Archive for May, 2013

Interdisciplinary repository: Zenodo

Infobib made me aware of the interdisciplinary repository Zenodo.

ZENODO is a repository service that enables researchers, scientists, projects and institutions to share and showcase multidisciplinary research results (data and publications) that are not part of existing institutional or subject-based repositories.

ZENODO enables researchers, scientists, EU projects and institutions to:

  • easily share the long tail of small research results in a wide variety of formats including text, spreadsheets, audio, video, and images across all fields of science.
  • display their research results and get credited by making the research results citable and integrate them into existing reporting lines to funding agencies like the European Commission.
  • easily access and reuse shared research results.

24 TED talks about the food system

The Food Tank just presented a very nice list of 24 TED talks about food related issues.

A list worth spreading:

1. Roger Thurow: The Hungry Farmer – My Moment of Great Disruption
Thurow, author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, explains the profound “disease of the soul” that hunger represents, and how empowering smallholder farmers can bring long-term sustainable health and hope to the people of Africa.

2. Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong with What We Eat
Bittman, a food writer for The New York Times, examines how individual actions–namely food choices–contribute to both the detriment of the climate and chronic diseases. He suggests that we eat meat in moderation because agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than transportation.

3. Anna Lappé: Marketing Food to Children
Lappe, author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, questions whether multibillion dollar corporations should be marketing unhealthy foods to impressionable children, especially considering the numerous food-related health issues that are increasingly common among young people.
Read more…

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags: , ,

Are fossil-based assets overvalued?

Among the more fascinating books I had the pleasure to read lately is 2052-A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years by Jorgen Randers.

In this work, which is conceived as a report to the Club of Rome and a follow-up study to the famous Limits to Growth of 1972, Randers describes what he believes to be the major trends to shape the global future of the next forty years and presents a quantitative analysis based on a global forecast model.

One of the predictions that called my attention is that fossil-based assets, e.g. share prices in companies that produce and sell fossil-based energy, would suddenly lose their value. This would be a consequence from the fact that fossil-energy companies are priced based on the reserves of fossil fuels they control. This pricing does not take into account that in the coming decades demand for fossil fuels will decline due to their substitution by renewable energy and the limits to CO2 emissions imposed by climate change, hence the shares are overpriced (see p. 343 of 2052).

Randers states that he would “agree with the analysts that it will take time before this realization dawns on the investors”.

All the more interesting is an article Unburnable fuel published in this week’s edition of The Economist. The article compares the amount of proven reserves of fossil-fuel companies with the amount that still could be burnt without exceeding the limit of a 2°C increase in global temperatures and concludes that a substantial part of those reserves might never be allowed to be used.

Based on figures from a (not publicly available) report by HSBC Global Research, the value of reserves that would be unusable if policies to limit the rise in temperatures to 2°C would be implemented amounts to around 2% of the market capitalisation of Shell, around 6% for Total and BP, and over 16% for Statoil.

Finally, the article argues that markets are not adequately taking into account the risk of a devaluation of the fossil-based assets. At the same time, by failing to design an effective policy framework to limit global warming, policy makers are also not seen to take into account the risks of climate change.

Now, it will be interesting to see whether, to which extent and when investors start taking into account the low future value of fossil fuel reserves, and how strong the effect on share prices of fossil fuel companies will be.

Emerging issues in agricultural trade

Dealing with uncertainty in communication with policy makers

If you are among those scientists who from time to time talk to non-scientific audiences, you might already have been in a situation in which people expect definitive answers to questions which you would rather prefer to answer with phrases like “We still don’t know…” or “It depends…”.

If that’s the case, you might like the article How to tell policy makers about scientific uncertainty that was published on SciDevNet. The article deals in a very nice manner with the problem of uncertainty in scientific studies, which often conflicts with the demand for definite answers by the audience (in this case policy makers). After shedding some light on that problem, the article proceeds with giving some useful guidelines for a proper dealing with uncertainty in science communication.

While focusing very much on natural sciences and policy makers, the content of the article is easily transferable to the field of economics or policy analysis and to audiences of any other kind of decision makers.