Archive for December, 2009

Climate in Copenhagen – now we have participation of major players and a promise!

Monday, December 21st, 2009

We are all very disappointed  - it could have been much better, they say.

But let us be realistic  - the US, China, India, Brazil are in there now – they have signed a deal! They accept the setting of emission figures and verification procedures. Impressive!

The deal is not substantial – but it contains descriptions of the things we must work to achieve. At the end of 2010 a new conference will be held and a few more steps will be taken then.

We should also do some thinking about the way we organize these meetings – perhaps a firmer agenda with alternative proposals posted before the meeting?

There has never been a treaty of this scale on the world scene before – broad international participation in the process of fixing the climate is surely coming.

It’s not half bad!

Tumultuous media

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Cinema studios are increasingly going international – the big movies are selling well around the globe: 2012, New Moon, Avatar – global sales are what counts. Many films are now taking in most of the money outside the US. The American production dominance is huge and getting more so, but remember Slumdog Millionaire. These films have huge budgets with corresponding risk. Maybe new international film studio entrants are emerging? That could be exciting! Waiting for the Asians to emerge as a force – are tastes too different around the world?

There are now lots of choice in entertainment: increasing number of films, cable and satellite television are doing well with many new services added. Online video is up: everybody is pushing material on to YouTube and quality is improving. Downloading services via the net is improving as internets improve and and the media get their business models right. The many internet shops has greatly expanded choice in DVDs, music and books.

We are now also moving into the cloud – see Apple buying Lala for cloud-music.

The supply of lesser and more special films and music is growing fast, but it seems that so far many are left out in the hassle that big films make. Audiences are also forming special-interest groups, and so the content that occupies the middle ground may be in trouble.

Broadcast television is finding it difficult to continue as before, but is still the biggest as a mass medium. Changes in offerings and business models are overdue for many.

Recorded music is a troubled business with unpaid file-sharing as a big activity. Paid digital download services such as iTunes are doing well. Hit albums can still sell well, and the old music is staying in there and selling well.

The profile of music buyers is changing – young fans are coming in, the grown-ups are now spending more on pop and rock music choosing what is known while the rest is not used. There is now on offer a virtually infinite choice of songs, but people still go for the hits – take no chances! Some songs are streamed, but most are not touched at all. The narrowing of music tastes is in progress? Is classical music still in there?

Mass behaviour is such that a disproportionate share of the audience for a hit is made up of people who consumed few products of that type: People who read a no. 1. novel do not read much else. The audience for an obscure novel is often composed of people who read a lot.

Technology makes entertainment expand the range of products available and it also gives people greater choice in how and when they consume it. So far more choice has not made people go for more special entertainments.

In books the number of special titles bought each year has risen and yet their market share has been reduced. The bestselling books have increased their market share in most countries.The retail marketplace is changing too: the big general bookshops with “everything” is going away and being replaced by online retailers with more than “everything”. Supermarkets now sell a selection of popular books. Reading tablets are in there as well (Kindle, Nook) with enormous selections and advanced technology. And audio books too for the mobile user.

What is a media company to do? Sales become ever more concentrated, hits are all that counts, special interests are present but difficult to make money from. The challenge is new thinking along the old buzzwords:  add value for the customer, use new technology, increase your creativity, improve production, construct advanced payment models, add premium services. The “new” media companies are looking at a thrilling future!

The international market potential is huge: Subscribers increasingly come from the Asia-Pacific region where the people are (they have money too). We’ll see – there are more than 6 billion people in the world, the US has about 5% of that. Maybe we will see a shift of attention into new territory?

As customers we need not worry – the offerings will surely be there. Choice will be ever more abundant and prices will be OK!

An economist to the rescue!

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

The Nobel Prize of Economics 2009 went to a woman (shared) this year – a first: Elinor Ostrom.

She has been working on matters concerning common pool resources CPR. The old example here is what happens to grassland and fisheries when everybody has an unrestrained right of use. Policy analytics are increasingly looking for an alternative approach as both government-based solutions and privatization have drawbacks in many cases.

How do we best collectively manage shared resources used by many individuals in common such as fisheries, groundwater basins and irrigation systems. Purely personal interest – also called greed – often leads to problems.

The use of cooperative institutions that are organized and governed by the resource users themselves are in many cases successful. Temptations like free-rides, shirking or opportunistic behaviour can be reduced. She gives examples like Swiss grazing pastures, Japanese forests and irrigation systems in Spain and the Philippines.

Ostrom suggests a set of eight “design principles” common to each of the cases: clearly defined boundaries, monitors who are either resource users or accountable to them, graduated sanctions, mechanisms set by the users themselves to resolve conflicts and to alter the rules. The challenge is “to foster contingent self-commitment among the members”. Ostrom stresses specific solutions for all cases.

Ostrom has shown us a third way that could be useful in many ways – enlarging the space for our thinking. A cause crying for these kinds of solutions are (maybe) environmental resource management on a global scale.

Bottoming out – or where is the CO2 going?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

What happens to the climate gases are hard to come by and also to understand. Water like the oceans take up CO2 as it is soluble in water, soil etc. take some, plants do photosynthesis. Too much CO2 may break the system, so that these even add CO2 to the atmosphere.

Everything changes and varies – by the year and by the decades – so it is difficult to see the grand picture in the short term.

Merchant ships have been used to measure the CO2 in the oceans. The aim is to determine the size of the ocean carbon sink and how it changes over time. Calculations of the overall picture can start if these numbers are known. Some researchers think the oceans are filled up with what it can take for now.

Ozone layer depletion and increased circulation is also causing changes, maybe bringing CO2-rich water to the surface. Deforestation is in the picture as well.

Climate modeling and necessary data  is becoming a big issue – with attention money follows (hopefully)! Measuring equipment is costly but increasingly needed!

CO2 is is found in the atmosphere in a concentration of 350 ppm, and is 22% of the climate gases by air volume. Water vapour is the main climate gas with 62% and 10000 ppm, and the third is ozone 7% and 1ppm.

Give all laptops to learn and share

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

One Laptop Per Child: The OLPC project is evolving.

The low cost – about USD 100 – machine is given to children of ages 6-12 in elementary schools in less developed countries to help educate them for a better future. It is connected to the net to make a digital learning and teaching environment. Everybody in an environment must have it – everybody must share and be part of the common experience.

Among projects in progress: Rwanda aims to give more than 1 mill. children the laptop, costs of about USD 300 mill. A technological development to change the country in many ways is hoped for: better education for all, companies hiring better educated people, later more advanced laptops, connection to e-environments, digital government a.o.

One Laptop per Child non-profit organization: Nicholas Negroponte founder and chairman, MIT Media Laboratory.

The warming of Copenhagen

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

There is much noise in Copenhagen – but the evidence for a deal is mounting and the people that walked out came back. About 100 world leaders have been invited – they surely want to come back home with more than a mermaid souvenir.

Some elements are falling into place but needs further consideration:

  • The countries that did not sign in Kyoto will now sign (very likely).
  • The size of emission cuts must be found.
  • The cost picture is emerging  – spending a few percent of world output can do wonders. What to pay for each country is worse, but there must be a fund in there somewhere. International finance must help find solutions as well.
  • Alignment between the rich and the less rich is difficult, but is crucial. The rich have so far made most of the mess we are in.
  • Treaties must be made, including what to do at home, and local costs of the new practices, especially energy-efficiency and new forms of energy.
  • International law and governing bodies must be put in place to ensure compliance.
  • The technical side is emerging nicely: green companies are everywhere.
  • Incentive mechanisms must be decided: carbon taxes, cap and trade systems, subsidies, national laws and regulations.
  • Remember also: The IPCC must be accepted as the scientific source of information, and this means the IPCC itself must improve it’s debating technique relative to opponents. It must be clear that we are talking about probable outcomes with possible ranges. Scientific models must be made for such long term effects and reality will tell eventually.

If/when a deal is agreed upon in Copenhagen we can really move.

Artists in a modern world

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Artist Kejii Ando has attracted attention by painting sneakers for sale – mostly Nike and Reebok – in fresh and innovative designs. Do you wear them or exhibit them? You can be like nobody else – well get a pair.

El Anatsui hails from Ghana and is working from Nigeria. He has attracted international attention over the years. Starting with Ghanaian traditions he has moved into installations where he uses bottle caps and other every day thrash creating new visions – bright and shiny installations.

And teaching at the University of Nigeria is part of it. He has been around the world as an exhibitor, visiting artist, teacher. Africa is coming!

Sustainable energy nations

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Are there any nations where the energy production and use is fully sustainable – or at least CO2 neutral?

The EU Energy directive will push EU-nations in that direction: energy must be economically viable, contributing to welfare, ecologically sound.

Is this what we call a challenge?

Quote: “Energy policy for a competitive Europe – 20% renewable energy by 2020.
Europe’s citizens and companies need a secure supply of energy at affordable prices in order maintaining our standards of living. At the same time, the negative effects of energy use, particularly fossil fuels, on the environment must be reduced. That is why EU policy focuses on creating a competitive internal energy market offering quality service at low prices, on developing renewable energy sources, on reducing dependence on imported fuels, and on doing more with a lower consumption of energy.”

The electric car is coming – to a person near you.

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Electric cars are showing up in increasing numbers in many places. The Tesla is here, GreenGoTek (US), Think and Buddy from Norway, Citroen and Peugeot has been in there for a number of years – and Nissan/Renault is working on a full lineup of cars, GM has the Volt, Mitsubishi has the MieV, Fiat, Reva and Tata from India etc. It appears there will be thousands of these in most countries in a few years – in Norway an hoped-for 200.000 cars in 2020.

Research projects like ECar (A strategy for electrification of road transport in Norway) are starting.

No emissions, no noise, no tolls to pay, low taxes, free parking some places…… Subsidies for charging stations are being used in many countries to promote these cars.

Charging a car takes too long – using 220V on a 16A fuse it takes an hour to charge up for a 10 km drive. Battery-changing surely must be the answer, and projects for that is under way.

Will politicians keep the low tax regime? Will economics and taxation considerations decide or do we allow introduction of new  technology and lose some revenue? Will emissions really show a decrease?

These cars are coming your way!

Global environmental law – Environmental impact assessment EIA

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

About 100 countries have taken EIA rules into their national laws.

International law is developing: Nations are now working to formulate agreements containing mechanisms to improve the climate of the world. We therefore need a set of conventions or rules to measure actions and processes against. We must accept the consequences in the practical work in participating countries, also considering the overall dimension.

The changes in climate are of many kinds, and a common time-line in which to measure climate parameters is about 30 years. Predicted impacts arising from evaluations of climate models must be part of the system.

The environmental standards are now also being developed: temperature changes, CO2 numbers, acidity, energy forms etc.

There is a huge challenge here: how to make the overall processes and in each country transparent, get cooperation going, agreeing on the numbers and their significance and achieving compliance.

International and national governing bodies must be developed/set up to achieve good coordination and ultimately enforcement of agreements.

We are moving forward – slowly – these matters are complex – we need time to consider before we decide!