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.
The best case against funding climate change policy?
India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change, a hugely ambitious programme requiring billions of dollars, is being starved of funds, officials say, as a new law aimed at giving food to the needy threatens to eat up a large chunk of government spending.
In 2009, the government set up eight national missions to tackle climate change: the Solar Mission, Energy Mission, Sustainable Habitat Mission, Water Mission, Himalayan Mission, Sustainable Agriculture Mission, Green India Mission and Strategic Knowledge Mission.
The funding allocated for these missions during the 12th Five Year Plan, which ends in 2017, was just over $40 billion. The largest amount was earmarked for the agriculture mission at $17.6 billion, followed by $8.36 billion for the Green India Mission, which aims to expand forests.
But officials and experts warn that these spending plans are now at risk due to the arrival of the National Food Security Act, which was passed last month.
The controversial new law commits the government to providing heavily subsidised food to around 819 million poor people in urban and rural areas. The legislation mandates the state public distribution system to provide 5 kg of rice per person per month at not more than 3 rupees (Rs) per kg, wheat at not more than Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grain at not more than Rs 1 per kg.
According to the act, the cheap food will be extended to 75 percent of rural dwellers and 50 percent of those living in urban areas, which amounts to roughly two thirds of the South Asian nation’s population of over 1.2 billion people.
The Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM) links an international, transdisciplinary team of climate scientists, economists, philosphers, statisticians, engineers, and policy analysists to answer the question, “What are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies?”
As a central part of its educational and research mission, SCRiM will host a week-long summer school to foster opportunities for collaboration and to provide graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with a solid foundation in the broad, multidisciplinary knowledge, tools, and methods of the diverse fields participating in the network.
Taught by senior researchers in the SCRiM network, the summer school will offer sessions on Earth system science, policy analysis, uncertainty quantification, coupled epistemic-ethical analysis, and integrated assessment. Participants will also gain hands-on experience with key methods and tools such robust decisionmaking, the use of simple models, and analysis of relevant datasets. The summer school will include a Toolbox Workshop session to foster enhanced cross-disciplinary communication and more effective collaborative research among participants.
While the summer school is designed primarily for graduate students and postdocs collaborating within the SCRiM network, participants from other institutions will also find it an enriching experience. Furthermore, the SCRiM network is open to new members and summer school participation may provide opportunities to explore the potential for new collaborations.
To apply, please send an single PDF file containing an application letter (briefly describing your research interests and explaining why you would like to attend the summer school) and a current CV email@example.com. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and should be submitted no later thanWednesday 24 July 2013 to receive full consideration. Funding is available to support travel and accommodations for participants.
INSTRUCTORS & SESSIONS: Karen Fisher-Vanden — Integrated Assessment Chris Forest — Uncertainty Quantification Klaus Keller — Earth System Science Robert Lempert — Policy Analysis / Robust Decisionmaking Michael O’Rourke — Toolbox Workshop Nancy Tuana — Coupled Epistemic-Ethical Analysis
At the heart of the White House’s new Arctic strategy is an elementary but devastating contradiction between what President Obama, in the document’s preamble, describes as seeking “to make the most of the emerging economic opportunities in the region” due to the rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and recognising “the need to protect and conserve this unique, valuable, and changing environment.”
Despite repeated references to “preservation” and “conservation”, the strategy fails to outline any specific steps that would be explored to mitigate or prevent the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice due to intensifying global warming. Instead, the document from the outset aims to:
"… position the United States to respond effectively to challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity due to the diminishment of sea ice and the emergence of a new Arctic environment."
In other words, far from being designed to prevent catastrophe, the success of the new strategy is premised precisely on the disappearance of the Arctic summer sea ice.
Edited by Dr. Ian Davis and Gabrielle Iglesias, and reviewed by Dr. Ian Burton, it promotes the adoption of a risk management approach to climate-sensitive decision-making and serves as a reference to integrate disaster risk management with climate change adaptation.
The handbook is part of the Disaster Risk Management Practitioner’s Handbook Series, available for download at www.adpc.net.
This short paper on climate adaptation shows how decision makers struggle with dealing with change. One problem with new environmental risks is how to decide which system to address first - food? ecosystems? infrastructure?
Climate change introduces new complexities and uncertainties into decision-making and planning. It also compounds pressing challenges posed by demographic, socio-economic and other environmental change taking place, such as meeting the rapidly growing demand for food, water and energy and addressing biodiversity loss.
However, current interventions that are designed to respond to development and environment challenges are fragmented across many sectors and institutions both public and private. The interventions themselves tend to be narrowly defined and assessed. And they’re dominated by short-term priorities with very little focus placed on integrated approaches that would create space for learning and flexibility in decision-making and implementation processes. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to tackle large-scale systemic challenges such as poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change effectively.
This is one of the largest climate research grantsunrestricted 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).
The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply — but at what cost? Watch this video animation to see how the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground.
theresamarg asked: Hey! I'm a high school senior writing a paper for government and chose to write about the Environment. I'm pretty passionate about it, wanting to become an environmental engineer. I have already cited you a few times, but was wondering if you had any helpful thoughts on the U.S. vs the U.N. as far as future protection laws concern... Or anything you think is worth adding to my paper! Thank you so much! I really look up to you and love your blog! Have a nice day! :)
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.
US vs UN environmental law
How does the UN enforce treaties
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 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.
Gas drillers were caught lying to public officials. About 66% of the signatures were falsified. Company blames a PR firm, which, it seems, specializes in fudging petitions.
The drillers used the petition to lobby a local government in Colorado to pass fracking laws. Shit is fracked up and bullshit.
Pro-fracking petition with fake signatures embarrasses gas association
A full two-thirds of those denied signing or endorsing a petition opposing a ban on fracking in Fort Collins. Not only was the petition a big fat lie, it was a laughably amateur effort to deceive the city’s lawmakers. From the Coloradoan:
Cali Rastrelli’s name is signed at the bottom of a petition submitted to the council. At the top, the petition says in bold letters, “Vote NO on the Fort Collins fracking ban.”
“Big Bill Pizza” is written in the blank where the signer could enter their business or organization.
“I haven’t signed any petition in the last month,” said Rastrelli, a Colorado State University student who lives in student housing. “I didn’t put my name on this.”
More movement in Congress on Climate Change. Sunday I posted about the new 22 member “Safe Climate Caucus,” who have vowed to discuss climate impacts and solutions every time congress is in session.
Signs of activity as the ‘climate silence’ from the President and Congress come to an end: On February 13 Senate Environment Committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a “Briefing on the Latest Climate Science" featuring scientists Jim McCarthy, Don Wuebbles, J. Marshall Shepherd, and John Balbus. Seven Democratic members of the committee in attendance; all Republican members appeared to be AWOL.
An archived webcast of the briefing is posted on the Environment and Public Works Committee’s website (the briefing starts at 12:30 of the webcast), along with written testimony by:
• Dr. James J. McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University; leader of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001) on global climate change impacts and vulnerabilities.
• Dr. Donald J. Wuebbles, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Illinois.
• Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, President of the American Meteorological Society and Director for Program in Atmospheric Sciences, University of Georgia.
• Dr. John M. Balbus, Senior Advisor for Public Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Each of the presenters gave a concise state-of-the-science overview for Senators and staff, followed by a substantial question-and-answer period.
President Obama is expected to launch a serious second-term push on climate change with his State of the Union address.
With climate legislation dead in Congress, green groups are hopeful that Obama will follow the “we must act” mantra of his inaugural address and put the full weight of his executive powers behind their agenda.
“The problem is very pressing, and so the sooner we have policy proposals in front of us, the better.”
Obama has already signaled his willingness to use his executive powers forcefully, laying out a series of executive orders on gun control in addition to calling for legislation.
On climate, the White House took some steps with executive powers in the first term, and that’s expected to be the primary second-term focus.
“If he were to just repeat what he said in the [second] inaugural address, that would be considered a missed opportunity, but I don’t believe he will. I believe he will be more specific about what he is going to do,” said one climate advocate.
Liberals in Congress have urged the president to go big on climate as well.
“From a planetary point of view there is no issue more important than climate change, and the president has to be as bold and specific as he possibly can,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on the eve of Obama’s address.
At the very top of advocates’ wish list is a commitment to setting carbon emissions standards for existing coal-fired power plants. A move in that direction would begin an all-out war with coal-based power companies and some other industry sectors that say there would be huge economic costs from increased regulation.
Obama, without Congress, can also expand on his first-term actions to boost Defense Department green energy programs and development alternative energy on public lands, among other steps.
No matter what steps Obama takes, environmentalists say the president needs to use the bully pulpit to rally public support.
Well worth clicking through to see the chart. Long-time readers know that I strongly believe more girls need to enter both urban planning and the climate sciences. This embarrassing article re-confirms what we already know, but times are changing.
There were more young women than men in my programs at Vermont Law and UMass-Amherst, so hopefully these stats will start to break down in the coming years.
Researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in the top ranks of science.
Now comes an intriguing clue, in the form of a test given in 65 developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It finds that among a representative sample of 15-year-olds around the world, girls generally outperform boys in science — but not in the United States.
What explains the gap? Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the tests for the O.E.C.D., says different countries offer different incentives for learning science and math. In the United States, he said, boys are more likely than girls to “see science as something that affects their life.”