This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


The mystery of Lake Louise's missing water

The mystery of Lake Louise's missing water
Lake Louise.

Unexplained absence of 510,000 cubic metres of water from resort's distribution system 'an embarrassment for Canada'

Dawn Walton
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Friday, Sep. 11, 2009 03:15AM EDT
he Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise taps into the iconic emerald-blue lake in Alberta that shares its name for everything from supplying its laundry room and watering its gardens to ensuring the ice buckets are filled.
That water distribution system has lost almost 510,000 cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 33,630 tanker trucks or 204 Olympic-sized swimming pools – pulled from the lake since 2003, according to records that the hotel submits to Parks Canada, which oversees all operations in Banff National Park.
That's almost as much water as Ottawa allows the hotel to draw each year from the postcard-perfect lake that thrives on glacial runoff in Canada's oldest national park.
Brad Cabana, a former member of Parks Canada's advisory development board, rang alarm bells about the water losses for more than a year before he resigned. He said he received little explanation – or assurances the problem has been fixed.
"This is not a slough in Saskatchewan," said the former mayor of Elstow, Sask., who lives in the Rocky Mountain resort town of Canmore, Alta. "This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I'm trying to save something that can't speak for itself. I want to hold people accountable."
Parks Canada doesn't monitor levels at Lake Louise because it is always changing, affected by the seasons and dependent on rain as well as the melt from Victoria Glacier above it. But evidence suggests the main glacier is under pressure.
"It's definitely melting away," said Gerald Osborn, a professor of geoscience at the University of Calgary who has studied glaciers.
Although the icepack loss has not been calculated recently, scientists say glaciers in the Rockies are declining and at a more rapid pace.
"It's a natural recession, but it is augmented by the man-made effects," Prof. Osborn said.

The impact of global warming is a problem for huge regions, including Western Canada, that rely on glaciers for water for their homes, businesses and farms.
Mr. Cabana noticed what he considered a large water-loss rate at Lake Louise in February, 2008, when the hotel presented his board with a $7-million plan to upgrade its water-treatment plant and build a huge new reservoir.
Records eventually showed that one-fifth of the lake water drawn by the hotel's treatment plant (which is used by the hotel and the nearby Deer Lodge and Parks Canada washrooms) has been disappearing from the metered distribution system.
Over the years, the hotel has installed low-flow toilets and shower heads, tap aerators and taken other high-tech conservation measures. Since 2001, water consumption has dropped 36 per cent.
While experts say even well-run water systems have an 8- to 12-per-cent loss or leakage rate, average annual losses at the hotel ranged from 6.9 per cent to 33.4 per cent. There has been an average annual loss of 21 per cent between 2003 and today.
The board rejected the upgrade, but it went ahead with Parks Canada's blessing. Mr. Cabana pursued the issue, but recently quit the board in frustration. He continues to hunt for answers.
"Apart from where the hell is the water going and what the hell are people doing about it, it's certainly an embarrassment for Canada," he said.
The advisory development board, which has seven volunteer members, was set up in 1998 to let Canadians be involved in deciding what projects go ahead in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks in Alberta and British Columbia. It's supposed to make sure permit applications receive "consistent, fair and transparent reviews."
When Mike McIvor of the Bow Valley Naturalists, a Banff-based conservation group, attended the board's first public hearing, he was impressed by the tough questions. But soon, he said, the board turned pro-development, and its recommendations could be overruled by the park superintendent.
"We came to call it the approval development board," Mr. McIvor said.
"We stopped participating because we thought the role of the board had been reduced to choosing what colour should be on the bathroom walls," he said.
Interested in conservation issues, Mr. Cabana joined the advisory board in January, 2008.
The next month, the waterworks upgrade at Lake Louise was presented. According to the hotel, which has roots dating back to 1890 and some water pipes that are a century old, the project was needed to meet new federal and provincial regulatory rules for drinking water and to ensure enough storage capacity in the event of a disaster such as a fire. The new reservoir would hold 1,450 cubic metres of water, more than three times as much as the existing one.
During the presentation, records showed that the hotel had been consuming well below its annual permit of 525,653 cubic metres of water.
The board was told water consumption had dropped between 2003 and 2006 and ranged from 267,809 to 346,533 cubic metres. During the same period, water production ranged between 357,803 and 384,989 cubic metres.
(Water that is produced, but not clocked by consumption meters, is not paid for. The hotel pays only for water it uses.) A chart showing the growing gap between the amount of water produced and the water consumed by the hotel and other facilities jumped out at Mr. Cabana and some other board members.
"Where is this water going?" he recalled asking. "They could not answer me."
Three of six board members voted against the proposal, in part over concerns about adding a new water project to what seemed like a faulty system. Questions about aesthetics were also raised. The tie defeated the project. But a Parks Canada superintendent, satisfied that the concerns were addressed, later gave it the green light.
"We asked that aesthetics be improved and that's why it was approved," explained Pam Veinotte, Parks Canada's field unit superintendent for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.
"There will always be a level of discrepancy in any municipal water system between withdrawal and usage. That doesn't necessarily mean there's been a loss of water. It's often a result of unmetered water usage," she added.
Mr. Cabana asked for the water balance sheets for 2007 and 2008. Unlike the numbers in the presentation to the board, the charts he was given were vague. This week, he was offered more complete – and in some cases different – figures for those years, as well as the first eight months of 2009.
There were seven months between 2003 and today when water from the treatment plant didn't vanish. But during those years, the system could not account for 509,208 cubic metres of water. Mr. Cabana figured that would be like nearly 33,630 tanker trucks loaded with 4,000 gallon drums.
Last February – one year after the project was approved – Mr. Cabana tabled a motion to find out what measures had been taken to locate the sources of the losses and fix the problem.
A month later, Parks Canada received a letter from Jackie Budgell, the hotel's environmental systems manager, who attributed the discrepancy to non-metered water consumption for irrigation, annual fire-hydrant testing and cleaning the plant filters. She also suggested that some meters might be inaccurate.
Harsh winters sometimes burst water lines and cause leaks, Ms. Budgell said. One hydrant line ruptured in the winter of 2006 and could not be fixed until spring, she said. As well, non-metered hydrants were used during a big landscape project between 2003 and 2006. She assured Parks that the discrepancy between the water production and consumption was not because of leaking pipes or other causes.
"The most important fact is that we have continued to reduce our production and consumption since 1995," she wrote.
But those explanations didn't wash for Mr. Cabana.
The hotel estimates that cleaning the filters accounts for 2.5 to 3.2 per cent of the water consumed, and includes it on the balance sheet, therefore that can't be the cause, he said. Water losses tend to be greatest between September and March, not during the prime summer landscaping season when new plants and trees would need heavy watering, he added. And, large water losses continued after the major landscaping project was completed, he said.
"Estimates are often difficult," said Ms. Veinotte of Parks Canada.
Hotel spokeswoman Alicia Chelsom said an environmental assessment concluded that as long as the hotel stays below its permit, there's no ecological risk.
"We draw well below that number, so even if there is a slight difference between our production and consumption numbers, there is no risk for environmental damage. Also, any water that would leak from the distribution system would run back into the ground and return to the water table," she said.
Chris Huston, leader of asset operation for water services for the city of Calgary, called monthly water losses ranging from 20 to 42 per cent "huge."
"There's something going on there," he said.
It could be as simple as inaccurate meters. The system could be over-pressured, which is pushing water through leaks faster. Theft can also be a factor. But in most cases, he explained, leaks are to blame.
"It could be water running underground and they don't even know it," Mr. Huston said.
Back in the 1980s, Calgary lost 30 per cent of its water, about 140 million litres per day. The city launched an aggressive water-main replacement program and water loss dropped dramatically. While about 1,500 water mains used to break in a year, now fewer than 400 do.
"It's a major issue across North America – the state of infrastructure," Mr. Huston said.
At an advisory board meeting in May, 2009, Mr. Cabana quit, citing concerns about "environmental negligence." Neither Parks Canada nor the board, he said, appeared to have any intention to hold themselves or the hotel to account.
"It remains a shock to my system that the very organization entrusted with protection of our national parks, and thereby their ecosystems, would allow such a systemic abuse of perhaps the most recognized symbol of our country," he wrote in his resignation letter.
At the meeting, the board gave the hotel until the end of the year to show how the new system, which went into operation in June, was working. (It includes new meters and a new irrigation system.) So far, the water-loss rate has ranged from 3 to 28 per cent.
Parks Canada said it needs more data to find out whether it has a handle on its water losses.
Joe Obad, associate director with the Water Matters Society of Alberta, an independent organization focused on watershed protection, said when talking about a Canadian icon like Lake Louise there should be no questions about where the water is going.
"What I would like to see is that every drop coming out of that lake is accounted for," he said.
Mr. Cabana has enlisted the help of Wild Rose Conservative MP Blake Richards, who has the Environment Minister's office looking into the issue.
"Water is a pretty valuable resource and you want to make sure it's being used properly," Mr. Richards said.
Parks Canada has been directed to get to the bottom of it.
Meanwhile, Parks Canada is undertaking a mandated facelift under federal legislation. It will look at what, if anything, it should do with the many committees, such as the advisory development board, that offer Ottawa advice. Boards could be disbanded or merged.
Mention Mr. Cabana's name around the lake and people tend to bristle. When asked about his water crusade, Ms. Veinotte offered a diplomatic response.
"We really appreciate the efforts of a number of private citizens to sit on advisory groups and I think that these advisory groups have served us well in the past and many will serve us well into the future," she said.
Mr. Cabana would still like to see an independent audit, wonders how far back the losses go and doubts the water-plant upgrades will help. So what happened to Lake Louise's water?
"That's a question I wish I had the answer for," he said

U.S. Carbon Emissions to Drop 6% in 2009

U.S. Carbon Emissions to Drop 6% in 2009

EIA septThe poor economy has prompted a revised estimate for U.S. carbon emissions. The Energy Information Administration now predicts that overall U.S. emissions will be down 6 percent this year.


70% of Supply Chain Execs Say Environment More Important

IPPR: Personal Carbon Rationing May Be Needed

planbA UK think tank has released a report saying that if at the end of the UK's first carbon budget period in 2012, carbon emissions have not reduced, the government will need to face up to the prospect of introducing personal carbon trading as a "plan B."

Personal carbon trading would cut emissions by giving every person in the country a quota of free carbon credits which would be needed to buy electricity, gas, and even plane tickets.

"Unlike food rations during the war, carbon credits would be tradable, so people with small carbon footprints could sell their spare credits while people with gas guzzlers and houses full of energy-hungry gadgets would need to buy extra credits to cover their extra emissions," the Institute for Public Policy Research says in the report, Plan B? The prospects for personal carbon trading. Over time the quotas would shrink, in line with the need to hit emissions reduction targets.

In recent years PCT has developed an increasingly high profile within the UKs political agenda, with expressions of interest by successive Secretaries of State for the Environment, and also from senior opposition politicians, IPPR says. Last year, the chair of the UK's Environmental Audit Committee, Tim Yeo, said a personal carbon allowance is the best way to cut CO2 without hurting the poor

Supporters of PCT argue that the approach delivers on all three criteria for environmental policy – effectiveness, efficiency and equity. However, critics, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), argue that PCT is politically infeasible and would involve very high administrative costs.

According to the report:

Defra's central estimate of the costs of setting up and running PCT is £2.6 billion a year. However, this estimate is sensitive to assumptions made about the specific costs of administering personal carbon accounts, which it is envisaged would run by piggy-backing on the banking system, and are costed by analogy to the administration of current accounts.

An alternative set of assumptions about this and other costs leads to a somewhat lower (but still large) estimate of the annual costs of PCT, in the region of £1.4 billion.  At this cost estimate, and a valuation of CO2 reduction at £60/tCO2, PCT would have to offer additional savings of at least 25 Mt (million tonnes) CO2 annually on average over the period 2013–20, above and beyond alternative low-cost policies such as upstream trading, in order to be a cost-effective way of reducing emissions over he period to 2020.

The main problem for PCT, in this case, is that the gap between targets for emissions reduction for 2020 and the expected impact of existing policies is not that large.

70% of Supply Chain Execs Say Environment More Important

supply-chain1Environmental issues will become more important to the supply chain over the next three years, say about 70 percent of supply chain professionals in a recent survey.

About 20 percent expect the importance of the environment to remain the same, and 2 percent expect it to decline, according to the North American Supply Chain Carbon & Sustainability report (PDF download, registration required).

About 57 percent of respondents to the Eyefortransport study expect their environmental initiatives to return financial and public relations dividends, while less than 10 percent expect no return on their investment.

supplychain2Nearly 80 percent of respondents were aware of the EPA Smartway Program, while 90 percent were aware of the concept of carbon offsets. Just more than 60 percent were aware of the Carbon Disclosure Project.


The survey was conducted in August, with more than 130 supply chain professionals responding. About 38 percent of respondents were in the transportation/logistics sector, with 9 percent in retail/CPG and 6 percent in food.


Green newsclips for 8 September 2009: Burping cows, why you shouldn't buy a house on the beach and more

Tesco monitors burping dairy cows to measure methane emissions
Methane emissions from flatulence account for the bulk of the carbon footprint of milk, the supermarket group says
Zoe Wood, Monday 7 September 2009 15.35 BST
Article history
Cows in Pirbright, England
Cows account for 40% of all livestock emissions in Britain. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty
With humans it's just plain bad manners but with cows it's bad for the planet.
Now 200 dairy cows have been fitted with microphones to measure how much methane they belch and fart while chewing the cud.
Dairy cows account for 40% of all UK livestock emissions and 75% of the carbon footprint of milk production.
The herd of Holsteins, at Tesco's Dairy Centre of Excellence on Merseyside, has been fitted with "burp collars" to see if different feeds can cut emissions.
Motion sensors embedded in the rumination collars, as they are officially known, pick up stomach sounds, providing hourly data on the cow's digestion.
The information is transferred to the farm's computers when cows pass over an ID unit en route to the milking parlour.
Tesco says consumers want to know food's carbon footprint in addition to their nutritional content so it has produced "carbon footprint" labels for more than 130 products, with full fat, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk added last month.
The supermarket chain aims to disclose the carbon footprints of 500 products by the end of the year.

Japan PM-elect backs 25 pct greenhouse gas cut

Reuters, 7 September 2009 - Japan's prime minister-elect said on Monday he will forge ahead with a tough 25 percent cut in emissions by 2020, despite growing opposition from industry which says the target will hurt the world's No. 2 economy.

But Yukio Hatoyama added that the target, more ambitious than the outgoing government's, was premised on a deal on ambitious goals being agreed by major nations.

"We can't stop climate change just with our country setting an emissions target," Hatoyama, who will take office on Sept. 16 after a vote by parliament, said in a speech to a symposium on climate change.

"We will also aim to create a fair and effective international framework by all major countries in the world."

The Democratic Party has said the tough 2020 target from 1990 levels is needed for Japan to play a bigger role in U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The talks will try to work out a new agreement on reducing emissions to succeed the current Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012.

But a government report issued earlier this year showed that pursuing a 25 percent cut could hurt industries ranging from power generation, steel and cement firms to car and chemical makers, threatening jobs.

The outgoing government's 2020 target, announced in June, is equivalent to a cut of 8 percent below 1990 levels, and was chosen after lengthy consultations with the public and industry.

The Democratic Party's point person on climate change policies, Katsuya Okada, declined on Friday to say what Japan would do about its targets if an international deal including countries such as China and India were not on board.

"We are trying to reach an agreement, so we are not discussing what to do if there is none," Okada told Reuters in an interview."


Japan's top business group, Keidanren, is expected to lobby against the Democrats' emissions target. The auto industry lobby has said it is also worried.

But Hatoyama said fighting global warming presented an opportunity, not a threat, for business.

"Tackling climate change aggressively will open a new frontier for the Japanese economy and create jobs in areas such as electric cars and clean energy technology, including solar power," he said.

The head of business lobby Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) told the symposium that the new government needed to spell out specific policies to the public.

"We basically welcome (the target), but we want to ask what policies and steps will be taken to achieve this 25 percent target," Masamitsu Sakurai, also the chairman of office equipment maker Ricoh Co, told the symposium.

Japan is under pressure for tougher climate policies after its emissions rose 2.3 percent to a record in the year to March 2008, putting the country 16 percent above its Kyoto Protocol target.

The U.N. climate chief said Hatoyama's new commitment was "laudable" and would spur change in Japan's economy.

"With such a target, Japan will take on the leadership role that industrialised countries have agreed to take in climate change abatement," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told the symposium.

Industrialised nations are planning average cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of between 10 and 14 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of the new U.N. climate pact, according to a compilation of national data. This is far below the 25-40 percent reduction by 2020 recommended by the U.N. climate panel.

Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard hoped Japan's target would persuade other countries to follow suit.

"Japan is one of the most energy-efficient countries in the world," Hedegaard, whose country will host the December U.N. climate talks, said in a statement. "Yet they show that it is possible to take on a new ambitious target for carbon dioxide reduction that makes sense both for climate and economy."

Hatoyama said industrialised countries should provide financial and technological support to developing nations working proactively to reduce emissions, adding that his new government would discuss steps soon after taking power.

He also wanted to present his stance on climate policy in more depth at a U.N. climate change meeting among world leaders on Sept. 22, he said.

To reduce emissions, Hatoyama's party has pledged to create a domestic emissions trading market with compulsory volume caps on emitters and introduce a "feed-in" tariff, or financial reward, for renewable energy to help expand capacity for clean energy sources.

It is also considering a new carbon tax, but other campaign pledges such as a plan to eliminate highway tolls and to end a decades-old surcharge on gasoline have drawn concern from green groups. (Editing by David Fogarty)

A high cost to deal with climate shift

The International Herald Tribune, August 31, 2009 Monday - As the community of nations prepares to meet to negotiate a new climate treaty and set new emissions goals, the drumbeat for sharpening the details of an adaptation strategy - and a financial framework for helping poor nations implement it - is quickening.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has described the notion of ''adaptation'' as those initiatives designed ''to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects.''

The implication, of course, is that regardless of what countries, businesses or individuals do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is going to warm up. Everything from coastal geography and weather patterns to the global tableau of arable land, such that we've come to know and rely on them, will be - indeed, already are - in flux, and we had best start planning.

Just how drastic those changes will be is anybody's guess, but it seems certain that poorer countries, which did little to contribute to the problem, are likely to be hit hardest by climate change's inexorable reordering of things.

And so it is that, as the international community prepares to meet in Copenhagen in December to negotiate a new climate treaty and set new emissions goals, the drumbeat for sharpening the details of an adaptation strategy - and a financial framework for helping poor nations implement it - is quickening.

It's a tall order. Adaptation is a wildly fuzzy affair, not least because, reduced to its economic bottom line, no one knows what to include in calculating its costs.

''The role of funding for adaptation in middle- and low-income countries is taking a central place in negotiations,'' write the authors of new report released last week - a joint effort of numerous British scientists and academics under the auspices of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College. ''It therefore is imperative that our estimates of funding need are as accurate as possible.''

So far, the report argues, estimates have been ludicrously low.

Indeed, as my colleague James Kanter noted at our blog, Green Inc., on Friday, European legislators have discussed climate adaptation costs in the range of $140 billion annually, while the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or U.N.F.C.C.C., has put the number at roughly $170 billion each year.

The report last week argues that the U.N.'s estimates ''were produced too quickly'' and failed to include a variety of cost multipliers, including effects on the energy, manufacturing and retailing sectors, ecosystem protection and increased storm intensity in coastal areas.

''Just looking in depth at the sectors the U.N.F.C.C.C. did study, we estimate adaptation costs to be 2-3 times higher,'' Martin Parry, a research fellow at the Grantham Institute and the report's lead author, said in a published statement. ''And when you include the sectors the U.N.F.C.C.C. left out, the true cost is probably much greater.''

The missing pieces in previous estimates are legion, according to the report, particularly because most tallies thus far have looked only at additional costs above and beyond current levels of general investment in the developing world.

But current investment is a low benchmark, the authors argue, and inadequate to close the development gap between rich countries and poor ones, much less contend with climate change as a multiplier.

Closing the development gap - the only way to avoid a Sisyphean state of rich-poor patronage, the authors argue - and removing the additional vulnerabilities to climate change are going to be substantially more expensive.

Earlier estimates of the cost for infrastructure adaptations in Africa, for example - from $22 million to $371 million, according to the United Nations' most recent calculations - are ''clearly absurdly low,'' the researchers say.

''Much of the continent has little or no infrastructure in place to 'adapt,''' they added, ''and very high levels of vulnerability to climate change.''

Eliminating that infrastructure deficit for low- and middle-income countries will, by itself, cost on the order of $315 billion annually over the next 20 years, the authors argue. Girding that updated infrastructure to meet the demands of a changing climate will require $16 billion to $63 billion in additional financing each year.

Whether those new numbers are accurate is impossible to know, and everyone - including the authors and representatives of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change - agrees that more analysis is sorely needed.

A larger question, though, is whether such specificity even matters at this stage.

According to Heather McGray, a senior associate with the Climate and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington and head of that organization's project on vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, there are ''two alternate realities'' in the face of a warming climate.

The scientific reality, Ms. McGray said, is that climate change is real and the costs of dealing with it will be substantial. ''I think it's helpful to have these numbers come out,'' she said, adding that the current study represented an important broadening of risk analysis associated with climate change.

''On the other hand,'' Ms. McGray said, ''there is the political reality.''

That reality, with just four months remaining before the high-noon December meeting in Copenhagen, still has major developing economies like China and India signaling reluctance to sign on to emissions targets unless developed countries agree to cut emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020; oil companies and other businesses opposing a climate bill with far less ambitious emissions targets in the U.S. Congress; and a host of other stakeholders scrambling to find common ground amid the forest of details attending any global treaty of such magnitude.

Whether adaptation will cost $5 billion or $500 billion can seem a moot point amid the din.

''The way I see the political process right now,'' Ms. McGray said, ''is that it's not that responsive to one set of numbers or another.''

On Friday, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, seemed to agree, arguing in a statement that estimates of the costs associated with climate adaptation ''remain a moving target.''

''Starting to plug the hole right now,'' Mr. de Boer added, ''is more important than determining its exact future size.''

August 30, 2009

Coastal home owners face huge losses from rising sea
Date: 07-Sep-09
 Michael Perry

Coastal home owners face huge losses from rising sea Photo: Daniel Munoz
Australian Lesley McGrath stands at her multi-million dollar beachfront property at Collaroy beach in Sydney August 17, 2009. Around the world, owners of prized seaside properties face the prospect of not just losing their homes but receiving no compensat
Photo: Daniel Munoz

By Michael Perry
SYDNEY - Australians Lesley and Doug McGrath have for decades battled ocean swells that have eaten away at the backyard of their multi-million dollar Sydney home.
They bought an old beach shack on Collaroy Beach in 1976 and replaced it with a two storey home anchored to the land by 12 meter (35 feet) long piers, a concrete slab, and an underground seawall of giant boulders.
Even with all that protection, the fury of the ocean has at times torn up their backyard, large chunks of prime real estate disappearing under waves. With scientists predicting a 90cm (3 feet) sea level rise in Sydney by 2050 due to climate change, the house itself may yet be in danger.
The McGrath home is one of an estimated 700,000 plus coastal properties in Australia alone that are threatened by rising seas.
Around the world, owners of prized seaside properties face the prospect of not just losing their homes but receiving no compensation as insurance policies may not cover climate change losses in the future.
"If you live in paradise you accept what the ocean gives and takes. We're not worried," Lesley McGrath told Reuters.
Her family photo album tells an amazing story of their battle against the ocean: At times, an expansive beach separates their home from the sea, and at other times, the surf is so close that photos show her son jumping into the water from the backyard.
Sea levels are widely expected to rise about one meter (3.3 feet) this century due to climate change, faster than the 18-59 cms (7-23 inches) outlined in a United Nations Climate Panel report in 2007.
And coastal communities around the world are already feeling the destructive effects of more frequent and violent ocean storms -- a portent of rising seas.
Powerful storms along China's coast are washing salt onto farmland, severely reducing crop yields and there are fears saltwater may be contaminating vital fresh water aquifers.
The first wave of climate change refugees have started leaving their island homes in the South Pacific as storm surges contaminate fresh water supplies and flood coastal crop lands.
"We have a feeling of anxiety, a feeling of uncertainty because we know that we will be losing our homes. It's our identity. It's our whole culture at stake," says Ursula Rakova, from Carteret Island off Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
Carteret islanders have decided to abandon their island home for the nearby and bigger Bougainville island after years of worsening storm surges and king tides infected their fresh water supplies and ruined their staple banana and taro crops.
Other islanders tell stories of sitting and watching the ocean slowly devour their homes, and desperately trying to climate-proof their villages by constructing seawalls, planting mangroves to halt erosion and testing salt-resistant crops.
"We thought of ourselves as living on the coast. Now the house where I was born is a couple of hundred meters out to sea," says Kini Dunn from Togoru in Fiji.
Despite moving inland, the waves are again breaking on Dunn's doorstep, but he is determined not to leave.
"We can not see ourselves moving, even though the ground our ancestors trod is gradually disappearing into the sea," says a defiant Dunn.
John Vaughan is fighting in court for the right to try and save his multi-million dollar beach house.
Waves washed away 800 sq meters (8,600 sq feet) of Vaughan's beachfront land in May after a bad cyclone and storm season, wiping more than one million dollars off the value of the property, say real estate agents.
Vaughan fears that if he is not allowed to build a stone seawall, his home may one day become worthless. "I'd be on the edge of an island and washed away probably," he told Reuters.
Sydney Coastal Councils, which represents 15 local governments, says the multi-million dollar price tags of beachfront homes are unrealistic given climate change.
"A lot of those structures have been put in place without any consideration of climate change. Private properties in coastal areas don't reflect the risk," says Wendy McMurdo, chair of Sydney Coastal Councils.
In Australia, 711,000 homes and billions of dollars worth of assets and infrastructure are at risk from rising sea levels and storm surges, says Australia's climate change office.
Coastal flooding and erosion already costs Australia's most populous state New South Wales A$200 million a year.
Australia's coastal authorities fear litigation may rise as more and more people try to save their properties from storm surges and rising sea levels or lose property to the ocean.
"It's in no one's interest for decisions on the impact of climate change to be made by the courts," says McMurdo.
Australia is an island continent with 80 percent of its 21 million people living on the coast, but combating rising sea levels is piecemeal, says McMurdo.
Australian authorities are split on adopting a policy of retreat or defend against rising seas.
Those opposed to defending the coast argue seawalls and breakwaters often see the beach lost to a stone structure, prevent the shoreline from naturally adapting to changing ocean conditions, and move the problem further along the coast.
Byron Bay, a resort town in Queensland state, has had a retreat policy for 20 years, angering residents who bought multi-million dollar beach homes in recent years.
One hour drive north, a defensive line of seawalls and years of pumping sand onto beaches has replenished the tourist Gold Coast, protecting them from powerful cyclones this year.
In Sydney, there is little chance of retreat given the high coastal population. A sea level rise of just 20 cms and a 1-in-50 year storm would see Narrabeen beach recede by 110 meters (361 feet) causing around A$230 million damages.
Sand pumping may help homes at Collaroy Beach, south of Narrabeen where the local council has a policy of buying threatened homes, bulldozing them and building protective sand dunes. In Sydney's south, a metal sea barrier has been planted at Cronulla Beach to stop wave erosion of an existing seawall.

Debunking the Notion of a Triple Bottom Line
By Robert Pojasek
Created 2009-08-31 17:47

When I teach the "Strategies in Sustainability Management" course at Harvard University in the spring, the students are required to read a journal article by Wayne Norman and Chris MacDonald, "Getting to the Bottom of the 'Triple Bottom Line.' " This effective debunking of the notion of a triple bottom line (TBL) is 6½ years old now, and it is still making people angry.

The basic thrust of their case against the serious use of the TBL concept is that it is "inherently misleading -- the term itself promises or implies something it cannot deliver."

As business ethicists, they present a series of arguments for why it would be impossible to evaluate an organization's social responsibility performance by aggregating the kinds of data typically presented in a company's social responsibility report. They do not claim that the supporters of the TBL concept actually claim to aggregate the data in this way, but only that this is what they would have to do for the analogy with financial accounting to have any meaning or credibility. They then argue that the TBL concept cannot be rescued simply by sharpening its claims  -- "The TBL rhetoric is badly misleading and may in fact provide a smokescreen behind which firms can avoid truly effective social and environmental reporting and performance." 

The TBL concept was introduced by two pioneering sustainability consulting firms, AccountAbility and SustainAbility, in the early 1990's. Since that time, other consulting firms have bandied about the term and it is embraced in business school curricula, socially responsible investing organizations and even by a wide range of NGOs. When you examine how this term is used, in almost every case the promoters are trying to convince people who already take seriously the financial bottom line that they should also take seriously social and environmental bottom lines. However, upon further analysis, it is difficult to find anything that looks like a careful definition of the TBL concept, let alone a methodology for calculating the TBL with financial rigor.

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According to Norman and MacDonald, the TBL concept turns out to be a "good old-fashioned single bottom line plus vague commitments to social and environmental concerns." Their concern as ethicists is that it may be exceedingly easy for almost any firm to embrace the TBL and make no more concrete and verifiable commitment to CSR and sustainability. If you have not read the paper, the response by Moses Pava and the reply by the original authors, you need to do so.

Perhaps the TBL hyperbole has prevented us from formulating better ways of comparing the results of adherence to the three responsibilities. Measuring the 79 lagging indicators of the 
Global Reporting Initiative does not provide a single aggregate parameter that takes in all three responsibilities. Sustainability consultants have a wide variety of dashboards and other interpretative tools, but these also do not provide an aggregate measure as promised by the TBL.

The closest tool might be the ADRI (i.e., Approach, Deployment, Results and Improvement) method offered in the 
Australian Business Excellence Program

Here's how it could work in place of the TBL: An organization would prepare a written approach to each of the three responsibilities using the criteria posited in the business excellence framework. Next, the company would present a detailed action plan for the deployment of the approach for a given fiscal year. At the start of the year, it would select the metrics that would be used to determine the results that would indicate how effectively the approach and deployment were working. Finally, the expected outcomes or improvement associated with the approach and deployment would be postulated and committed to paper.

The ADRI approach would be used for all three responsibilities -- environmental, social and economic/financial. Using a trained team of independent assessors, the ADRI can be scored using the methodology in the Australian Business Excellence Framework. Each of the three components would receive a score based on how the documented outcomes compare to the scoped activity. Since scores are unitless numbers, it would be possible to add the three scores and obtain a single measure of sustainability for the organization. It is also possible to score the lagging indicators (results) and add those scores to the final score. 

There are approximately 70 business excellence frameworks used around the world, including the 
Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework here in the United States and the EFQM Excellence Framework in Europe. This independent, third-party scoring method has been around since 1987 -- much longer that GRI or other ESG measurement frameworks.  

If you need to have the answer in dollars, maybe you could use a risk management standard like the 
ISO 31000 standard. Operational, regulatory and reputational risks can be expressed as financial values. Hmmmmm...

We just need to move this TBL concept aside so we can get on with a monitoring and measurement methodology that can serve the many stakeholders that want to know what the TBL cannot deliver. Perhaps there are still too many that are clutching to their TBL ideals. What do you think?

Robert B. Pojasek, Ph.D., is the sustainability practice leader at Capaccio Environmental Engineering and an internationally recognized expert on the topic of business sustainability and process improvement.

Ptolemaic Geocentric Model of the Universe -- 
Bartolomeu Velho, circa 1568, Bibliotèque National, Paris