The Grid: Energy, Resources, Environment, Sustainability | Bloomberg

Google Flu Trends in the U.S. 2012-2013

Cough, sore throat, body aches, fever. If you've typed these words into Google recently, you're not alone. 

This year's flu season is off to a fast and furious start. The chart above shows data from Google's influenza tracker, which analyzes how often people are searching for flu-related terms on Google to estimate how many people have fallen ill. Google's model was developed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can show changes in the trajectory of an epidemic before they appear in data collected from doctors and hospitals. 

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Richest Universities Are Too Quiet on Sustainable Investing

Largest University Endowments Ignore Responsible Investments

In its mission statement, Harvard University says it “expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.” Similar aspirations can be found at YaleStanford, the University of ChicagoEmory University, and probably all of their peers. These missions are similar and laudable — for their graduates to contribute to society as a whole.

These five schools share another thing: None of their endowments is a member of the U.N.-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The PRI initiative encourages major investors to begin future-proofing their portfolios. They agree to embed analysis of environmental, social and corporate-governance (ESG) risks into their practices and decisions. They seek better risk disclosure from companies they invest in. They promote PRI-backed practices within the investment industry. They also each report every year on their own progress.

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Last Year Wasn’t Just Hot – It Was a Habanero: Chart

Year-to-Date Temperature Evolution

To say that 2012 was hot is an understatement. The average temperature in the contiguous U.S. last year was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th century average and 1 degree hotter than the previous record. 

One degree may not sound sound like much, but the chart above, by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, shows just what a big deal it really is. Each line displays year-to-date temperature anomalies, going back to 1895. Significant deviations from the average temperature are rare; a small fraction of a degree separates each year. Just 0.2 degree separates the previous record average temperature holder -- 54.3 degrees in 1998 -- from the one before that, 1934.

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Federal Drilling Panel May Disband Even as Concerns Mount

Shell Arctic Drill Ship -- A committee that advises the federal government on how to make offshore oil drilling safer could be disbanded next month, even as the recent grounding of a Shell rig in Alaska is drawing new attention to the dangers of deepwater drilling.

The Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee (OESC), an advisory panel to the Department of Interior, was created after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill to gather input from a variety of stakeholders about the government's drilling policies. The 15-member panel—composed of government officials, academics, industry representatives and environmentalists—will meet today and Thursday for what could be its last meeting.

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Sustainability Indicator: 40% of Proxies Go Green

40 Percent

Today's sustainability indicator, 40 percent, is the proportion of shareholder resolutions last year that pertained to environmental and social concerns. That's up from 30 percent during the prior proxy season.  

Recent indicators: 

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Mark Lynas

When protesters threatened to uproot a plot of genetically modified wheat at a British government-funded agricultural research station in May, the backlash was swift and unmistakable. Many commentators, including liberals, condemned the would-be vandals—and the environmentalists who supported the stunt. Was the anti-biotech movement, which had already convinced politicians and the public in Europe to steer clear of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), losing its punch?

The question surfaced again in the fall, when California voters rejected a proposal to label foods that contained genetically modified ingredients. Around the same time, a French researcher and longtime GMO opponent published a peer-reviewed paper arguing that rats fed GM-corn developed cancerous tumors. The scientific community roundly assailed the study for faulty design and methodology. Today, the paper has no credibility, except within the feverish ranks of conspiracy-fearing activists, who are convinced that Monsanto -- and GM-crops -- represent a dangerous threat to agriculture and public health.

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Colorado River Shrinking

The Colorado River could lose 10 percent of its volume in the next few decades from rising temperatures and higher demand. Such a change would be enough to throw off the West's precarious balance of water-use agreements that allow Denver, Tucson, Los Angeles and California's Imperial Valley to draw from the same basin.

"It may not sound like a phenomenally large amount except the water and the river is already over-allocated," said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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Antarctic Warming Rate Surprises Scientists: Today's Pic

West Antarctica Warming at Higher Rate that Previously Thought

The ice sheet covering West Antarctica has warmed twice as fast as expected -- 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) since 1958, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. That's three times the average rise in global temperatures of about 0.8 degrees Celsius since the early 20th century. 

Glaciers and rock outcrops in Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica during an IceBridge flight on Oct. 17, 2011 from NASA’s DC-8 aircraft.

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What Do You Call Most of the S&P 500?

Hey, What Do You Call Most of the S&P 500?

Sometimes ideas mix together in the email inbox like gin and olives – unrelated items that when brought together just make sense. Today’s example: two messages that, as one, describe what was arguably one of the most important shifts in business in 2012.  

The first take comes in the form of the Atlantic Wire’s “Year in Review: An A-to-Z Guide to 2012’s Worst Words.” Among the most detested? “Sustainable.” Their explanation: “Sustainable is the kind of word that ends up being co-opted and used by everyone to the point where it means nothing (See: Organic).” 

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The President Speaks the Truth -- and It Kind of Stings

Every once in a while a politician accidentally tells the truth, and then fails to recognize it. 

President Barack Obama committed truth Wednesday at a press conference announcing his assignment of Vice President Joe Biden to an intensive month-long effort to craft a policy response to the Sandy Hook horror. "This is not some Washington commission," Obama said. "This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside."

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About The Grid

Nations and companies face rising competition for strategic resources — energy, food, water, materials — and the technologies that make best use of them. That's sustainability. It's about the 21st-century race for wealth, health and long-term security, across the global grid.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

Eric Roston, Editor

Tom Randall, Deputy Editor

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