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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Posts tagged "economics"

I think the bank underestimates the hit to GDP. If a storm wipes out major infrastructure (think Japan’s Fukushima), the effects on economies and lives will last for decades.

Good read on how data and climate models impact traditional weather forecasting.

President Nixon’s energy crises address to the nation in 1973. It was very aggressive by today’s standards.

Nixon:

  • Reduced availability to gasoline by 15% (e.g., he rationed gas)
  • Built new oil pipelines
  • Cut access to home heating oil
  • Asked Americans to reduce driving two days per week
  • Asked Americans to turn down the their thermostats by 6 degrees
  • Ordered cities to turn off street lights
  • Reduced speed limit for trucks to 55MPH

Imagine if Obama ordered the nation to do this today??

Now reading: "Risk Savvy: How to make good decisions." It’s about how we frequently we make terrible choices based on misinterpreted information. 

I’m starting to develop an interest in behavior economics as it relates to risk in government decision making, but I’m still very very skeptical. I’m certainly not known for hopping on the bandwagon of fashionable trends. And it’s well known that the increasing public interest in learning more about “behavior economics” is likely a result of exploitative media hype. Still, I’m giving this book a shot. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to change some of the projects I manage for USAID from top-down approach, to something more like user driven - which is somewhere in the middle of user driven change behavior and bottom up style advocacy. 

Thought provoking piece by Al Jazeera guest writer questions the limits of perpetual economic growth. What do you think?

Aggressive growth is impossible ecologically and implausible economically. We need economic strategies at the local, state and national levels that prioritize community benefit over corporate gain, and which presume a need for local resiliency instead of depending on uncontrolled growth. We also need to develop new strategies to democratize wealth in the face of extreme inequality.

Like the programs developed in “the state and local laboratories of democracy” that led to the New Deal, numerous experiments percolating across the country in the “new economy” — building cooperative and community-owned businesses, developing locally focused supply chains at a municipal and regional level, building new forms for public ownership of essential services like banking and power generation — may just point the way.

The end of growth poses a long-term systemic challenge, and such explorations suggest that a new direction may be quietly being explored in the midst of economic and ecological degradation. It is a direction that is likely to accelerate as economic and social pain of the decaying economic system continues to force Americans to explore solutions that take us beyond the tired nostrums of the past.”

Gar Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of “What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution.”

Good read, not for everyone though, since it’s from a multi-gabllionaire’s perspective.

There is absolutely no way to reasonably stop countries from emitting carbon and GHGs.

Document leaked to Wikileaks. Allows companies to pollute, avoid fines, and generally skip environmental treaties and laws.

[T]he Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.

Today, 15 January 2014, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs’ Report. The TPP transnational legal regime would cover 12 countries initially and encompass 40 per cent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators’ summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.

The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.

For readers actually into climate adaptation and urban planning, this is huge, huge news. Click here to read more about the the Flood Insurance Act of 2012. This basically undoes decades of subsidizing risky properties in the U.S.
The burden of living in risky, flood-prone areas will shift more towards the individual home owner and away from the American taxpayers.
What are your thoughts on the NFIP? Should the rates stay the same or be adjusted?  


Still nope

Students Win Seed Money To Make Flour From Insects

Mohammed Ashour has a big order to fill: By March 2014, he has to deliver 10 tons of grasshoppers to customers in Mexico.

He and four other MBA students at McGill University in Montreal have a plan to farm insects in poor countries and turn them into flour that can be used in everything from bread to corn tortillas. And on Monday, former President Bill Clinton handed them $1 million to make it happen.

The team, which includes Ashour, Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, received the for social entrepreneurs at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting. The seed funding will go to their project, , which aims to make insect-based food products available year-round to people living in some of the world’s poorest slums.

The project is launching at a time when a lot of people are looking to spice up the idea of eating super-nutritious insects, which some are calling “mini-livestock.” From the , insects are inspiring restauranteurs, entrepreneurs (check out the ) and researchers. As The Salt in May, the United Nations agricultural arm released a supporting iron- and protein-rich insects for dinner because of their nutritional, environmental and economic appeal.

Asker lin-deng Asks:
Hi! Denser city living now seems to be the best solution for the billions of people added to the earth. But many prefer to live in big houses in the suburbs (than in tiny apartments), and would rather drive long distances to their workplace (than experience overcrowding on public transports). What do you propose would be the best way in encouraging both denser city living whilst having good neighbourhood satisfaction? Thanks
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi hello-linny!

This is incredibly complicated and I’m not really going to answer your question directly. There are a variety of design and urban planning techniques to help cities be more dense while being more livable. Form Based Code, Smart Growth, sustainable planning, etc., are very common, easily replicable, and very flexible solutions to this.

The problem with these solutions are that people are not staying in one place for very long. This trend of people moving to cities will slow a bit, and cities can adapt and absorb the influxes.

The real question, to my mind, is how to make them stay? These new people rarely participate in local government. They rarely stay or invest in a place, typically using the city as a catalyst to elevate their socioeconomic standing.

This is fine, but cities will suffer in the next demographic swing. As it stands, most cities are planning for the next 10-20 years using a stable or growing tax base. This is just not true. Tax receipts will not continue to grow, they’ll be more volatile, creating deeper dips and higher spikes in local economies.

Tax receipts, which are used for things like water, health, education, environment, security, business development, and transportation, will (probably) implode.

Detroit (or the entire country of Japan) is a good example of this. Both based their planning goals on false demographics.

So, while most cities are scrambling to provide design solutions, they really should be pivoting towards investing in the people. How? Diversity in education systems. Having a strong public school system is great, creating a system that includes charter, specialty, religious schooling options is even better. Assisting people with their health care options should include increased focus on mental health. Study after study has shown that when people improve their mental health, their physical health and relationships with communities greatly improves. Investment in parks, environmental quality, and conservation areas consistently (in nearly every country) show economic and health resiliency.

Here’s a sweet little report discussing some of these solutions: Demographic change in European cities: City practices for active inclusion.

There are tons of other things, like creating a Happiness Index, which measures how happy people are in the current situations. If there are dips and swings to this index, government can nudge the bar in one direction or the other.

Thanks for the interesting question!

Michael

Interesting headline, but the devil is in the details. The study is 1) from a graduate student using extremely limited data gleaned by observing the behavior of a few farmers and 2) focused on a temporary, experimental economic incentive project in two remote villages in Cameroon, Africa.

From the perspective of adaptation theory, it is important for researchers to find examples of maladaptation. Maladaptation increases risks or creates new problems, rather than resolving them. For example, relocating villagers with the intention of protecting them from floods has several ill effects on their education, culture, and may even violate their human rights (for more, see here).

So, more examples of maladaptation are very much needed. However, the findings need to be compared to other behaviors, such as incentives inherent in economic development projects, education attainment, empowerment of women, etc.

The below shows an example of a handful of villagers and farmers given obscure economic incentives to change their behavior - change farming techniques, change tree harvesting techniques, and increase educational attainment, all previously passed down from generation to generation. The author concludes that the villagers have become more vulnerable to risks from climate change. But, with such abrupt disruption, distorted incentives, and short time span - all of which are correctable - I’d say this one is more than a bit premature. 

MITIGATION MAY CREATE MORE VULNERABILITY

The research focused on two villages in the rainforests of southern Cameroon that are involved in payments for ecosystem services (PES) pilot projects.

Through PES, communities receive financial or in-kind payment for preserving “services” such as water, carbon storage and biodiversity. The pilot projects in Cameroon are designed to maintain carbon stocks and biodiversity through such activities as protecting and regenerating forests, and sustainable agriculture.

In addition, the projects include components to strengthen local health and education as they relate to infrastructure.

Financed through the Congo Basin Forest Fund, the projects, which relate only to infrastructure, are implemented by the Centre for Environment and Development with support from BioclimateEconometrica and Rainforest Foundation UK.

The pilot projects were focused on reducing deforestation and conserving biodiversity, but did not necessarily consider how to help communities adapt to a changing climate, researchers found.

In fact, the study found that conditions imposed by the PES projects had major implications for livelihood activities in the village of Nkolenyeng, predominately a farming community.

For example, in light of the projects’ ban on rotational slash-and-burn crop farming – also known as swidden – the study found some older farmers are opting to clear less land rather than take up more labor-intensive clearing methods.

These decisions may ultimately affect food security and income in the village, creating more vulnerability, the study suggested.

“At my age, I have little energy to prepare my fields without burning, so for now with the project conditions I’ll prepare only a small portion,” said one 62-year-old farmer during a focus group.

Read the rest at CIFOR

Hang up the harpoons, Japan

Four good reasons it should stop ‘scientific’ whaling. Here.

The world’s tallest slum.

Welcome to the world’s tallest slum: poverty-ridden Venezuela’s Tower of David. Squatters took over this very unfinished 45-story skyscraper in the early 1990s, and they’ve been there ever since. The tower was originally intended to be a symbol of Caracas’ bright financial future, complete with a rooftop helipad, but construction stopped because of a banking crisis and the sudden death of the tower’s namesake, David Brillembourg.

Today, as the government is grappling with a citywide housing shortage, the tower is a stark monument to what could have been in the country’s crime-plagued capital. The tower is dogged by accusations of being a hotbed of crime, drugs and corruption. But to residents, many of whom have spent their entire lives there, it’s just home.

Watch as Vocativ climbs the tower and gains the rare in-depth access to residents’ daily lives inside this unique and sinister establishment.

Few cameras have been allowed into the depths of the tower. It is an experience not to be missed.

We answered some frequently asked questions about our Tower of David video here: http://voc.tv/15I8iPE