Accelerating Investment

Global warming and its suite of negative consequences are a reality. Reducing CO2 emissions, though, has been more an exercise in hot air production and procrastination rather than meaningful action. America doesn't have a hope in Hell of meeting its Kyoto commitments.

Accelerating to a future non-fossil fuel economy, instead of applying the brakes to our present CO2 production, promises to be more effective at keeping us on the road to sustainability. Increasing the scale of investment in emerging green energy technologies gets us where we want to go faster. Global warming promises more powerful storms, weird weather, crop failure and flooding, ecosystem disruption and economic dislocation.. But we can’t go back to pre-industrial revolution times, nor stop emerging economies such as China from industrializing. To ameliorate the worst potential consequences of global warming we must accelerate investment targeted to achieve an economy dependent on clean energy sources.

How can we increase the scale of investment into new, green energy technologies? Consider a high profile corporation with a lot to lose because of its inexcusably high CO2 footprint - the Seattle Mariners - and a possible investment pathway that this corporation can take to safeguard a Mariner future in a world where people can still relax with a beer and a hot dog in a box above third base on a not too hot, sunny summer’s day.

The Mariners will fly an estimated 30,000 miles in the 2000 season. Using the interactive map at Ben Matthews’ excellent Choose Climate website (where you can calculate your own air travel CO2 budget: ), you can calculate that the Mariners collectively use more than 140,000 pounds of fuel producing 15 million pounds of CO2. Each team member will contribute 8 times their annual sustainable CO2 budget just in team travel.

(This is just the CO2 budget - an April 1999 International Panel on Climate Change report estimates that the combination of CO2, water and nitrous oxide produced from jet fuel may contribute two to five times the greenhouse effect from just CO2 alone. And this is just the air travel component of the Mariner CO2 footprint; it doesn’t include stadium lighting, travel to and from the new ballpark, off season travel, etc.)

The Mariners are but one of over one hundred elite pro sports teams dependent on air travel. If you include other sports and college teams, more than five hundred North American teams are dependent upon air travel. It doesn’t make sense to have hundreds of pro sports teams crisscrossing the continent by plane creating a horrendous CO2 footprint but we haven’t reached the situation yet where luxury CO2 production is severely taxed

or where the Yankees have to take the train to Seattle to play the Mariners.

It is still possible to lobby against Draconian regulation to combat ‘unproven’ global warming, but even if Major League Baseball is successful in the short term, this course of action does not solve the problem. Consider this alternative pathway to the ballpark:

If Mariner and MLB management acknowledge the problem and choose to confront their CO2 footprint by working for solutions, there may be possible approaches that not only show leadership and ethics now, but good returns on timely investments in the future. For just one example:

Agree as an organization to levee a carbon tax on each individual passenger mile. Create a fund that would invest this money in innovative technologies for either increasing fossil fuel efficiency or for developing non-fossil fuel energy. Such a self imposed and controlled carbon tax would lead to immediate improvement in travel efficiencies and would show leadership in confronting a 21st century problem. The important thing is investment in solutions. The money in the fund isn’t lost, but is investment targeted into new, green energy. The fund pays for the Mariner CO2 footprint by helping to develop a sustainable non-fossil fuel economy.

If concern about global warming proves to be exaggerated then perhaps the fund reinvests (if alternative energy sources are not good investments for other reasons); and if concern about global warming increases, MLB will not only have a leadership position and important investments, but also maybe a hydrogen fuel to get the Mariners or the Braves to the next ball game.

Multiply this investment by just the other elite North American sports teams and you have a significant investment vehicle for hastening the development of clean, green fuels. This positive example of corporate leadership stepping up to the plate, being accountable and advancing the runners to a sustainable future could prove to be a successful example - maybe a decisive step in harnessing the major league players, the multi-national corporations, in beating global warming.

A business as usual, responsible, win-win, enlightened self-interest solution. No government involvement, no green-haired or turtle costumed protesters. Play ball!

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