What Financial Risk Management Has To Do With Climate Change – And The Price Of Inaction (Forbes)

FORBES | When we talk about the long-term risks of climate change, it’s hard for the American public, for company executives, and for lawmakers alike to accurately picture what the implications of climate inaction will mean ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. We hear stories of worst-case scenarios, but sometimes it sounds more like science-fiction than reality.

To better understand this issue, I turned to my friend Bob Litterman, a financial risk expert who managed risk for Goldman Sachs for two and a half decades. He explained that, “Financial risk management has several simple principles that apply to managing climate risk.” First, it involves identifying the “worst case” scenarios. Second, the objective of financial risk management isn’t to minimize risk, but rather to price and allocate risk appropriately. Third, is recognizing the value of time – it’s a scarce resource. Let’s examine these three principles more closely in relation to climate change.

Imagining “Worst Case” Scenarios

We know climate risks are large, but just how large is hard to anticipate. Traditional risk-modeling techniques rely on historical data to make future projections – but we are in uncharted territory. Human-caused climate change has a short history, surging in the mid-20th century through present day, and its impact is cumulative, building year to year. According to NASA atmospheric scientist David Crisp, “Half of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the last 300 years has occurred since 1980, and one quarter of it since 2000.” And unlike some other gases, carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries, between 300 to 1,000 years. Regulators and financial market participants are handicapped in their ability to make informed decisions, as forward-looking analysis methodologies are still being developed.

Read more at Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2023/07/10/what-financial-risk-management-has-to-do-with-climate-change–and-the-price-of-inaction/?sh=2670b7a33304

It’s World Ocean Day: Here’s Why Life Depends On Our Oceans (Forbes)

FORBES | June is the month when the global community honors the crucial services the ocean provides. From World Ocean Day (June 8 this year) to the United Nations Ocean Conference (June 27-July 1), we celebrate that the ocean sustains all life on the planet and call attention to the threats to its future.

Many don’t realize the diverse ways in which our daily life is impacted and sustained by Earth’s marine ecosystems. First, more than half the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from the ocean (primarily from phytoplankton), regardless of where we live and breathe. The ocean also regulates the global climate and influences weather patterns, driving storms that often move far inland. Third, it feeds a lot of us: at least 3.3 billion people, including the world’s poorest, rely significantly on marine products for sustenance, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. And the seas contribute considerably to the global economy, with about 600 million livelihoods depending on fisheries and aquaculture.

That includes the U.S. economy. More than three-quarters of all U.S. trade relies, at least in part, on maritime transportation routes. In 2019, the U.S. “blue economy” supported 2.4 million jobs and contributed approximately $397 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

Read more at Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2023/06/08/its-world-ocean-day-heres-why-life-depends-on-our-oceans/?sh=2114284f196d

he Massive New Public Health Threat To Kids: What Policies Would You Consider To Address Gun Safety? (Forbes)

FORBES | On Monday March 27th, Nashville was forever changed. Six people, including three nine-year old children, died in a mass shooting at The Covenant School. Since then, I have been asked repeatedly: what can we do to keep this from happening again? At the time, I didn’t have an answer. But since then, I’ve been studying, asking questions, and listening, and I’ve been working to find commonsense policy responses that we might all consider, recognizing that there is no single point solution and that each of us views the highly charged issue of gun safety from a different, frequently contrasting perspective. What we can do now, and as responsible citizens really should do, is at least consider what options might be on the table to bring us together around the absolute goal of the safety and security of our children and families.

I am a gun owner and a hunter. I have always and will continue to strongly support Second Amendment rights. I had a 12-year Senate career where I consistently backed responsible gun ownership. But times are different today – misuse of guns has grown much worse, substantially worse – with markedly more death and tragedy in our neighborhoods, than even a decade ago. This demands a fresh look, free of past biases and partisan tones which have ruled so much of our earlier discussions and debate. These honest revaluations should be carried out in local communities, in homes and at schools, civic gatherings, and places of faith, and likely will include changes in the larger policy framework in response to these new tragic realities.

Yes, over the last decade, deaths from firearms has grown into an official public health crisis. The facts are stark: Now, according to the latest CDC data, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in America. In 2020, gun deaths reached the highest number ever recorded in the United States, killing over 45,000 Americans (a 25% increase from five years earlier and a 43% increase from 10 years prior). And in 2021, we surpassed the 2020 record with nearly 49,000 gun deaths nationwide.

Read more at Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2023/05/03/the-massive-new-public-health-threat-to-kids-what-policies-would-you-consider-to-address-gun-safety/?sh=3a1dd9891567

On Earth Day 2023, here’s how we can think globally and act locally | Opinion (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | More people than ever are coming together around a unified cause — the health of our planet, which is inextricably connected to the health and well-being of our people.

While not created for Earth Day, the slogan “think globally, act locally” rings true this month as we are reminded to consider the health of our shared planet in our day-to-day activities. We are doing the same at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization where I chair the Global Board.

Today our planet faces the accelerating loss of plant and animal species at an alarming rate, while rapidly shifting weather patterns and progressive climate change is disrupting human and natural habitats alike. As a physician, I view both crises – biodiversity loss and climate change – through a lens of their impact on the health and well-being of people.

The continuing loss of our planet’s biodiversity — such as birds, bees, butterflies, insects and other pollinators — jeopardizes food production around the world. The destruction of natural environments increases the likelihood of human exposure to novel viruses and other pathogens for which we have no cure. And increasingly volatile weather — from extreme rain events and subsequent flooding to lengthy droughts — places unprecedented pressures on our electrical grid, our nation’s aging infrastructure, our agriculture sector and on health systems responding to natural disasters.  With expanding flood zones, whole communities are at increased risk.

Read more at The Tennessean: https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2023/04/21/earth-day-2023-heres-how-we-can-think-globally-and-act-locally/70136312007/

Gun violence is the No. 1 killer of children; here are common-sense steps to address it (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | The perfect storm of easy access to firearms combined with a pandemic-fueled mental health crisis has brought us to a boiling point.

On March 31, 9-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus was scheduled to sing Louis Armstrong’s classic song “What A Wonderful World” at a play at Nashville’s Covenant School. Instead, country music artist Vince Gill stood in the sanctuary of Woodmont Christian Church and sang it at her funeral, just four days after the mass school shooting that devastated our hometown. 

We are a former U.S. Senate Majority Leader representing the State of Tennessee, a Nashville-based orthopaedic trauma surgeon who has treated far too many gunshot victims, and the pastor who officiated over Evelyn’s funeral. And we are begging – on behalf of those weeping in our nation’s pews and hospitals and on the steps of our corridors of power – for an end to America’s epidemic of firearms-driven death.   

We were heartened by recent news that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order strengthening background checks and called on the state legislature to do more. But we, as a state and a nation, need to do more.

Read more at The Tennessean: https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2023/04/17/gun-violence-common-sense-steps-address-top-killer-of-children/70122206007/?fbclid=IwAR0IU26-dw813ma3_XjcSbOYXDYozHpp0HdcOCg-mXFmKK_q7k2jsCH03NM

How to wean America from its dangerous food addiction

(The Week, posted on May 22, 2012 )

By Bill Frist, M.D.

The nation’s obesity epidemic is as much about brain chemistry as it is poor diet and laziness — a fact we must realize if we’re going to treat obesity effectively

In ancient history, eating was for survival. Food was tough to come by and we consumed what we needed. Food was a necessity. In today’s America, it is an addiction.

Much of the conventional wisdom about obesity, including what your doctor has probably told you, is wrong. My fellow doctors, for the past four decades, have preached a “calories in — calories out” approach, suggesting that weight loss must be achieved by restricting calories or expending more energy. That approach is failing… miserably.

Contemporary medical research, most of which has not yet made it to mainstream understanding, suggests we should focus on two other more promising areas: Food addiction and diet. Consider it an “it’s what you eat” approach that takes into account human biology and the response to certain food types.

According to the research of Nicole Avena of Princeton University, eating sugar triggers a dopamine-mediated response in the same part of the brain that is similarly targeted by cocaine, nicotine, and other highly addictive substances. Originally, this “reward center” evolved to reinforce behaviors, such as food and sex, that maximize species survival.

To combat this epidemic, we may have to start with the brain, not the stomach.

Sugar, however, seems to hijack the same neural and biochemical connections in the brain. The intense cravings for sugar may be explained by the intensity of dopamine secretion in the brain when we consume sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, both of which are staples of the common American diet. Consistent eating of sugary and processed food literally rewires our brain. In 2011, 28 studies, from animal investigations to clinical studies of compulsive eaters, all point toward unhealthy foods as being addictive.

So why do we get fat? It’s not a simple matter of calories consumed and calories expended. It’s probably wiser to think of obesity as a result of a hormonal imbalance, with the dominant obesity hormone being insulin.

Insulin secretion is stimulated by eating easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods: Refined carbohydrates (including flour and cereal grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and sugars) and high-fructose corn syrup. Eating more of these makes us fat, hungrier, and even more sedentary.

Why does all this matter? First, your kids are going to live a life with more disease and will die younger than they should. This does not have to be the case, but we can only reverse course if we act. With a third of adolescents in the U.S. overweight, and adolescent diabetes and prediabetes skyrocketing from 9 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2008, we are on the path to an explosion in heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Second, healthcare spending is driving you and the country bankrupt. Obesity, a problem which didn’t really exist even 40 years ago, today accounts for almost a fifth of our nation’s health spending, which amounts to more than $150 billion every year. That is an annual tax of $1,400 on every household, and it continues to escalate.

The good news is that the obesity problem is solvable. It is reversible, if we act smartly, both individually by our own life choices and collectively through wiser, more active public policy.

What can we do?

1. Focus on the root causes of why people crave food, often hungering for the unhealthiest options, and not just deal with the aftereffects. Studies show that exercise alone does not lead to weight loss (but it is very healthy for you!), replacing lost calories with increased appetite. It’s what you eat that you should concentrate on. Weight loss regimens succeed long-term when they get rid of the fattening carbohydrates in your diet.

2. Think out of the box. If the increasingly strong hypothesis that sugar is addictive is correct, we need to treat it as such. An addiction demands attention to replacement foods, development of new classes of anti-craving and relapsing medicines, and possibly even more intense use of 12-step programs for therapy.

3. Public policy tools and tactics that affect advertising, availability, and cost (including taxation) have been effective in fighting alcohol and tobacco addiction. Our society instinctively rejects policy that suggests “food police.” In the future, however, expect these tools to be considered much more aggressively since obesity stands as an even greater public health threat than tobacco.

We cannot afford to ignore obesity. But let’s be open to changing our approach. To combat this epidemic, we may have to start with the brain, not the stomach.


This article was originally featured in The Week http://theweek.com/article/index/228248/how-to-wean-america-from-its-dangerous-food-addiction