Thanks a lot for following me all this time. Well, at a cerebral level, I worry that China is getting a free pass. The argument in favor of China’s growth while getting away with horrible environmental harms is basically that the country first has to grow and stabilize. This is hard to argue against. Once incomes and education and health indicators are at a certain level, so says the Chinese government, only then will they remediate their environmental destructions. (Go here for a list of China’s Environmental Issues). Only consumer-based economies have proven track records following this rapid growth/aggressive resource extraction and then stabilization/clean up model.
Most western countries followed this approach, too - rapid economic growth paired with extreme resource extraction, then efficiencies through technology, and then clean up. I’d argue that major countries, the UN, and the World Bank encourage this model.
Severe though China’s problems with water, soil and air are, they are not different in kind from those of other nations in the past. As Pan Jiahua of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) puts it, “We’re following the US, Japan and UK and because of inertia we don’t have the capacity to stop quickly.” Via
But I think China is different than the West. It’s compressing what Europe and the U.S. did in 400 years down to 25. China’s ravaging ecosystems at such great speeds and big scales that there’s no built-in recovery time.
During that 400 year growth period, New England, for example, was deforested four times. How four times? Because the forests had time to bounce back and recover. I’m not saying America is righteous. I’m saying that China seems to be ignoring the capabilities of ecosystems to recover at such rapid paces and large scales - it cannot deforest four times in 25 years.
In August, the Economist explored how China’s rapid growth comes at the expense of tremendous environmental pollution. Check it out if you can.
In real life I worry about sea level rise along coasts in western countries. Yes, poor countries will be hit hard. Distasteful as it sounds, coastal communities in poor countries can be moved (sometimes by force) much more easily than, say, Manhattan or Miami. And the world needs the economies of western countries in order to recover. If the west suffers, so will the rest of the world with respect to environmental recovery and disaster response efforts.
You can read about displaced people, called Climate Refugees, here.
This is one of the largest climate
research grants unrestricted award (for an individual) I’ve ever seen. If you’re into climate and Antarctica, this is for you!
—-Last date for nominations 23 May 2013——
The 2013 Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica
The “Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica” is a US$ 100,000 unrestricted award presented to an individual in the fields of Antarctic science or policy who has demonstrated potential for sustained and significant contributions that will enhance the understanding and/or preservation of Antarctica. The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008.
The prize-winner can be from any country and work in any field of Antarctic science or policy - for example, Antarctic Climate change, Biosciences & Conservation, Oceanography, Geology, Physical sciences, Antarctic policy, etc. The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change.
There are a number of criteria on which nominees are assessed, covering their background and accomplishments, their leadership and potential for further development, their communication and outreach skills and achievements, and their contribution to international collaboration. See the Category Descriptions document (http://www.museprize.org/userfiles/MM_Prize_Category_descript.pdf) for information on each of the categories used in the evaluation process.
The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
Nominations open until 23 May 2013
Dr Renuka Badhe
Thanks for your nice note! :D
Sounds like a very good paper. And quite challenging. I don’t know your background, so it’s hard for me to know what advice to give you.
The major difference between U.S. and UN environmental protection is that the UN does not make formal “laws.” This is an important thing to grasp as you shape your paper.
I presume (again, I don’t know) that you’ll write a bit comparing the two, side-by-side. The U.S. is one country, with citizens and land. The UN is not a country, has no residents, no borders, and contains no lands. The U.S. federal and state governments are allowed to make law. The UN is not allowed to make any laws.
There are some minor exceptions.
First, core to the UN’s mission is to encourage its 193 members to create and enforce their own laws based primarily on human rights. These laws are enforced at the country level, and in no way can the UN intervene on enforcement of these laws (with the exception of war and conflict, where members vote on intervention or humanitarian aid).
The second exception is the International Court of Justice(ICJ), which is a very weak system that basically adjudicates the criminal acts of the highest leaders of individual countries. You can read about the process, here. Note that it encourages disputing parties to take it to their home lands.
The ICJ usually deals with human rights, genocide, and war crimes. It seldom enforces international treaty violations, and rarely enforces environmental treaties (mostly because violators are easily identified and their home countries and the polluted territories have jurisdiction).
So, basically, the ICJ tries hard to push any dispute back to the country level.
When that fails, then several special panels hold a series of votes to help decide jurisdiction, applicable procedural rules, and possible alternatives (usually there are alternatives).
The third exception is when the UN has to sue itself! That is a big hot mess, and I’d avoid writing about it like the plague. (If you must, go here.)
I’m being very generic, and I’m sure I’ll get a blistering message from some of my keen-eyed readers, but you get the point I hope!
This is all to say that the UN has no formally recognized environmental law jurisdiction (in fact, the UN attempted to create an environmental court, called the Environmental Chamber. But no country brought a single case during the Chamber’s 13 years of existence. It was dissolved in 2006. For the history of the Environmental Chamber, see: here).
Again, I’m being very general here. You’re more than welcome to contact me via email if you have more specific questions.