As global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health and species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns, well, who do you sue?
No one apparently. If you think the international response on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier. And weaker.
A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This might be important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur. Or not.
“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” the article by Stephen Humphreys says. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the U.S., they do not progress far.”
It’s generally acknowledged that technology has had a major impact on the increase of income inequality for more than three decades, but can technology help reverse that trend?
That’s a big maybe at best, but George Mason University professor of economics Tyler Cowen, in a recent Economic View article in the New York Times, sketched out “some significant ways in which technology could reduce” income inequality.
Cowen said it’s worth exploring whether “market forces themselves might limit or reverse the trend.” For example, he continued, while computers have improved our lives in many ways, “they haven’t yet done much to make health care and education cheaper.”
Mondelez International, the multinational snack foods giant, has developed an outcome-based sustainability framework that will use an external party to measure the impact of its $200 million Coffee Made Happy program.
Mondelez, the world’s second largest coffee company, says the arrangement with the independent third-party organization, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), will “provide unprecedented transparency on large scale” along the coffee supply chain.
Mondelez coffee brands include Jacobs, Carte Noire, Kenco and Tassimo. COSA will evaluate the “real impact experienced by farmers on the ground” of the Coffee Made Happy program. Program objectives aim to measure how Coffee Made Happy is achieving its objectives to improve farmers’ business and agricultural skills, increase farm yields, and “engage young people and women in coffee farming so as to empower 1 million coffee entrepreneurs by 2020.”
Two environmental groups are taking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to court for failing to consider the harmful climate effects of the federal government’s coal leasing program.
The lawsuit was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Interestingly, Bloomberg reported that the suit is being funded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen.
In addition to the Allen connection, this is a big deal because the two groups are seeking the first comprehensive review of the federal coal-leasing program since 1979. “Since that time, scientific evidence has established that greenhouse gases produced by coal mining and combustion endanger the public health and welfare,” the groups said in a statement. “The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate change.”
Here’s a new renewable energy twist on the old bumper sticker — circa the 1970s oil crisis — “Eat More Beans, We Need the Gas!” Take the “Poop Bus!”
Today, that’s not so silly or outlandish, because public transport powered by human waste and sewage could be coming to a bus stop near you before too long. In fact there’s one operating now in the U.K. on a trial run basis.
Billed as the “next big trend in sustainable energy,” according to The Guardian, the U.K.’s ‘Bio-Bus’ runs entirely on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage, as well as food waste that’s unfit for human consumption. The waste and sewage is treated at a plant run by the recycling and renewable energy company GENeco. The 40-seat Bio-Bus can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of around five people to produce.
With Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) at the controls of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the next two years, climate change will enter into an even more annoying, frightening and bizarrely hilarious era.
For the uninitiated, here are some quotations from the most aggressive climate change denier in the Senate:
- “Climate change isn’t real because the Bible says it ain’t.”
- “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
- He claimed that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
- On the International Panel on Climate Change‘s Synthesis Report released last week, he said:
“The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”
Maybe some visual evidence of the effects of tidal flooding and the rise of sea levels due to climate change will help transform debate and talk into action.
It’s not that complicated: Water expands when heated. Sea levels are rising, and sea levels are rising faster as global warming heats up the planet.
UCS makes the point that, “Today scores of coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.”
Under the agreement:
- The $25 million will support “faculty and research efforts”
- ExxonMobil will collaborate with MIT on a “wide range” of projects, including research to improve and expand renewable energy sources and find more efficient ways to produce and use conventional hydrocarbon resources
- MIT will establish 10 ExxonMobil Energy Fellows each year for graduate students
Earlier this year, Shell sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), requesting that its Arctic leases — which expire in 2017 — be paused for five years while the company regroups and attempts to restart drilling operations. The letter was made public late last month by the environmental group Oceana, after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act request. Oceana and other groups have sued to block the Arctic exploration.
A large part of the response to climate change amounts to holding actions to mitigate the impact of fossil fuel emissions and to better prepare for unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods.
Is enough being done on the latter point — preparedness for extreme weather? The answer is no, according to a 76-page report released this month by the National Wildlife Federation, Allied World Assurance Company Holdings and Earth Economics. In fact, the organizations say, there’s a major “preparedness deficit.”
The study, Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather, examines the growing risks from potentially-catastrophic natural hazards; the policy solutions that can safeguard people, property and wildlife habitats; and local case studies that can point the way forward.
“Our preparedness deficit is the result of years of inaction and under-investment at the federal, state and local levels,” says Collin O’Mara, NWF president and CEO. “It’s time for our elected officials to reinvest in our natural defenses and this report offers a blueprint for bipartisan, market-based solutions.”
Just in time for Halloween comes one of the scariest and thought-provoking reads ever, and it’s not about zombies, vampires, Ebola or ISIS—it’s about climate change.
John Berger, author of Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis takes the reader on a tour of all of the dangers facing the planet if nothing—or not enough—is done to address the impacts of climate change. This is a stark, necessary, heartbreaking and in the end, cautionary and hopeful book.
In succinct and accessible language, this short but powerful book pulls no punches: Climate change is the most critical threat to the planet today, and also the most complicated global issue. And, “like any critical threat it requires an emergency response.”
The standard argument from opponents in the continuing debate over carbon taxes is the grudging admission that while they might reduce carbon emissions, the taxes ultimately fail because they kill jobs.
A recent Bloomberg editorial goes a long way to dispelling the latter part of that argument. Where they are implemented, carbon taxes—also known as environmental tax reforms (ETR)—succeed in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. “The next question is whether that success is bought at the expense of jobs and incomes,” Bloomberg says. “The answer is no. As long as the tax is well-designed, it can cut emissions at little or no economic cost. And that is a conservative assessment: In practice, a carbon tax has been shown to provide an economic boost. The reason is that the revenue raised by a carbon tax can be used to cut other, more damaging, taxes.”
That’s because, generally speaking, taxes make economies less efficient. But there are degrees of damage, as the editorial explains: “Taxing ‘bads,’ such as pollution, actually improves the allocation of resources, whereas taxing ‘goods,’ such as labor, reduces the economy’s capacity to produce. In principle, therefore, using the revenue from a carbon tax to cut other taxes can yield a double benefit: reducing pollution and expanding the economy.”
A host of federal agencies known as the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force have laid out a comprehensive “action plan” for the next five years to protect water quality, control invasive species and restore habitat in the Great Lakes, the largest surface fresh water system in the world.
It’s also the largest conservation initiative in American history, says Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The task force, created by an Executive Order in 2004, includes eleven U.S. Cabinet and federal Agency heads. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy chairs the task force, which released the latest action plan on September 24 in Chicago.
“The new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan lays out the steps we need to take to get us closer to the day when all Great Lakes fish will be safe to eat, all beaches will be safe for swimmers and harmful algal blooms will not threaten our drinking water supplies,” said McCarthy. “During the next five years, federal agencies will continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals.”
If coping with climate change is central to achieving a sustainable future for the global population, then food security lies at the heart of this effort, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said last week in a speech at the United Nations Climate Summit last week.
“We cannot call development sustainable while hunger still robs over 800 million people of the opportunity to lead a decent life,” he said in a reference to the latest U.N. report on world hunger, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.
The report found that while the number of people who experience chronic hunger was reduced by 100 million over the past decade, there are still some 805 million people that go without enough to eat on a regular basis.
Despite overall progress, the 57-page report says, “marked differences” across regions persist. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with only modest progress in recent years: Around one in four people in the region remains undernourished. Asia, the most populous region in the world, still has the highest number of undernourished people. “Southern Asia has made slow progress in hunger reduction, while more rapid progress has been achieved in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with the latter having already met the WFS hunger target,” Graziano da Silva said.
In the past, efforts to feed the world focused on boosting agricultural output to produce more food, but today’s challenges – including climate change – demand a new approach, Graziano da Silva said.
While coal goes kicking and screaming into a dark and pollution-filled goodnight, it is becoming more evident and economically plausible that biomass energy, or bioenergy —energy derived from organic matter —can replace it.
The article notes that like all renewable energy options in the European Union, “bioenergy has struggled against low-priced coal imports, low carbon dioxide prices in the emissions-trading system, and an economic and regulatory backlash against renewable-energy policies, including substantial cuts in government support.” But McKinsey writers Marco Albani, Nicolas Denis and Anna Granskog assert that biomass-based energy should not be counted out just yet. “Although today it fails to compete on cost with other renewables such as wind and solar, we believe bioenergy not only has the potential to significantly improve but could even become cost competitive with coal.”