Thursday, December 18, 2008
Dear Readers and Friends:
It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place. It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth. But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion. Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed. And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.
[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent. MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.
Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.
Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.
We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in Haiti? Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?
It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around $100 in May. In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?
And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.
Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700
December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!
The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good
February 26th – March 1st
University of Oregon School of Law
Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .
- Last day to submit panel
suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are
already starting to fill up. Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/
- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now! Email submissions to email@example.com, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW
- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.
- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:
Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.
Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.
Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL). As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.
Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico. As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species. His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.
Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The P2 Office is central to the implementation of new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2 Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations. Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists. Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.
Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.
Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon
SEE YOU THERE!
The Conference Co-Directors
Questions? Suggestions? Comments? email firstname.lastname@example.org
December 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page. Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate. Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9. Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index
December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Here's Kevin Gallagher's answer:
Bretton Woods is dead
World leaders must commit to forming new international organisations better suited to solving the economic crisis
Monday November 03 2008 12.00 GMT
President Bush has taken a welcome
step by inviting the G-20 to Washington
on November 15 to discuss the global financial crisis. This meeting should put in place a stability package that includes the developing countries and lays the groundwork for the creation of a new multilateral financial architecture.
Over the past five years, GDP per capita in the world's developing economies has been rising faster than in rich countries for the first time in history. According to statistics released by the World Bank last week, the developing world has pulled 232 million people over the global poverty line of $2.50 per day since 1999.
These gains in economic growth and
poverty alleviation are the result of an economic model that
significantly deviates from the Washington Consensus. Nations like China, India, South Africa and Brazil all have
recognised that markets and trade are important for development, but they have
also shown the world that markets must be guided by appropriate governmental
policy. In the World Trade Organisation, where each nation has an equal
vote, the developing world has worked hard to preserve the ability to deploy
the mix of state and market policies that have been working for them.
Until a week ago it was thought that poorer nations were "de-coupled" from the current economic crisis because they had piled up reserves and their banks weren't heavily involved in mortgage markets. Now it is clear that the crisis, which was not of their making, is at their doorstep.
Much of the economic boom in the developing world was fueled by commodities exports. Demand for exports has declined as prospects of a recession increase, causing a sharp decline in the prices of those exports. Global credit, which is crucial to exporters, has all but frozen. Banks in developing countries weren't heavily involved in the mortgage business, but they did swap with and borrow money from banks in developed countries, creating a credit squeeze for the local economy as well. If that wasn't enough, rising interest rates and credit tightening has strengthened the dollar, and currencies across the developing world are losing value.
World leaders should swiftly
coordinate interest rate cuts and provide massive liquidity to markets in
developing countries. New capital should also come from the larger developing
Developing countries can't do this on their own. Many of these nations simply don't have the capital. Some have reserves from the commodity boom but are draining them to save their currencies. What's more, when developing nations unilaterally mimic a rich country's methods of dealing with this crisis by nationalising private assets, such actions can instill even less confidence in a developing country's markets and provoke more capital flight.
New capital can be used in the short term to fend off runs on their currencies. Just as important, new credit and capital can be coupled with coordinating governmental policies to build the productive capacities of promising and strategic domestic enterprises and toward domestic consumers to stimulate demand. With jobs becoming scarce and food prices still high, small farmers are also among the strategic sectors worthy of government attention.
Non-OECD countries are now half the global economy and more than half the destination of OECD exports. Maintaining the growth in developing countries not only saves them from meltdown but can also help rich countries dig themselves out of a downturn with new demand.
Under no circumstances should a developing country's capital infusion have IMF-like conditionalities. Historically, the IMF often gave loans only if recipients deregulated markets, privatised industries, slashed government budgets and devalued currencies. A new book, “Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match” by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh, documents how IMF conditionality often caused irreversible social and environmental costs on recipient countries and created a global backlash against the IMF and other international institutions. There is simply no legitimate reason for these conditionalities today. Indeed, it was the deregulation in rich countries that helped get us into this economic mess in the first place.
Finally, the global summit should be the first step toward a "Bretton Woods II" that supports multilateralism and policy diversity as core principles. This summit must be dedicated to setting counter-cyclical capital standards, regulating all parts of financial markets (including the rating agencies) and creating a credible lender of last resort. Under the current system, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium have more votes in the IMF than China, India and Brazil. A truly multilateral organisation must have a one country-one vote system. Without a new infusion of capital and a multilateral approach to reform, the November meetings will be one step forward, two steps backward.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Yesterday the Guardian published an opinion piece by Kevin Gallagher (Washington Consensus Dead?) on Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman's work on strategic trade policy, pointing out that his Nobel Prize is the nail in the coffin of the free trade "Washington consensus." Krugman explains why it is rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies in order to create a niche industry. The same sort of strategic trade policy makes it rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies to support ecological sustainability and social well-being. Perhaps the pendulum will swing against the free traders enough so that we can protect the global environment through trade and other economic sanctions against nations unwilling to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
Last Friday the New York Times quoted the World Bank as saying "There's no question the Washington consensus is dead," indeed it "died at the time of the $700bn bail-out." If the bail-out is death, then awarding Paul Krugman the Nobel prize for economics is the nail in the coffin.
Paul Krugman did not win the Nobel for his popular critiques of Bush-era economic policy in his New York Times column, though the column no doubt helped raise his profile outside the economics profession. The Nobel committee cited Krugman's theoretical contributions to the economics of international trade, the policy implications of which fly in the face of the Washington consensus ( where the mantra is to free up trade every chance you get).
Among Krugman's achievements in the field of international trade is "strategic trade policy". In this work Krugman (and others) showed that tariffs and subsidies to domestic industries can divert profits away from highly concentrated foreign firms and increase a nation's income. Though Krugman himself shies away from prescribing such policy, the textbook example of strategic trade theory is the choice by the Brazilian government to subsidise and develop the aircraft company Embraer. The free-trade theories espoused by the Washington consensus would warn Brazil of the high cost of subsidisation. To free traders, Brazil should focus on its advantage in agricultural products and forget about climbing the manufacturing ladder. Strategic trade theory helps explain why Brazil was willing to gamble in the short term to become one of the finest aircraft manufactures over the long term. They squeezed foreign firms out of the market and carved out a global niche for themselves.
In another classic book, Development, Geography, and Economic Theory, Krugman argued that the government should also play a role in connecting beneficiaries of strategic trade policy to the overall economy. Evoking the work of economists such as Albert O Hirschman and Paul Rosenstein Rodan, Krugman argued that developing countries often needed a "big push" of coordinated government investments to help strategic industries get off the ground and to link the growth of such industry to the economy as a whole.
Problem is, today's trading system is out of whack with these frontier issues in economic thought. In a study published by Boston University's Pardee Centre for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, trade lawyer Rachel Denae Thrasher and I examined the extent to which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, European Union trade agreements, and United States trade agreements bit into a nation's ability to deploy strategic trade and other industrial policies to benefit from the globalisation process.
We find that in general the world's trading system makes it much more difficult for nations to craft strategic trade and industrial policies for growth and development. Indeed, enshrined in virtually all trade agreements is the "national treatment" idea that says a nation may not treat its domestic industries any differently than foreign ones. That may make sense when rich nations compete against each other, but in a world where 57.6% of the population lives on less than $2.50 per day, one size can't fit all. This restriction is accentuated in provisions for foreign investment, intellectual property, and subsidies.
Interestingly however, we find that there is more "policy space" for innovative growth strategies under the WTO than under most regional trade agreements – especially those pushed by the US. In fact, we find that US-style trade agreements are the most severe in constraining the ability of developing countries to deploy such policy. EU agreements, interestingly, tend to have the same policy space as the WTO.
It doesn't make sense that the World Bank and (implicitly) the Nobel committee are declaring the death of the Washington consensus when the US is choking the ability of nations to use policies that are gaining increasing legitimacy in theory and practice. Change is in the air. As we know in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the US has justified – like never before – a strong role for government in economic affairs. And, of the two presidential candidates, Obama has expressed concern over the direction of US trade policy and has pledged to rethink it. Perhaps these events will make strategic trade and industrial policy rise again.
October 15, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Mining, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Blog Action Day is October 15th. This year the topic is global poverty. On Blog Action Day, bloggers commit to discussing the topic from the special perspective that their blog brings to the issue. As it happens, Blog Action Day will coincide with my presentation at the 6th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Mexico City on Alleviating Extreme Poverty. I will be speaking on Chartering Sustainable Corporations as a means to address extreme poverty.
For all of you bloggers out there, be sure to register and post your thoughts on global poverty on October 15th. For information and registration, visit Blog Action Day
Monday, July 21, 2008
Dear friends and colleagues, Here's my video offering called "Hands of God." I am busy taking a course in Communication Theology -- and I'm reading about how 21st century students learn differently and may even have brains structured differently than those of us who are 20th century babies.. Obviously, if you are here, you are somewhat familiar and comfortable with new media. I am just experimenting with how to use YouTube and other new media to communicate with and teach our 21st century digital native students. If you haven't tried this, give it a whirl -- but be forewarned -- a 5 minute video, even one as imperfect as this, is about a 25 hour investment. It may only be worth the effort if the message is really important. That's why I bothered with this one.
July 21, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Friday, May 16, 2008
As the global temperature rises, Scandinavian mountains are growing trees that require warm temperatures, such as oak, elm, maple, and black alder. Science Daily reports that studies by Professor Leif Kullman have noted an elevation of timberline by 200 meters, allowing trees to establish in areas that have not been forested for 8,000 years. "The changes are so rapid that plants like fireweed (rose bay) and rowan have even taken root in the gravel up on melting glaciers. Even wood anemones are appearing higher up the mountain," says Leif Kullman,"the alpine world is evincing truly major changes despite the modest increase in temperature. Present prognoses of a temperature increase of three degrees by 2100 will entail considerably more sweeping changes. We can expect fewer bare mountain areas, even more lush vegetation, and a richer flora."
Monday, March 17, 2008
This article is written by Denise Olivera, Columbia School of Journalism, about the Drink Water for Life Challenge originated by 1st Congregational Church, U.C.C. of Salem, Oregon. The article was covered by the Great Reporter newsservice link The congregation pledges to give up some of its lattes, sodas, etc. during Lent and give the money to our Pure Water Fund. In celebration of Lent, spring, or World Water Day, please chose to follow this lead.
March 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Friday, March 7, 2008
There's a little something for everyone here -- but some of the most prominent environmental lawyers in the world are blogging here. NRDC Blog
March 7, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Well, no prize, but...You can become a Pulitzer Center Citizen Journalist!!!
- Pick an issue. Issues list "Should US environmental standards apply when multinational companies develop the petroleum resources of fragile ecosystems such as Peru's Amazon forest?" should be of particular interest. Extraterritorial application of US environmental standards
- Read the corresponding coverage at Pulitzer’s website. Your article should draw on information from the Pulitzer Center articles; but you may also include include original reporting of your own or firsthand experiences. The goal is to provide fresh insight in a compellingly written article.
- Share your perspective on the issue and write your best article at Helium by March 12th.
March 5, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the United States alone will exceed $ 3 trillion -- yes that is not a typo, that is a "t" trillion. His new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, will be released tomorrow. They argue that the cost to America of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been vastly underestimated. Indeed when factors such as interest on debt, future borrowing for war expenses, a continued military presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans are counted, the wars’ cost to the United States ranges from $5 - $ 7 trillion. The book's estimates are the subject of a hearing today by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. McClatchy News
Obviously $ 3 trillion dollars is real money -- but what could we have bought for $ 3 trillion dollars? The entire US government budget for the next year. Reduction of the national debt by 30%. Or how about something that would actually expand US influence throughout the world -- providing full funding for the entire cost of meeting the Millenium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of people who lack safe drinking water and sanitation is $ 11.3 billion per year for 10 years. Perhaps supplying everyone in the world with safe drinking water and sanitation might cost three times that. So for 10% of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we could have saved about 1 million lives per year that are lost to water-borne diseases, provided water for 2 billion people, and sanitation for 4 billion people. And we worry about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.....
Saturday, February 23, 2008
During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change. I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe.
I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewed was Barack Obama. Today's post is Hillary Clinton.
Here's the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in her own words:
The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military....At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism:..Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing....At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted....
We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself...Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics....
But China's rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil....
We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development...
As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.
We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.
Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an "E-8" international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world's major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues.
February 23, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, February 18, 2008
Yesterday's post on ExxonMobil (2/17/08) highlighted that it had
funded the Frontiers of Freedom and its Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP link ) during 2006, contrary to its claim that it was not
funding global warming denialists. You may wonder about the
context in which ExxonMobil made this claim.
Remember last year when the IPCC 4th Assessment report came out – the Guardian wrote a story about American Enterprise Institute soliciting result-oriented denialist analyses of the IPCC report and that report included information about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI. Guardian 2/2/07 Report. During conversations in late January and early February, 2007 with me and other bloggers, Maria Surma Manka from Green Options [Giant Part I Post; Giant Part II Post], Jesse Jenkins from Watthead [ExxonMobil Posts], Tom Yulsman from Prometheus [Post on earlier conversations -- I can't recall whether Tom participated in the February call, but I believe he did], Stuart Staniford from The Oil Drum [ExxonMobil AEI Post], Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s Vice President for Public Affairs had assured us that ExxonMobil was no longer funding controversial denialist groups like Competitive Enterprise Institute and it did not fund AEI with the intent that they engage in denialist analyses. The first conference call occurred in late January and the second on the same day that the Guardian story and the IPCC report came out.
Cohen spent considerable time before the IPCC report came out in January 2007 trying to convince us that ExxonMobil was changing its Neanderthal stripes, truly accepted that anthropogenic global warming was a serious problem, and was ready to take a responsible role in the future discussions of how to reduce GHG emissions. Admittedly Cohen did that in the truly diplomatic way of saying that ExxonMobil had not effectively communicated its position that anthropogenic global warming is real and that GHG emissions need to be reduced.
During the February call, Cohen knew that the Guardian’s report about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI and AEI’s alleged solicitation of result-oriented denialist analyses threatened to undercut public perception of ExxonMobil as a responsible actor. Indeed, those reports ended up on CNN. So, Cohen went out of his way to schedule this call about the Guardian’s allegations.
As Maria recounted that discussion:
“We had no knowledge that this was going on,” insisted Cohen. He explained that Exxon funds a lot of different groups, and “when we fund them, we want good analysis." Exxon does not condone what AEI did, but Cohen confirmed that it does continues to fund AEI, although other groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute are not funded by them anymore.
Cohen assured us that Exxon is “trying to be a constructive player in the policy discussion and not associate [themselves] with those that are marginalized and are not welcome in that discussion.” The IPCC report “is what it is,” and Exxon does not believe in engaging in scientific research that preordains an answer. Cohen:
…that's the issue with AEI: Are they preordaining an answer?…I can understand taking a market approach or a government interventionist approach, but this is not a question of trying to find who’s right or who’s wrong. Let’s let the process work.
But, I asked, how can you grant AEI nearly two million dollars (n.b. slsmith -over the entirety of AEI operations, not annually) and not know what they’re doing with the money? Turns out that Exxon conveniently funds the “general operations” of AEI, not specific programs that would allow them to track how the money is being used. Perhaps Exxon needs to think hard next time before it funds an organization so clearly disinterested in constructive solutions.
Cohen was consistently explicit in Exxon's
position that global warming is happening and mainly caused by human
activities. If that is true, then how will Exxon fight the huge misperception
that it’s still the planet's largest naysayer? Cohen conceded that the company
needed to do a better job of communicating its position on global warming,
rather than allowing a fact sheet or
news release on their website to do the work.
Cohen kept telling us that the 2006 contribution report was coming out, but declined to give us any specifics about ExxonMobil’s contributions to AEI or other groups, but he said Competitive Enterprise Institute was no longer funded. Cohen continued to defend AEI as a responsible, albeit very conservative, think tank doing legitimate policy research. And frankly, I supported him on that score during the calls because at least some of the work done by AEI is just that. And I was not nearly as skeptical as others about ExxonMobil's protestations of innocence. See my post on the AEI matter ELP Blog Post on AEI
Here’s why yesterday I called ExxonMobil’s behavior in early 2007 deliberately misleading. Initial Post on 2006 Funding Report
As the quoted material above indicates, Cohen in early February 2007 led us to believe that ExxonMobil was no longer in the denialist camp and did not condone AEI soliciting denialist analysis (if indeed that’s what they had done). He claimed that ExxonMobil no longer associated with marginalized denialist groups. He suggested that the 2006 report would indicate that ExxonMobily had disassociated itself from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which brought us the classic, sadly humorous “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life!” TV commercials. You tube link to CEI Energy commercial.
From this discussion, it seems clear that Cohen knew precisely which “public information and policy research” organizations that were funded by ExxonMobil during 2006. Yet, while he perhaps sat with the 2006 report in front of him and refused to release its contents, the 2006 contribution report later showed that in 2006 ExxonMobil provided $ 180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom and the CSPP, the policy center it created with ExxonMobil's funding several years ago. P.S. Cohen denied funding CSPP in an e-mail today, but unless my sight is failing: CSPP is reported as the Science and Policy Center under Frontiers of Freedom Download 2006 ExxonMobil's "public information and policy research" contributions If that’s not supporting denialists and associating with marginalized denialist groups, I don’t know what is!
Take a good look at the high quality analysis of global warming that CSPP provides:
(1) the amicus curiae brief filed in Mass. v. EPA by lawyers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute
(2) Dr. Ball's The Science Isn't Settled powerpoint presentation - Dr. Ball is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project which describes its first project on understanding climate change as "a proactive grassroots campaign to counter the Kyoto Protocol and other greenhouse gas reduction schemes." NRSP describes Dr. Ball as the "lead participant in a number of recent made-for-TV climate change videos, The Great Global Warming Swindle."
(3) Joe Daleo's Congressional Seminar on global warming in March 2007 devoted to disputing the IPCC's report and arguing that anthropogenic global warming from greenhouse gas emissions are not a real problem.
(4) CSPP's May 2007 rebuttal of Al Gore's testimony, which suggests there is no scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are causing global warming
(5) a nonsensical piece on "Gore's Guru," positing that because Dr. Revelle, who died in 1991, had cautioned in 1988 and 1991 against drawing rash conclusions about global warming might still take that position. I call it nonsensical because Dr. Revelle suggested that we wait 10-20 years to see if the trends continued. We've waited and now we've answered that question: between 1998 and 2008 we witnessed incredibly dramatic global warming and the scientific community has spent the last 10-20 years studying whether indeed human-caused GHG emissions are responsible for much of that warming. We and ExxonMobil know its answer to that question.
Obviously, the blogosphere is not the only group worried about ExxonMobil's funding choices. Britain's national academy of scientists, The Royal Society, in September 2006 took ExxonMobil to task about its funding of denialist groups. Royal Society letter
Well, maybe ExxonMobil finally pulled the plug on FF and its “Science and Policy” center in 2007 (and so Cohen was just tap-dancing around the embarrassing, but not on-going, reality of funding denialists). Although, FF's CSPP might survive: it apparently does have funding from two major tobacco companies!
Maybe ExxonMobil has rethought its policy on funding organizations whose primary contribution to the climate change discussion is to distribute continued attacks on those who conclude that the current state of climate science supports an effective policy to reduce GHG emissions. I’d like to think so – but we won’t know until ExxonMobil releases its 2007 contributions report. I requested that Cohen release it to me; he declined.
However, even if it had
defunded FF and CSPP (and other denialist groups), I’m not sure I’d believe that ExxonMobil hadn’t found new denialist outlets to fund.
If the Guardian and other media or the blogosphere produce a big enough stir on this story, perhaps it will. But I am astonished that, just as it was selling itself as a responsible player on global warming, ExxonMobil would act so irresponsibly and so deceptively. And I am deeply embarrassed at my naievete in believing what Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil were selling about ExxonMobil’s born again conversion to a responsible position on anthropogenic global warming.
Watch out, though, ExxonMobil knows that the question is no
longer whether global warming is real, but what to do about it. You can bet it
is smart enough and devious enough to fund a lot of “public information and
policy research” that will muddle policy discussions about global warming
legislation and may assure that not much is done to regulate GHG emissions from oil and gas and that what is done doesn’t cut hardly at all
into ExxonMobil’s astounding profits: $41 billion for 2007 and almost $ 12 billion in the 4th quarter of 2007 alone. ExxonMobil profits post
I have a modest suggestion for ExxonMobil: do not fund organizations whose published information, analysis, and research on global warming or climate change has primarily sought to undercut the conclusions reached by the joint statement published in 2005 by 11 national academies of science, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and China . That statement is linked here: Joint Science Academies' Statement: Global Response to Climate Change
Unless and until ExxonMobil stops funding the sort of stuff that Center for Science and Public Policy is peddling, I hope that the new President and Congress will not believe a single word that is said about global warming policy by ExxonMobil or any of denialist and anti-regulatory "public information and policy research" organizations it funds.
February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change. I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe.
I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewing is Barack Obama. I chose Obama first in part because I am torn between Clinton and Obama. Although I respect John McCain's leadership on climate change, I could not vote for a Republican after the 1994 - 2006 Republican congressional legacy and the debacle of Bush's presidency for virtually every freedom and human need. I also disagree with McCain's position on Iraq.
In his own words, Barack Obama primarily addresses climate change as a matter of global policy. He ties the US response to global warming to his overall foreign policy in this way:
Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.
As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip -- by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.
Getting our own house in order is only a first step. China will soon replace America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. I will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia. This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.
February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
After the Bush administration legacy, it is refreshing to see both Democratic and some Republican candidates competing for the title of Mr. or Ms. Green. See the comparison in Grist.
February 6, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life.
Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma. She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father. Ultimately, her family settled in southern California. There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941.
In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse. After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.
In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm. When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.
Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice. She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge. She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing. She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations.
Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies. She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner. She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.
Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met. Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp. Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life. The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.
October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Read/Write Web has listed Environmental Law Prof Blog prominently in its list of the 35 best environmental blogs. [35 best environmental blogs] Thanks!
October 16, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, July 6, 2007
A Sudden Change of State
The Guardian (London)
July 3, 2007
A new paper suggests we have been greatly underestimating the impacts of climate change - and the size of the necessary response.
Reading a scientific paper on the train this weekend, I found, to my
amazement, that my hands were shaking. This has never happened to me before, but nor have I ever read anything like it. Published by a team led by James Hansen at Nasa, it suggests that the grim reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could be absurdly optimistic(1).
The IPCC predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 59cm this
century(2). Hansen's paper argues that the slow melting of ice sheets the panel expects doesn't fit the data. The geological record suggests that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but flips suddenly from one state to another. When temperatures
increased to 2-3 degrees above today's level 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose not by 59 centimetres but by 25 metres. The ice
responded immediately to changes in temperature(3).
We now have a pretty good idea of why ice sheets collapse. The
buttresses that prevent them from sliding into the sea break up;
meltwater trickles down to their base, causing them suddenly to slip; and pools of water form on the surface, making the ice darker so that it absorbs more heat. These processes are already taking place in
Greenland and West Antarctica.
Rather than taking thousands of years to melt, as the IPCC predicts,
Hansen and his team find it "implausible" that the expected warming before 2100 "would permit a West Antarctic ice sheet of present size to survive even for a century." As well as drowning most of the world's centres of population, a sudden disintegration could lead to much higher rises in global temperature, because less ice means less heat reflected back into space. The new paper suggests that the temperature could therefore be twice as sensitive to rising greenhouse gases than the IPCC assumes. "Civilization developed," Hansen writes, "during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end."(4)
I looked up from the paper, almost expecting to see crowds stampeding through the streets. I saw people chatting outside a riverside pub. The other passengers on the train snoozed over their newspapers or played on their mobile phones. Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination, we drift into catastrophe.
Or we are led there. A good source tells me that the British
government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions - 60% by 2050 - is too little, too late, but that it will go no
further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the
Confederation of British Industry. Why this body is allowed to keep
holding a gun to our heads has never been explained, but Gordon Brown has just appointed Digby Jones, its former director-general, as a minister in the department responsible for energy policy. I don't remember voting for him. There could be no clearer signal that the public interest is being drowned by corporate power.
The government's energy programme, partly as a result, is
characterised by a complete absence of vision. You can see this most
clearly when you examine its plans for renewables. The EU has set a
target for 20% of all energy in the member states to come from
renewable sources by 2020. This in itself is pathetic. But the
government refuses to adopt it(5): instead it proposes that 20% of our
electricity (just part of our total energy use) should come from
renewable power by that date. Even this is not a target, just an
"aspiration", and it is on course to miss it. Worse still, it has no
idea what happens after that. Last week I asked whether it has
commissioned any research to discover how much more electricity we could generate from renewable sources. It has not(6).
It's a critical question, whose answer - if its results were applied
globally - could determine whether or not the planetary "albedo flip"
that Hansen predicts takes place. There has been remarkably little
investigation of this issue. Until recently I guessed that the maximum
contribution from renewables would be something like 50%: beyond that point the difficulties of storing electricity and balancing the grid
could become overwhelming. But three papers now suggest that we could go much further.
Last year, the German government published a study of the effects of linking the electricity networks of all the countries in Europe and
connecting them to North Africa and Iceland with high voltage direct
current cables(7). This would open up a much greater variety of
renewable power sources. Every country in the network would then be able to rely on stable and predictable supplies from elsewhere: hydroelectricity in Scandanavia and the Alps, geothermal energy in Iceland and vast solar thermal farms in the Sahara. By spreading the demand across a much wider network, it suggests that 80% of Europe's electricity could be produced from renewable power without any greater risk of blackouts or flickers.
At about the same time, Mark Barrett at University College London
published a preliminary study looking mainly at ways of altering the
pattern of demand for electricity to match the variable supply from
wind and waves and tidal power(8). At about twice the current price, he found that we might be able to produce as much as 95% of our
electricity from renewable sources without causing interruptions in the power supply.
Now a new study by the Centre for Alternative Technology takes this
even further(9). It is due to be published next week, but I have been
allowed a preview. It is remarkable in two respects: it suggests that by 2027 we could produce 100% of our electricity without the use of fossil fuels or nuclear power, and that we could do so while almost tripling its supply: our heating systems (using electricity to drive heat pumps) and our transport systems could be mostly powered by it. It relies on a great expansion of electricity storage: building new hydroelectric reservoirs into which water can be pumped when electricity is abundant, constructing giant vanadium flow batteries and linking electric cars up to the grid when they are parked, using their batteries to meet fluctuations in demand. It contains some optimistic technical assumptions, but also a very pessimistic one: that the UK relies entirely on its own energy supplies. If the German proposal were to be combined with these ideas, we could begin to see how we might reliably move towards a world without fossil fuels.
If Hansen is correct, to avert the meltdown that brings the Holocene to an end we require a response on this scale: a sort of political "albedo flip". The government must immediately commission studies to discover how much of our energy could be produced without fossil fuels, set that as its target then turn the economy round to meet it. But a power shift like this cannot take place without a power shift of another kind: we need a government which fears planetary meltdown more than it fears the CBI.
George Monbiot's book Heat: how to stop the planet burning is now
published in paperback. www.monbiot.com
1. James Hansen et al, 2007. Climate Change and Trace Gases.
Philiosophical Transactions of the Royal Society - A. Vol 365, pp
1925-1954. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2052.
2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, February 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers. Table SPM-3. http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf
3. I am grateful to Marc Hudson for drawing my attention to this paper and giving me a copy.
4. James Hansen et al, ibid.
5. In the Energy White Paper it says the following: "The 20%
renewables target is an ambitious goal representing a large increase in Member States' renewables capacity. It will need to be taken forward in the context of the overall EU greenhouse gas target. Latest data shows that the current share of renewables in the UK's total energy mix is around 2% and for the EU as a whole around 6%. Projections indicate that by 2020, on the basis of existing policies, renewables would contribute around 5% of the UK's consumption and are unlikely to exceed 10% of the EU's." Department of Trade and Industry, May 2007. Meeting the Energy Challenge: A White Paper on Energy, page 23. http://www.dtistats.net/ewp/ewp_full.pdf
6. Emails from David Meechan, press officer, Renewables, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
7. German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Technical Thermodynamics Section Systems Analysis and Technology Assessment, June 2006. Trans-Mediterranean Interconnection for Concentrating Solar Power. Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany.
8. Mark Barrett, April 2006. A Renewable Electricity System for the UK: A Response to the 2006 Energy Review. UCL Bartlett School Of Graduate Studies - Complex Built Environment Systems Group.
9. Centre for Alternative Technology, 10th July 2007.
ZeroCarbonBritain: an alternative energy strategy. This will be made
available at www.zerocarbonbritain.com.
Project ID: 01250
Date Posted: 7/02
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July 6, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)