Climate Change

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Thrive or dive: can our economy weather the climate crisis?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 6:00pm in

Marco Minasi-Smith, Fortismere School, London

Marco Minasi-Smith, from Fortismere School, London, is the runner-up of the third Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to write a post on the theme: the economy and climate change.

While Australia mourns the human and ecological cost of its ‘black summer’ of fires, the tragedy poses a question for economic policy-makers everywhere: how do we prevent climate crises becoming economic ones?

Even a 28 year recession-free economy like Australia’s is reeling from the destruction of 3,000 homes and over 100,000 square kilometres of precious bush, forest and farms. Some towns have run out of water because of the continuing drought. How would our economy cope with a crisis on this scale?

The grim reality is that even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases, NASA argues that such extreme weather and climate events may continue for decades or even centuries. What we can control, however, is our economic preparedness for the inevitable pain. Here are three actions that could make a difference.

First, we must count in dollars not just degrees centigrade. A top team of mathematicians, economists and actuaries must be established to calculate the full financial impact of the climate crisis. This data will focus the minds of policy-makers. Whether the planet warms by one degree or several, we need to know how many billions of dollars it will cost us — and who will pick up the tab. We pore over temperature data but few of us engage in understanding and mitigating our exposure to the costs.

Following the money will also help us budget for the critical but challenging transition away from fossil fuels. For example, for every litre of petrol we buy, the British Chancellor levies 58p in fuel duty. We need electric cars to become mainstream, but this change alone would leave a giant hole in government finances, which in turn limits investment in greener energy. Like it or not, fossil fuels still drive large sections of our economy and financial markets. Our best intentions to divest from them must be backed by sound economic plans to do so.

Second, government funding is needed for the most vital but least profitable long-term research and development. Such direct public sector investment is essential to accelerate green energy development. The private sector is not geared up for the high-risk, multi-decade sums required to wean us off the 80 per cent of energy that still comes from fossil fuels.

Among the toughest problems to solve is sourcing energy for aviation, heavy vehicles, shipping and those types of manufacturing for which the use of renewables is not yet feasible. Just as technically complex is replacing petrochemicals, plastics and synthetic fibres, which all come from fossil fuels, and are used in everything from smartphones to sneakers.

Finally, depoliticise the toughest, most complex financial decisions on climate. The next decade will require all countries to make a series of tough and unpopular decisions such as who pays for mitigation and the impact of climate catastrophes. We need impartial, multidisciplinary experts to make those crucial and controversial decisions, rather than politicians keen to score votes in the next election.

Bad economic decision-making is one storm we can avoid.

If you want to get in touch, please email us at bankunderground@bankofengland.co.uk or leave a comment below.

Comments will only appear once approved by a moderator, and are only published where a full name is supplied. Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge – or support – prevailing policy orthodoxies. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Bank of England, or its policy committees.

Loss aversion: the concept every supplier should be utilising to tackle climate change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 6:00pm in

India Loader, South Wilts Grammar School

India Loader, from South Wilts Grammar School, is the winner of the third Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to write a post on the theme: the economy and climate change.

To help save the planet and gain a competitive edge, cafes should obey a basic rule of behavioural economics by switching from offering discounts for customers who bring their own cups in favour of charging more for disposable ones.

Consider the astronomical success of the introduction of a 5p charge on plastic bags by British supermarkets. Volumes plummeted by over 86 per cent — an unexpectedly high proportion when the majority of consumers would not even pick up a 5p coin if they saw it lying in the street.

Yet there has been a muted response to the more substantial discounts offered to consumers bringing re-usable cups to cafes for their morning coffee — of up to 50p at Pret A Manger. Up to 55 per cent of shoppers remember to carry their reusable grocery bags to save just 5p, while fewer than 2 per cent of coffee drinkers bring their own cup.

Given that they could save up to ten times as much, why are consumers responding to two seemingly similar scenarios in profoundly different ways? I put it down to the behavioural economics theory of ‘loss aversion’.

Loss aversion arises when the cost associated with giving something up is perceived as greater than the benefit that would accrue from the acquisition of the same thing. This behavioural concept is clearly evident in how consumers react to bringing a re-usable bag or a re-usable cup.

There are many instances in which suppliers offer monetary incentives to promote environmental practices even when it may be significantly more effective to introduce a fine. Just a tweak of policy can often have a disproportionately positive effect.

So to encourage the use of re-usable cups, scrap the discount and introduce a small charge for those who demand disposables. This would play to consumers’ tendency to go to greater lengths to avoid a loss than to seek an equivalent gain.

Starbucks is the first large coffee chain to have rolled out a charge (of 5p) on their paper cups. Given a fantastic consumer response — with three times more people now bringing their own cup — it is baffling why other businesses are not taking the same approach. 

One possibility is that they worry the practice may make them less price competitive: charging 5p for a cup amounts to raising the price of the product for the majority. However, if businesses like Starbucks are transparent about the environmental benefits of the 5p charge, as many supermarkets have been, it could actually increase competitiveness by attracting the rapidly growing number of environmentally conscious consumers. Tackling climate change may begin at the level of the individual. But if businesses can nudge their customers to consume sustainably then by applying behavioural economic theories such as loss aversion, we will have a significantly greater chance of controlling waste before it takes an irreversible toll on the environment.

If you want to get in touch, please email us at bankunderground@bankofengland.co.uk or leave a comment below.

Comments will only appear once approved by a moderator, and are only published where a full name is supplied. Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge – or support – prevailing policy orthodoxies. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Bank of England, or its policy committees.

Bank of England and Financial Times schools blogging competition: And the winner is…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 6:00pm in

…India Loader from South Wilts Grammar School, whose post “Loss aversion: the concept every supplier should be utilising to tackle climate change”, is published today on Bank Underground.

We had more than 300 entries from schools all over the UK, focused on the theme of the economy and climate change. The final selection of a winner and a runner up were picked by our expert panel of David Hendry (Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford), Chris Giles (Economics Editor, FT) and Sarah Breeden (Executive Director for UK Deposit Takers Supervision at the BoE). The judges were unanimous in their selection of “Loss aversion: the concept every supplier should be utilising to tackle climate change” as the overall winner. David commented that the post by India “shows knowledge of behavioural economics and how to deduce its implications to explain an otherwise puzzling response.”

We are also publishing the post “Thrive or dive: can our economy weather the climate crisis?” selected as runner-up, written by Marco Minasi-Smith from Fortismere School, London.

A big thank you to all those who took part in this year’s edition.

Belinda Tracey

Managing Editor

Planet of the Humans Puts Sacred Cows Out to Pasture

By Brian Czech

Planet of the Humans is a once-in-a-decade documentary for all concerned with the environment, the economy, and life on Earth. Directed by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Michael Moore, Planet is especially important for advancing the steady state economy. It is reminiscent of Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ in that it makes the case for a steady state economy—resoundingly—while never quite uttering the phrase “steady state economy.”

When viewing a documentary, a political scientist will mind whose ox is being gored. In Planet, entire teams of oxen are gored, including sacred cows. Wind, solar, and biofuels industries are gutted, exposing rotten cores of corporate greed, co-opted NGOs, and an all-too-prevalent intellectual laziness of “green energy” groupies.

Big Environmentalism takes a heavy hit, too. The Nature Conservancy? Gibbs calls it “The Logging Conservancy.” Union of Concerned Scientists? “Union of Concerned Salesmen.” The Sierra Club comes out looking like some environmental Madison Avenue, dazed and confused about what side(s) it’s even on.

Gibbs doesn’t spare environmental heroes, either—not if he catches them with their fingers in the pie or their minds muddled with money. The heaviest hit are Bill McKibben and Al Gore, but Van Jones, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and various heads of the Sierra Club are pummeled as well.

Planet isn’t exclusively a downer with regard to leadership, though. In addition to Gibbs himself, Vandana Shiva comes out clean, and a star is probably born in the form of Ozzie Zehner, a visiting scholar at Northwestern University. Zehner’s mastery of the “green energy” terrain, along with a natural ease in front of the camera, should bring him to the forefront of planning and policy for our energy and environmental futures.

Let’s take a closer look at the sacred cows, their fresh wounds, and the lasting lessons from Planet of the Humans.

Green Energy—“It wasn’t what it seemed.”

While Planet is pitched as a Michael Moore production, it’s really the brainchild of director and narrator Jeff Gibbs, a long-time student and activist in environmental affairs. Gibbs has taken a deep dive into the technics, economics, and politics of energy extraction and marketing. As with most environmental activists, he was naturally inclined to support the movement toward renewable energy development. Surprises laid in store, however. As Gibbs put it, “Everywhere I encountered green energy, it wasn’t what it seemed.”

You’ll see exactly what he means as he canvasses the various businesses, industries, and environmental organizations assembled at “green” energy conferences. The mini-interviews he conducts with folks staffing the booths are full of cringe-worthy moments. Many of the sales representatives and industry spokespersons have no clues whatsoever about what their products are made of. Neither they nor the activists get it about energy return on investment or the net environmental effects of “green” energy.

Few of them know, for example, that a single wind tower requires over 60 truckloads of concrete at the base and needs its own acre to operate in. One tower takes hundreds of tons of steel and several tons each of copper, aluminum, and rare earth elements. It takes around $4 million to install one, and the net energy savings of wind projects are very much in doubt. Factoids and lists such as these make little impression on paper; Gibbs’ genius is bringing us to a site of “mountaintop removal for wind.” Pay keen attention to the ratio of environmental destruction to electricity served up, noting that the site you are visiting vicariously will seat only 21 turbines!


Ivanpah Solar Power Facility: ecologically economic? (Gibbs, Jeff, director. Planet of the Humans. YouTube, uploaded by Michael Moore, 21 Apr. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE&feature=youtu.be&t=10)

Folks at the “green” energy conferences might also tell you that solar panels are made of “sand”—easy to come by, cheap as dirt! Yet it’s not the sand of vacant lots or empty backwoods (if you can find any such woods) that goes into solar panels, but rather highly refined quartz, plus the sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid required in manufacturing the panels. And how much space does a solar array require? The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, which opened in 2014 at a cost of $2 billion, required 3,500 acres and was supposed to power 140,000 homes, but already shows ominous signs of wear and tear.

The dull surprise behind these wind and solar follies is the constant idling (as opposed to shutdown) of fossil-fueled, base-load power plants. The sun goes down predictably, but clouds are less predictable, and winds literally come and go. Not so with the appliances, computers, entertainment paraphernalia, and “green” cars plugged into the grid, much less the pumps, generators, and communications infrastructure at the local and regional utilities and manufacturing plants. So, the grid is kept running, and not by “green” energy. As described by an energy consultant interviewed in Planet, “You’ve got to have a fossil fuel power plant backing it up and idling 100% of the time. Because if you cycle up or cycle down, as the demand on the wind comes through, then you actually generate a bigger carbon footprint than if you just ran it [the fossil-fueled power plant] straight.”

As Zehner put it, we would have been “better off just burning the fossil fuels in the first place, instead of playing pretend.” Taken out of context, such a statement might sound flippant, yet it was more like the bottom line of a thorough analysis of costs and benefits, including, for example, how much fossil fueling is required for the construction, maintenance, and de-commissioning of “green” energy projects.

Now please, don’t even think of accusing me, of all people, of pandering to fossil fuel interests. I wrote, for example, “BP: Beyond Probabilities” and that was ten years ago! Solar and wind projects have clear environmental advantages over coal-fired and nuclear power plants as well as fracking and tar sands mining. The point, though, is that the “green” energy industry is a charade if we think it will solve the sustainability problem without ever addressing the unsustainable demands of the human economy.

The take-downs of wind and solar power are persuasive and resonant, but Gibbs saves his goriest goring for the oxcart of biofuels. For a conservation biologist like me, biofuels have always seemed like a sham, especially as a form of “green” energy. One of my roles while serving at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters was “biomass coordinator” for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Frankly it was an unwelcome role, and I can tell you that the only green aspect of biofuels is the color of the leaves headed for the chipper. As Gibbs points out in his plain-spoken but insightful way, “Wood chips, which is just a euphemism for trees, are being exported to Europe from America, British Columbia, Brazil and Indonesia.”


Logs headed to the wood chipper; thence the incinerator for “green” energy. (Gibbs, Jeff, director. Planet of the Humans. YouTube, uploaded by Michael Moore, 21 Apr. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE&feature=youtu.be&t=10)

In the USA, too, entire groves, woodlands, and forests are headed for the incinerator in the “green” attempt to fuel the economy. That’s in addition to all the trash, dead animals, and even shredded tires that somehow qualify as “biofuels.” But the incinerators need any kind of fuel they can get to put a dent in the energy demand that comes with a $20 trillion GDP. Does any of that sound like “sustainable yield?” It’s another reminder that sustainability is first and foremost about size—in particular the size of the economy—and then about technological efficiency.

It’s hard to do justice to the comprehensiveness of the biofuels take-down in Planet. An entire review could be done just on that component, which addresses a plethora of technical, economic, and political nuances. I’ll leave it at this: If you are inclined to support the notion of biofuels as a significant energy source, you really must watch the film.

 

 

Fair to Gore and McKibben?

For steady staters, the world is no oyster. Ask yourself how many prominent figures you’ve heard explicitly advocating the “steady state economy.” Now contrast that with the multitude of figures and followers crowing for economic growth. Steady staters swim straight upstream in the river of political economy, with Big Money rushing relentlessly over us. Therefore, when a prominent figure comes along and signs the CASSE position on economic growth, we’re reluctant to take part in the bashing thereof. Friends are hard enough to find.

Bill McKibben signed the CASSE position in 2009 at the Powershift conference in Washington DC, where he and Gus Speth greeted enthusiastic young students following a session. When McKibben signed the CASSE position, he said, “I love what you guys are doing,” and it was apparent from the pages of Deep Economy (2007) that he’d been aware of CASSE for years. After the Powershift conference, with the signatures of McKibben (and Speth) in hand, the CASSE network was encouraged by the prospect of wider acceptance. Surely McKibben, who ‘loved what we were doing,’ would be a powerful ambassador for the steady state economy. But disappointment followed as news about McKibben never mentioned— because McKibben never seemed to mention—the steady state economy at all!

It’s hard not to notice, then, that numerous clips in Planet suggest McKibben got too far in bed with Big Money. His 350.org movement picked up steam—and for that he deserves credit—but naturally it attracted tempting suitors. McKibben found comfortable rafting in the river of political economy, as powerful corporate and political interests sidled up to him to get their slice of the “green” energy pie. By the time he was involved with the Green Century Fund, he was a de facto collaborator with mining corporations, oil and gas infrastructure companies, McDonalds, ADM, and Coca-Cola, along with a laundry list of banks. Advocating a steady state economy in that crowd would be like pushing for gun control at an NRA convention.

Fortunately, the verdict (for whomever may judge) is far from in on McKibben. People get in over their heads all the time; the best of them get back out and onto the solid ground they came from. Our bets are on McKibben. Going forward, he will have plenty of opportunities to clarify—as he once did by signing the CASSE position—that there is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. He can clarify, in other words, that sustainability is not some newfangled energy technology but rather a steady state economy with stabilized population and per capita consumption.

Al Gore will forever remain a mystery with regard to the net effects of his politics. During my Ph.D. research in the 1990s, and especially with my minor in political science, Gore was one of my biggest heroes. Earth in the Balance (and later An Inconvenient Truth) probably did more to raise awareness of environmental perils than anyone aside from perhaps Rachel Carson. Eventually, however, I caught on to the fact that Gore was also one of the world’s leading proponents of “sustainable growth,” the oxymoronic bane of the steady-state program. Along with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Gore favored the win-win rhetoric that “there is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment.”

The CASSE network, myself included, has tried on many occasions to reach Gore and encourage him to come clean on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. Not that it’s easy to contact vice presidents while you’re swimming for your life in the river of political economy, trying not to drown while Big Foundation Money is funding all the win-win rhetoricians, keeping them more than afloat. But we’ve tried when we could, given the contacts available to us. Our guess is that Gore is quite familiar, by now, with the steady state economy as the sustainable alternative to growth. His intransigence in sticking with the win-win rhetoric tells us plenty.

Orangutan

Orangutan in a clear-cut rainforest. Reality, analogy, and sadness. (Gibbs, Jeff, director. Planet of the Humans. YouTube, uploaded by Michael Moore, 21 Apr. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE&feature=youtu.be&t=10)

In Planet, then, we see the sad demise of a surely well-meaning but ultimately corrupted, win-win politician. The segment on “Blood and Gore” is most telling. Gore teamed up with David Blood (who spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs) to establish Generation Investment Management, known most notoriously for its investment in Brazilian sugar cane, where the industry creates severe pollution problems and pushes indigenous Amazonians straight out of their very cultures. The last scene of Gore, cynically defending the hypocrisy of his financial life, has to be one of the saddest clips in the film, albeit not as sad as the very last scene of the film, with the orangutan down to one last tree in a rainforest devastated for logs and biofuel and to make way for more sugar cane.

Big Environmentalism—Why Keep Our Memberships?

Unlike the big environmental NGOs, Gibbs and his guests “go there” on population and consumption issues. They both plop out of the bag a little over 19 minutes in, when an environmental consultant, skeptical about “green” energy, says, “Not being judgmental and not playing God, but we’ve got to deal with population growth and sustainable resources. We’ve all got to cut back.” From then on, population and consumption become the underlying—and eventually the overarching—themes.

The most prominent coverage of population and consumption appears in the alarming graphical display of these two variables skyrocketing since the industrial revolution. Reflecting on the rapidity and enormity of these trends, Gibbs states, “And that is the most terrifying realization I have ever had.”

We wish only that Gibbs had connected these themes of population and consumption with the single most policy-relevant phrase: GDP. Over the years, this has been one of our top priorities at CASSE; to get well-meaning activists and scholars to move beyond relatively impotent (and frankly obvious) warnings about population and connect it with the metric—GDP—that is central to the policy maker’s mind on Capitol Hill, in the White House, at the Fed and in the World Bank. We can lament population growth until we’re blue in the face, but as long as the fiscal and monetary levers are all set for GDP growth, incentives will be devised, installed, and maintained for population and consumption growth. That’s how public policy works: Incentives are provided to accomplish goals. And the #1 domestic policy goal, perhaps of all time, is GDP growth!

GDP

Gibbs’ population × consumption graph (top). Same graph with CASSE’s GDP Stamp, and with ten times the policy implications (bottom). (Gibbs, Jeff, director. Planet of the Humans. YouTube, uploaded by Michael Moore, 21 Apr. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE&feature=youtu.be&t=10)

Not that Gibbs is oblivious to the connection. Approximately 70 minutes in, while skewering billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his supposedly “Beyond Coal” campaign, Gibbs does hit the nail on the head by recognizing, “the reason we’re not talking about over-population, consumption, and the suicide of economic growth, is that would be bad for business. Especially the cancerous form of capitalism that rules the world, and now hiding under a cover of green.” We only wish he had driven home that singular point about economic growth—coupled with “GDP” as the measure thereof— again and again and again.

Speaking of “bad for business,” now is the time to remind Big Environmentalism of a challenge it has thus far skirted. On September 18, 2018, I challenged the presidents of the Big 10 American environmental organizations—The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others— to a debate on the topic: Is there a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection? While none of them stepped up to the plate, we have certainly noticed some decline in the win-win rhetoric, at least around the Washington, DC beltway.

On the other hand, some NGO representatives and board members have stubbornly stuck to the destructive nonsense that “there is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment.” And, not a single one of the big NGOs has proactively handled the responsibility of raising awareness of limits to economic growth. Some do at times vaguely reference population, and even more vaguely consumption, yet “economic growth” and “GDP” are treated like elephants in the room. This is simply not good enough for NGOs who collected billions of dollars over the years from millions of members.

So, I have an idea. Let’s drop our memberships in these time-wasting, “green” energy pushing, corporately connected “environmental” NGOs and join, instead, organizations that explicitly raise awareness of limits to growth and call just as explicitly for the steady state economy! Or even “degrowth toward a steady state economy.” As the founder and now executive director of one such organization, I may be biased, but I may be right, too.

But don’t just listen to me. Listen very carefully to Jeff Gibbs and the cast of Planet of the Humans. You’ll be brought to the very doorstep of steady statesmanship!

Brian Czech

Brian Czech is the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The post <em>Planet of the Humans</em> Puts Sacred Cows Out to Pasture appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 8:55am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 30, 2020 Lauren Sandler, author of This Is All I Got, on homelessness in NYC • Cathy Cowan Becker, author of this review of the Jeff Gibbs–Michael Moore documentary Planet of the Humans, on why it’s so bad

Book Review: India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development edited by Navroz K. Dubash

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 2:15am in

In India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development, Navroz K. Dubash brings together contributors to reflect on climate change and development debates in India, discussing India’s climate vulnerability, the impact of climate policies on long-term development and India’s global engagement through foreign policy. Readers will close the book appreciating the need for societal cooperation to ensure a harmonious approach to development and environmental conservation that achieves equity among different needs, writes Gayathri D. Naik

India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development. Navroz K. Dubash (ed.). Oxford University Press. 2019.

The multifarious impacts of climate change have already hit the globe, with countries like small island states most vulnerable to threats to their existence. Climate change discussions and debates divide countries into ‘developed’ and ‘developing’, but the impacts have not spared any single country yet. Multilateral discussion forums and domestic initiatives have tried to address this global challenge, engaging different stakeholders, but the perspectives and approaches of the Global North and South still vary, stalling holistic solutions. The Paris Agreement of 2015 has been able to bring together almost the entire world with a more bottom-up approach where individual nations enjoy choice over their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), tuned to both their development needs and global targets. However, the US decision to withdraw from this global agreement will have severe repercussions for climate change negotiations, adaptations and mitigation plans, considering its emission history as well as its financial contributions to global climate change research.

A developing country such as India is simultaneously the victim of climate change impacts as well as an active contributor to international negotiations since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development, edited by Navroz K. Dubash, foregrounds climate change and development debates in India through a network of arguments, concerns and the voices of actors from science, development, policy, civil society, law and technology. Comprised of 29 chapters, this edited collection is a follow-up to a previous volume compiled by the editor, Handbook on Climate Change and India, which examined the climate change discussions and scenarios up until 2012.

The development concerns of addressing poverty and ensuring basic services to its citizens, along with its negligible contributions to historic emissions, have hitherto driven India’s engagements in climate negotiations. Dubash chooses a pragmatic approach to address this when he highlights the climate vulnerability of the country, the impact of climate-oriented policies on long-term development strategies and global engagement through foreign policy to stress the need for a more proactive Indian role in these debates. This active engagement is required to consider India a ‘responsible global nation’ that is regarded not only as ‘part of the solution but also seen to be a part of the solution’ among the global community.

Each section of this book provides different perspectives and dimensions of understanding climate change and is very relevant to a first-time reader on the issue. It offers a compendium of topics, beginning with an analysis of the impacts of climate change in India, followed by international debates and negotiations with a focus on the role played by India, politics, policy and ends, with an examination of the interactions between climate and development, thereby taking the reader through different spheres of knowledge on climate change. Dubash’s decision to begin the book with the impacts of climate change eases the complexity of understanding this, and the reader also receives first-hand knowledge from the three chapters in this section regarding the evidence of climate change from daily weather patterns in India.

The contributing authors in this part of the collection examine the science of climate change and its impacts in India and caution on the gravity of these impacts due to population density, rainfall variability and the vulnerability of several sections of the population. Though some extreme weather changes could be attributed to climate change, incorrect attribution through incorrect information could have serious implications on long term-oriented policy strategies to address climate change. This section also provides the reader with the perception of local people on climate change as well as how they experience and negotiate it in their daily lives, which is a novel attempt to move away from top-down discussions on the impacts of climate change and policies.

Policy discussions on climate change at the international level typically involve a Global North-South divide on issues of responsibility, accountability, adaptation and mitigation, which is reflected throughout the section on international debates and negotiations in this volume.  Equity among nations in the attribution of responsibility for historic emissions to developed countries, the right of development for developing countries and the right to sustenance for island nations are among the most debated issues in climate change negotiations. The approach of ‘share the blame and not the responsibility’ would aggravate this global issue, resulting in intergenerational injustice when future generations are exhausted of all natural resources and left with a polluted Earth.

Following the trajectory of the development of international climate change conventions up until the binding commitments under the Paris Agreement of 2015, India’s engagement with international negotiations showcases the change in its approach to being a responsible global power intending to be part of the solution without being part of the problem. Foreign policy dynamics, a detailed roadmap to achieving consensus in Paris and the way forward, along with India’s domestic efforts in its NDC, are discussed in detail by the book’s contributing authors.

The influence of civil society organisations and the business world on policymaking at international and domestic levels are widely known. They have significant influence when it comes to decision-making over climate change too, which is discussed by contributing authors in Part Three of the book on the topic of ‘Politics’. In addition to these debates and discussions, the perspectives of and impacts on labour in the energy sector of India, primarily public and coal-based, is also included along with shifting discourses on climate change in print media.

Part Four of the book contains five chapters on policy, which focus on climate finance, technology transition, national climate policies as well as the adoption and implementation of climate policies at state levels, which are the first points of climate vulnerability. State climate action plans are foregrounded here, which have been typically been kept at the margins while national action plans, policies and attempts have reigned in scholarly discussions. State action plans also matter when each state in the country is unique and experiences its own weather and climate problems.

As in the title of the volume, the interaction of climate and development is the theme of the book’s final section. In my opinion, this is the most dynamic and vibrant part of the book as it leads the reader through the impacts of climate change on significant sectors that influence development, such as energy, water, forests, biodiversity and agriculture. Urban areas, coastal zones and islands are more threatened by weather and climate change due to urban population density, the natural vulnerability of coastal and island areas along with their strategic importance. Climate change vulnerabilities in these areas and sectors could have severe ramifications for food security and the economy and therefore the whole population of India.

Of course, climate change impacts are already obvious. A holistic analysis of climate change, intertwined with science, policy, politics and development, is a valuable contribution to scholarly discussions on climate change, which are often thematic or sector-focused. Dubash has brilliantly integrated these sectors through the collaboration of scholars and experts in this volume. The book proves to be a worthwhile read for readers looking to begin by understanding the science behind climate change, and they will close the book realising the need for cooperation among various sections of society to ensure a harmonious approach to development and environmental conservation in order to achieve equity among different needs and address poverty and development challenges without compromising the rights of nature and future generations.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: River Cauvery during summer (Ashwin Kumar CC BY SA 2.0).

 


A Poet a Day: James Balog Reads ‘Ice Diamonds’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 8:08am in

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over … Continue reading

The post A Poet a Day: James Balog Reads ‘Ice Diamonds’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

CLIMATE JUSTICE: Tools for teaching

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 4:38am in

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue of inequality, environmental justice, globalization, and consumption – it is an issue of climate justice.

How can we teach others about global warming through the lens of climate justice? Here are some resources:

One of my previous posts explores the variation in the causes and consequences of climate change. Below, the emissions of select nations on a per capita basis from 1960 to 2013 are updated. Click on the image to go to the Google public data tool.

Here you can see that among the dominant economies of the US, Germany, the UK, and China and especially compared to a few developing countries, like India, Bangladesh, and Kenya, the US emits the greatest amount of per capita greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and others that contribute to global warming. We see that different nations have contributed different levels of emissions to the problems we currently face and will continue to deal with for at least the rest of this century. Click here to read that full post and see other ways that we can consider nation’s contribution to the problem. This is the foundation of the arguments of climate justice.

There is vast inequality in the CAUSES  of the problem of climate change.

I also recently did a TEDx talk on climate justice that provides a brief overview of climate justice. Click on the image below to be directed to an embedded link.

If we look at climate change emissions from a per capita basis we see that it takes two people from China, the UK, or Germany to generate the same emissions of the average person in the US.

Per capita, in 2014, it took six people from Brazil, nine from India, or thirteen from Honduras to emit the same level of emissions as the per capita emissions of a single person in the US.

For the small island nation of Kiribati, which is already being inundated by rising seas and in the coming decades will have to move its people and culture elsewhere, it would take 30 of their citizens to emit the same per capita emissions as a single person from the US. It takes 50 Kenyans or 56 Nepalese to emit the same level of emissions as a single person from the US from an annual per capita basis!

 

For a basic introduction to the issue, you can also use this analogy that I created to help students understand the perspective of developing countries that have contributed little to the problem.

Read the full post here.

Many doubt the US commitment to address climate change.

Survey research I have done with the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) shows that civil society actors throughout Africa had little trust in the US to fulfill its emissions reductions commitments. Even before the election of Trump and the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, members of PACJA doubted that the US would reduce their emissions, provide sufficient finance or transfer sufficient technology.

Click here to read the full post and see more figures of the results.

It is not just in the causes of climate change that we see inequality, but also in the consequences.

Wealthy, developed nations have the resources and infrastructure to better buffer the negative consequences of climate change (see my TEDx talk above for some examples). So while the US has been the primary contributor to climate change, it will also be able to avoid, delay, or dampen the severity of many consequences of climate change, while developing nations (that contributed little to the current problem) are already suffering life threatening consequences.

Teach well, it matters.

. . .

PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH and the U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: Still disproportionally white and wealthy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/04/2017 - 1:00am in

Updated April 25th, 2017

In the fall of 2014, the largest climate protest to date occurred at the People’s Climate March in New York City. An estimated 400,000 people marched demanding action on global warming. On April 29th, 2017 Washington, DC and dozens of other cities around the country and world will host the second People’s Climate March: March for Climate, Jobs and Justice.

See the celebratory video of the 2014 New York People’s Climate March by clicking on the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.33.44 PMWhile the march was declared a success by the organizers, questions remain about whether the climate change movement is successfully overcoming past criticism that the mainstream environmental movement is too white, too wealthy, and too male.

Various media outposts have pointed out that the environmental movement, in general, is lacking diversity, that is, it is too white. In particular, Brentin Mock wrote about it extensively as a columnist for Grist (he recently moved to The Atlantic).

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This is far from a new issue, but rather is something that organizations have supposedly been working on since at least the 1970s.

This lack of diversity has also been documented by several academics, most notably Dr. Dorceta Taylor at the University Michigan. Her 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, examines mainstream environmental NGOS, foundations, and government agencies for their degree of diversity of race/ethnicity, class, and gender.

The trends in Taylor’s data show that the percentage of minorities in leadership position in the environmental movement have increased since the 1990s but may have plateaued at a rate lower than the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the US population. See a key figure from her report below:

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However, the report focuses on the organizations’ leadership, not the members.

Concerns about the diversity of the environmental movement more broadly continue as we head into the People’s Climate March in DC.

According to Lindsey McDougle, “The number of environmental groups has increased in recent years, growing nearly 20 percent from 11,233 in 2003 to 13,283 in 2013. Despite this growth, people from communities of color engage in environmental volunteerism at lower rates than whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2015, for instance, 3.1 percent of white Americans volunteered for green causes, while only 1.6 percent of Latinos and 1 percent of black Americans did so.”

Others have been critical of Earth Day, as lacking an appropriate edge, based on the current state of the planet. Emily Atkin writes in the New Republic, “Why is Earth Day so benign and toothless when the immediate threats to the planet—particularly to its most vulnerable populations—are so severe?”

Previously, in response to Trump’s executive orders and proposed budget decimating the EPA, she wrote, “Largely missing from [the] attacks were fears about how Trump’s executive order could disproportionately hurt people living in low-income, minority, and indigenous communities. Environmental justice advocates say they’re used to this issue being overlooked. And perhaps there is some logic to the broader focus on global warming; after all, if the planet gets too hot, we’re all doomed.

 

What about the people who are being mobilized in the streets demanding action on climate change. Who’s voices are these?

Are organizations doing enough to ensure the movement represents the increasing racial and gender diversity of US society? As income inequality grows in our society, is the climate change movement an income-diverse movement or is it the wealthier voices that are being heard?

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With the help of a team of nearly 20 research assistants I collected just over 1,000 surveys from a random sample of protestors at the 2014 People’s Climate March. Anecdotally, looking at the crowd that was in New York City that day it was diverse in a number of ways: race, gender, issue orientation, and age. However, random sample survey data provides more accurate information than one’s individual observations.

The general population of the US is a majority white (at least for another decade or two), so we would expect that whites are still the most predominant in number at such an event. However, we can look at the proportions of different races and ethnicities in the US as a whole and compare that to the proportions at the 2014 People’s Climate March to examine the level of diversity at the march.

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Despite the awareness that the environmental movement has historically lacked diversity, the People’s Climate March was still disproportionally white. In 2014, whites (according to US Census estimates) represented 62% of the population as a whole, yet they were over-represented as 71% of the protesters at the People’s Climate March. Hispanic and Latinos were well underrepresented as they make up 17% of the US population but only 7% of the protesters that day in New York City. Blacks made up only 7% of the People’s Climate March activists, while making up 13% of the total population in 2014. Native Americans were also underrepresented as only 0.5% of the marchers but 1.2% of the US population. Asians were slightly over-represented as 6% of the marchers and 5% of the overall population. The “other” category represents bi-racial identities and (in the data below) Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.

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It is not just racial and ethnic diversity that is of concern, but also economic diversity. Is the climate change movement, like the mainstream environmental movement, disproportionally upper-middle and upper class? One way of measuring the income distribution is dividing the population by five, or into clusters of 20% of the population (quintiles). The survey data indicates that participants in the 2014 People’s Climate March disproportionally fell into the upper two quintile income brackets in the US. The income ranges in the figure below each represent 20% of the US population. If the protesters were evenly distributed across incomes, each of the bars in the figure below would be at 20%. Instead, the data shows that just over 50% of the protesters were from the top two US income quintiles in the US. Just 32% of the protesters were from the bottom two quintiles.

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. . .

Lastly, the gender distribution within environmental organizations has also been criticized as disproportionally male. Dorceta Taylor’s research shows that the boards of organizations remain disproportionally male, while the staff are disproportionally female, as seen in her charts below.

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The participants in the historical 2014 People’s Climate March were split in roughly the same gender proportions as the US population (see the figure below). The gender distribution of marchers shows greater equality than either the race/ethnicity or income distribution.

Regarding leadership, 350.org is the main organizer of the People’s Climate March both in 2014 and 2017. A quick count of the staff listed on 350.org’s web page (as of October 2015) indicates that 57% of their global staff are women. Of their seven board members, four are women.

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. . .

Climate organizations need to make a greater and continued effort to ensure that all the communities being negatively impacted by climate change have a voice and are present in the mass mobilizations. We continue to live in a racialized society (see my previous posts if in doubt, here, here and here among others) and overcoming that will take intentional effort, reaching out to minority groups with specific rather than open invitations, and ensuring that they are part of the planning not just invited at the last minute. As Naomi Klein, prominent author and board member of 350.org writes in the article linked to below:

“What does #BlackLivesMatter, and the unshakable moral principle that it represents, have to do with climate change? Everything. Because we can be quite sure that if wealthy white Americans had been the ones left without food and water for days in a giant sports stadium after Hurricane Katrina, even George W. Bush would have gotten serious about climate change. Similarly, if Australia were at risk of disappearing, and not large parts of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be a lot less likely to publicly celebrate the burning of coal as “good for humanity,” as he did on the occasion of the opening of a vast new coal mine. And if my own city of Toronto were being battered, year after year, by historic typhoons demanding mass evacuations, and not Tacloban in the Philippines, we can also be sure that Canada would not have made building tar sands pipelines the centerpiece of its foreign policy.”

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This piece has focused on the movement in the US and around one particular mass mobilization. It is important to remember that the lack of diversity at the People’s Climate March was not because the working class and racial minorities don’t care about the issue (nor was it that the organizers did not care about diversity). The NAACP has a campaign called the Climate Justice Initiative that “works at addressing the many practices that are harming communities nationwide and worldwide and the policies needed to rectify these impacts.” Nations of the Global South, predominantly not white and less developed than the advanced industrialized Western nations (read greenhouse gas emitters) have been mobilizing against climate change for some time now. On the African continent, there is the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA). Others include Focus on the Global South, La Via Campesina, and many others. See some survey data on the views of organizational members of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance here.

The US climate movement must stay focused on the principles of climate justice if it wants to be inclusive and not just the mass mobilization of wealthy, white, males. While improvements in this area have been made, much remains to be done.

I’ll have another research team collecting survey data at the 2017 march in both DC and Chicago. Watch for updated data as those results come in. See you at the protest!

 

Teach well, it matters.

. . .

A couple of “thinking critically” caveats about the data that need to be considered. First, in conjunction with the main event, the People’s Climate March in New York City, there were a few hundred other smaller protests held in cities throughout the country and world. My data is limited to the New York City event. While we could speculate that these other events may have been more racially and economically diverse (but we have to reason to believe so), the bulk of the organizing efforts seemed to go into the march in New York City. The main march, with an estimated 400,000 people is the event that received the media attention, the primary purpose of the event. So, even if the smaller, more local events were of greater diversity, they were peripheral.

Secondly, the event was held in New York City and the income distribution within the metropolitan area is skewed slightly upward relative to the nation as a whole. While the organizers made a herculean effort to bring in people from all over the country, there is a still a chance that the crowd was predominantly from New York City. If we only considered the income distribution in NYC, this would likely result in a more even distribution among income quintiles.

. . .

Corporations and climate change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/05/2016 - 8:20am in

Global businesses, many of them now larger and more powerful than nation states, exhibit enormous sway on humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Indeed, during the Paris climate talks in December last year, growing media focus centred on business “leadership” on climate change. For instance, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, BHP Billiton and management consultancy McKinsey & Co. announced the establishment of a committee to advise governments on how to combat global warming while strengthening economic growth. This follows other announcements such as Unilever’s chief executive officer, Paul Polman, emphasising the need for private sector mobilisation to close the shortfall in emission commitments made by governments, as well as Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson who has argued that “our only hope to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.”

These proclamations need to be viewed in the broader context of business opposition to the fundamental economic change necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. A good example of the duality of this corporate engagement has been the revelation that oil-giant Exxon, for decades a leading opponent of carbon regulation and funder of climate change denial, has since the early-1980s been well aware of the disastrous implications of fossil fuel use for the Earth’s climate. This self-serving logic parallels other well-known examples of business obfuscation such as BP’s infamous ‘Beyond Petroleum’ greenwashing in the early 2000s, and more recently Peabody Energy’s marketing of coal as a response to “energy poverty” in the developing world.

Wright NybergHow then to make sense of the mixed messages from corporations on climate change?

In our new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, Daniel Nyberg and I explore the role of corporations and corporate capitalism within the climate crisis. We argue that while many global businesses promote a message of “action” and “leadership”, this ignores the deeper problem 0f how corporate capitalism is locked into a cycle of promoting ever more creative ways of exploiting nature and destroying a habitable climate.

While the last two centuries of industrialisation and capitalist expansion have promoted a mythology that economic development leads to environmental improvement (the so-called ecological modernisation thesis), climate change fundamentally challenges these beliefs. Despite the growing uptake of the language and practices of “sustainability”, “corporate environmentalism” and “green growth”, humanity’s degradation of the environment has in fact accelerated. We can see this not only in the physical manifestations of climate change – the melting Arctic, record-breaking droughts and floods, rising sea levels and ocean acidification – but also in the destruction of habitat and declining biodiversity.

Humans have become a force of nature and scientists argue we are now entering a new geological epoch, the so-called “Anthropocene”. One of the defining features of this new age of humans is the loss of vast numbers of animal and plant species – what writer Elizabeth Kolbert has termed the “Sixth Great Extinction”. As a result, in a relatively short period of time, global capitalism, powered by fossil fuel-based energy, has changed the very chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans with devastating consequences.

In our book we argue that global capitalism is now locked into a process of what we term “creative self-destruction”. By this we mean our economies are now reliant upon ever-more ingenious ways of exploiting the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves and consuming the very life-support systems we rely on for our survival. This is evident in the rush by the world’s largest companies to develop new sources of fossil fuels such as deep-water and Arctic oil drilling, tar-sands processing, new mega-coalmines, and the “fracking” of shale and coal-seam gas. This is occurring at the same time as crucial carbon sinks such as the world’s forests and oceans are being ever further denuded (witness for example the massive forest fires that recently raged across Indonesia aimed at converting rainforest into plantations for palm oil and paper).

We argue that as the folly of our fossil fuel path has become ever more evident, so the corporate response has reinforced the grip of creative self-destruction. A great example of this fossil fuel lock-in was the significant portion of funding provided to last year’s Paris climate talks by major fossil fuel companies and carbon emitters. This was a situation that French climate officials admitted was unfortunate but financially unavoidable if the talks were to proceed!

Indeed, Plan B for climate response has involved growing discussion by businesses and technocrats of “geoengineering”. This includes proposals such as the dispersal of sulphate particles in the atmosphere to dim incoming solar radiation, increasing the reflectivity of clouds or even “fertilising” the oceans through encouraging algal blooms. Despite the likely catastrophic side effects (these plans have after all been compared to chemotherapy for a dying planet!), money and resources are being swiftly mobilised around these technocratic “innovations”.

These examples highlight both the inventive genius of corporate capitalism, and the blindness of industry and government to the ecological catastrophe they are fashioning. We argue this is how we have arrived at a political discourse whereby blocking out the sun or seeding the oceans are somehow seen as sensible options in responding to climate change. This framing allows us to accept that corporate capitalism is able not only to solve the climate crisis it has created, but to actually engineer a new climate.

Of course, a key question is how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally destructive behaviour despite the disastrous consequences for human society and a habitable climate? In our book we argue that corporations and their spokespeople are able to achieve this by incorporating criticism and reinventing the daily ritual of “business as usual” as a perfectly normal and ecologically sound process.

For instance, through the narrative of “green” capitalism, corporations and markets are portrayed as the best means of responding to the climate crisis. Underpinning this view is the, as yet unproven, claim that new technologies and markets can decouple economic growth from environmental impacts. So as we document at length in the book, many large companies have established new roles and practices aimed at improving their eco-efficiency, greening their supply chains, producing new green products and services, marketing and branding their environmental worthiness, and reporting on their “sustainability” upon a range of industry metrics.

This sparkling image of corporate environmentalism and business sustainability falsely promises no conflicts and no trade-offs. Here, it is seen as possible to address climate change while continuing the current global expansion of consumption. In contrast to the blinding evidence of ever-escalating greenhouse gas emissions, this comforting political myth promises no contradiction between material affluence and environmental well-being. We can have it all and, according to the myth of corporate environmentalism, avoid climate catastrophe!

Moreover, we point out that citizens are increasingly called upon to enrol in this mythology as active constituents in corporate campaigns against improved emissions standards or carbon taxes, as well as consumers and “ecopreneurs” in the quest for “green consumption”. We have thus become the brands we wear, the cars we drive, the products we buy; and we are comforted to find the future portrayed as “safely” in the hands of the market.

The supremacy of “business as usual” thus exacts a powerful grip on our daily thinking and actions. It is a grip strengthened by the promotion of every new “green” product, a grip tightened through the establishment of sustainability functions in business and government, and a grip defended with every “offset” we purchase for a flight to a holiday destination.

MontOf course, this is also a vision that fits well within the dominant economic ideology of our time; neoliberalism. Alternatives, such as state regulation and mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel use, are viewed as counterproductive and even harmful. For instance, in response to a call to ban new coal mines, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invoked the so-called “drug-dealer’s defence” in rejecting calls for restrictions on our massive coal exports. That is, if we don’t sell it someone else will! In this view, there is no alternative to the market. And so echoing Fredric Jameson, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”.

Taken together these discourses and practices conceal the environmental destruction that is built into our economic system. Actually dealing with climate change as perhaps the ultimate contradiction of capitalism would require material trade-offs that challenge basic identities and interests.

This is why the alternative to “business as usual” is much harder to imagine and easier to dismiss as the enemy of social well-being – what critics so often characterise as going back to living in caves or a return to the “dark ages”. Indeed, those environmentally aware citizens who argue that we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels “in the ground” are demonised as extremists, green terrorists, and a threat to national prosperity. As we saw last year in the Federal Government’s much satirised “radicalisation awareness program” (#Freekaren), ordinary citizens that question our economic madness are now subversives of the highest order!

Ultimately the “success” or otherwise of the Paris Agreement is unlikely to threaten the fundamental dynamics underlying the climate crisis. Dramatic decarbonisation based around mandatory limits upon consumption, economic growth, and corporate influence are not on the agenda nor open for discussion. Rather, global elites have framed the response to climate change around an accentuation of the very causes of the crisis.

In essence, the prevailing corporate view is that capitalism should be seen not as a cause of climate change but as an answer to it. Thus a problem brought about by overconsumption, the logic goes, should be addressed through more consumption.

This capitalist imaginary of unending growth, prosperity and mastery over the natural world is central to our undoing. Unfortunately, until this changes, the dominance of corporate capitalism will ensure the continued and rapid decline of our once-bountiful and habitable planet. As we conclude in our book, changing this world-view is perhaps the most profound challenge we face in responding to the existential crisis that is climate change.

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