If saving the planet isn’t reason enough to address climate change, maybe saving some money would be appealing. Taking an economic approach to clean energy, several multinational businesses have pledged to source 100 percent of their energy needs from renewables by 2020 or sooner.
Google promises to reach its goal this year. Apple reports that renewable energy now powers all of its data centers and 96 percent of all it facilities worldwide. Microsoft says its global operations have been powered by 100 percent renewable energy since 2014, and it is working to include cloud-based platforms. Several companies, including Amazon, UBS, Walmart, and Ikea, say they will reach their goals within the next few years. Representing businesses committed to renewable electricity, the RE100 website includes 90 companies that have taken the 100 percent pledge.
Kathleen Biggins, co-founder of C-Change Conversations in Princeton, sees the commitments from large companies as an area of hope during a time when federal policies languish. She will discuss the role that businesses are taking to mitigate or prevent weather damage resulting from climate change at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s business breakfast Wednesday, May 17, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Register at www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776. $25, $40 for non-members.
Businesses have good reasons to consider and act upon the effects of climate change, says Biggins, referring to “Climate of Hope,” a book written by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former chairman of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope. The authors assert that businesses are committed to clean energy because it is in their own self-interest.
Biggins points out that climate change issues can affect the job market, operating costs, relationships with consumers, investors, and employees, office down time, and delivery of products.
Clean energy supports the workforce and the consumer market. Nationally clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by more than two-and-a-half to one; and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by five to one, according to a recent Sierra Club analysis of Department of Energy data. Forty-one states and Washington, D.C., have more clean energy jobs than fossil fuel jobs from all sources.
Biggins, who has taken her business-oriented presentation to a wide range of area organizations (U.S. 1, April 5), argues that energy efficiency and renewable energy save money and can even be a source of creating income. Many companies choose renewable energy as a source of long-term stable pricing as opposed to fossil fuels with fluctuating prices. In some cases, companies have turned renewable energy into profit centers by selling energy credits.
Public support for one’s business can be positively or negatively impacted by the company’s efforts in supporting sustainability. Increasingly, investors are rewarding best-in-class businesses, consumers want to buy from these companies, and people entering the workforce want to work for progressive companies in this area.
Lost work time is another concern for companies. They see climate change mitigation as a means for keeping their businesses open. Although a company may be able to climate-proof its facility, it doesn’t insure that employees can get to work when roads are flooded and bridges are closed. The ability to transport products can be hampered by airport and transportation route closures.
All these factors combined have an overall effect on economies and consumers’ ability to buy products.
To a large extent, business commitments to clean energy can be traced to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, when companies pledged to support policies to keep temperature rise under two degrees Celsius, and thereby mitigate or prevent worst-case scenarios.
The idea of forming C-Change Conversations can be traced back to 2012 following Hurricane Sandy. While attending a garden club convention in Washington, D.C., Biggins learned that predictions that had been estimated to be about 20 or 30 years out were already coming true.
She recalls that delegates from around the country had stories about weather disruptions, including wildfires, tornadoes, floods, and droughts. “It made me want to investigate further. I started taking classes and going to seminars and found other like-minded women who were also very concerned about what we were hearing from non-partisan experts in Washington. So we banded together,” she says. They formed C-Change Conversations and launched the group’s Facebook page in June, 2014, with the goal of communicating with anyone interested in climate change and the environment.
Wanting to move the discussion away from the political edges, Biggins and members of her non-partisan, non-profit organization encourage people in the middle of the political spectrum to learn more about the issue and practices that have the potential to mitigate or worsen the consequences. They emphasize non-emotional, fact-based conversations.
Palmer Square-based Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists, worked with C-Change in creating its climate change primer, which is based on a program from Yale and addresses five questions: How do we know climate change is real? How do we know that human behavior is influencing it? What is the scientific consensus? What are the dangers, and why should we care? What is the hope of addressing it?
C-Change Conversations’ professional lecture series features guest scientists, infrastructure specialists, political strategists, and other educators and professionals. Past lecture topics have included farming, economics, public policy, journalism, solar energy, coastlines, and the Arctic. Through this series and through member-led discussions and primers, sometimes referred to as Climate Change 101, Biggins estimates the group has already reached about 1,000 people.
The next presentation in the professional speaker series takes place Thursday, June 15, and features Robert Kopp, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers, and lead author of “Economic Risks of Climate Change: An American Prospectus.” Kopp will discuss the Risky Business project, which focuses on quantifying the economic risks presented by climate change and the opportunities to reduce them. See the website, www.c-changeconversations.com, for more infomration.
While all C-Change Conversations members are gardeners with educated interests in the environment, they each bring a unique expertise and perspective to the group.
Biggins, whose father was an orthodontist where she grew up in New Orleans, has worked as a reporter for the Times-Picayune and later for Genius Country in Princeton, and is currently a co-host of “The Green Hour,” an internet radio show. She has worked at Ogilvy and Mather in New York City and at QLM Marketing in Princeton. As a presenter with C-Change, she draws from her background in advertising and marketing.
“The puzzle of how to communicate about climate change in such a politicized environment has always been very intriguing to me,” she says. She currently serves on the advisory board of Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association and on the board of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and studied international relations at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany.
Pam Mount, who co-owns Terhune Orchards with her husband, Gary, deals with the complexities of a changing climate on a first-hand basis. As a former mayor of Lawrence, she has a sense of what can and cannot be done from a local policy perspective. She is the founding chair of Sustainable Jersey, one of the founders of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, and has served on the State Clean Air Council. She has served in the Peace Corps and is a graduate of Lake Erie College.
Katy Kinsolving, a food educator, has an understanding of how food choices contribute to climate change. She is the co-author of “Essential Flavors,” writer of the Good Food Naturally blog, and is a former trustee of Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association. A few of her initiatives include curbside composting and banning plastic shopping bags.
Sophie Glovier, author of “Walk the Trails In and Around Princeton,” has raised more than $10,000 for the maintenance of local trails. She serves on the Princeton Environmental Commission. She holds degrees from Princeton and Columbia Business School, and a post masters certificate from the New School.
Carrie Dyckman is a former multimedia producer of educational programs including Branda Miller’s Witness to the Future. She is the co-chair of Stony Brook Garden Club’s Conservation Committee and former chair of PDSeeds, a parent sustainability committee at Princeton Day School. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
Harriette Brainard has operated a farm-to-table restaurant and has published several articles on environmental issues, including a series on Hurricane Katrina and the ripple effects that weather and devastation have on national issues. A Middlebury College graduate, she has a background in education, business, and journalism.
Kathy Herring was the co-creator of Twin Hens, a frozen entree company that was at the forefront of promoting organic food products with low carbon footprints. With a background in handling media tours, one of her goals with C-Change Conversations is to organize speaking engagements on the West Coast.
“So many people think of climate change as a cause,” says Biggins. But climate change is deeper than that, she cautions. It can impact so many areas of our lives, including education, health, the arts, and culture. “It can have significant impacts going forward on our budgets, where we can live, what we can eat, what we can spend money on, what diseases we are more likely to catch — so many things that we all really care about,” she says.
“It’s important for people to understand just how far reaching and disruptive climate change can be if we don’t make some smart moves now to mitigate and prepare for it. Because we’re all part of a larger community, it’s hard to prepare for what’s coming with climate change if we act as if we’re independent silos. We’re all connected, and companies are recognizing that.”