Climate change – making a business case for action

By Guest Columnist GORDON KENNA, director of business development for Consensus Energy, an Atlanta-based environmental services company

To the surprise of most observers, the climate change conference in Paris produced a historic consensus document that resembles meaningful progress.

It is remarkable that nearly 200 nations were able to agree on a common position.

We do need to celebrate that after three decades of meetings with limited results, world leaders were able to strike an accord. Nations had to overcome tensions related to the economy, environment and political policy.

Gordon Kenna

Gordon Kenna

But it will certainly raise questions about enforcement, measurement, and payment. And issues related to implementing the agreement are so overwhelming and complex, it makes most of us want to shake our heads and think about something else.

We already know that the solution won’t be enforceable; it will be unevenly distributed; and there will be major costs.

The transformational technology breakthrough needed to change the economics of fossil fuel and renewables remains a difficult goal. The politics of building a consensus for a path forward to implement the climate change goals will continue to be a challenge.

For most of us though, we just want to know how to do our part while incurring no more expense than we can afford. Whether you are a skeptic or have a deep concern about the effects of mankind’s footprint on our planet, we want to be responsible citizens, and we want to maintain a good quality of life.

How do we resolve this dilemma and go on with our daily business? How do we avoid guilt and the burden of additional cost in the form of taxes, subsidies, or restriction and regulation? There are some uncomfortable (inconvenient some say) truths that are part of the political case:

  • Deny if you wish but the facts are unequivocal, climate change is real;
  • Human activity has a large and undeniable impact;
  • We must reduce CO2 emissions, even if the burden is not evenly shared;
  • Government will act and there is always a cost to a change in status quo; and
  • A smart strategy will minimize cost and even create a net profit for some.

If the political case for the climate issue is beyond our current capacity, the business case is well within our reach.

Indeed it is the obvious first step and potentially the only action that will produce an immediate return on investment- commercial efficiency. Let’s be clear; individually we can’t do much about climate policy, energy prices, or regulation.

However, just because you can’t cut all the waste, fraud and abuse from government, it doesn’t mean that you can’t effect efficiencies in your own life.

Indeed efficiency is a personal virtue and is the cheapest, easiest, and smartest approach; and it is the best way to keep control of your destiny.

There’s a particularly strong business case for energy efficiency.

fluorescent light

The old fluorescent tube (t-12s) are no longer made because they don’t meet efficiency standards but they are still in widespread use. This one is at a local apartment building (Photo by Gordon Kenna)

Technology and innovation has provided a way out of many of our wasteful inefficient ways. For example, the LED lighting available today is four or five times more efficient than the incandescent light that you used for most of your life. Sensors and other control technology can save more over that. Virtually every light fixture specified before 2014 will be changed within 10 years.

But waiting carries its own cost; the best new technology has about a two-year payback – waiting 10 years means that it effectively costs five times as much as it should.

It may not be practical to generate 50 percent of the electric power that you use, but it is likely that you can reduce your demand for electric power by 50 percent. The great benefit of efficiency is that the dividend is forever – a one time capital investment in efficiency saves money and reduces power demand forever. And most efficiency investments pay for themselves in less than three years, so the sooner you invest, the better the return on investment.

The least efficient and least practical response is to do nothing and complain that government has overreached; that the science might not be right; that our individual actions won’t make a difference; or it is too late to do anything.

If you don’t take action to protect the planet; take action to protect yourself.

4 replies
  1. John R Naugle says:

    Greetings from Atlanta: City of Peace. Mr. McKenna, very inspiring article. I especially like your point: “It is remarkable that nearly 200 nations were able to agree on a common position.” The collective future of our global family grows brighter.Report

    Reply
  2. bcngator63 says:

    I want to know how you know it will work.  40 years ago there was great concern in the scientific community that we were headed for another ice if we didn’t do something about pollution.  15,000 years ago there were glaciers in Ohio, what caused them to recede?  Accord is wonderful but do we know if we are agreeing on the right thing?Report

    Reply

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