Later this month carbon dioxide levels will reach 400 parts per million (ppm) in the Earth’s atmosphere. It hasn’t been that high since the Pliocene era, 3 to 5 million years ago.
400 ppm is a milestone it would be better not to achieve. Historically, scientists warned that anything over 350 ppm would destabilize the climate. Some assert that 450 ppm will be the “tipping point,” when the damage from climate change cannot be reversed. 400 ppm is symbolic evidence that we are not making progress to stop global warming.
Carbon dioxide emissions---the vast majority from fossil fuel usage---hit a record high in 2012. However, because carbon dioxide molecules remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, cumulative emissions since the start of the industrial revolution are contributing to reaching the 400 ppm mark.
Last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, the earth was a far different place. Humans weren’t alive, the planet was roughly 10 degrees warmer, sea levels were approximately 100 feet higher, and there was almost no ice on the globe.
News of the impending 400 ppm record is being talked about extensively by scientists and climate change activists. It will be interesting to see if consumers take note.
71% of Americans think about the environmental impact of items before they make purchases. That’s up 5 percentage points since 2008. Even better, 90% of those who buy products with eco-friendly disposal options intend to use them.
Unfortunately those plans usually do not translate into reality. 70% of consumers admit they do not use green products in the way that minimizes their impact. And, 68% say they don’t dispose of products in the most environmentally friendly way.
Why is there a gap between intentions and actions?
The top explanation, cited by 33% of consumers, is that they don’t have the necessary resources. Their community does not have recycling facilities, they don’t have special bins, etc. An additional 19% say they don’t know the correct way to dispose of many products. 10% don’t make it a priority, and 8% just don’t have the time.
Almost three-quarters of consumers wish companies would provide more information about green products throughout their lifecycle, with the majority looking for more information via product packages or the Internet.
If you’d like to read more about the gap between green thoughts and behaviors, here’s the link to the research from Cone Communications. http://www.conecomm.com/2013-green-gap-trend-tracker-1
Symptoms are getting worse and lasting longer for those who suffer from pollen allergies. That trend is going to continue far into the future, thanks to climate change.
The ragweed season has expanded by two to four weeks (depending on geography) over the past 15 years. Other outdoor allergies have followed a similar pattern as higher average temperatures lead plants to bloom significantly earlier.
At the same time, the amount of pollen in the air has almost doubled. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes plants to grow larger and produce more pollen when they bloom.
According to experts at Rutgers University who model pollen patterns, these trends will be magnified through at least 2040. Research algorithms predict that the allergy season will be extended by at least another week, and average pollen counts will more than double in the next 27 years.
The 40 million allergy suffers in the US are frustrated. They are looking for solutions that go beyond taking more medication and staying inside as much as possible. Allergists are scratching their heads looking for solutions for their patients.
Is there an opportunity for Clorox to help outdoor allergy sufferers?
More and more experts have shifted from talking about how to prevent climate change to discussing how to deal with its inevitable effects.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers recently released a report detailing the impact global warming will have on business. Some of what they highlight has already been talked about extensively: warmers winters, more extreme weather events, and water shortages.
Other important business implications have received much less press: uncertainty, disruption, and new trade routes.
Pricewaterhouse identifies “uncertainty” as the #1 way climate change will affect the economy. The business environment will become less predictable because no one can accurately project the magnitude, location, or timing of the side effects of global warming.
“Disruption” is also near the top of the list. Climate change, in the form of weather events, will damage physical infrastructure. At the same time, climate refugees will leave areas that become too wet, too dry, or too hot, putting a further burden on infrastructure and services in areas that remain habitable.
Finally, the report highlights new trade routes as a significant positive impact for business. As the Arctic melts, a new, shorter shipping channel will open from the Atlantic to Asia.
You can read more about the report and Triple Pundit’s analysis of it here http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/03/top-ten-effects-global-warming-business/
If you want to know where the world is headed, follow the money. That is true for most aspects of life, and it probably applies to global warming as well.
In the past 12 months, the smart money has changed course. Venture capitalists and investors are no longer flocking to companies focused on stopping climate change.
Instead, they are putting money into businesses that will help the world adapt to climate change. Firms that will thrive as the planet gets warmer are also receiving funding.
This is tacit acknowledgment that the investment community believes a warmer planet is inevitable.
The strategic bets made by these financiers are intriguing. They are investing in companies that manage flooding and those that develop mosquitoes that cannot reproduce, which will slow the spread of dengue fever.
Investors are plotting projected temperature changes and buying land in regions that are currently unfarmed, but predicted to be fertile in the future. Still others are purchasing mineral rights in regions that have been under glaciers, but should thaw in the coming years.
Most of CPG companies’ green innovations have focused on helping Americans reduce their environmental impact. Has the industry spent enough time thinking about new products that aid consumers by addressing the effects of climate change?
Here’s a piece of research we all can love.
According to The Center for Economic Policy Research, if we all worked less, we could dramatically reduce climate change.
The CEPR calculates that an annual .5% reduction in work hours for the remainder of this century would eliminate 25-50% of anticipated global warming.
The paper’s author admits the relationships are complex and the math is not precise. However, he asserts there is a clear and fundamental connection between work hours, production, consumption, and global warming.
The logic is that the more we work, the more we produce. That production uses energy and emits greenhouse gases. Due to human nature, the more we produce, the more we consume. Consumption often uses resources and leads to more consumption.
Over the past four decades, worker productivity has increased, and that has led to increased production of goods. The CEPR asserts that in the future, people and the planet would both be better off if productivity increases were translated into fewer hours worked.
If you would like to share this paper with your boss, the link is below. http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/climate-change-workshare-2013-02.pdf
Making a health or eco claim in marketing got much more dangerous in 2012. The trend is likely to continue this year.
That’s because the number of false advertising lawsuits against CPG companies is rising rapidly. Last year, there were a host of “deceptive action” claims filed by regulators, advocacy groups, and consumers. They are calling out brands for everything from unsubstantiated health claims, to misleading packaging graphics, to misusing the word “natural.”
Why are there more lawsuits? First, a number of popular terms, like “all natural,” are very poorly defined. Reasonable people---and companies—can disagree about what qualifies. Second, consumers are increasingly knowledgeable and better able to assess brand claims. Third, social media users and bloggers are spreading the word when they see marketing they consider misleading. Finally, advocacy groups have gotten involved and organized consumers.
A number of high profile companies lost product claims lawsuits last year, including POM Wonderful, Diamond Foods, and Splenda. General Mills and others are still in the midst of legal action.
The risk-reward calculation for making a product claim has changed. What is the best way to determine when the upside is greater than the downside?
BBMG, GlobeScan, and SustainAbility recently released a compelling green consumer segmentation. It caught my eye because it does a better job than most capturing how Americans think and act.
The research identified four distinct groups based on varying attitudes and actions.
Practicals (36% of the US population.) They are motivated to buy products with proven performance. Social and environmental benefits are “nice to haves,” not critical. Practicals are only interested in green products that match their current brands on all attributes and measurably reward them for being sustainable.
Aspirationals (32% of the US.) This group is motivated by style, status, and shopping. They would like to be sustainable, but struggle to match their attitudes with actions. When companies make a compelling case that being sustainable is on trend, and a critical mass of their friends convert, Aspirationals probably will too.
Indifferents (22% of the US.) The majority of Indifferents do not feel any sense of responsibility to help society and do not worry about their impact on the planet. They are skeptical of all green claims, and resist buying sustainable products even when they have obvious benefits. There is little chance this group will change.
Advocates (11% of the US.) The core of the sustainability movement, Advocates are motivated by responsibility and guilt. These are the influencers who live their values, evangelize a green lifestyle, and sway others to join them.
How can we design our marketing and new products to appeal to Advocates, reward Practicals, and deliver the style and status Aspirationals seek?
39% of Americans feel guilty about wasting food, making it the #1 source of green guilt by a wide margin. Other activities that lead many to feel remorse include leaving the lights on when they are not in the room (27%) and wasting water (27%.) Surprisingly, not buying CFLs elicits little regret (only 9%) as does not managing the house temperature to save energy (7%.)
Why do consumers feel so guilty about throwing out food? It likely has to do with socialization (“Clean your plate, there are kids starving in Africa!”) Additionally, it is highly visible and occurs frequently, making it hard to ignore.
Americans’ food usage has lots of room for improvement. 40% of the food produced in the US is not eaten. The average family of four throws out between $1,300 and $2,700 of groceries annually. If just 15% of that food could be saved, it would make a dramatic difference in the country’s hunger issues.
Food gets tossed by shoppers for a variety of reasons including confusion about dates on labels, poor planning, and buying in bulk due to retail incentives.
At the consumer level, 33% of seafood, 28% of produce, and 27% of grain products are wasted.
Should we consider new products that help consumers waste less food?
Will this be the year when global warming returns to America’s radar screen? There are some compelling reasons to think the answer is “Yes!”
There are also reasons to think that climate change will continue to be ignored for at least another year.
What do you think? Will the nation embrace and address climate change this year?