3. Climate Change


Source: Timothy Krause, (CC-BY 2.0, 2012) Figure 3.1 In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City and surrounding areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of area residents without electricity or public services for weeks, and leading to the death of 90 citizens. Could continued climate change lead to an increase in catastrophic weather events of this nature?

The Threat of Climate Change

Climate change is perhaps the most important problem facing the world’s citizens today. In the consensus view of scientific experts, climate change—in particular as manifested through global warming—is likely to produce disastrous social and environmental catastrophes in this century. For example, certain low-lying Pacific islands are in danger of being inundated by rising sea levels. Another fear is that deserts in Africa and the Middle East will not only grow rapidly in size, but eventually will become inhospitable to human and animal life as temperatures rise. Yet another major concern is that the hurricanes and typhoons that regularly pound the world’s coastlines will reach ever-greater levels of destructive power.

Despite these risks, neither the United Nations nor the world’s governments have yet implemented a clear and convincing strategy to fight climate change. Virtually all climate experts agree that the key to stopping or even slowing global warming lies in the urgent reversal of the long-term trend toward increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). Although there have been many proposals to curb the growth of CO2 emissions, it is not yet clear how a global reduction in CO2 can be achieved. One major roadblock in this effort is that a few of the world’s largest emerging economies, notably those of India and China, are responsible for a large proportion of current global CO2 emissions, but these countries are not yet willing to agree to mandatory limits. Faced with their reluctance, the United States, the world’s second-leading producer of global warming gases, has also refused to commit to mandatory reductions in CO2. In the United States’ view, mandatory commitments must be accepted by all major economies in order to have a real impact. However, in November 2014 the first signs of China-U.S. cooperation on climate change were witnessed when the countries formally announced a mutual commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 2028.1

In this chapter, you will be asked what kind of action a major corporation should take in fighting global warming. Should the corporation spend a lot of money and try to be an industry leader in fighting global warming, or does it make more sense to take smaller, more symbolic actions?


Source: NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), 2009, public domain Figure 3.2 Global records of average temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration show that as CO2 levels have increased over the past century, so have global temperatures.

Basic Terminology

What is generally called climate change or global warming in the popular media is referred to by scientists as anthropogenic climate forcing. Anthropogenic means man-made and specifies that they are talking about global warming that is caused by human activity and not by natural variations in temperature. The global temperature of the earth has varied continuously since the birth of the planet, and even today, some portion of that variation can still be attributed to unpredictable increases and decreases in the amount of solar radiation the Earth is receiving from the sun.2Climate forcing refers to the effect of human activities in pushing the natural variation of the earth’s temperature in one direction or another. From this perspective, global warming is an imprecise term because some of the observed warming of the earth’s temperature may also be due to natural causes or natural variation. Most press commentators prefer to use the term climate change because many of the negative impacts of global warming will be the product of changes in weather patterns. There is thus more to climate change than increased temperatures, and it is even possible that some areas of the planet could experience cooling of temperatures (for example, it has been postulated that continued global warming could disrupt the Gulf Stream, which brings warm Caribbean waters to Europe—thereby leading to much colder European winters).3

Despite these caveats, we will fall back on use of the more common terms, climate change and global warming because they are so widely used by ordinary citizens and policymakers.

Causes: Greenhouse Gases

It is generally agreed that the primary cause of man-made global warming is the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. These gases act as a sort of invisible blanket around the earth, holding in heat and preventing it from radiating out into space. The most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO2) and ozone.4

Carbon dioxide has been a particular focus of anti-global warming efforts. Concentrations are measured in parts per million or PPM (indicating how many molecules of the gas are present in one million molecules of air). The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is approximately 395 to 400 PPM, and CO2 emissions are increasing at a rate of about 3% every year. As a result, human activities currently produce emissions of roughly 35 billion tons of CO2 per year, a 54% increase over 1990 levels.5

Prior the start of the industrial revolution, around 1780, it is estimated that global CO2 concentrations were approximately 280 PPM. In 1958 when CO2 emissions began to be precisely measured for the first time, the atmospheric concentration was approximately 315 PPM. By 1990, CO2 emissions were growing rapidly, and in 2013, occasional measurements of over 400 PPM began to be recorded for the first time, suggesting that a potentially dangerous threshold had been reached.6 It is widely feared that concentrations of 450 PPM or higher would be associated with a global average temperature increase in excess of 2 degrees Celsius, which is considered by many experts to be the threshold beyond which the Earth’s human population is likely to suffer potentially catastrophic effects. As a result, much of the worldwide effort to fight global warming has been focused on reducing the increase in CO2 emissions so that global levels can be kept beneath 450 PPM. However, if nothing is done, some projections suggest that, by the year 2100, CO2 could range as high as 540 PPM to 970 PPM.7 At such high concentrations, scientists fear that climate change could reach a “tipping point,” beyond which temperatures and chaotic weather patterns could accelerate wildly out of control.

It should be noted that, even though most public debate concerns CO2, it is not the only significant GHG. Methane, in particular, also has a potentially important impact on future global warming. In fact, methane is 23 times more powerful than CO2 in terms of its warming effect (that is, methane traps more heat than CO2).8 Some experts argue that the world should focus more on curbing methane than on CO2, largely because it seems easier to control methane emissions without undertaking the major costs and expenses that are demanded by reduction of CO2.

Despite the ongoing controversy over whether methane deserves more attention, the primary concern of policy-makers continues to be CO2. One reason for this focus is that CO2 lasts much longer in the atmosphere than methane does (methane decomposes in 15 to 20 years, whereas CO2 can remain for 50 to 75 years), but another reason is that CO2 emissions are linked to civilization’s relentlessly increasing use of energy, which seems much more challenging to control. Methane is generated primarily by decomposing garbage, by extraction of natural gas, and most colorfully, by the belching and flatulence9 of agricultural animals. Some people find it hard to believe that the burping of cows can lead to a risk of global warming, but agricultural generation of methane is actually quite significant. In addition to the belching of ruminants, the enormous amounts of animal manure generated by agriculture also create significant methane emissions.10 However, current technologies allow for a more optimistic view on reducing methane emissions. For example, landfills for garbage and refuse are now commonly fitted with methane-capturing devices that not only prevent the methane from escaping into the atmosphere, but they even allow the methane to be used to generate clean energy.

Given the importance of controlling CO2 in the battle against climate change, it has become commonplace for policymakers to speak in terms of controlling “carbon” (note that carbon is part of not only the CO2 molecule, but also the CH4 molecule, as well as being present in atmospheric soot, which is also considered a major contributor to warming). Thus, when climate economists are trying to measure the average CO2 emissions produced by an individual, company, or country they often refer to the relevant carbon footprint.11 When policymakers discuss the possibility of discouraging CO2 emissions by taxing them, they commonly refer to this as a carbon tax.12

The primary sources of CO2 emissions are the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. Every time you drive in a car or fly in an airplane, the car’s or the airplane’s engine burns gasoline to create energy, thereby producing greenhouse gases. When you use electricity to operate devices or appliances like electric lights, televisions, or computers, the electricity they use was most likely generated in a power plant through the burning of coal, oil, or natural gas (though it is true, of course, that a small but increasing percentage of electricity generation is coming from solar and wind power).

Solutions and Responses: Mitigation, Adaptation and Geo-Engineering


The long term solution to global warming is for mankind to further develop renewable or “clean” forms of energy, such as hydropower, solar power, and wind power, which do not generate GHG emissions. However, with the exception of hydropower, renewable methods produce energy at prices that are currently so much more expensive than energy derived from coal, oil, and gas that it seems very unlikely that many countries will switch over rapidly to clean energies.

One well-established form of energy production, nuclear, appears to meet the need for reasonably cheap and plentiful energy produced without generating GHG emissions, but nuclear energy has other strong disadvantages. Nuclear power plants use the controlled fission of radioactive uranium to heat water into steam, which then turns turbines to generate electricity. In their daily operations, nuclear power plants do not produce CO2. However, when the uranium fuel is depleted, it remains dangerously radioactive and must be disposed of carefully.

Even more disturbing, from the public’s point of view, is the danger associated with accidents at nuclear power plants, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, or the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan. Though such accidents are rare, they can result in the release of highly toxic radioactivity into the atmosphere, which poses both short- and long-term health risks for the surrounding population, and even for distant populations. Following the Fukushima disaster, Germany decided to phase out all use of nuclear energy (in 2010, 17% of Germany’s energy came from nuclear plants).

Meanwhile, however, over 400 nuclear plants continue to operate in 31 countries. A few countries, such as France, Belgium, and Slovakia, derive most of their energy from nuclear plants. Given that such plants can yield a great deal of energy but they do not produce GHGs, they pose a great dilemma for people who are concerned about global warming. On one hand, additional nuclear plants could satisfy the world’s demands for more energy without producing GHGs. On the other hand, a major expansion of nuclear energy production would increase the risk of accidents, which could release dangerous levels of radioactivity. Although some prominent climate change activists, most notably the respected former NASA scientist James Hansen, have called for increased use of nuclear energy as the only realistic way of limiting climate change, such arguments have yet to convince most environmentalists.

Therefore, most experts do not believe that there is any easy fix that will be readily available in the near future to solve the problem of global warming. Consequently, most experts believe that humans should focus on strategies of mitigation, or reducing the negative impacts of global warming until technological progress makes alternative forms of energy cheaper.13 When solar or wind power becomes cheap and powerful enough to permit a worldwide move to clean energies, we will have solved the CO2 problem. However, that point now seems several decades away, possibly even longer.

In the meantime, how do we mitigate the danger of global warming? The key strategy is to gradually reduce our dependence on energy that emits GHG. As we will see, governments all over the world have committed themselves to reducing the amount of GHG each nation emits. They do this by reducing energy consumption and by gradually moving toward increased usage of clean energy. For example, when consumers purchase electronic appliances that use less electricity, or when they switch from cars with gasoline engines to hybrid engines that generate fewer GHGs, the countries in which those consumers live gradually reduce the growth of GHG emissions.

Governments everywhere, from national to city and local administrations, are seeking ways to conserve energy and to encourage consumers to use less energy. Since some companies and countries have had more success in reducing GHG emissions, one policy that has been promoted is to create a market-based mechanism for encouraging reductions in GHG. These mechanisms have alternatively been referred to as cap and trade or carbon offset systems.14

Under a cap and trade system, a government sets a maximum limit on the amount of emissions a company is allowed—the so-called cap. Cap and trade was used in the United States to control acid rain by limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide, but it has never been adopted for controlling climate change by limiting emissions of carbon dioxide.15 The “trade” part of the equation comes in when a company wants, for business reasons, to go beyond the allowed limit. It can do so by trading, or purchasing unused permits from a company that had stayed below its limit. In this way, companies are encouraged to reduce their emissions—because they can sell their unused allowances—while companies that find themselves unable to do so can obtain a measure of flexibility by buying permits.

In 2005, the European Climate Exchange was created in Europe to permit trading of carbon emissions permits. This system worked in Europe because many European countries had committed themselves to mandatory carbon emissions caps under the Kyoto Protocol.16

Similar to the cap and trade system is the use of carbon offsets, which is a voluntary system. With carbon offsets, companies that continue to generate carbon emissions pay other companies or organizations to reduce their emissions. In this fashion, the overall amount of carbon emissions between the two companies should decrease or remain stable. Common carbon offsets include a number of GHG-reduction projects, such as tree plantings, renewable energy expansion, and energy efficiency projects. Even individuals can participate in the carbon offset system. For example, it is well known that one of the easiest ways for an individual to make a negative impact is to take a long airplane flight, because airplane engines produce a great deal of carbon emissions. This can be quite a dilemma, because many people today are very concerned about global warming, yet they still love to travel. One solution is to purchase a personal carbon offset when you take a plane trip. In this way, you can keep from increasing your personal carbon footprint. Al Gore is one prominent individual who travels in this fashion.


Adaptation involves preparing people and countries to better resist the negative impacts of climate change.17 One of the most widely-discussed risks associated with increased global warming is the increased intensity of hurricanes. The harmful impact of such hurricanes can be augmented by a gradual increase in sea level, also associated with global warming.18 For example, it was a combination of a severe hurricane with an unusually high tide that resulted in the devastation and flooding of New York City by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Adaptation by New York City might involve preventing future encroachment upon the city of hurricane sea surges by building barriers similar to the massive ocean barriers that have been built in the Netherlands.


Often relegated to the realm of science fiction or fantasy by experts, geo-engineering responses continue to be discussed as a possible fallback option if, as seems increasingly likely, humans are unable to reverse the long-term growth of carbon emissions in the twenty-first century. Geo-engineering involves using a number of novel or advanced technologies to reduce carbon emissions or lower the planet’s temperature.19 One example is the massive planting of trees, because trees drain CO2 out of the atmosphere, thereby creating a large “carbon sink” and reducing the level of atmospheric CO2. Another solution, more far-fetched, would be to spray inert sun-blocking gases high into the stratosphere, creating a sort of “global sun-block.” Some concerned scientists are even more frightened by the thought of ill-advised geo-engineering of this nature than they are of global warming itself.

The United Nations and the IPCC

In light of the scientific community’s consensus on the possible danger of continued global warming, in 1988, the United Nations created a special agency to coordinate the world’s efforts to control climate change: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brought together the world’s top scientific and public policy experts.20 The IPCC is a large coordinating committee of scientists and government representatives. More than 2500 climate experts are affiliated with the IPCC and about 350 representatives from 120 countries regularly attend the IPCC’s periodic meetings. Although the IPCC does not directly conduct research itself, it summarizes current global warming research into a special document that can be used by governments around the world, the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.21

The IPCC has also produced a few larger, comprehensive surveys called “Assessment Reports,” which seek to consolidate the results of all global warming research to date. The first assessment report was published in 1990 and concluded that man-made emission of greenhouse gases was accelerating global warming. It was estimated that the projected growth in CO2 emissions would lead to a future warming throughout the twenty-first century on the order of 0.3°C per decade.22

The United Nations Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol

In 1992, at the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the United Nations undertook concerted action for the first time to fight the danger of climate change, with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (also known as the Framework Convention, FCCC or the UNFCCC). The UNFCCC eventually was signed by some 190 countries, with 37 countries agreeing to legally-binding limits.23

The UNFCCC is an international treaty that is continually updated. That is why it is called a “framework convention”: The basic framework remains the same, but the specifics of what the signing countries intend to achieve is periodically refined in successive revisions, and these subsequent agreements are named after the city where the main negotiating conference takes place. Recent updates to the UNFCCC have occurred, notably, at Doha, Cancun, and Copenhagen, but the most historic of the UNFCCC updates still remains the famous Kyoto Protocol, the first time that the world’s nations agreed to commit themselves to controlling and reducing carbon emissions.

Dissenting Voices and Public Opinion

Despite the increasing alarm with which the scientific consensus pressures policymakers for convincing solutions, a vocal minority of politicians and scientists has continued to attack the consensus viewpoint. These global warming skeptics have often been derided as irrational and unscientific “deniers” by the media. Many of these so-called deniers, it has been claimed, are actually paid or otherwise indebted to large oil companies and other corporate producers of CO2. However, many of these skeptics have impressive academic credentials, and they have managed to convince a growing number of policymakers and citizens that the consensus viewpoint is either erroneous, alarmist, or overstated.

Some of the critics continue to argue that they are not convinced that increased levels of CO2 will inevitably lead to higher global temperatures, but this is certainly a marginal viewpoint, and very few respected scientists go so far. Notably, Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg, perhaps the most famous representative of the skeptics, admits that global warming is a real and serious threat, but argues that the scientific community is pressing for excessively costly solutions that will not help in the long run. Lomborg believes that sharp reductions in carbon emissions, the principal prescription issued by the IPCC, could be counterproductive, because this would not do much to reduce global warming but could have severe negative impacts on the global economy. Lomborg favors a modest reduction in carbon emissions coupled with heavy investments in scientific research for alternative means of energy.24 Other critics, such as Richard Lindzen, professor of climatology at MIT, question the scientific basis of the consensus view that disastrous warming is an inevitable consequence of increased CO2 levels.25

Case Study: UBS Seeks an Appropriate Global Warming Policy

In 2005, the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), one of the world’s largest financial services institutions, was trying to decide what action to take on global warming. Many of UBS’s large competitors, notably Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC), had made significant public commitments to help mitigate global warming. UBS wanted to do the right thing, and it also wanted to keep up with its competitors, without spending too much money. UBS was determined to take some concrete action to fight global warming, but it was not easy to decide how much of a commitment it should make—a major commitment, an average commitment, or merely a symbolic commitment.

Some of the steps that UBS could take would actually produce long-term cost savings for UBS, and therefore these actions were clearly in UBS’s interest. For example, UBS could reduce the number of airplane flights taken by its top executives, replacing in-person meetings with international video-conferencing. Such a step would not only reduce UBS’s carbon emissions, it would reduce the cost of sending executives to foreign locations, which was quite expensive. Despite such potential cost savings, it soon became clear that it would cost money for UBS to be able to say it was taking action against global warming.


At the time of this case, UBS was one of the world’s largest financial services institutions, with offices in over 50 countries and more than 70,000 employees. The company was organized into several major divisions, including a leading investment bank and a wealth management operation providing special banking services to very wealthy people. Like many other Swiss banks, UBS catered to a sophisticated, global clientele.26

UBS’s commitment to CSR and sustainability went far beyond global warming issues alone. In general, UBS believed that CSR was more than just a business issue; it was also a moral issue and a matter of company values. Consequently, UBS created a special Corporate Responsibility Committee, which was composed of many of the bank’s senior executives. Interestingly, however, UBS did not measure the impact of its CSR activities. In contrast, it carefully measured the impact of its sponsorship activities on the UBS brand. Thus, UBS seemed to draw a distinction between community involvement, from which it expected returns in marketing awareness and public relations, and CSR, which was to be pursued for its own good.27

On the industry level, UBS had begun to develop expertise in analyzing investment funds for their social and environmental responsibility. On the local level, UBS believed in supporting communities through cash donations to educational and environmental projects of $38 million per year. As for UBS’s own overall environmental impact, UBS audited its own impact by having an independent inspector subject UBS’s activities to an ISO 14001 environmental audit, the world’s leading standard for measuring environmental performance.28

UBS Competitors’ Actions on Global Warming

In researching possible options for its anti–global warming strategy, UBS reviewed the actions taken by its chief competitors. Here is what the research revealed:


HSBC, the world’s largest bank, was also the banking industry’s leader in the battle against global warming. As early as 2004, HSBC announced that it would offset 100% of its greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of market-based mechanisms. Among the beneficiaries of HSBC’s offset purchases were a New Zealand wind farm, an Australian waste composter, a German methane reducer and an Indian biomass generator. HSBC’s leadership was widely recognized in industry circles, and included a Sustainable Banking Award from the Financial Times.


Citigroup, which operates Citibank, was also one of the world’s largest financial services companies, managing over $1 trillion in assets. Citigroup was tackling global warming by compiling records on energy use at all of its company buildings and then using that information to refurbish many of its facilities so as to reduce energy consumption. Citigroup also committed itself to a 10% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved by 2011.

Credit Suisse

UBS’s main competitor in Switzerland, Credit Suisse had announced that all of its buildings in Switzerland would be greenhouse-gas neutral by 2006. In order to fulfill its commitment to achieving a completely neutral carbon footprint by 2008, Credit Suisse ordered nearly 250,000 tons of carbon credits at a cost of CHF 2.2 million.

UBS Four Options for Action

After conducting its research and evaluation, UBS settled on four possible scenarios for action on global warming.29 In the end, it became a question of how much UBS was willing to pay for different levels of reduction of carbon emissions:



2012 cost

(in $ millions)

Reduction in CO2 emissions


CO2 emissions stabilized at 2005 levels




Keep up with competitors




Good public relations




Match industry-leader HSBC



Topic for Debate: Appropriate CSR Action on Global Warming

The question you are to debate is as follows: If you could advise UBS on what course of action to take, what option would you recommend?

Take a position specifically on what UBS should do about global warming. You must base your arguments to some extent on the statements and publications of scientific and public policy experts.

The debate positions may be formulated as follows:


UBS should adopt the more aggressive, powerful, and costly alternative to fighting global warming, by choosing option 1 or 2 from the list.

Possible Arguments

  • Global warming is very serious and all companies should take action.
  • UBS is a respected company that will inspire other companies to follow suit.
  • All corporations should be part of the solution.
  • It will send a message to other financial institutions.
  • It will motivate employees by improving perception of their employer.
  • It will provide good public relations.


UBS should settle for a less-costly and -aggressive alternative, by choosing option 3 or 4 from the list.

Possible Arguments

  • UBS reduction of carbon emissions will have a minuscule effect on global warming.
  • Switzerland is not a major source of carbon emissions.
  • UBS clients do not choose UBS because of its global warming actions.
  • UBS should focus on banking services and not get distracted by CSR or global warming.
  • Banks cannot solve the global warming problem alone.
  • Symbolic action is acceptable but strong action is unnecessary. Let HSBC win this battle.


3.1 “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change”

Gore, Al. “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change.” New York Times, February 27, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/opinion/28gore.html.

3.2 “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled: Confident Predictions of Catastrophe Are Unwarranted”

Lindzen, Richard. “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled,” The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703939404574567423917025400.

3.3 “Climate Change Worse Than Expected, Argues Lord Stern”

Nayantara Nayaran and ClimateWire, “Climate Change Worse Than Expected, Argues Lord Stern,” Scientific American, April 3, 2013, accessed on November 30, 2014, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-worse-than-expected-argues-lord-stern/.

3.4 “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society”

Dyson, Freeman. “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society,” in Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe, 43-60. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2007.

The Need for Heretics

The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question.

Climate and Land Management

…My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models…

When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models…

Oceans and Ice Ages

We have accurate measurements of sea level going back two hundred years. We observe a steady rise from 1800 to the present, with an acceleration during the last fifty years But the rise from 1800 to 1900 was probably not due to human activities. The scale of industrial activities in the nineteenth century was not large enough to have had measurable global effects. So a large part of the observed rise in sea level must have other causes…

Another environmental danger that is even more poorly understood is the possible coming of a new ice age… If human activities were not disturbing the climate, a new ice age might already have begun. We do not know how to answer the most important question: Do our human activities in general, and our burning of fossil fuels in particular, make the onset of the next ice age more likely or less likely?

The Wet Sahara

At many places in the Sahara desert that are now dry and unpopulated, we find rock-paintings showing people with herds of animals…

I would like to ask two questions. First, if the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is allowed to continue, shall we arrive at a climate similar to the climate of six thousand years ago when the Sahara was wet? Second, if we could choose between the climate of today with a dry Sahara and the climate of six thousand years ago with a wet Sahara, should we prefer the climate of today?

The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with. The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts…

3.5 UBS Ordered to Pay 1.5 Billion Fine for Fraud

Bart, Katharina, Tom Miles, and Aruna Viswanatha. “UBS Traders Charged, Bank Fined $1.5 Billion in Libor Scandal.” Reuters. December 19, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/19/us-ubs-libor-idUSBRE8BI00020121219.

Synthesis Questions

  1. Are consumers more likely to buy products from companies that are more active in the fight against global warming?
  2. Should companies strive to be industry leaders in the fight against global warming?
  3. What is the best overall solution or response to the problem posed by global warming?


1. “U.S. – China Joint Announcement on Climate Change,” White House, November 12, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/11/us-china-joint-announcement-climate-change.

2. Matthew Bampton, “Anthropogenic Transformation” in Encyclopedia of Environmental Science, ed., David E. Alexander and Rhodes W. Fairbridge (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999), 22-27.

3. America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National Research Council, Advancing the Science of Climate Change (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010).

4. Thomas R. Karl TR and Kevin E. Trenberth, “Modern global climate change,” Science 302, no. 5651 (2003): 1719–23, doi:10.1126/science.1090228.

5. D.M. Etheridge et al., “Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice,” Journal of Geophysical Research 101, no. D2 (1996): 4115–4128.

6. Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, “Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” Earth System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division, last updated August 8, 2012, http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/index.html.

7. I.C. Prentence et al., “The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Executive Summary,” Chapter 3 in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed., J.T. Houghton et al. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 185–187.

8. S. Soloman et al., “Net Global Radiative Forcing, Global Warming Potentials, and Patterns of Forcing,” Technical Summary 2.5 in Climate Change 2007: The Scientific Basis (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 31–34.

9. Or in the popular vernacular, “farting.” Ruminants (animals with multiple stomachs, which permits them to digest grasses), such as cows, deer, sheep, goats, and camels, produce significant amounts of methane during their digestive process, known as enteric fermentation. Most of the methane thereby produced comes out the front end of the cow, but significant amounts also come out the other end. Twenty-three percent of the methane produced in the United States comes from livestock.

10. Henning Steinfeld, et al., “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Livestock, Environment and Development, FAO, 2006, 79-122.

11. Laurence A.Wright, Simon Kemp, and Ian Williams, “’Carbon Footprinting’: Towards a Universally Accepted Definition,” Carbon Management 2, no. 1 (2011): 61–72.

12. Peter Hoeller and Markku Wallin, “Energy Prices, Taxes, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” OECD Economic Studies, no 17 (Autumn 1991), 92.

13. Brian Fisher et al., “Interaction between Mitigation and Adaptation, in the Light of Climate Change Impacts and Decision-Making under Long-Term Uncertainty,” Section 3.5 in Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, ed., B. Metz et al. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 225–233.

14. Jenna Goodward and Alexia Kelly, “Bottom Line on Offsets,” World Resources Institute, 17 (August 2010), 1–2.

15. Robert N. Stavins, “Experience with Market-Based Environmental Policy Instruments,” Discussion Paper 01-58 (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future, November 2011).

16. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC, 2011).

17. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “UNFCCC Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms,” accessed November 30, 2014, http://unfccc.int/essential_background/glossary/items/3666.php.

18. Andrea Thompson, “Study: Global Warming Could Hinder Hurricanes,” LiveScience, April 17, 2007, http://www.livescience.com/environment/070417_wind_shear.html.

19. United States Government Accountability Office, Climate Engineering: Technical Status, Future Directions, and Potential Responses (Washington, DC: Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering, July 2011), p. 3.

20. Spencer Weart, “International Cooperation: Democracy and Policy Advice (1980s),” The Discovery of Global Warming, American Institute of Physics, last modified February 2014, http://www.aip.org/history/climate/internat.htm#S9.

21. IPCC, “Summary for Policymakers,” in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed., S.D. Solomon et al (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

22. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

23. “Status of Ratification of the Convention,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/status_of_ratification/items/2631.php.

24. Sophie Elmhirst, “The NS Interview: Bjørn Lomborg,” New Statesman, September 24, 2010, http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2010/09/interview-gay-climate.

25. William K. Stevens, “Scientist at Work: Richard S. Lindzen; A Skeptic Asks, Is It Getting Hotter, Or Is It Just the Computer Model?” The New York Times, June 18, 1996.

26. “Our Clients and Businesses,” UBS, last modified August 12, 2014, http://www.ubs.com/global/en/about_ubs/about_us/our_businesses.html.

27. Katharina Bart, “UBS Lays Out Employee Ethics Code,” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2010.

28. “ISO 14000—Environmental Management,” ISO, http://www.iso.org/iso/iso14000.

29. Sid Maher, “Europe’s $287bn carbon ‘waste’: UBS report,” The Australian, November 23, 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/europes-287bn-carbon-waste-ubs-report/story-fn59niix-1226203068972.