May 06, 2014
Third National Climate Assessment Published
by Robert Kropp
In its new report, the US Global Change Research Program asserts that the effects of climate change
have already become a present day concern, and announces the launch of a website to help Americans
receive reliable scientific information.
The conclusions are straightforward in the Third National Climate Assessment of the US Global Change Research Program. Here they
1. Global climate is changing and this
is apparent across the United States in a wide range of observations.
2. Extreme weather and
climate events have increased in recent decades.
3. Human-induced climate change is projected
to continue, and it will accelerate significantly if global emissions of heat-trapping gases
continue to increase.
4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors
and are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and
5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including
through more extreme weather events and wildfire, decreased air quality, and diseases transmitted
by insects, food, and water.
6. Infrastructure is being damaged by sea level rise, heavy
downpours, and extreme heat; damages are projected to increase with continued climate change.
7. Water quality and water supply reliability are jeopardized by climate change in a variety of
ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods.
8. Climate disruptions to agriculture have been
increasing and are projected to become more severe over this century.
9. Climate change poses
particular threats to Indigenous Peoplesí health, well-being, and ways of life.
capacity of ecosystems to buffer the impacts of extreme events like fires, floods, and severe
storms is being overwhelmed.
11. Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, broadly
affecting ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems, and marine life.
implementation efforts are insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and
So what do we do now, knowing that the legacy we leave for the
generations to come is already compromised, if not far worse? What actions do the sustainable
investors for whom I write take? When I started writing for SocialFunds.com in 2007, I recognized
how sustainable investors were embarked on a paradigm-changing mission: to change the fundamental
concerns of the capital markets from within.
Seven years later, I can state with certainty
that I have never before met the number of committed and empathetic individuals that I have had had
the honor of being in contact with through my writing for SocialFunds.com. I can further state that
my contacts with them has left me entirely unequipped to ever consider writing for a mainstream
investment medium: I could never view risk assessment other than through the lens of environmental,
social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors.
But the sustainable investment revolution
that in my naivete I anticipated has not come to be. For one thing, the same avarice that compels
the fossil fuel industry to pour billions of dollars into delaying the certainty of such findings
of those in the Third National Climate Assessment is mirrored in the get rich quick schemes still
employed by many mainstream investors. Prop up the stock price of ExxonMobil, even if the fossil
fuel reserves listed as assets on its balance sheet are enough to realize the worst-case climate
But the most serious question is really outside the province of
sustainable investment, even if most of its practitioners are dedicated to environmental and social
justice. The question is about the fate of capitalism itself. Two hundred years ago, the French
visitor de Tocqueville observed that the inevitable end of American capitalism was the
concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. The time he foresaw has arrived; if we are on the
verge of an unprecedented crisis, what use is it to its solution that investors focus on maximizing
their returns, either through short-term sleight of hand or consideration of ESG factors?
I cannot help but think that the problem may be the existence of an Achilles's heel in the
genes of the human race.
Robert Kropp can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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