Climate change, environment, ESG, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Energy, Economic Trends, and Effecting Change: A Review of the Economic Superorganism

In his book “The Economic Superorganism”, Carey King outlines a novel system to organize economic decision making and to evaluate outcomes in a Climate Changed world. People are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change. In October of 2018 the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) stated we have 12 years to halt the growth of CO2 if we hope to avoid the worst possible consequences of global warming. (1) The fossil fuel industry is the primary driver of CO2 growth.

In the February 2022 update of the IPCC report stated, “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.” (4)

“The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists.”

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

How Will COVID19 Potentially Affect the Climate Change Debate?

As the severity of the COVID19 pandemic became clear to leaders in China in early 2020, the Chinese Communist Party announced the quarantine of over 800 million people and effectively closed down the economy of China. One of the effects of this shutdown was a dramatic drop in carbon emissions and air pollution.

Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, predicted there will be important lessons to learn. “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” he said. “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.” (1)

“What I think will come out of this is a realization – because we are forced to – that there is considerable potential to change working practices and lifestyles. This challenges us in the future to think, do we really need to drive our car there or burn fuel for that,” said Monk.

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Mixed Economic Signals, Debt Issues and Fossil Fuel Companies

Several years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek did a bio pic on Hank Paulson, Bush’s Treasury secretary who served during the Financial Crisis of 2008. After reviewing the events that led to the Crisis, connecting the dots, and seeing the impact of what happened, Paulson had this to say at the end of the film…

“The whole reason I’m doing this, is not because I want to look back, but because I have increasingly come to the view that it’s important that there be a historical record for those that come after me, so we don’t replay this movie all over again.” (1)

Fast-forward to November 2019, and we saw many positive and negative conditions developing that raised questions about the stock market and the health of the US economy.

Since the summer of 2019 financial conditions have noticeably weakened as the trade war with China has started having a significant economic impact. American and Chinese officials have spoken publicly that progress is being made. Hopes of a trade deal had driven equity markets higher, but as of December 2019 there is still no deal.

The trade war had caused a real decline in business investment and optimism. A CFO survey in the Fall of 2019 showed, “U.S. business optimism dropped this quarter to its lowest level in three years, according to third-quarter results from the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook. A majority of CFOs expect a recession to start before the presidential election.” (2)

This lack of business confidence had slowed growth in the economy and motivated the Fed to cut interest rates several times this year. This was all before COVID crippled the economy in the Spring of 2020…

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Climate change, environment, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

“We are talking about a genuine existential issue”: An interview with Ian Dunlop, Sustainability Consultant based in Australia

This article is an update from an interview in 2016 with more recent comments from Ian Dunlop and James Cox.

Ian Dunlop’s life has been spent in the center of the carbon economy and the climate change debate.

His bio from LinkedIn chronicles his background…

Ian Dunlop has wide experience in energy resources, infrastructure, and international business, for many years on the international staff of Royal Dutch Shell. He has worked at senior level in oil, gas and coal exploration and production, in scenario and long-term energy planning, competition reform and privatization. He chaired the Australian Coal Associations in 1987-88. From 1998-2000 he chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading which developed the first emissions trading system design for Australia. From 1997 to 2001 he was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Ian has a particular interest in the interaction of corporate governance, corporate responsibility and sustainability. An engineer from the University of Cambridge (UK), MA Mechanical Sciences, he is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Energy Institute (UK), and a Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME (USA). He is Chairman of Safe Climate Australia, a Director of Australia 21, Deputy Convenor of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, a Member of The Club of Rome and a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Climate Change Task Force. He advises and writes extensively on governance, climate change, energy and sustainability.

He grew up in the middle of the oil and coal business, and over the years he has come to his own conclusions about climate change and the impact it will have on humanity’s future. I interviewed him mid-May 2016 to learn more. I wanted to learn more about what can be done about climate change, what the role of business is, and what the impact on the economy is.

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Climate change, diversity, environment, ESG, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

What is Socially Responsible Investing?

I have recently had several people ask me about SRI. What is it? Why does it matter?

The first thing to understand is SRI means different things to different people. Several years ago I attended a gathering of advisors focused on sustainability at the Bloomberg headquarters in NYC. I talked to many of the 300 attendees and what I found was every single person had a different interpretation of what SRI meant.

Some focused on promoting clean energy, some focused on workers issues and inequality, some focused on climate change, some look to exclude alcohol and tobacco, others focused on micro lending. Each focus is unique and approaches the challenge of investing with different assumptions.

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Climate change, environment, ESG, health, new economy, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI, Taxes

Pending Meat Tax Could Change Economic Behavior

In the past year plant-based meat products have made real inroads into many popular restaurant chains. Many plant-based brands have developed models that make them cost competitive and flavor competitive with animal-based meat products.

Animal-based meats have been criticized on several levels. The role that CAFOs (concentrated animal farming operations) play in deforestation, methane release, pollution, and accelerating climate change. In addition, several recent studies have shown that meat products have many negative health consequences, including cancer. (1)

In a recent paper Fitch Solutions Macro Research found that meat could be the target of new consumption taxes, similar to sugar taxes to fight obesity that have proliferated over the past few years.

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Climate change, environment, ESG, new economy, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

What Role Do Moral Values Play in Investment Selection?

As a financial advisor, I am constantly approached by mutual fund and ETF wholesalers who are selling their investment vehicles. Yesterday I was approached by a representative who offered a vehicle that invested and looked at company fundamentals in a way that I believe is important. Before we talked, I asked if these were funds that invest based on sustainable or ESG (environmental, social, and governance) criteria.

He said, “These funds rank very highly based on ESG ratings.” And when I looked at the Morningstar ratings, they did. However, when I dug deeper several red flags jumped out at me. First, nowhere on the fund prospectus do they mention using screening for sustainability or ESG concerns. The second red flag was when I looked at existing holdings… their top holding is one of the largest US oil companies.

This to me is non-negotiable.

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charitable giving, life insurance, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Creating Social Impact Through Giving

Every day millions are helped to improve their lives due to the generosity of others. As a community we each have a stake in the success of every individual, every family. Many organizations that make massive positive contributions are struggling due to cutbacks in government supports.

We as stakeholders in American society have a responsibility to give back and help those less fortunate. A recent example of this ethos:

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Divestment From Fossil Fuels Gathers Steam

As an investor in today’s economy, you have a say in what companies you invest in and support. By investing in a company, you are effectively voting with your dollars.

By the same token, as an investor you also have the right to purposefully refuse to invest in a specific company or industry. Perhaps you disagree with their business model or you oppose the negative impacts they are having on society. This act of withholding investment is at the core of “Divestment”.

Without access to capital markets, fossil fuel companies cannot finance their operations. As fewer buyers come in to buy shares of fossil fuel companies, the potential value of these companies decline.

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Climate change, environment, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

People are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change. In October of 2018 the UN Panel on Climate Change stated we have 12 years to halt the growth of CO2 if we hope to avoid the worst possible consequences of global warming. (1) Yet following the shutdown of the global economy in 2020, the release of CO2 has accelerated. “In 2021 global energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to rebound and grow by 4.8% as demand for coal, oil and gas rebounds with the economy. The increase of over 1 500 Mt CO2 would be the largest single increase since the carbon-intensive economic recovery from the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, it leaves global emissions in 2021 around 400 Mt CO2, or 1.2%, below the 2019 peak.” (2)

Atmospheric CO2 in June 2021 stands at 418/ppm. In June 2020 the figure stood at 416/ppm. Ten years ago, in June 2011, the measure stood at 390/ppm. (3)

This awareness that the build-up of atmospheric CO2 is accelerating has led to many projects that are working to effect change. Greta Thunberg has raised the awareness of students and leaders to protest the inaction of adults on Climate. John Lui and others have organized eco-restoration camps to foster regenerative agriculture and to plant many more trees in degraded environments. Many foundations and pensions are pursuing divestment strategies from fossil fuel companies to reduce the capital available to produce carbon intensive projects. More people are turning to socially responsible investing as a way to have their own investments impact what the future will look like.

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