The Effects of Climate Change
On Febuary 2nd, the Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) hosted Harvard University Prof. Dan Schrag, a highly recognized authority in the climate change space.
Prof. Schrag spoke about the effects of human advancement on climate change over the last several decades and through a series of insightful facts, drove home the idea that the planet is at a critical stage due to global warming and countries will have to work together in order to arrest the deterioration and make some tough decisions to reduce CO2 emissions.
Dr. Schrag stated that atmospheric CO2 has been steadily increasing from 250 PPM about a century ago to 390 PPM as of 2010 and expected to reach 500 PPM by 2040. In the last 650,000 years, atmospheric CO2 has never been higher than 300 PPM. Most of this has been caused by humans. He gave the example of the Qori Kalis glacier in Peru that has been slowly depleting into the ice cap and is expected to vanish in the next 5 years. The situation is similar with several other glaciers.
Dr. Schrag pointed out that none of the models developed by economists and policy makers take into account the low probability, high consequence events like melting of the Ross ice shelf (largest ice shelf in Antartica) or extinction of several animal species in Alaska. As a result, he says that the world might not be in a position to respond quickly enough in case of an emergency situation.
While talking about potential solutions to climate change, Dr. Schrag mentioned that there are 3 ways to deal with reducing CO2 emissions-
- Efficient use of resources/conservation
- Non- fossil fuel energy (renewable/nuclear etc)
- Carbon capture and storage
Dr. Schrag feels that all 3 methods should be used together to help reduce emissions. As an example, he said that in California, the per capita consumption of energy is half of the rest of the United States through a combination of regulation and pricing. In 2008, the 2 countries with the highest emissions were China and the US.
He was also of the opinion that stabilizing emissions levels by changing behavior, while possible is highly unlikely given the success so far and even if atmospheric CO2 is stabilized around the most optimistic of level of 450 PPM , it might be intolerable for living. In the worst case scenario, Climate Engineering- creating a whole new biosphere, might be the only solution.
However, Climate Engineering will bring with it its own set of challenges including who or which country would control it? When should it likely start and what might go wrong.
The Double Exposure Project
The double exposure project aims to capture the effect of global warming through a series of before and after photographs of glaciers and other natural ice formations.
The original photos were taken by photographer Brad Washburn in the mid 1900s. David Arnold, between 2005 and 2007 took pictures from the same vantage point that Washburn did and the effects are as dramatic as they are scary and leave no doubt as to the effect global warming has had in the past seven decades.
The DoubleExposure photo exhibit project is touring across the country to raise awareness about climate change. You can find detailed info about it at http://www.doublexposure.net.
The Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) is the newest of Harvard Business School’s Initiatives and already there is great interest and enthusiasm from faculty, students, prospective students, alumni, and the broader business community. BEI seeks to deepen students’ and business leaders’ understanding of today’s environmental challenges and assist them in developing effective solutions. BEI is currently focused on several key activities including: organizing a faculty research symposium; supporting faculty in developing innovation courses, IXPs, cases, books, teaching notes and related materials; implementing a student and alumni mentorship program; sponsoring academic research and alumni conferences, partnering with Admissions, Career & Professional Development, External Relations, the Green Business Alumni Association, and the Energy & Environment Club to further efforts related to business and the environment; as well as enhancing our website and creating marketing materials.