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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Climate Change Response: Strategic Framework [Part 2a: What about the Climate Debate? & Why is there a need for Action?

Climate Change Response: A Strategic Framework that Enables Alignment, Focused Action & Collective Learning [Part 2a]

The first article in this series introduced a strategic framework for responding to climate change [see blog post March 16, 2012].  Part 1 introduced the Strategic Framework and addressed Stage 1 – Clarifying What’s Important. This article included multiple strategy maps for responding to climate change by clarifying five levels for possible focus: L1 global, L2 regional or national, L3 organizational, L4 urban or city, and L5 individual. Strategy maps are one-page graphic illustrations of what’s important, expressed as areas of critical interest that can be further specified as strategic objectives. Part 1 provided inks to strategy maps that include directional objectives for resilience, sustainability and well-being.  If you have not already done so, it will be useful to read that article first, to better understand the information provided below that refers to Focused Action, because Clarifying What’s Important precedes Focused Action when using a systematic process to successfully begin moving positively toward critical strategic objectives. --ib

What about the “climate debate”?

Before considering how using Strategy Maps within the Strategic Framework enables Focused Action, let’s first consider why there may be a large percentage of the populations who do not understand why there is a need for action. One of the obvious reasons for this has been the “climate debate” as it has been reported by the print and visual news media. While there may be many who do not yet realize or accept it, we are past the debate stage on climate change. Way past it. It is a waste of time, breath and energy to engage in debate about whether climate is changing. The debate is over among the top 120 business leaders. Even the CIA is paying attention to climate change, for national security reasons. There is no debate about climate change in China. Because of their recognition of climate change by the top leadership of China, Premier Wenjia Bao began talking publicly about “balancing economic development and environmental sustainability” in the summer of 2007. He has continued to do so since then. China’s central government and the Chinese Academy of Sciences know the climate is changing in dangerous ways.

Sitting here in Shanghai for almost 20 years, looking from the outside back to the US I have wondered for the past few years, “Why is there all this disagreement about climate change in the US?” I heard rumors about this or that group influencing the media reporting on the climate. Then I found a story about an investigative study by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that explained how the money flowed and why.  Then a knowledgeable climate change professional recommended the Merchants of Doubt to me. Now I am beginning to understand why there has been such debate and confusion…

Merchants of Doubt tells the “troubling story of how a cadre of influential scientists have clouded public understanding of scientific facts to advance a political and economic agenda. The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on public health, environmental science, and other issues affecting the quality of life. [US] scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers…[H]istorians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway explain how a loose–knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. In seven compelling chapters addressing tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, global warming, and DDT, Oreskes and Conway roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how the ideology of free market fundamentalism, aided by a too-compliant media, has skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.” http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/index.html

Even though the US visual and print media report changing weather patterns, dramatic increases in drought, extreme weather events, temperature records and forest fires with no reference to the climate change context in which all this is taking place, it is an accepted fact around the world that our climate is changing. Even though most of the print and visual media in the US make no effort to explain the underlying dynamics of what is producing these changes, climate scientists understand why it is happening and have predicted it will continue if we maintain our business-as-usual path. There is a science that can be applied to understand what’s happening. It just isn’t being reported. You have to look for it, possibly by signing up for newsletters such as what Joe Romm puts out at www.climateprogress.org, and thereby begin to educate yourself.

Who Am I & Why Am I Writing About This?

I have 100+ years of “old school” print journalism in my immediate family. As a child I became interested in reporting the truth when my father was Business Editor of the Birmingham News and I did a book report on the life of Joseph Pulitzer. I worked as a copy boy at that newspaper, giving up my Saturday nights to put out the Sunday paper when I was in high school. I was on duty in the early 1960’s when the Klan bombed the 16th St Baptist church and when they firebombed A.G. Gaston’s home, Birmingham’s most successful black entrepreneur at the time. Those conservative white newspapermen worked all night to get the story in each case and tell the truth about what happened. I have an old school journalist’s view about reporting the truth.

I am also trained as a behavioral scientist with a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This training, my own stress management research program, and supervising more than 20 master’s theses and Ph.D. dissertations in the 1970’s have given me a healthy respect for data and the issues involved in measuring the critical variables of interest. It was important for me to understand the principles of measurement as they applied to the psychophysiological data I was collecting in my own stress management research. I was also involved repeatedly in evaluating the measures chosen by graduate students in their research when I was on the Psychology Department faculty at the University of Georgia in the 1970’s.

I first started paying attention to climate science in late 2006 when I saw a 30 min BBC special on television about melting permafrost in Siberia. Russian and Scandinavian scientists were wandering around in melting muck, trying to measure the methane that was being released. Before the melt, there had been ice and snow for thousands of years. Then came the melt, and no one had any idea how much methane was being released. Then I learned in 2007 that the UN's IPCC Fourth Assessment Report did not include methane in the climate scientist's statistical models. That's when I started paying attention. I have a 9 year old daughter. I reasoned whatever money my wife and I can make in our lifetime will not make much difference in our daughter's life if our climate changes so dramatically that there is a breakdown in society.

So even though I am not a climate scientist, I pay attention to climate science data and examine the data trends in an effort to discern their long-term direction. Understanding how the critical variables are connected helps to clarify the implications and likely consequences of these long-term trends.

The second thing that grabbed my attention is that there seemed to be no general framework for organizing the critical variables of interest and then try to do something about it. Possibly thousands of organizations, mostly NGOs, with hundreds of thousands of people were working on solutions, but there were not connected wtih each other. That's when I realized that the strategy execution methodology we had brought to China and improved over a long period of time could bring something useful to the challenge of climate change. And that is why I am writing now and offering summaries of these tools online, for anyone who is motivated to take action, to enable greater integration and success. 

Why is there a need for Focused Action?
[A quick summary of how the climate is changing]

Let’s consider the basics and connect the dots. The most basic fact is that more solar radiation is coming into our atmosphere than is going back out into space. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is one of the most recognized climate scientists in the world. He has accumulated an impressive set of presentations. His published research includes a recent publication on what he calls the net energy imbalance of the earth.  This research shows that Earth is absorbing more energy from the Sun than it is radiating back to space as heat, even during the recent solar minimum. This is attributable to the extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases [GHGs] that are byproducts of human activity and the consumption of fossil fuels for energy, transportation and buildings.

This extra heat gain by our planet is going into our oceans and our atmosphere, both of which are getting warmer. Warmer ocean waters contribute to more frequent and more severe hurricanes, with Katrina being the most notable example when it grew massively as it passed over a warmer Gulf of Mexico. Warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and creates more severe weather events and precipitation, which can contribute to the record tornadoes, snow and rainfall we have had recently. More precipitation in some areas is compensated for by more drought in other areas [such as the most expensive drought in Texas history], which contributes to greater erosion and runoff, thereby affecting food supply. Global water security as well as food supply and increasing prices for food are important global concerns for many countries, along with energy, jobs and the local economy.

According to the World Meterological Organization [WMO] in a report released in March 2012, the world is getting warmer. Consider this chart at http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/WMO.gif , taken from WMO’s 2011 report. That report also summarizes some of the significant weather events in the past decade, comparing them to previous decades. There is also a summary of the report available.  The basic message is: The climate is changing, and not in ways that are desirable.

By examining multiple data sets, it’s pretty easy to become concerned about where we are collectively headed. There are multiple issues within the broad domain of climate science and climate change. One of the most important issues is tipping points [click here for a summary of article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]. Tipping points can lead to a massive surge of carbon into the atmosphere, thereby changing our climate and our collective future forever as a result of methane release and runaway climate change.

The most recent development in this regard is the discovery in the Fall of 2011 by a Russian scientist who has studied Arctic waters for 20 years. Dr. Igor Semiletov discovered plumes of methane hydrate release as large as 1000 meters in diameter rising from shallow arctic waters directly into the atmosphere. Over a 100 year period, a molecule of methane [CH4] have 20x the global warming potential of a molecule of carbon dioxide [CO2], but if you shorten the time period of consideration, methane can have as much as 70x to 120x the global warming potential of CO2. While our global and local climates are enormously complex and influenced by many variables, the inescapable conclusion many intelligent and reasonable people have reached is that we are at risk.

No one can be certain what the future holds, but it does seem certain that if we continue to increase the GHGs in our atmosphere, our climate will change. What also seems clear to me is that increasing amounts of methane being released from melting permafrost and from methane hydrates rising from the arctic ocean floor is a threat to our current way of life, and possibly to our very existence on this, our one planetary home.

These are just some of the many reasons for taking focused action in response to climate change.

The next blog post will return to the Strategic Framework and address FOCUSED ACTION – Converting Critical issues and Strategic Objectives into Constructive Action.


Send comments, questions & suggestions to Irv Beiman at bu3690@gmail.com


4:43 pm cst 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Climate Change Response: Strategic Framework [Part 1]


Climate Change Response: A Strategic Framework that Enables Alignment, Focused Action & Collective Learning

We are not alone. We are connected to all that is and has ever been. We are hurtling through time and space into an uncertain future.  We face huge challenges that will determine our collective fate.

There is a way for us to travel this journey together. It rests on a firmly established approach for creating alignment, focused action and collective learning. This approach is being used extensively all over the world.

This framework enables alignment to dissolve the intangible barriers that separate countries, organizations, cities and individuals. This framework enables focused action for responding to climate change. This framework enables the collective learning that will reveal the way forward into a future that is better than where we are currently headed.

How do I know this?

  • Forty years' experience in the US and China, with thousands of individuals and more than 200 organizations, has shown me the worst of what can be and how to plot a better path.
  • Forty years' experience that includes all major methodologies for individual and organizational change has taught me what works and how to customize a better path.
  • Forty years' experience has given me the call to share what I have learned, so you can take that learning to the next level and travel a path that fits for you,
You can take what has already been done, documented and learned to create a better life for yourself, your family, your organization, your community, your country and our collective biosphere.

The need is urgent. The challenge is uniquely huge in the history of humanity. The time is now.

And so, we begin...

Stage 1: ALIGNMENT – Clarifying What’s Important

As human beings we experience ourselves and our organizations, as well as our families, cities and countries as being separate and uniquely different from all the rest. This perception of separateness is an illusion, because we are all connected within complex systems that are vast and often invisible. While climate science tells us we are at risk, the forces and motivations that maintain our current problematic direction are strong.  

  • How can we create a shift in direction that reflects our mutual interdependence and leads to mutual benefit?
  • How can we create a shift in boundaries that exploits the potential synergies that currently lie dormant?
  • How can we each individually and collectively create a shift in momentum that energizes change?

The way to chart a path forward begins with identifying the likely critical areas of interest. This depends on your focus level. There are five possible focus levels: 1 global, 2 national or regional, 3 organizational or network, 4 city or community, and 5 individual or family . You can choose to focus on any one or combination of these.

I have reviewed more than 2000 articles over the past five years and organized those documents into more than a hundred categories. That review of the literature [which is ongoing] indicates the likely areas for you to consider in designing a strategy map that fits your situation. I am now sharing with you strategy map templates that make it easy for you to begin your own customized design process. You can adjust any of these templates to fit your particular situation and circumstances.

This is a quite powerful and efficient way to begin. One page clarifies what is critically important. One page shows the way forward. One page clearly communicates your strategic intention to others. One page guides your actions and the actions of those with whom you are connected.

The one page templates provided here clarify suggested directional objectives for you to consider. You can download these templates at the links below:

Level 1: Global

2008 – a simplified strategy map template for global sustainability, with China’s particular circumstances in mind. This was originally presented in a 2 article series in Cost Management.


2009 – a more detailed strategy map template for global sustainability that could also be applied to a region or country

Level 2: Region or Country [see Level 1 strategy maps]

Level 3: Organization or Network

2011 - a generic template for organizations, as a starting point

Level 4: City or Community

2010 – a generic strategy map template for resilient sustainability, with China’s typical urban environment in mind

2011 – a specific example of a strategy map developed for a medium sized Canadian city after reviewing the summary of their strategic planning documents. www.globalisr.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/L4-CityStrategyMapForWellBeing2011.pdf 

Level 5: Individual or Family - One or more future blog posts will be devoted to this topic.

 After choosing your focus level and carefully examining the directional objectives in the strategy map template, you can adjust the design and re-title it as v.1 of your own strategy map. If you are in a commercial [for profit], governmental or non-governmental organization [NGO], the best practice is to first develop a rough draft and then gather your top team to discuss how to adjust the strategy map design based on their input. The discussion of the strategy map design can be facilitated internally or you can use outside consultants.

This discussion kicks off a group learning process as different individuals share their different opinions and points of view about what is important. There is no right or wrong in this process. The strategy map is a tool and can be revised as needed. Most organizations following best practice adjust their strategy maps annually. However, amidst rapidly changing, turbulent or disruptive circumstances, any strategy map can be revised as needed, especially if it would be foolish to wait until the “scheduled” time to do so. The more experience you have with your own strategy map, the better able you will be to fine tune it to fit your changing circumstances.

The smaller or simpler your organization or network, there will likely be fewer objectives than those that are included in the above templates. The larger and more complex your organization and its structure, there will be a need to cascade your top level strategy map to lower levels of the organization. I will describe how to accomplish this in one or more subsequent posts.

Response to climate change should be included in your organizational strategy. It will be important to integrate response to climate change with your organization’s other strategic objectives. There will be a learning curve in accomplishing this integration. There is nothing wrong with having several revisions in your early strategy maps. In fact, this is common. The need for revision may become more evident when you shift to converting the directional objectives into focused action.

Part 2.0 in this introductory series will address two questions: What about the Climate Debate? & Why is there a need for Focused Action?



Send comments, questions & suggestions to Irv Beiman at bu3690@gmail.com

5:17 pm cst 

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