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The Power of Three Degrees

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 8, 2011 10:36:00 AM / by Cynthia Figge

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) Seattle Chapter recently hosted an event at the University of Washington Law School featuring the story and work of two women, Jeni Krencicki Barcelos and Jen Marlow. The two came to law school to reframe climate change as a justice issue, not a technical or economic issue, where they discovered their mutual passion for addressing global climate change, and co-created Three Degrees. Three Degrees’ mission is to promote fair and equitable adaptation strategies for the world's most vulnerable communities. Here is an overview of Three Degrees, an inspiring story of the power of identifying real problems in the world, and setting out to solve them.

Based on the idea that “climate change threatens basic rights to health, food and water, security, equity, and justice,” Three Degrees has developed a fascinating framework for thinking about and understanding climate justice.

  1. Health: The effects of climate change seriously impacts global health and leans disproportionately on the already weak. For example, extreme heat events kill more people than all other natural disasters combined. Low-income people, who often cannot afford expensive cooling systems and may not have sufficient access to water, and the elderly, who are more naturally susceptible to extreme heat, are the most vulnerable to extreme climate situations.
  2. Food & Water: Climate change directly impacts global food and water supply. David Battisti, a food security scientist with the University of Washington, has estimated that for every degree of global temperature change, crop yields will decrease by 10%. Similarly, temperature increases have left bodies of fresh water around the world severely depleted. Africa’s Lake Chad now holds only 20% of the water it did 50 years ago. 
  3. Security: In many countries, climate change is a major contributor to national political instability. Cambodia – a country that depends largely on a network of NGOs that cripples its weak internal government – is just one of several countries particularly at risk for national unrest. Flooding and other climate disasters are common occurrences that create national upheaval and the government is largely unable to provide assistance to its people.
  4. Equity: Economic hardship is disproportionately affecting the poor. Small-scale farmers, for example, can no longer rely on age-old farming practices to make their living because of changes in seasonality and sea level. Oftentimes, those living in poverty cannot afford the re-education or investment necessary to sustain their means of livelihood or to switch professions.
  5. Justice: Those who are harmed or displaced by climate change cannot easily seek retribution through the justice system because there are few legal precedents or policies in place to prosecute those who commit climate-related injustices. Some are fighting to create precedents in these areas. Kivalina, AK filed a lawsuit against a group of oil giants that includes BP and Exxon-Mobil. Residents claim the companies are responsible for the global warming that has caused the erosion of their town.  

As leading climate researcher David Archer has written, even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide now, the long tail extends to tens of thousands of years and raises profound questions for intergenerational justice.


Cynthia Figge, Cofounder and COO of CSRHUB is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement. In 1996 she co-founded EKOS International, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Cynthia has worked with major organizations including BNSF, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Dow Jones, and REI to help craft sustainability strategy integrated with business. She was an Officer of LIN Broadcasting/McCaw Cellular leading new services development, and started a new “Greenfield” mill with Weyerhaeuser. She serves as Advisor to media and technology companies, and served as President of the Board of Sustainable Seattle. Cynthia has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Cynthia is based in the Seattle area.

 

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Environment, Social and Governance Factors Merge in Climate Justice

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 28, 2010 9:19:52 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

Recently, I met Jeni Krencicki Bareclos and Jennifer Marlow, co-founders of Three Degrees Warmer, a University of Washington-based project that provides legal protections for the victims of climate change. One of their inspirations is a legal case that the Native Alaskan Village of Kivalina brought against some of the nation’s largest producers of oil, gas, and electric power. Kivalina’s 400 members and 107 buildings have to be moved because the permafrost on which the community is built is melting. The plaintiff’s case argues that the damage, estimated at $95-400 million in relocation costs, should be paid by the oil and gas companies who are responsible.

Kivalina is basing its case on the same argument that was used successfully against the tobacco companies, where big tobacco was convicted of conspiring to suppress information about the health hazards from cigarette smoking. In this case, one argument is that the oil and gas companies conspired to create false “scientific” information that created questions about what would have otherwise been accepted as incontrovertable, that human action is responsible for global warming. The argument follows that these companies created enough doubt to delay serious efforts to limit or reverse climate change, thereby exacerbating the climate change that destroyed the Kivalina’s community habitat.

The case was dismissed in U.S. District Court and is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court. But whether or not Kivalina is successful, the fact that the argument has been heard in at least one court is validation that the key issues in corporate social responsibility are inextricably linked. This case proves the case for environmental justice, linking climate change to a devastating social injustice. If the case is truly the result of conspiracy and fraud as the plaintiffs claim  — and they say that records exist that will prove their argument in discovery — then good governance is a part of this as well.

All of which argues that you can’t have one CSR factor — or measurement — without factoring in the others as well.

Carol Pierson Holding is a writer and an environmentalist; her articles on CSR can be found on her website, www.holding.com.

 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Alaska, climate change, corporate social responsibility, CSR, CSRHUB opinion, ESG, governance, social injustice, University of Washington Climate Center, Three Degrees Warmer, tobacco, Kivalina, oil, Carol Pierson Holding, climate justice, environmental justice, gas and electric power

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