The Hidden Environmental Costs of a Global Economy

Monday, July 22, 2013

The costs of global warming, extreme weather, pollution and other forms of “environmental debt” are wreaking havoc on the economy, argues Amy Larkin. In Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy she proposes a new framework for 21st century commerce, based on three principles: 1) Pollution can no longer be free; 2) All businesses should take the long view; and 3) Government must play a vital role in boosting clean technology and growth while protecting the environment.


Amy Larkin

Comments [12]

scott from nyc

"...the current rules of business means that if Puma did that, every other business that's a bigger polluter would make a bigger profit."

Although I haven't read the "72%" PWC report, 1) it seems like a bad example to cite because, while I don't believe in running away from data, such negative headlines deter action because people think "what's the point?" and 2) the way she articulated her statement perpetuates the false idea that more pollution inherently leads to higher profits. I know she's aiming for a sea change, but like she said a bit later, trying to moving the ocean takes a lot of hubris.

Also, Cape May has indeed done a lot and should be an example to other towns but being spared by Sandy was largely just luck because the storm passed to the northeast and the wind was blowing the right direction to not cause a strong storm surge in town.

Jul. 23 2013 06:07 PM
tom LI

To Guest from NJ - you clearly do not understand the concept of "breakers", to make such a naive remark. Having an actual shoreline shelf, takes a lot of the wallop out of tidal surges. When a wave comes straight to a non shelf, non-graduated shore line - its like hitting a wall with full force, as it did in lower Manhattan, and Northern NJ. A shoreline shelf takes some of the power from such a way it takes the feet out from under the tidal surges....or like running full speed thru a line of people reaching out and slowing your progress. Human engineers have too frequently over-ridden natural barriers, always to our collective detriment.

Jul. 22 2013 01:44 PM

@ Brian from UWS, 12:26 PM:

Jul. 22 2013 12:40 PM
Guest from Northern NJ (southern NJ native)

While I would never suggest that oyster beds and other more organic approaches to coastline protection are a bad idea, I find it incredibly disingenuous of the guest to suggest that the reason Cape May was spared the wrath of Sandy was this very thing. Hurricane Sandy was a completely different storm in south Jersey. Cape May, the Wildwoods, even Avalon and Stone Harbor had comparatively little damage, when contrasted with the devastation of the northern NJ Shore. That has less to do with oysters than with the path of Sandy, itself. Had the storm track been further south, Cape May could have looked very bad, indeed.

Jul. 22 2013 12:36 PM

Can you please talk about the fallacy of carbon offsets?

Jul. 22 2013 12:32 PM
Michelle from NYC

This is all great stuff, but since corporations and Wall St. run everything in this country, including the politicians and policy in Washington (Monsanto comes to mind), how does your guest suggest to change anything of the current way to do business?

Jul. 22 2013 12:31 PM
JohnM from New Jersey

Why are storms and hurricanes the only events that people say are the result of global warming? What about the droughts, floods and forest fires that seem to be rampant these last few years? Some experts indicate these are also the result of global warming and cost our country millions of dollars. I also hear lots of talk about paying to move people out of flood-prone areas, but I hear no talk of moving people out of fire-prone areas.

Jul. 22 2013 12:31 PM

Businesses cannot afford to take the longer view. Businesses take the path to greater profit. Therefore, consumers MUST take the longer view and vote with their dollars on the path that they see is more responsible. Folks who came of age in the 70's KNEW this - low horsepower, high mileage vehicles HAD BEEN the norm. Unfortunately, the first Gulf War and the oil glut that followed led us into SUV's, high horsepower personal cars, less rail transit. The decade from '91-'01 was completely lost to responsible energy use and the decade plus from '01-now has been wasted on frivolity. We are literally fiddling while Earth burns.

How do we get America off of its nearly ubiquitous fossil fuel diet? What things can we do to cut our fossil fuel usage IN HALF in a decade?

Jul. 22 2013 12:29 PM
Brian from UWS

I love this speaker. She seems so thoughtful and careful and smart and honest. I recommend having her back ALL THE TIME! Bring her on to speak about archives of contemporary music. Or whatever.

Jul. 22 2013 12:26 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I am just finishing reading a book about the fellow who turned Ford Motor Company around, finally getting them to change so much of their dysfunctional corporate culture and bring them to produce quality, high-mileage, safe vehicles. And make money too!

The book's title is "American Icon" (by Bruce G. HOffman) and the CEO at the center of the narrative is Alan Mulally.

Great read; great moral & business lessons to be learned. (Also interesting political insights!)

Jul. 22 2013 12:23 PM
Sharon from UES

Wouldn't something like Campaign Finance Reform go a long way in setting the stage for a real solution here?

Jul. 22 2013 12:21 PM
Irina from NYC

Can your guest please explain what factors go into calculating the actual cost of things like coal? And where are these numbers that go into the calculation coming from? For example, is it what the government reports they use for clean up + the cost of average acre of arable land in the region + etc?

Thanks you for talking about this important topic.

Jul. 22 2013 12:19 PM

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