Monster El Niño beginning to emerge

Since a couple of weeks I’m following Robert Scribblers website where he describes the building up of a monster El Niño that is bound to influence global weather this and next year.

The graphs may seam a bit confusing at first, but once you understand what they mean they become self explaining:


This is a cross section of the Pacific at the equator. Left is Malaysia right is South America (Equador). Top to bottom is the depth of the upper 500 meter of the ocean. The normal situation is that hot water sits on the left because trade winds blow from east to west and the warm water gathers on the west side of the Pacific. What happens during an El Niño is that suddenly a gush (a really large gush) of heated water “flows back” to the East (beneath the surface) and pops up at the coast of South America, this pulse of hot water is called a Kelvin Wave. When this happens, the sudden pool of hot water (at least 5 degrees warmer than normal, but now even higher) creates dramatic climate affects globally, the last large El Niño in 1997 (the beginning of the temperature “hiatus” for the denialists) caused global temperatures to surge by 1 degree Celcius, cause droughts, heat waves, floods, bad crops and more. This El Niño is set to be larger than that one:

NB1 : the top picture is of the 1997 El Niño
NB2 : all pictures show anomalies, the difference with what is normal, so the water flowing east is 6-7 degrees warmer than the water there normally is.

Read the full story here

MOOC @ Bath : Sustainability for Professionals : Week 3 reflection

This week : Reporting standards

Good to go through some of these standards. Until recently I was mainly on the “environmental” side of sustainability, but I have learned to appreciate the social aspect of sustainability.

One thing that keeps coming to my mind, and that is something I hope will come back later in the course, is tooling for delving into the really fundamental questions around sustainability:
“Is (part of) my company / our industry itself at all sustainable?” and if not (because I am a coal mine or lil company) what can we do to reinvent ourselves, be open and honest about that and show the world that we really care.

It’s of course really easy for me to ask these questions because I am not a player (yet) but these are the type of questions that keep me wake at night.

(Some of) the Standards

EMAS – EU management tooling framework for Environmental Reporting and company policy making. Requires registration. Currently (3-2014) 4500 members.

ISO26000 – social Responsibility framework (not certifiable)
BS8900 – sustainable Management (British)
SA8000 – Social accountability

Other reporting standards
PAS2060 (carbon reporting)
ISO 20121 – Management entertainment industry
ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System (integral part of EMAS)
BES 6001 – Responsible SOURCING of construction materials

On labeling schemes
Marine Stewardship Council, Fairtrade and other “labels” are intended to help consumers make a “wise choice”, but are they really??

One issue I see with these labels is that they are “product oriented”, you as a consumer are making a choice between brand A and B. So you read that this meat is “from better kept animals”, but there are no “meta labels” saying “eating meat is far mor damaging to the environment than eating beans and mushrooms”. The latter is necessary to grow to a “sustainable” food supply, “better kept animals” are not going to save the planet.

Far fetched idea to mitigate this: The supermarket as a whole would need to re-zone their aisles with color codes : RED-floor meaning, don’t buy this stuff if you care about sustainability, and GREEN-floor saying, it’s OK to fill your baskets here. Doubt if it would be a very successful formula though 🙂

Stakeholders and stakeholder engagement
The most interesting part of this MOOC until now : stakeholder engagement standard AA1000ses. It defines a process on how to plan, implement, react and report on stakeholder engagement. GOOD STUFF!

Ideas from fellow student Geoffrey Rowlands on changes required to implement CSR:

William Bridges is one of the change/transition educators that I admire. He is able to boil complex approaches down to simple questions or steps like:
1. What is changing?
2. What will be different because of the change?
3. Who’s going to lose what?

“Change” is an event. “Transition” is the evolving process of individuals adapting to the change.

Or the 4 “P’s” that I have used numerous times. Purpose, Picture, Plan, Part.

I’ll quote the slide of implementing CSR-sustainability policies in companies because I will want to look this up often

“Practical considerations include:

phased development and implementation
recognition of the need for identifying priorities
keeping the strategy simple and practical
starting with easy wins
recognising the need for a long planning process upfront”

All in all a very good week, I learned a lot and have lots of new ideas I can chew on!!


MOOC @ Bath : Sustainability for Professionals : Week 1&2 reflection

I’m trying to become a “Sustainability Expert”, whatever that may be, because I think that’s the person in me that is screaming to me to look for work that will truly fulfill me.

At the end 2013 I discovered MOOC’ing and searched for “Sustainability”. Currently I do “Sustainable Development” from prof. Sachs at Columbia. This course is very thorough on global sustainability issues and focusses on the 8 UN millennium goals. I discover (the course still runs) that this is not the type of sustainability that I want to become expert in. Because the other MOOC I was doing (Exeter, Climate Change) was finished (very interesting course it was), I did a narrower search and came across the University of Bath MOOC on Sustainability for Professionals. Because I am not yet working in the field I thought that it may be a bit to technical/abstract for me, but….. it isn’t!! I really enjoy it, so here are my reflections so far.

Week 1 : the triple bottom line
People, planet & profit were not new of course, the translation to the triple bottom line “economic, social and environmental IMPACT” was.
The rest of week one got me confused, because it was all about MY needs, interpretation of definitions and so forth. I was hoping so much that I would get concrete definitions and methods / heuristics to define sustainable or unsustainable behavior. Well that was of course to easy 🙂

Than I came across this blogpost (highly recommended) from Eleonora Nieuwjaar who is a PPP-philosopher I shall call here. She first proposes a set of moral values that together form a Moral Compass to guide you through your life. This way of thinking was WAY outside my world until recently but trying to create a holistic view of what sustainability actually means for ME this is exactly what I see in front of me: Sustainability is first of all a Moral Compass.

My actions are in line with my Moral Compass (“just”) when they are:

When looking at sustainability in this way (with a moral compass in hand) it suddenly becomes a lot easier to think about “needs” of companies and governments. OK, so that helped me get through week 1.

Than week 2.
“Choices, attitudes and social position” in relationship to sustainability. Without my insights of week 1 this would have been a tough one, but reading the other students comments got me in the flow again. And than we get to Dr Steve Cayzer (former HP, that is motivating!) who talks about drivers for sustainability in corporations:
– costs
– risks
– opportunities
And about
– constraints that stand in the way of sustainability changes

That was all very interesting, giving a basis for a framework to discuss sustainability issues. It’s also very interesting to see al the different viewpoints from people who are already active in the field, I have the feeling that I could have professional discussions with these kind of people, so I am right on track. Hope you all enjoy the weekend and meet you next week @ futurelearn,

Bye for now, Lars >

World Energy Outlook 2013 – What it doesn’t say

Today the International Energy Agency delivered its World Energy Outlook, edition 2013 . One picture says more than a thousand words, they must have been thinking, because we get loads of Powerpoint sheets and pictures. All this work just to report that it’s business as usual, although there are some issues requiring our attention.

The report itself is available for €120, even though all the IEA’s work is payed by us, the tax payers. I will leave this shameful practice for what it is, because there is more important ranting to do. On page 5 of the press information kitt we find:
You see, we have this little issue with the Philippines. In order to prevent the Pacific from starting to boil, there is a growing consensus that something needs to done about the rising (sea) temperatures. The world community seems to agree that we need to have some sort of “carbon budget” that we must not exceed in order to prevent temperatures from rising 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The picture above tells this story.

“Nice pie chart”, I thought. But than I looked again and saw this “1750-2011” label. Wait a minute! Is this pie chart really showing all the carbon ever used since James Watt invented the steam engine?Wow! The yellow slice is all the carbon that “we” will use between now and 2035, it’s our “budget”. The other slices are all the carbon used in history PLUS all the carbon ever to be used by mankind after 2035. I think that that story needs more detail than a three slice pie chart. I created the graph below with data from Carbon Dioxide Information Analyses Center:

(Reduction of CO2 emissions by 0.5% per year after 2012; 1/12 of CO2 budget remaining for all future generations.)

Inconvenient isn’t it? More than half of all the carbon dioxide mankind will ever emit will be from the generation now alive. All the cars, coal plants, holiday trips to the tropics, summer air conditioning, just-in-time production schemes, warehouse on wheels invented in the 70’s-80’s-90’s are using 2/3 of all fossil energy ever to be used by mankind. That is our generation doing this, we created this mess, we signed the climate contract with the planet blindfolded, we accepted the consequences.

The contract says we will leave as much fossil fuel (for heating homes, cooking and maybe even some driving) to our children as our (grand) parents used in the 50’s and 60’s of the last century.

I think that the whole WEO report can be binned and replaced with just one line of text:

Stop burning fossil fuels now!

Isn’t it a reassuring idea that our governments are using the WEO-report as a primary source for energy (let alone climate) policy decisions? Give your kids a good hug tonight, it may be all the warmth they get in the rest of their lives.

Ps. As Manjana Milkoreit (@ManjanaM) pointed out, the IPCC has calculated that our generation will actually burn ALL the remaining carbon budget before 2035, so “My” graph is highly optimistic, in leaving something for our kids and grandchildren.

Pps. This article went viral on Twitter today, and I felt a little uncomfortable about my guesstimate chart below (including typo) that was in the original version of this post. I am happy that my gut feeling was so much in line with real historic data:

Others have used information in this article to write own blogposts!
Mark Trexler
Paula Reed
David Appell

other articles in English on this site (the rest is in Dutch)