Global environmental challenges
Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.
Bjorn Lomborg is a Danish political scientist who makes a semi-career (if not career) out of countering claims about global warming. His brand of writing tends to throw major counter claims out there on quite big climate issues, in short pithy sound-bites, often without data, letting the reader try and figure it out.
A recent Lomborg editorial is an example and has many claims in it that one needs to take time to carefully analyze. Here I will just react to one of Lomborg’s deceptive suggestions that sea level has suddenly stopped rising:
Since 1992, we have had satellites measuring the rise in global sea levels and they have shown a stable increase of 3.2mm a year: spot on compared with the IPCC projection. Moreover, over the past two years, sea levels have not increased at all; actually, they show a slight drop. Should we not be told that this is much better than expected?
Grass has been growing on the backs of the sheep on the island Vega off Norway’s northwest coast — apparently from seeds that fell onto them during the night when they were sleeping in a shed under some stacks of hay.
Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.
Last month, GV environment looked at Maps, online communities and carbon footprint calculators. Since then there have been more calculators released, and in this post we list some of these new tools for the public to calculate their CO2 emissions.
Maybe not — but more and more environmental economists are arguing that you should.
And they say that the worst financial crisis in 80 years could be a good opportunity to overhaul the world’s economic system and put a price tag on what are often viewed as “free” services from nature, ranging from coral reefs’ role as nurseries for fish, to wetlands’ ability to purify water. See the story here.
The European Union agrees to let Morocco join in return for exclusive rights to solar power from its part of the Sahara desert.
The Olympics are held only in cyberspace because it costs too much for athletes to travel around the world.
“I am a Republican, but I do believe Barack Obama will be a much bigger supporter of clean tech and renewable energy than John McCain will,” Khosla said at the Reuters Global Environment Summit in San Francisco. To see a video of the interview, click here.
The financial crisis that may cost the United States $700 billion to fix is likely to shift actions to fight climate change towards cheaper, sure-fire winners such as energy efficiency — such as better insulation for buildings – rather than more exotic long-term projects such as trapping and burying carbon dioxide from power plants. Read the story here.
Getting caught speeding changed my life — for the better.
It inadvertently turned me into a devoted bike commuter, has saved me lots of money, aggravation — and even saved the world a little bit of carbon dioxide to boot. Since giving up the car for my daily commutes by bike to work in August, I’ve also lost about 2 kilos and now look forward to my daily 16 km journeys each way to and from the office.
Other colleagues who cycle to work had long tried to encourage me to try out commuting by bike. We’ve even got a little shower here where I work in the centre of Berlin. But it was always so much easier to jump into the car.
City-dwelling, bike-riding recyclers are finally getting the recognition they deserve for their environmentally friendly lifestyles.
A researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development argues in a journal article published on Friday that many city residents actually pollute less than families in rural areas.
“People who live in the suburbs or commute actually have much higher greenhouse gas emissions per person than people living in (the London district of) Chelsea for the same income level,” David Satterthwaite told Reuters.
That’s because country-dwellers tend to have larger homes that need to be heated or cooled and higher car use per household.
The study in the journal Environment and Urbanization says cities are often blamed for producing most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions but actually generate just two-fifths or less.
Satterthwaite argues that cities in wealthy nations can set an example for low carbon living by providing good public transport and energy-efficient buildings. He singles out Barcelona – which has a third of Spain’s average emissions per person – and other historic compact cities like Amsterdam which are easy to walk around.
Culture is also an ally in the fight against climate change. “There’s so much in London or Paris that isn’t high greenhouse gas-emitting: the culture, the art, the buildings, the theatre, the music, the museums, the libraries,” Satterthwaite said.
But while cities are often unfairly blamed for producing 75 to 80 percent of the world’s greenhous gas emissions, their responsibility creeps back up when you look at it from a consumption perspective.
Satterthwaite believes it would be fairer to allocate greenhouse gas emissions according to the location of the people who consume the goods and services responsible for the emissions rather than to the place they are produced.
So if you live in Berlin and buy a Chinese-made T-shirt or digital camera, the emissions caused by the manufacturing process would go into your city’s pot, not Guangzhou’s.
On this measure, Satterthwaite estimates city emissions would account for between 60 and 70 percent of the global total. Breaking that down, richer cities would be the clear culprits.
Some parts of poor cities – like the inner-city settlement of Dharavi in Mumbai where 600,000 people live and work crammed into an area around 2 km square – might even have a negative tally, especially if they’re home to poor people who survive by reclaiming and recycling waste.
“Allocating emissions to consumers rather than producers shows that the problem is not cities but a minority of the world’s population with high-consumption lifestyles,” Satterthwaite said.
“But I can see the huge – or probably impossible – political difficulties of getting that accepted, if suddenly the responsibility of the rich world goes up even further,” he admitted.
What do you think? How could your city cut its carbon emissions? Should we measure emissions from the perspective of production or consumption?
Emissions of the main greenhouse gas are rocketing — despite international efforts to slow them down, according to a study today.
Read my colleague David Fogarty’s worrying article about carbon dioxide emissions — China has definitely overtaken the United States as top emitter, India is catching up with third placed Russia.