“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.” These words in President Obama’s State of the Union address came as music to the ears of environmentalists. Do they herald a real effort to break the climate policy impasse in Washington?
Obama urged Congress to pursue a “bipartisan, market-based solution,” citing as a model the cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.
The McCain-Lieberman bill failed to clear the Senate in 2003. It failed again in 2005. So did two subsequent cap-and-trade bills, Lieberman-Warner in 2008 and Waxman-Markey in 2010. Any new effort to enact a national climate policy will be the fifth try.
In his new collection of essays, James K. Boyce explores the idea that the environment belongs in equal measure to us all; a clean and safe environment is not a commodity to be allocated on the basis of wealth, nor a privilege to be allocated through political power, but rather a basic human right. Building upon this premise, Boyce explores the many ways in which economics can be refashioned into an instrument for advancing human well-being and environmental health. Topics covered include environmental justice, disaster response, globalization and the environment, industrial toxins and other pollutants, cap-and-dividend climate policies, and agricultural biodiversity.
Triple Crisis Welcomes Your Comments. Please Share Your Thoughts Below.
Climate science paints an ever-more-detailed picture: irreversible, catastrophic events are becoming increasingly likely as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Climate economics, particularly in its policy applications, lags behind: leading models and analyses frequently ignore the extreme risks and the intergenerational aspect of the problem – and rely on simplistic and dated interpretations of the underlying science. Yet the state of the art has progressed rapidly, in the research literature on climate economics as well as science.
To address this problem, Liz Stanton and I wrote Climate Economics: The State of the Art, which has just been published by Routledge. Our book grew out of a request from the World Wildlife Fund for an update on climate economics since the Stern Review. In that 2006 review, commissioned by the British government, Nicholas Stern argued persuasively for a new approach to the economics of climate change, emphasizing arguments for a very low discount rate and a focus on catastrophic risks.
The annual UN climate conference concluded in Doha last Saturday with “low ambition” both in emission cuts by developed countries and funding for developing countries
The UN Climate Conference in Doha ended last Saturday with the adoption of many decisions, including on the Kyoto Protocol’s second period in which developed countries committed to cut their emissions of Greenhouse gases.
Many delegates left the conference quite relieved that they had reached agreement after days of wrangling over many issues and an anxious last 24 hours that were so contentious that most people felt a collapse was imminent.
The relief was that the multilateral climate change regime has survived yet again, although there are such deep differences and distrust among developed and developing countries.
The conflict in paradigms between these two groups of countries was very evident throughout the two weeks of the Doha negotiations, and it was only papered over superficially in the final hours to avoid an open failure. But the differences will surface again when negotiations resume next year.
Martin Khor warns that it is evident from the Bangkok negotiations in September that the future of global climate change talks hangs in the balance. The prospect of bridging the division within the international community on tackling the problem seems as remote as ever even as evidence of the devastating impact of climate change mounts.
THE global climate change negotiations are at a new crossroads, as evident after the latest round of meetings that ended in Bangkok on 5 September.
‘Crossroads’ because the talks and the emerging climate change regime may go into one of various directions, or else become stuck in an impasse. ‘New’ because the climate talks have faced crossroads several times before in the past five years.
The Bangkok negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held over a week, revealed a major split between developed and developing countries on what to do over many issues that the developing countries want to continue to discuss, because they have not been resolved.
Most developed countries, led by the United States, believe there is no need for further discussion because they have been closed off by a decision taken at the last Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa last December.
Is climate change good or bad for agriculture? As recently as the 1990s, it was widely believed that the first few degrees of global warming would boost world average crop yields and food production. Higher temperatures were expected to lengthen growing seasons in temperate regions, while more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would act as a fertilizer, promoting plant growth.
The research of the last decade has led to a more ominous outlook for agriculture, as Elizabeth Stanton and I explain in a new paper. Three areas of recent research challenge the older, optimistic picture of climate change on the farm: field research has reduced estimates of the carbon fertilization effect; new analyses identify a strong effect of extreme temperatures on crop yields; and in many regions, changes in precipitation and the availability of irrigation will be the limiting factor for food production.
Carbon fertilization benefits are real but limited. Some plants, including maize, sugar cane, sorghum, and millet, use a distinct style of photosynthesis and experience almost no yield gains from increased atmospheric CO2. For one major crop, cassava, increased CO2 causes sharply reduced yields. Most other crops do have higher yields at elevated CO2 levels – but research with realistic simulations of actual growing conditions has led to modest estimates of the carbon fertilization effect. William Cline has projected that 550 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere (about a 40% increase over current levels) would cause a worldwide average increase of 9% in crop yields.
As governmental representatives meet in Doha to negotiate yet again a successor to the expiring 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, two recent global trends may alter irrevocably such negotiations, and even affect future global warming. The first is the new shale gas and oil boom in the United States and other regions. The second is the emergence of the green economy.
As outlined in an article in the UK Guardian newspaper by Julian Borger and Larry Elliott, rapid exploitation of vast shale gas and oil deposits in the United States through new fracking technologies is changing global energy markets and future supplies. In just a few years, fracking has allowed the US to produce 30% of its gas needs, and should account for over half of domestic consumption by the early 2030s. Canada’s development of tar sands could have a similar impact on oil markets. Australia is likely to rival Qatar as the world’s major exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and West Africa will also become a major supplier.
As drought ravages the Midwest and the world prepared for its third price spike in five years, Timothy A. Wise sat down with the Real News Network to talk about the implications of the crisis. Drawing on his co-authored report with Sophia Murphy, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007,” Wise points out that the international community has failed to address any of the important drivers of the food crisis – climate change, biofuels expansion, financial speculation, the lack of publicly managed food reserves, and strong reinvestment in developing country food production.
The Triple Crisis blog invites your comments. Please share your thoughts below.
It was lucky the Olympics opening ceremony was not washed out by rain, because heavy rain, floods, heatwaves and droughts are among extreme weather events on the rise this year.
Last Friday night’s opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London was widely acclaimed for its spectacular display. But besides the brilliant design and smooth implementation, another factor played an important role, and that is luck.
A major topic at the Symposium was carbon farming, which is a payment scheme that allows farmers and land managers to earn credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to pay for the various carbon storing activities.