Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth documentary sent shockwaves across the global investment community, with ripples still being felt today as more focus than ever is given to climate change in political and corporate circles alike. Now there is a renewed buzz on the subject matter after Superstorm Sandy, the California droughts, and a severe 2014 winter season. That new buzz came from ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) reporting to shareholders how it plans to manage climate risk, as well as from a UN IPCC report on climate change which basically said that we can't just talk about climate change, we must fight back now and reverse the effects of man-made produced carbon (a major point in my e-book "Lessons from Frankenstorm.")
To that end, this Sunday, April 13, at 10pm ET/PT, Showtime will be present the first of an 8-10 part series titled "Years of Living Dangerously" which is focused on the human impact of climate change. The series is produced by Academy Award winner James Cameron and features climate scientists, journalists, celebrities, and politicians in a unique view of the biggest story of our time: climate change.
Rather than talking about climate change from a 10,000-foot view, "Years of Living Dangerously" makes climate change more personal by sharing stories of real people who have been affected by rising temperatures and the realities of climate change. From interview segments featuring those who lost their jobs in Texas because a prolonged drought closed a Cargill meat packing plant to talking with revolution fighters in a Syrian civil war driven by a lack of food from a devastating drought, a new revolution of hungry people has global ramifications we simply can't ignore. This is especially relevant since droughts are now a year-round problem thanks to the growing impact of climate change.
Consider this: Unless we act now to reverse climate change, even Fargo, ND could see temperatures rise to resemble those felt in Phoenix, AZ. That's a sobering thought presented in Episode 1, especially considering how much domestic food is grown in Fargo. Climate change really is a major national security concern that our elected officials such as Governor Perry of Texas must address and act on instead of overlook.
Episode 1 also makes a strong case that deforestation influences climate change, highlighting Indonesia as a huge culprit in cutting down trees to demand for the palm oil that is more widely used in our food and consumer products such as soap. The Indonesian deforestation releases even more carbon than a coal plant. Did you know that 4% of all global carbon comes from the burning of Indonesian peat? That was another fun fact revealed in Episode 1.
The documentary series is clearly going to continue its focus on man-made carbon as the real climate change culprit, so what's the solution for mankind? In my view, going carbon neutral doesn't go far enough in addressing climate change. We need to aim higher and push the innovation envelope to discover ways to not just store carbon, but reuse it. That's why I believe the showing of Years of Living Dangerously will help reveal that the real alpha in investing in climate change will actually come from supporting carbon-negative solutions that don't cross the line of geoengineering and cause more planetary harm for future generations to deal with.
I continue to favor privately held Cool Planet and the implementation of biochar products to give soil enough health to sustain droughts and crop growth. Cool Planet, a company I focused on in a recent Motley Fool video, does have prominent financial backing from the likes of Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Exelon (NYSE:EXC) and others.
After seeing Episode 1 of the documentary I'm interested in seeing how substitutes for palm oil, which is used in many consumer products, will emerge. While the series has only begun, there could be much more focus on renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and on energy storage solutions, nuclear power, energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage (CCS.)
The documentary seems to be leading the viewer to assume climate change will cause a population shift away from rural to city living, so smart grid solutions from utilities will likely play a more pivotal role in the future of energy as a more sustainable planet adopts new strategies to reverse climate change. That means that there are new strategic opportunities in energy efficiency and distributed power for companies like NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG), as well as those looking to find solutions by tapping more software (cleanweb) ways to help fight climate change in a new Cleantech 2.0 world.
There is no question that vast amounts of snow and ice have diminished and the rising sea level that results can wreak calamities of epic proportion. At the end of the day, Years of Living Dangerously tries to make climate change more easily understood since many people are still under the assumption that this is a cyclical weather pattern.
By the end of Episode 1, I do hope that more people who think that man's actions aren't responsible for climate change will begin to change their minds. I'm certainly looking forward to upcoming episodes of this must-watch series.
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John Licata has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Exelon, Facebook, Google (C shares), and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, General Electric Company, and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.