So what makes a great leader in the 21st century? I've met many, and they stand out.They are women and men who are preparing themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but also for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow. More


Monday, October 5, 2015

Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable

The repercussions of climate disruption are still not being acknowledged fully, warned climatologist Dr. James Hansen, addressing an audience of Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation climate activists on September 9.

Dr. Jim Hansen

“We’ve now got an emergency,” he told about 150 “elder activists” at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, who were participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day.

Hansen — formerly NASA’s head climate scientist, now adjunct professor at Columbia University — is probably best known for bringing definitive evidence of global warming to Congress in testimony in 1988. In July of this year, he released a report with sixteen co-authors studying glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Unlike previous models, the new report takes into account some feedback loops which may be hastening the loss of ice sheet mass far faster than anticipated.

Time is running out to transition to renewable energy, Hansen said, yet the most “relevant” people in power aren’t aware of the situation’s gravity. “Even people who go around saying, ‘We have a planet in peril,’ don’t get it. Until we’re aware of our future, we can’t deal with it.”

Mass species extinction, extreme weather events, dry spells and fires are climate change impacts which are happening now. A warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans can lead to stronger storms, he explained. Superstorm Sandy, for example, remained a hurricane all the way up the Eastern seaboard to New York because Atlantic waters were abnormally warm.

“Amplifying impacts” and feedback loops will accelerate the changes, according to Hansen. “It will happen faster than you think,” he said. If major coastal cities become “dysfunctional” because of sea level rise, as he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.

It is therefore imperative to stop using coal, oil and gas as energy sources now. “We’ve already burned as much as we can afford,” he said. Fossil fuels already burned will continue to have impacts, because the climate system “has inertia.” “We’ve only felt the warming for half of the gases that are up there,” he said.

The use of fossil fuels is still on the rise in spite of the dangers, he said, because governments subsidize them and don’t make companies bear the real costs to society. The only viable way to make the price of fossil fuels “honest,” in his opinion, is to implement a “fee and dividend” system.

While Hansen denounced “unfettered capitalism”and “scary” trade agreements in the works, he believes government regulation can steer captains of industry onto the right path. “We’ve got to make the system work for us,” he said. “If you properly harness the market, it will work for you.”

He gave an example of incentives and tax breaks for solar panels, which he has on his own home, and how he contributes electricity to the grid. Yet one audience member took issue with a corruption-free scenario. “Come to Virginia, I dare you!” he said. (In Virginia, where Dominion Virginia Power has a stranglehold on state politics, “standby” fees and other barriers stifle solar panel installation by individuals.)

Hansen, a grandparent himself, was the keynote speaker at Grandparents Climate Action Day, an event to mobilize elder activists and promote a policy agenda aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hansen believes elders possess resources and wisdom which, combined with the zeal of youth, can help find solutions to climate change. “Older people have a lot of clout, a lot of votes, and time,” he said. With more older people getting involved, there will be more pressure to make needed changes.

Fellow speaker John Sorensen, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network, echoed this point. The 80 million elders in the U.S. — 25 percent of the population — are living longer and healthier lives with more time and resources to devote to activism.

Hansen is supporting a lawsuit in which 21 young people are suing the U.S. government. (One of the plaintiffs is his granddaughter Sophie.) The lawsuit alleges that the federal government knew decades ago that burning fossil fuels and climate were linked, but continued on the same course anyway.

In his testimony for Youth v. Obama, Hansen said, “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

The judiciary, he believes, is the only viable recourse left for the younger generation, “because the courts will be less under the thumb of the fossil fuel industry.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.” More


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Green Aruba 2015

Green Aruba is an annual conference born in 2010 with the specific aim to place dedicated emphasis on Aruba's energy transition to 100% fuel independence.

Besides showcasing Aruba's progress and challenges to the accelerated penetration of renewables in the total energy mix, Green Aruba also exhibits the experiences and knowledge of other institutions and island nations in this field. Over the past six years, Green Aruba has evolved into a practical and valuable well-known platform within the region for the exchange of information and applied knowledge on sustainable and best practices for the shift to cleaner, more environmentally friendly energy sources and resources.

Green Aruba VI – Share Sustainability

At this year's Green Aruba conference to be held October 27th and 28th, the main theme will focus on sharing sustainability by together confronting the common barriers we face, identifying the solutions moving forward and creating the essential roadmaps to achieve our desired growth paths of the sustainability journey for our island nations.

Aruba has made remarkable progress over the years in the penetration level of renewables and/or efficiency at production level, with in 2015 reaching close to the 20% mark. With the ongoing and upcoming planned projects operational by the end of 2017, the 40% barrier will be surpassed by 2018!

With our goal to reach 100% fuel free energy production by 2020, and in order to surpass the 40% level, it is fundamental to embark on a "deep dive" into our existing energy mix. Aruba is examining cutting-edge technologies and new business models for our utility companies, all in conjunction with our RAS framework, to create a balance between Reliable and Sustainable investments. This balancing act will only be achievable if energy production costs remain Affordable for the customer base.

Local utility stakeholders together with foreign renowned institutions are preparing for this dive known as the Aruba Renewable Integration Study (ARIS), and will present their approach and concept at the upcoming conference. The ARIS will provide models that map out the road forward towards Aruba's aspiring renewable energy goals, while maintaining grid reliability and minimizing overall system costs, and can serve as a prototype or starting point for fellow island nations. More


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Today's U.S.-China Announcement is the Most Significant Milestone to Date for Battling Global Climate Change

Today’s joint announcement by President Obama and President Xi represents the second time in two years the leaders have met to make significant climate commitments.

Last year’s meeting focused on setting aggressive goals that reflect each country’s unique situation. This year’s meeting moved decisively to implementation commitments intended to deliver these results. The message is clear: the time for talking about climate is over. The two largest economies and emitters must lead in action.

The commitments by the countries are sweeping and perhaps the greatest cause for hope yet in international attempts to address global warming—especially looking forward to COP21 in Paris this upcoming December. Among the outcomes are the creation of the world’s largest carbon market, market reforms within China that will help support accelerated renewables development, redoubled support of the Clean Power Plan initiatives to reduce carbon intensity of the U.S. electricity grid, codes and regulations to improve energy efficiency in buildings and transportation in both countries, and a commitment by both countries to control other important greenhouse gases including methane and HFCs.

Importantly, both countries also committed to ongoing research on necessary global warming solutions, as well as the promise of more than $6 billion in financing to support developing countries in their adoption of similar solutions.

China’s strategy for delivery is an audacious combination of top-level reforms and bottom-up implementation. Specific highlights from the announcement include:

  • Creation of the world’s largest carbon market: China has committed to use a national cap-and-trade system to efficiently limit and price carbon pollution starting in 2017. The system will cover all the largest emitting sectors in China, including power generation, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, cement, and pulp and paper. This market will build heavily upon the experiences learned from its seven city-level carbon market pilots. Given its expansive scope, this market will likely cover approximately 60 percent of China’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, which were roughly 10 billion metric tons last year. More