CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Geoengineering is, to my mind, an evil way to adapt to climate change. Geoengineering is a set of methods to artificially alter the earth’s climate. These include seeding the upper atmosphere with sulfer particles, creating artificial clouds to reflect the sun’s rays back into space, deploying sun shields in space, etc. It’s all very 1950s. Yet, researchers are taking it very seriously.

In fact, geoengineering programs at universities are on the rise around the globe. I read the geoengineering google group daily, and the technology and debates surrounding its uses have significantly advanced since the cloud seeding story from just a couple of years ago.


There are two core problems with geoengineering:

  1. We don’t know if the technology works. The only way to know is to try it out. In other words, geoengineers would have to attempt to alter the earth’s climate by experimenting with it. NOT COOL MAN!
  2. Who will hold the keys? It is unclear which country or block of countries would “control the weather,” so to speak. Should China do the geoengineering? The US? Should there be an international treaty? What if some nations object? What if a nation uses it as a weapon? See, here.


The Standford Journal of Law, Science & Policy has just published an issue dedicated to geoengineering. They’re online, free to download. And they’re pretty easy reads. I suspect these won’t be online for very long. Get em while they last!

First Prize is a presentation to the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy, and the United Nations. Travel and accommodations included. 

This is the second year MIT is holding the contest. Anyone can apply. Your submission is voted on by both the community at CoLab and a panel of judges. This year’s question is, “How should the 21st century economy evolve, bearing in mind the risks of climate change?”

Apply, here.

I’m reposting this in full because so many of the stories seem equally compelling. Please give a skim and consider adding Alternet to your RSS. It’s from the Reuters enviro network, and is pretty high quality.

Two sections stand out for me, Vietnam and Global (after the jump). I invest in Vietnam’s currency (called the Vietnamese Dong [yep]). Vietnam is developing very, very rapidly. Their coastal development is a concern with respect to sea level rise, but they have a lot of innovative engineers. In the Global section (at the end), there’s a fascinating piece that I bookmarked for tomorrow on adaptation and corruption. Can’t wait to dig into that one!

I do hope you take a few minutes to at least skim these stories. OK, it starts and ends at the quotation marks:

"Please take a look at this month’s top climate stories from AlertNet Climate, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s daily news website on the human impacts of climate change.

BANGLADESH
— Serious storms off the coast of Bangladesh are increasing in frequency, endangering the lives and livelihoods of Bangladeshi fishermen. But telecommunications technology is now being used to disseminate warnings to fishermen, helping them make better decisions about when to turn for home.
http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/early-warning-system-aims-to-save-fishermens-lives/

CAMEROON
— Local councils in Cameroon are seizing the initiative in the fight against climate change with a new network to increase grassroots participation and government accountability on climate policy.
http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/cameroon-councils-create-network-to-address-climate-change/

COLOMBIA
— More than 1,000 families in the municipality of Acandi, on the Panama border, are aiming to become one of the first Colombian communities to sell carbon credits generated by their forest conservation activities on the international voluntary market.
http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/colombian-community-prepares-to-sell-forest-carbon-credits/

GHANA
— In Ghana, whether the biofuel crop jatropha will pluck rural farmers from poverty and reduce carbon emissions or displace farmers and gobble up land that could produce food depends very much on who you ask.
http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/jatropha-biofuel-push-in-ghana-runs-up-against-protests/

KENYA

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CDC Climat helps governments, utilities, and businesses reduce their CO2 emissions. They’ve been around since 2004, and have been at the forefront of the EU’s carbon trading scheme.

Now they’re entering the realm of adaptation. Quick primer, then I’ll get back to CDC. Recall that there are two responses to climate change:

  1. Al Gorian carbon emissions reduction (eg fiddle with energy, buy a Prius, cap carbon, solar panels, etc.)
  2. Adapt to impacts. If there’s drought, find water. More rain? Build bigger storm water pipes. Sea level rise and beach erosion? Build a sea wall, move some homes. Nothing to do with carbon, just infrastructure, planning, and engineering.

The difference is that Al Gorians try to “save the world” and stop climate from changing. Adaptatrons accept reality, and adjust to it. They’re very different schools of thought, and there’s little overlap. One is preventative, the other plays clean up.

The CDC Climat group are made up of Al Gorians carbon eaters. For years they’ve believed that carbon reduction was the only answer to climate change. They trade carbon in pretty much the same way as bankers trade shares of stock. Now they’re thinking about adaptation (probably as a source of revenue, but I can’t cover that here). Briefly, this is how climate adaptation policy is formed:

  1. Run computer models for various weather scenarios. This helps discover where future problems will occur. It helps locate heat waves, drought, storms, sea level rise, wildfires, etc.
  2. Assess vulnerabilities. Once you know where droughts and sea levels will rise, document vulnerabilities. Which town is susceptible to sea level rise? Which farms will experience drought? Etc.
  3. Evaluate existing policies and start to source funding. This is tricky. Decision makers have to figure out which policies conflict with vulnerabilities. For example, if there is expected sea level rise, it may not be a good idea to re-develop board walks, or build new homes on the coasts.
  4. Reduce vulnerabilities by changing policies. This making adjustments to policies in order to reduce problems like those found above.
  5. Implement policy changes via legislation and regulation changes.
  6. Wash, rinse, repeat. Decision makers need monitor their work and tweak along the way. This is tough due to the political cycle and immediate needs of shifting economies.

With that in mind, the CDC Climat group evaluated 5 country’s climate adaptation plans, Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, and UK. The study is short and easy to read. Take a look, here. Strongly recommend you read it if you’re into anything climate or enviro policy oriented.

So, for example, the Netherlands, which is below sea level, is expecting even higher seas and more floods. They’re spending billions building new levees and pump systems to control water and protect cities and habitat. The UK government is providing individual financial assistance to home and land owners who are vulnerable to impacts, such as flooding. And in Germany, they’re reevaluating flood insurance subsidies and premiums.

Read the study: DRAWING UP A NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION POLICY: FEEDBACK FROM FIVE EUROPEAN CASE STUDIES (pdf).

If the name looks familiar, it’s because Nobelist Stavins was lead author of the IPCC’s 2nd and 3rd reports. He’s is current lead author on the section covering international negotiations for the IPCC’s forthcoming 5th assessment. (emphasis below are not mine).

“It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

President Barack Obama failed to get legislation through Congress that would have established a cap-and-trade system of pollution allowances to control greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. Instead, the administration is pushing regulations for carbon pollution through the Environmental Protection Agency, a far inferior approach, according to Stavins.

Source: Bloomberg

(via midnightmisdemeanors)

Environmentalist Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico fiercely fights for climate policy in the states. In this profile by the Daily Beast, he’s portraying as David in a battle against Goliath. He’s closer to victory than many think.

His father, Stewart Udall, a pioneering conservationist, was President Kennedy’s interior secretary, and instilled in his six children a love and respect for the outdoors. Before entering political life, Tom Udall worked as an instructor taking people on monthlong trips, mountain climbing, hiking, and fishing. He has a reverential feeling for the planet. At a recent Washington event, he described his realization that the great balance between man and nature that he had grown up believing was entrusted to a higher being—and fear that this way of life was threatened, overwhelmed by greenhouse gases so voluminous that “man is now in charge of the thermostat for the globe.”

Nice map of growth in Africa as measured by how easy it is to do business in each country. The darker the color, the easier it is. Most interesting is that these countries have the most land-use regulations. 

visualoop:

Via

Climate Change TV is a web channel devoted to following world leaders as they renegotiate the Kyoto Protocol. CCTV conducts exclusive interviews with world leaders and influential figures involved in the climate change negotiations. Click the map to watch interviews with leaders from dozens of countries. 

For example, here is an interview with John Ashe, UN’s ambassador to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations team. In the interview, he basically says that his group wants all countries to lower emissions by 25%. (Quick notes: He throws around some jargon. Ignore it. All you need to know is that “AWG-KP" is the name of Ashe’s team. "AWG" stands for Ad hoc Working Group. Basically, an AWG is comprised of a committee of experts, and they’re charged with completing certain tasks. Ashe’s team, the AWG-KP, is tasked with getting all the world’s 196 countries to cut a deal on extending the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.)

Rare: masters in climate science. Even rarer: entry Fall 2011. Mo’ rarest: University of Bern, Switzerland works with both IPCC and PAGES. Go for it!

A “M.Sc. in Climate Sciences" offers opportunities in research and academia, can lead to careers in the financial and energy sectors as well as in consulting firms and qualifies for administrative positions.

Five specialisations:
- Climate and Earth System Science
- Atmospheric Science
- Economics and Law
- Economic, Social and Environmental History
- Statistics

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This morning, SCOTUS heard the second* most important climate change cases in US history, American Electric Power v Connecticut. I wrote about it, here. Overview of the case, here.

Both “sides” of the court, conservatives and liberals, were critical of the case expressing openly clever skepticism. Justice Kennedy, the moderate, agreed that the case should be looked at “on the merits,” but when the court did dive into the merits of both side’s arguments, they were clearly scratching their heads. They seemed to collectively ask, why in the world should the courts be deciding if coal plant emissions should be regulated? Scalia sarcastically asked if “states can sue every cow in the country as well?”

The bottom line: My prediction of a 5-3 decision looks more like an 8-0 sweep to toss this case on its heels. For a tight, easy to read recap by SCOTUSblog, go here.

*The first, and most important case was Mass v EPA (2007), where Massachusetts won against the EPA, forcing to the agency to regulate GHGs for the first time. More on Mass v EPA, here and here.

Related to my earlier post on “God vs Climate”, Western politicians are very susceptible to the church of oil’s Evangelical’s stance on climate change.

Apparently, there’s a new theory behind the…delays in…government’s supposed efforts to crack down on industrial pollution and implement a climate change plan.

According to a former member of the Conservative caucus (Canadian politicians) had a religious reason for opposing the action.

"On climate change issues there was a denial of climate change because it really wasn’t part of God’s will," Garth Turner told Radio-Canada in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

The report explored the links between evangelical Christians and the Harper government, examining the influence of various preachers on specific federal policies in areas such as abortion and the Middle East.

Source: Mike de Souza

Full ride. Fantastic opportunity. Entrance is a OCTOBER 2011! The catch? Americans need not apply.

Full scholarship for MSc in Climate Change and Development at University of Sussex/Institute for Development Studies, UK

A full scholarship (fees plus maintenance and travel) funded through the ‘Commonwealth Shared Scholarship’ scheme is available for applicants to the MSc in Climate Change and Development programme for entry October 2011. Note: Potential applicants must undertake the following process in the order stated. 1. Check their eligibility for the award (see criteria below) 2. Submit an application for the MSc in Climate Change and Development using the online application facility at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/pg/2011/taught/3331/23691 3. Only after applicants have received an offer of a place on the course should they request an application form for the scholarship, be contacting climate@sussex.ac.uk. The deadline for applications for the scholarship is 1st May 2011.

Scholarship Criteria

Applicants must
(i) be nationals of (or permanently domiciled in) a Commonwealth developing country, and not currently be living or studying in a developed country (please see the booklet for a list of eligible countries)
(ii) hold a first degree at either first or upper second class level;
(iii) be sufficiently fluent in English to pursue the course
(iv) have not previously studied for one year or more in a developed country
(v) not be employed by a government department (for this purpose the Commission counts this as being employed by a Government Ministry).
(vi) be able to confirm in writing that neither they or their families would otherwise be able to pay for the proposed course of study
(vii) be willing to confirm that they will return to their home country as soon as their period of study is complete.

Further information: This is a unique course that aims to provide state-of-the-art training for the rapidly expanding market for development professionals with specialisation in climate change. The programme is strongly multidisciplinary and students will acquire specialist knowledge of the causes of climate change, the implications for developing countries, and the policy and practice of efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

Courses are taught by leading researchers in these fields from the world renowned Institute for Development Studies (IDS), the Geography Department and Science and Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU). Tel: +44 (0)1273 877686 Email: climate@sussex.ac.uk (ii) Commonwealth Shared Scholarship For full details of the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship scheme see http://www.cscuk.org.uk/docs/DFIDSSSBOOKLET2011vi.pdf

Watch whenever you want. No log in required - just brew your tea and watch. Obviously, environmental law is an incredibly complex field. When I got my masters in environmental law from Vermont Law School, I found it both maddening and invigorating.I’m watching these now, and it’s a good overview of the laws that protect the environment. It’s also a good reminder of how far we have to go.

For example, take the Mining Act of 1872, which is still in force. It is the most frustrating, annoying, and stupid law I’ve come across. Anyone can purchase certain federal lands for $5 per acre as long as it’s for hard rock mining (eg, gold, uranium, etc). No, really. Unlike oil drilling on public land, no royalties are due to the taxpayers whom own the land. Royalties, by the way, are America’s second highest source of revenue, taxes being the first. Mining is incredibly destructive, and miners have very little incentive to clean up their mess - leaving it to the tax payers to pay for it.

The Open Yale course project has generously provided access to an environmental law overview. They’ve put online course syllabus, readings, and recorded classes in one place. It’s free, you don’t need to log in, easy to use, and a must for environmentalists.

Click here, enjoy. If you get fired up, then just fire an email to your representative. If you do, be clear and tight: “I want you to change this law because of x, y, and z reasons.” Also, I always write in the subject line “From your voter” and get 100% response rates (though, this is probably because I live in Massachusetts, where our reps are highly interactive with the public.). I never sign petitions, but I do use some of the language to frame a personalized letter.

Cash prize is 500,000 Norwegian Crown (close to $100k USD). Submit graphics or video by May 1st. Excuse the translation.

The Minor Foundation for Major Challenges invites you to participate in a competition that aims to select an extraordinarily good way of communicating the issue of man-made climate change.

The competition aims to inspire participants that have the ability to communicate a complex message in a way that might surprise or even awaken people.

If you can illustrate man-made climate change, its causes or consequenses in a way that brings the response:

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WASHINGTON — The US Senate on Wednesday rejected a bid to strip President Barack Obama of his power to regulate greenhouse gases, a move that could have thrown US efforts against climate change into chaos.

The Senate, where Obama’s Democratic Party holds a majority, voted 50-50 on a bill to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting standards on greenhouse gas emissions blamed for the world’s rising temperatures.

The measure required 60 votes for passage. Four Democrats broke ranks to support the measure, while a sole Republican backed the efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: Rawstory


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