Information and (random) thoughts on environmental governance
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Community-based adaptation to climate change

This special issue of Participatory Learning and Action focuses on recent approaches to climate change adaptation which are community-based and participatory, building on the priorities, knowledge, and capacities of local people. It discusses how community-based approaches to climate change have emerged, and the similarities and differences between CBA and other participatory development and disaster risk reduction approaches. It highlights innovative participatory methods which are developing to help communities analyse the causes and effects of climate change, integrate scientific and community knowledge of climate change, and plan adaptation measures. Whilst CBA is a relatively new field, some lessons and challenges are beginning to emerge, including how to integrate disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and climate change adaptation work, climate change knowledge gaps, issues around the type and quality of participation, and the need for policies and institutions that support CBA.

Full publication available at: http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/14573IIED.pdf

September 4, 2010   No Comments

'Sceptical environmentalist': global warming a chief concern

Photo of Bjørn Lomborg.

Image via Wikipedia

Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change

The world’s most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and “a challenge humanity must confront”, in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled “sceptical environmentalist” once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN’s climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. “Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century,” the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as “cloud whitening” to reflect the sun’s heat back into the outer atmosphere.

In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare.

His declaration about the importance of action on climate change comes at a crucial point in the debate, with international efforts to agree a global deal on emissions stalled amid a resurgence in scepticism caused by rows over the reliability of the scientific evidence for global warming.

Lomborg denies he has performed a volte face, pointing out that even in his first book he accepted the existence of man-made global warming. “The point I’ve always been making is it’s not the end of the world,” he told the Guardian. “That’s why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well.”

But he said the crucial turning point in his argument was the Copenhagen Consensus project, in which a group of economists were asked to consider how best to spend $50bn. The first results, in 2004, put global warming near the bottom of the list, arguing instead for policies such as fighting malaria and HIV/Aids. But a repeat analysis in 2008 included new ideas for reducing the temperature rise, some of which emerged about halfway up the ranking. Lomborg said he then decided to consider a much wider variety of policies to reduce global warming, “so it wouldn’t end up at the bottom”.

The difference was made by examining not just the dominant international policy to cut carbon emissions, but also seven other “solutions” including more investment in technology, climate engineering, and planting more trees and reducing soot and methane, also significant contributors to climate change, said Lomborg.

“If the world is going to spend hundreds of millions to treat climate, where could you get the most bang for your buck?” was the question posed, he added.After the analyses, five economists were asked to rank the 15 possible policies which emerged. Current policies to cut carbon emissions through taxes – of which Lomborg has long been critical – were ranked largely at the bottom of four of the lists. At the top were more direct public investment in research and development rather than spending money on low carbon energy now, and climate engineering.

Lomborg acknowledged trust was a problem when committing to long term R&D, but said politicians were already reneging on promises to cut emissions, and spending on R&D would be easier to monitor. Although many believe private companies are better at R&D than governments, Lomborg said low carbon energy was a special case comparable to massive public investment in computers from the 1950s, which later precpitated the commercial IT revolution.

Lomborg also admitted climate engineering could cause “really bad stuff” to happen, but argued if it could be a cheap and quick way to reduce the worst impacts of climate change and thus there was an “obligation to at least look at it”.

He added: “This is not about ‘we have all got to live with less, wear hair-shirts and cut our carbon emissions’. It’s about technologies, about realising there’s a vast array of solutions.”

Despite his change of tack, however, Lomborg is likely to continue to have trenchant critics. Writing for today’s Guardian, Howard Friel, author of the book The Lomborg Deception, said: “If Lomborg were really looking for smart solutions, he would push for an end to perpetual and brutal war, which diverts scarce resources from nearly everything that Lomborg legitimately says needs more money.”

September 1, 2010   No Comments

Right and Wrong

For deniers, politics beats the science. Handouts beat both

From Australia to the US, the rightwingers who claim climate change is a leftwing conspiracy will grab green subsidies

By George Monbiot / The Guardian

It was Australia’s second climate change election. Climate change deposed the former leaders of both main parties: Kevin Rudd (Labor) because his position was too weak, Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal) because his was too strong. When Julia Gillard, the new Labor leader, also flunked the issue, many of her supporters defected to the Greens.

Labor’s collapse began when the senate rejected Rudd’s emissions trading scheme. Faced with a choice of dissolving parliament and calling an election or dropping the scheme, he chickened out and lost the confidence of the party. Gillard’s support began to slide when she proposed to defer climate change policy to a citizen’s assembly. Nearly 70% of the votes she lost went to the Greens.

Turnbull, like Rudd, was ousted over the emissions scheme, but six months earlier. His support for it split the Liberal party, and just before the first senate vote last December he was overthrown by Tony Abbott, who had told his supporters that climate change “is absolute crap”. If Abbott manages to form a government, he will reverse the result of the 2007 election, in which the Liberal party was defeated partly because it wouldn’t act on climate change.

It’s not difficult to see why this is a hot issue in Australia. The country has been hammered by drought and bushfires. It has the highest carbon dioxide emissions per person of any major economy outside the Arabian peninsula. Australians pollute more than Americans, twice as much as people in the UK and four times more than the Chinese. Most Australians want to change this, but the coal industry keeps their politicians on a short leash. Like New Labour here, Rudd and Gillard’s administration was a government of flinchers. It has been punished for appeasing industrial lobbyists and the rightwing press.

Australia provides yet more evidence that climate science divides people on political lines. Abbott is no longer an outright denier, though he still insists, in the teeth of the facts, that the world has cooled since 1997. Some members of his party go further: Senator Nick Minchin maintains that “the whole climate change issue is a leftwing conspiracy to deindustrialise the western world”. (He has also insisted that cigarettes are not addictive and the link between passive smoking and illness can’t be demonstrated). A recent poll suggests that 38% of politicians in Abbott’s coalition believe man-made global warming is taking place, in comparison with 89% of Labor’s people.

It’s the same story everywhere. At a senatorial hustings in New Hampshire last week, all six Republican candidates denied that man-made climate change is taking place. Judging by its antics in the Senate and primary campaigns all over the US, the party appears to be heading for a unanimous rejection of the science. Václav Klaus, the ultra-neoliberal Czech president, asserts that “global warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so”. The hard-right UK Independence party may soon be led by Lord Monckton, the craziest man in British politics, who claims that action on climate change is a conspiracy to create a communist world government. The further to the right you travel, the more likely you are to insist that man-made climate change isn’t happening. Denial has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics.

In the Telegraph, the Conservative Daniel Hannan tried to explain this association. “When presented with a new discovery, we automatically try to press it into our existing belief-system; if it doesn’t fit, we question the discovery before the belief-system.” He’s right, we all do this. It is also true that in some respects an antagonism to climate science is consistent with rightwing – especially neoliberal – politics. The philosophy of the new right is summarised by this chilling statement from Václav Klaus. “Human wants are unlimited and should stay so.”

But rightwing denial leads to perverse outcomes. In a desperate attempt to appease deniers in his party, Turnbull proposed handing £70bn to industry to soften the impacts of acting on climate change. Rudd’s scheme, by contrast, was more or less self-financing. Abbott intends to lavish subsidies on polluting companies without demanding any corresponding obligations. State handouts? Rights without responsibilities? When did these become conservative policies?

Since way back. In the US Republicans also favour green incentives for industry, without caps or regulation. Worldwide, subsidies for fossil fuels are 12 times greater than subsidies for renewable energy. Many of the most generous handouts are awarded by rightwing governments (think of the money lavished on the oil industry under George Bush).

Yes, climate change denial is about politics, but it’s more pragmatic than ideological. The politics have been shaped around the demands of industrial lobby groups – which in many cases fund those who articulate them. Rightwingers are making monkeys of themselves not just because their beliefs take precedence over the evidence, but also because their interests often take precedence over their beliefs.

A fully referenced version of this article can be found on George Monbiot’s website

August 27, 2010   No Comments

Five years after the IPCC Special Report on CCS: state of play

The Journal for Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change will be publishing a Special Issue on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in 2011. The Special Issue is entitled “Five years after the IPCC Special Report on CCS: state of play”. The editors are looking for a broad range of review articles that examine and analyse the developments in a variety of CCS-related areas and/or build on the review done by the IPCC in 2005. The articles will be subjected to normal peer review. [Read more →]

July 26, 2010   No Comments

Climate Change and Impact Assessment

The Aalborg (Denmark) Climate Change and Impact Assessment Symposium, 25-26 October 2010, include themes such as “social impact assessment”. Mitigation and adaptation strategies can potentially generate both negative and positive social impacts. Developing improved strategies to cope with climate change requires improved understanding of such impacts. For more information about the symposium see: https://www.iaia.org/iaia-climate-symposium-denmark/

June 25, 2010   No Comments

Carbon Governance in Asia: Bringing Scales and Disciplines

The workshop on ‘Carbon Governance in Asia: Bringing Scales and Disciplines’ is calling for applications. The workshop will be jointly organised by the Global Carbon Project, the Earth System Governance Project and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in Yokohama, Japan, on 1-3 November 2010. The workshop is supported by the Asia-Pacific Network on Global Change Research. The deadline for application is 8 July 2010.

For more information see:
http://www.earthsystemgovernance.org/events/2010-06-07-workshop-carbon-governance-asia

June 18, 2010   No Comments

It's the Ecology, Stupid

Article by Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont, USA.

The most obvious fact about ecological economics is that, well, ecology comes before economics.

“For example,” says Joshua Farley, an economist at the University of Vermont, “without healthy ecosystems to regulate climate and rainfall and provide habitat for pollinators, agriculture would collapse.” Which makes it tough to sell cars.

Put another way, “we need economic production to survive, but we also need healthy ecosystems and the service they provide,” he says. No bees, no food, no trip to the grocery store. [Read more →]

October 10, 2009   No Comments

Beds are Burning

Kofi A. Annan, President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, launched on 1 October a specially re-recorded version of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds are Burning’ as a global musical petition to demand climate justice at the UN’s Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December. The song is also set to become the soundtrack of the Climate Justice movement.

Here is the video from Mr. Kofi Annan’s campaign for climate justice.

The song has been supported by over 60 international music stars and celebrities including Duran Duran, Mark Ronson, Jamie Cullum, Melanie Laurent, Marion Cotillard, Milla Jovovich, Fergie, Lily Allen, Manu Katché, Bob Geldof, Youssou N’Dour, Yannick Noah and many more. [Read more →]

October 3, 2009   No Comments

4 Degrees and Beyond

Research by UK Met Office scientists has revealed that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unchecked, it is likely that global warming will exceed four degrees by the end of the century.

Met Office scientists have found that if current high emissions continue there could be major implications for the world — with higher temperature rises than previously thought.

Dr Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, presented the new findings at a special conference at Oxford University. The “4 degrees and beyond” conference is the first to consider the global consequences of climate change beyond 2 °C. [Read more →]

September 29, 2009   No Comments

Planetary Boundaries

A group of academics has attempted to estimate limits for biophysical processes to avoid catastrophic environmental changes. Jonhan Rockstrom and colleagues proposes the concept of “planetary boundaries”, a framework for quantifying safe thresholds for long-term human development. In a article published in the journal Nature, they suggest boundaries for nine indicators of stress to the Earth system: climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution. [Read more →]

September 29, 2009   No Comments