Architecture

Clean Energy Revolution. #StopAdani Why open new coal? #Auspol 

A clean energy revolution is underway. This is why

Power-generating windmill turbines are seen near Port Saint Louis du Rhone, near Marseille, May 7, 2014. 

The French government has awarded a tender to build and run two offshore windfarms to a consortium led by French gas and power group GDF Suez, French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said on Wednesday. 

REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier (FRANCE – Tags: ENERGY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS) – RTR3O7ZZ

In 2016, more renewable energy was added to the global grid than ever before, and at a lower cost. A global energy revolution is clearly underway.
What catalysed this transformation?
In our latest study, Faster and Cleaner 2: Kick-Starting Decarbonization, we looked at the trends driving decarbonisation in three key sectors of the global energy system – power, transportation and buildings.
By following the emission commitments and actions of countries, we examined what forces can drive rapid transition through our Climate Action Tracker analysis.
It turns out that, in these fields, it has taken only a few players to set in motion the kind of transformations that will be necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping the global temperature increase to well below 2˚C, ideally to 1.5˚C, over its pre-industrial level.

Renewable energy on its way
The most progressive field in the power sector is renewable energy. Here, just three countries – Denmark, Germany and Spain – were able to show the way and start an international shift.
All three introduced strong policy packages for wind and solar that provided clear signals to investors and developers to invest in these new technologies.

 Renewable energy targets and financial support schemes, such as feed-in tariffs, were central to them.
By 2015, 146 countries had implemented such support schemes.
Next, we established that the United Kingdom, Italy and China, along with the US states of Texas and California, pushed bulk manufacturing of solar technology even further and provided the kinds of economies of scale that led to this massive increase in renewable capacity globally.
Between 2006 and 2015, global wind power capacity increased by 600%, and solar energy capacity increased by 3,500%.

    

Image: Climate Action Tracker
Solar is projected to become the cheapest energy generation source by 2030 in most countries. 

In some regions, renewables are already competitive with fossil fuels.

Information released this month by the United Nations Environmental Programme and Bloomberg New Energy Finance confirms that, in 2016, the rate of renewable take-up rose yet again, with clean energy providing 55% of all new electricity generation capacity added globally. 

This is the first time there was more new renewable capacity than coal.
Investment in renewables doubled that of investment in fossil fuels. 

Yet clean power investment dropped 23% from 2015, largely because of falling prices.
To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, we need to fully decarbonise the global energy system by mid-century. 

That means the historic trends in the energy sector – 25% to 30% annual growth in renewables – must continue for the next five to ten years.
This will require additional policies and incentives, from increased flexibility in the energy system to new regulatory and market approaches.

Electric vehicles poised to take off
A similar trend is beginning to transform the transportation sector.

 In 2016, more than one million electric vehicles were sold, and new sales continue to exceed projections.
Again, our research tells us that it took only a few players to kick off this trend: Norway, the Netherlands, California and, more recently, China.
Their policies focused on targets for increasing the share of electric vehicles for sale and on the road, campaigns to promote behavioural change, infrastructure investment, and research and development.
The European Union saw sales of electric vehicles pick up in 2013. And in the US, their market segment grew between 2011 and 2013, slowed down slightly in 2014 and 2015, and bounced back again in 2016.
China’s market took off a little later, in 2014, but sales there have already surpassed both the US and the EU.
Though, to date, it lags behind the renewable power sector, the electric vehicle market is poised to see a similar boom. Current sales numbers are impressive, but we are still far from seeing a transportation transformation that would allow us to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
For the world to meet the upper limit of 2°C set in Paris, half of all light-duty vehicles on the road would need to be electric by 2050.

 To reach the 1.5°C target, nearly all vehicles on the road need to be electric drive – and no cars with internal-combustion engines should be sold after roughly 2035.

To get us going down that path, more governments around the world would need to introduce the same strict policies as those adopted by Norway and The Netherlands.
Buildings come in last
The third sector we examined is buildings. 

Though higher energy efficiency standards in appliances are really starting to curb emissions, emissions from heating and cooling buildings have been much more difficult to phase out.
There are proven technological solutions that can result in new, zero-carbon buildings. If designed correctly, these constructions are cost-effective over their lifetime and can improve quality of life.
In Europe and elsewhere, there are some good initial policies on new building standards that make new constructions more environmentally friendly, and some EU states – the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands among them – are also beginning to mandate that older buildings be retrofitted.
Still, the rate of retrofitting falls well short of what is required to substantially drop building emissions.
Innovative financial mechanisms to increase the rate of retrofitting buildings, along with good examples of building codes for new constructions, would go a long way to drive adoption of these technologies.
And, as our study showed, only a handful of governments (or regions) would need to make a move to kick-start a transformation.

 It worked for energy and transport – why not buildings, too?
The more governments work together sharing policy successes, the bigger the global transformation. With collaboration, we can meet that 1.5°C goal.

Press link for more: World Economic Forum

Western Australia’s first solar car park #auspol #wapol 

WA shopping centre
AAP, PerthNow

May 2, 2017 12:50pm
WESTERN Australia’s first solar car park will provide 40 per cent of the electricity needed by its adjoining shopping centre.
The car park and shopping centre redevelopment in Northam will be officially unveiled by Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan on Tuesday morning.
There are close to 900 solar panels involved, which also provide shade from the summer sun.

Perdaman Group chairman Vikas Rambal says the project has been well received and he hopes to bring solar to more commercial properties.

Press link for more: Perth now.com

Half Of All Species Are On The Move. Nature reacts to #climatechange #auspol

Half of All Species Are on the Move—And We’re Feeling It
A recent federal study found that spring is arriving as many as 20 days early in the southwestern United States—and even as far north as the New York Botanical Garden, where this tree blooms.


The shrubs probably responded first. In the 19th century, alder and flowering willows in the Alaskan Arctic stood no taller than a small child—just a little over three feet. 

But as temperatures warmed with fossil fuel emissions, and growing seasons lengthened, the shrubs multiplied and prospered. Today many stand over six feet.
Bigger shrubs drew moose, which rarely crossed the Brooks Range before the 20th century. Now these spindly-legged beasts lumber along Arctic river corridors, wherever the vegetation is tall enough to poke through the deep snow. They were followed by snowshoe hares, which also browse on shrubs.
Today moose and hares have become part of the subsistence diet for indigenous hunters in northern Alaska, as melting sea ice makes traditional foods like seals harder to chase.
That’s just one of thousands of ways in which human-caused climate change is altering life  for plants and animals, and in the process having direct and sometimes profound impacts on humans. 

As the planet warms, species are shifting where, when, and how they thrive. 

They are moving up slopes and toward the poles. 

That is already altering what people can eat; sparking new disease risks; upending key industries; and changing how entire cultures use the land and sea.
“We’re talking about a redistribution of the entire planet’s species,” says Gretta Pecl, lead author of a new study in Science that examined the implications of wildlife on the move.
As the Atlantic warms, mackerel have spread north, creating a new fishery off Iceland.


Germs and Pests on the March

The changes already are quite dramatic. 

Malaria, for example, now appears higher up mountain slopes in Colombia and Ethiopia, as rising thermostats make way for mosquitoes at higher elevations. 

Leishmaniasis, a sometimes-fatal, once primarily tropical affliction, has moved into northern Texas as the sandflies that host the disease-causing parasite head north.
Agriculture is feeling the effects too, as crop pests expand their range. 

Diamondback moths, which ravage the cabbages, kale, and cauliflower grown by poor urban farmers, are spreading in South Africa. 

In Latin America, coffee plant funguses and pests are appearing in new areas, threatening a key industry. The same is happening to French olives, wine grapes, and lavender. 

And in the United States, scientists suspect climate change has promoted the increasingly rapid spread of Johnson grass, a highly invasive weed that reduces yields for legumes, corn, sorghum, and soybean.
Some people are benefiting: Atlantic mackerel have moved so far north that the Icelandic fleet, which once caught the fish only by accident, now shares a major industry with Europe. 

The point is that the effects of climate change on wildlife, for good or (mostly) for ill, are already significant.
“The biological data is incredibly striking, but we haven’t really gotten the story out,” Pecl says. “We’re undergoing the greatest change to our environmental systems that the world has seen in millions of years. 

And it’s affecting people.”


A caribou in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

 In Greenland, climate change has increased caribou mortality, because the abundance of forage plants now peaks before the animals arrive on their summer breeding grounds.
Half of All Life Is Moving

Scientists have long assumed that species would shift their range as climate conditions shift. 

They just didn’t expect it would happen so fast.
A tally of more than 4,000 species from around the world shows that roughly half are on the move. 

The ones on land are moving an average of more than 10 miles per decade, while marine species are moving four times faster. 

Some individual species are moving far more quickly. 

Atlantic cod and Europe’s purple emperor butterfly, according to Camille Parmesan, a scientist at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, moved more than 125 miles in a single decade.
Warming is also shifting the timing of biological cycles. 

Globally, frogs and other amphibians are breeding an average of eight days earlier with each passing decade, while birds and butterflies are reproducing four days earlier.

 By revisiting records kept by Walden author Henry David Thoreau, scientists showed that plants of all kinds in Concord, Massachusetts, now flower about 18 days earlier than they did in the 1850s.
“Everywhere throughout the world, things are happening earlier in the spring—in China, Japan, Korea, across Europe—those are the strongest signals of all,” says Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University.

 “The time that trees and shrubs leaf out in spring determines the entire timing of the growing season. It can completely change the whole ecology of the forest.”
Where the change will end up isn’t easy to predict; as the species within an ecosystem shift in space and time, they’re not all shifting at the same pace, and they’re not all responding to the same signals. 

Some are adapting to temperature changes, others are more influenced by sunlight or changes in precipitation. In California, some mountain plants, such as hemlock, are actually moving downhill, toward warmer temperatures, as climate shifts bring more precipitation to once dry valleys. 

In one Colorado region, wildflower blooms now last a month longer, because flowers no longer bloom all at once.
And all over the world, new hybrid species are appearing—toads, sharks, butterflies, bears, trout, are among the examples that have been documented so far. The hybrid result from interbreeding of species that have been newly thrown together by climate change.
Other species are threatened by the unraveling of ecological relationships. Take for example the red knot, a shorebird that migrates from the tropics to the Arctic each spring to breed and feed on insects. Because Arctic snows are now melting and insects are hatching weeks before the birds arrive, there’s too little food for the red knot chicks—and at least in the case of the population that migrates back to West Africa, the young birds’ beaks are too small to pluck mollusks from sandy beaches.
Similarly, in West Greenland, the mortality of young caribou is rising because the plants that mothers eat in calving season are no longer abundant enough. In Japan, the herb Cordyalis ambigua is now flowering before bumblebees emerge to pollinate it, and as a result it’s producing fewer seeds. Meanwhile, bumblebees globally are being pushed out of the southern part of their range by rising temperatures, and for whatever reason are not expanding their range much in the north.
“Anybody who spends time outside as a bird watcher or fisherman or hunter knows that timing and migrations are changing,” says David Inouye, emeritus professor with the University of Maryland, College Park, who has worked in the Rocky Mountains for decades. “I think what might be more novel is the fact that whole communities are being affected.”
Increasingly, these species shifts are starting to impact people, especially in the far north, in ways no one predicted.
No Songs About the Sable

Tero Mustonen, who works with the Finnish group Snowchange Cooperative, has heard a curious complaint from indigenous leaders in Siberia: “There are no songs about the sable, there are no old stories about the sable,” they tell him. Sables are woodland creatures that didn’t used to inhabit the Arctic tundra. In and of itself, their recent arrival may not pose a great challenge—but it symbolizes, Mustonen explains, the extent to which Arctic landscapes are no longer fully recognizable to the indigenous peoples who have lived there for centuries. In Sweden there’s a lake that has forever been known as The Lake of Pine Trees; it’s now surrounded by birch.
Some of the shifts, of course, pose greater challenges. Thawing permafrost is causing lakes that nomadic Siberians used to fish in, and to water their reindeer in, to vanish into the ground. In Sweden, lakes and streams previously used for drinking water are now contaminated with the parasite that causes giardia, the human intestinal illness. Beavers following willow trees north probably spread the parasite, says Maria Furberg, a research scientist who is tracking disease outbreaks in the far north.
The incidence of insect-borne tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, has grown 10-fold in northern Sweden in 30 years, Furberg reports. Just last month scientists announced a 23-fold increase in tick-borne encephalitis in the Komi Republic, west of Russia’s Ural Mountains. Climate change, they said, has allowed ticks to expand their range.
All these changes are sparking unease among Siberians and Scandinavians in particular, Mustonen says. “Nature doesn’t trust us anymore,” some elders have told him.

Press link for more: National Geographic

Now we need to build it. #auspol #climate 

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? 

Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts.

 In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer for Ensia’s 2017 print annual, Christiana Figueres, former executive sectretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, responds to three questions: 

What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? 

Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

A host of trends threatens to undermine the stability and security of our communities, including widening inequality, record youth unemployment, rapid urbanization, increasing pressure on resources, commodity price volatility and, exacerbating all of this, an increasingly unpredictable and extreme climate.
In 2015, the world came together and agreed we would not let these trends run rampant through our societies — that, instead, we would work toward a common set of positive goals.

 The Sustainable Development Goals, Paris climate change agreement and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction together provided us with a common vision for a more peaceful and resilient world.


Now we need to buckle down and build it, even if we encounter unexpected resistance or challenges to our agreed goals.

That means ensuring that every decision we take as a society is aligned with the goals we have set.

 Our fiscal and monetary policy, our infrastructure and planning decisions, our social welfare provision — all of this must point in one clear direction, so that no flank of our actions undermines the rest.

We will not be able to build more peaceful and resilient communities if in the pursuit of our objectives we run roughshod over each other’s priorities and concerns. 

Instead, we must come together to, for example, understand what actions we take to limit temperature rise to 1.5 °C (3.6 °F) mean for how we use our land, how they can be harnessed as opportunities to reduce youth unemployment and deliver more inclusive prosperity, how they can offer opportunities to bring energy access and economic opportunity to the remotest of places through technologies such as decentralized solar.

 Not only is opening up this wider invitation to a world of opportunity the right thing to do — it is our best insurance against alienation, anger and violence. 

Press link for more: ensia.com

Climate Change should worry us all. #auspol #science #resist

Climate challenge should worry us all

Section of land that was covered by water. (Photo: Maarufu Mohammed/Standard)

To my shame, I realise I might just have grown up a climate change denialist.


 Sitting in the presence of 40 climate and energy specialists this week, I was left with another shocking thought. 

My denialism could have cost my children in future, the past 50 years I have enjoyed.
When connected, a series of isolated occurrences last week gives this thought greater urgency. 

My tap has no water and when it does, it is brown and undrinkable.
US President Donald Trump appointed a denialist and passed Executive Orders that seek to hide climate science research, reduce US Environmental Protection Agency funding and regulation influence. 

The United Nations Secretary General asked Kenya to lead the peace-keeping contingent in Darfur, Sudan, probably the first massive global conflict explicitly caused by climate change.

The appeal by widely respected Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Gullet Abbas was met with uncharacteristic derision. Give for starving Kenyans, again? 

What does the government do with the taxes we pay? 

There are bigger questions we could also be asking, like why are Kenyans starving in the first place?
Our planet is getting hotter, less predictive and accommodating of our lifestyles. 

Kenyan famines have gone from being 20 years apart to 12 and then 2 years.

ALSO READ: ‘I only need a sip of water before I die’
Now we seem to experience famines annually in key parts of the country.

 Rainfall is down 15 per cent, the country is 1.4 degrees centigrade warmer since the 1980s and the agriculture growing season is growing shorter, perhaps by as much as 40 per cent.
We have two frontlines to secure for the future. 

The first is urban. 

Seven of the world’s biggest cities are in Africa and Nairobi is one of them. 

Africa’s population will double in the next 34 years and it is in our cities that the majority of our citizens will be found. 

Our cities are not designed for this future yet.

 Yet here there is some good news.
Africa’s city managers, mayors and governors are currently providing global leadership for the UN New Urban Action. 

Kenya has also recently been named the world’s least toxic country by the Eco Experts. 

They looked at levels of air pollution, energy consumption and renewable energy production.
Leadership is also emerging in unexpected places.

 Take Phyllis Omido for instance. 

She was an administrator and single mother when she discovered her Mombasa-based employer Metal Refinery Ltd, a lead smelting company, was literally killing their neighbours with toxic lead.
Still unrecognised and supported by government, she continues to call for compensation and protection of the Uhuru-Owino community and others across the country.
Our rural farms and pastures are also on the frontline. 

With declining rain-fall, there are growing calls for climate change agriculture.

 We have to make choices about how much land for food or bio-fuel production, maize or cassava and whether we prioritise large commercial interests or small farmers.
The younger among us have most to lose as 24-year-old Ekai Nabenyo from Turkana County has realised.

 He says with conviction: “Even if the (global UN) Paris Agreements disappoint us, I will continue to defend my home against drought and developers”. 

Ekai presses daily for his entire community to enforce environmental standards on oil companies and engage in re-afforestation. 

77,000 trees have been planted in one of Kenya’s harshest environments through the community’s efforts to date.

ALSO READ: Economic woes linked to low investment in water, State told
We voted for the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in the Constitution. We can’t leave it to other people or to the government. You and me are too important to look the other way. 

What can I do, I hear you ask?
Plant trees but avoid the beautiful and water-hungry jacarandas.

 To survive, we will need to increase our national forest cover from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, share a car ride with a neighbour, workplaces, embrace public transport, a bicycle or walk where possible. 

Are you separating your household plastics, paper and food leftover?
Are you water harvesting and using the water for farming?

 Parents, encourage a child to take on a career in environmental science, climate and renewable energy.

 Citizens, press our 48 governments to govern our environment in line with Article 69 of the Constitution.
The world does not owe us an earth. 

We owe the world a sustainable earth. 


And it is time we started using our backbone instead of a wishbone on this issue.

 It’s time, we all started reading and acting up more.

Press link for more: Standard Media Kenya

Nine things we should all do during the Climate Crisis. #auspol 

If everyone in the U.S. gave up meat and cheese just one day a week, it would be equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road, according to the Environmental Working Group. 
My friend the writer and editor Laura M. Browning asked me to write about environmental action for her newsletter “One Small Thing,” which advises people on personal actions they can take to improve their world. Here’s a preview:
Most Americans believe climate change is real and that something should be done about it, but they seem to want someone else to do it—usually, the government. In the wake of the 2016 election, what was always true should be abundantly clear: government won’t solve the problem of climate change.
That leaves us. Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do ourselves. I’ve listed nine of them below. They might look like small things, but they are powerful things.
Sometimes we may feel powerless to transform the transportation, energy and industrial sectors ourselves, and so we want some omnipotent being to do it for us. But while we’re feeling powerless, are we overlooking personal actions that can further our goals?
The Powers That Be may not heed our protests, read our letters, listen to our environmental groups, but they can’t stop us from taking back the dollars we inadvertently contribute to their polluting economy every year.
Here is a list of simple actions that work:
1. Become a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan. 

The share of greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture is usually pegged at 14.5 percent to 18 percent, but the Worldwatch Institute found lots of oversights in those calculations that, when properly counted, bring the ag contribution all the way up to 51 percent. That, you’ll notice, is more than half. Which means that after we clean up all the transportation, energy, industry and commerce in the world, we’ve done less than half the job. The other half is meat and dairy. Refuse to eat it. If this seems too challenging, consider giving it up one day a week. It will still be the most important action you can take.

2. Eat organic when you can.

 Organic food is good for us because we’re not putting pesticides in our bodies, but organic food is also grown without synthetic fertilizers, most of which begin as byproducts of oil refining. When you buy a conventional apple, you’re giving a little boost to Big Oil.
3. Buy local when you can. 

I’m not talking about patronizing mom and pop stores, although that may have its own merit; I’m talking about buying locally-manufactured products made with locally-sourced materials. This goes for food too, with home organic gardening as a local ideal. To the extent that we minimize transportation of goods, we mitigate climate change.
4. Live in the climate. 

The biggest residential demand on our dirty energy system is climate control—home heating and cooling. We travel from our air conditioned homes to our air conditioned workplaces in air conditioned cars. Of course, we need climate control to protect us from freezing temperatures in winter and soaring temperatures in summer, but do we need the atmosphere to be exactly 70 degrees everywhere we go, all year long? Let’s use climate control only for the extremes. When temperatures are moderate, live in the climate we evolved to inhabit.
5. Line dry your clothes. 

Since I stopped using a clothes dryer, not only do I feel good about the fossil fuel I’m not burning, but my clothes last much longer. Which means I don’t need to buy new clothes nearly as often. Which means new clothes are not being shipped to me from Asia in freighters burning dirty, unregulated fuel oil.
6. Vote with your feet. 

Every time you drive a car, you vote for the car. Every time you ride a bike, you vote for the bike. You vote economically in the fuel you purchase—or don’t—but you also vote pragmatically. These days, transportation departments keep meticulous track of road usage and transit trips. Where there are a lot of bicyclists, bicycle infrastructure is more likely to get support. Where there are a lot of pedestrians, most transportation departments will try to make streets safer and friendlier for people, not cars.
7. If you have children, don’t use them as an excuse to wage war on their environment.

“I have children, therefore I must buy meat,” goes the thinking. “I have children, therefore I must drive a car.” This is like saying, “I have children, therefore I must destroy their future.” Researchers estimate each child increases a parent’s carbon footprint by nearly six times! Raise little vegetarians who know how to live in the climate and use public transit—survival skills for the 21st Century.

8. Reduce and reuse before recycle. 

Recycling emerged as a virtue before we knew we had a climate problem, and it turns out that transporting and processing materials for recycling is carbon intensive. Recycling still uses less energy than making new products from scratch, but reducing and reusing are even cleaner.
9. Offset your carbon emissions. After we’ve done everything above, we’ll still be responsible for some unavoidable emissions until our society cleans up its act. It only cost me $35 to offset my carbon emissions for 2016, which included some airline flights. The United Nations has made offsetting easy, cheap, and reliable, and you decide where the money goes—mine went to solar water heaters in India, inhibiting the spread of conventional water heaters there. Calculate and offset your emissions at climateneutralnow.org
By Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago

Press link for more: Forbes.com

Obama’s Top Scientist Explains the Climate Challenge #auspol #science 

Obama’s Top Scientist Explains the Climate Challenge Ahead

President Obama meets with John Holdren, Office of Science and Technology Policy, in the Oval Office prior to Stem Cell Executive Order “Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells” and Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, March 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Photo Credit: Pete Souza/White House

John Holdren is the longest-serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history. He’s also probably one of the most influential, having advised President Obama on key energy issues for the last eight years. “Mr. Holdren has this president’s ear,” is how The New York Times put it in 2014. 
A physicist by training, Holdren is among the chief architects of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. 
This makes him one of the more controversial science advisers, as well. The plan has been lauded by environmentalists, but is loathed by conservative politicians, some of whom have filed suit against it. The future of the plan, which rests almost entirely on executive authority, is now very much in doubt. 
Holdren spoke to Yale Environment 360 about the difference between “dangerous” and “catastrophic” warming, the incoming Trump administration, and how to talk to people who deny the existence of climate change. “Part of the reason that I retain some optimism about the future is that there are these fundamental forces pushing us toward doing the right thing,” he said. 
e360: There’s obviously a lot of concern out there right now about a new administration and what’s going to happen to the steps President Obama has taken on climate. How do you feel about this? 

Holdren: We don’t know at this point what the next administration is going to do. I think everybody saw the interview with The New York Timesin which President-elect Trump said his mind is now open on climate change. That is certainly progress compared to some of what went before. 
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but what I know is that a lot of what is going on in the positive sense on climate has a lot of momentum to it. It has momentum because it makes sense to people. People understand that renewables have been getting cheaper. People understand that energy efficiency saves them money. People understand that climate change is happening around them. Just the increase in torrential downpours and the flooding associated with that is so conspicuous, so damaging, that I think anybody that did want to roll back the sensible things we’re doing would find there was a lot of opposition to it. 
You know, the business community is on board now in a way that goes way beyond what was true before. You have so many of the Fortune 500 companies with policies aimed at reducing their own greenhouse emissions and supportive of government policies to help that along. You’ve got the environmental community. You’ve got a substantial fraction of the economic community, who understand that the damage to the economy from not addressing climate change will be far, far greater than the costs of addressing it. There are a lot of constituencies out there who will act to defend the positive things that are going on. That gives me reason for optimism. 
e360: Still, we have a president-elect and many high-ranking members of Congress who’ve said they don’t believe in climate change. What’s your analysis of what’s gone wrong here? 
Holdren: I think a number of Republicans believe that if the public ever accepted the reality of what climate science is telling us, the country would embrace a regulatory regime which Republicans would not welcome. There has been a leaning toward questioning the science, which is really based on fear of over-regulation. I think that’s particularly unfortunate because economists on all parts of the political spectrum have agreed for a long time that the single most effective thing you could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be a market-based approach, which puts a price on carbon emissions and then lets the market decide how to reduce it. And if you wanted to make such a thing revenue-neutral, you could reduce capital gains taxes or reduce income taxes in proportion to the revenue you got from a carbon tax. The reality is that some of this thinking, which is reflected in the positions of some folks on the Republican side of the aisle, is actually out of date. 

.
We need to focus more on solutions, irrespective of whether you are convinced humans are altering the climate.”

It isn’t true that accepting the science requires a draconian regulatory regime. 
e360: How can we get out of this situation where people can still say, “I don’t believe in climate change”? And what is the role of scientists who have been sounding the alarm on this for really a long time now? 


Holdren: I have long held the possibly naïve view that giving people more information will help. There have been a number of studies lately that have indicated that that may not be right. One of the conclusions I draw from that is we need to focus more on the solutions and their attractiveness irrespective of whether you are convinced that humans are altering the climate to our detriment. 
Let me give you a couple of examples: One of the big drivers of the reductions in emissions that have been achieved in recent years is that renewable energy and natural gas have been cheaper than the more greenhouse-gas-intensive alternatives, particularly coal. That has been driven by the market above all. If the climate-friendly energy sources are also less expensive, and that trend appears to be continuing, then you don’t need to “believe” in human-caused climate change to embrace them. 
I think everybody who’s paying close attention to climate understands now that we need to do a lot on the preparedness, resilience, and adaptation sides, because no matter what you do on the mitigation side, you can’t stop climate change overnight. Adverse impacts are already occurring, so we need to do what we can to reduce our vulnerability. Well, it turns out a lot of those strategies are win-win strategies in the sense that they would make sense even if the climate weren’t changing. There have always been powerful storms. There have always been droughts. We have always under-invested in preparation for those kinds of events. The fact that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of those events strengthens the argument for investing in preparedness, resilience, and adaptation, but the argument stands even without that. 
Part of the reason that I retain some optimism about the future is that there are these fundamental forces pushing us toward doing the right thing. One is a set of economic forces. Another is a set of historic underinvestment in infrastructure, which we should be improving in terms of its resilience in any case. 
e360: Well, if these are underlying trends, what difference does public policy make? 
Holdren: Policy can accelerate the good trends. Again, let me give you some examples: We’ve had a policy of investing in research and development on clean energy and energy efficiency. One of the results of that policy has been a 90-percent-plus reduction in the cost of light-emitting diodes, LED bulbs. The investments in clean energy R&D have contributed to the reduction in the price of wind and solar. Also important has been the tax credits, the production tax credits [for wind and solar], which we just got extended in law for five years with bipartisan support in the Congress. You can reinforce positive trends with policy. 
 

e360: What do you think the most important policy measures that have been taken over the last eight years with regard to climate change are? I know you don’t want to speculate, but how hard or easy would they be to undo? 
Holdren: First of all, and this is sometimes forgotten when people think that the whole interest of the Obama administration in climate change originated with the Climate Action Plan in 2013, the down payment took place in the Recovery Act [of 2009]. There was $80 billion for clean and efficient energy, the biggest boost for clean and efficient energy in the history of the country, probably in the history of the world, which again had a big effect. It led to advances in technology, reductions in cost that have been extraordinary. 
Then you look at the rest of the first term, we had the first set of combined fuel economy CO2 emissions standards for light-duty vehicles, followed by heavy-duty vehicles. 
Now, of course, in the second term, we had in 2013 the Climate Action Plan with its three pillars – reduce domestic emissions, build up domestic preparedness, resilience, and adaptation, and the third international pillar, work with countries around the world both bilaterally and multilaterally to get them to do the same. That has been immensely effective. It led to the joint announcement by [Chinese] President Xi and President Obama in Beijing in November 2014 saying, “We are the two biggest emitters. We are the two biggest economies. We are going to lead.” That made possible Paris. It transformed the international discussion. 
e360: There’s been talk recently that China will be stepping into the leadership role that the U.S. has occupied for the last several years. Do you buy that? 
Holdren: There is no doubt in my mind that the Chinese are serious. The Chinese are not doing what they’re doing because we urged them to do so. They are doing it because they understand that climate change is already adversely impacting China. It’s adversely impacting their agricultural production. It’s adversely impacting the East Asia monsoon, aggravating historic problems of flooding in the south and drought in the north. 
The other thing about China is most of the leadership was trained in engineering. They can do arithmetic. They are absolutely convinced and committed, so the question of whether they will take over the lead internationally in addressing the climate change challenge is partly up to us. They’re going to keep going. We should keep going as well. 
e360: You’ve said that the goal of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system is gone. We’re already experiencing that, and the question is can we avoid catastrophe? Where do we draw the line between dangerous and catastrophic? 
Holdren: I’ve likened the current situation with respect to climate change to driving a car toward a cliff in the fog and the car has bad brakes. 
Energy represents an enormous capital investment. In the global energy system, replacement cost is probably $25 trillion or even $30 trillion. That’s an investment that turns over in the normal course of things in 30 to 40 years. That’s the average lifetime of these energy facilities – refineries, transmission lines, power plants, drilling rigs. You can’t take a $25 trillion investment and turn it over overnight. So there’s this enormous amount of inertia in the energy system. That’s the bad brakes in the car. And the fog is we don’t know exactly where the tipping points that could really turn it into a catastrophe are, but there are quite a few of them that are understandable in terms of how they would work. 
For example, we are busy not only heating the ocean, but acidifying it. Nobody can figure out at what point the oceans could exhibit changes that become catastrophic for human society. 
We know with pretty high confidence that we’re likely to have lost the majority of the world’s coral reefs by the middle of the century we’re now in from a combination of heating and acidification.  
e360: Doesn’t that lead us to the idea that, well, we don’t have 30 years to turn this around? 
Holdren: I’m not saying, “Business as usual is fine.” We’re not in business as usual at the moment. We are moving faster to turn that over. We are retiring coal plants. China is retiring coal plants at a rate that was unimaginable a few years ago. It’s showing in the data, in the emissions data. We’re not in business as usual. But still, no matter what we do, we can’t stop it overnight. 

e360: You mentioned retiring coal plants. A lot was said during this past campaign about coal. What future does coal have? 
Holdren:First of all of course, we’re not shutting down the whole coal industry. What has mostly been shut down are the dirtiest and least efficient plants and probably the costliest mines. The long-term future of coal is going to depend on whether we can master CO2 capture and sequestration. About which I’m more optimistic than many. 
Without that, the long-term future of coal is continuing decline and its replacement by cleaner things. In the short- to medium-term, natural gas and in the longer-term, some combination of nuclear and renewables. 
e360: What do you say to people who say that natural gas will get us to the same disastrous place, it’s just going to take a bit longer? 
Holdren: We can’t burn natural gas indefinitely as a society and expect to surmount the climate challenge. I think those of us who have welcomed the degree to which natural gas has been replacing coal in electricity generation are aware that it is an interim solution and not a permanent solution, again, unless and until you capture and sequester the CO2. 
This whole question of fossil fuel and leaving it in the ground, there’s a short-term and there’s a long-term aspect. In the short term, we can’t leave it all in the ground because the United States and the world as a whole are still 80-plus-percent dependent on fossil fuels for our primary energy. As I’ve already argued in terms of just the capital investment in that energy system, you can’t change that overnight. If someone says, “Leave it in the ground” meaning leave it all in the ground starting now, I say, “That’s simply not feasible.” 
If, on the other hand, somebody says, “By leave it in the ground, I mean we know that we cannot afford from the standpoint of climate to burn all the fossil fuel that’s out there” – that’s a different matter. There have been very good studies that show if you burn all the fossil fuel that’s out there, both the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet go away and sea level goes up by about 65 or 70 meters [213 or 230 feet].  
I subscribe to the leave it in the ground notion – as a long-term proposition, we’ve got to leave a lot of the fossil fuel that’s out there in the ground, or else learn how to burn it and put the CO2 back in the ground. 
There was some controversy because in a public speech I gave, I was asked in the Q&A period if it is technically feasible to leave it all in the ground. I answered it as a technical question, the way I’ve answered it here: No, it is not feasible to leave it all in the ground starting now. Somebody tweeted that I had disparaged the Leave It In The Ground movement. The next thing I know I had 23,000 emails complaining about this — 23,000 emails, all identically worded, an orchestrated campaign. 
e360: Do you think that the movement has been politically effective? 
Holdren: Well, most of the people associated with the Leave It In The Ground movement actually want to stop federal leasing of fossil fuel development on federal lands, saying sort of that’s the least we can do. That’s not the same thing as leaving it all in the ground. It just says, “The United States government should be a leader in accelerating the reduction of the use of fossil fuels.” That is at least an interesting argument. 
I’m basically of the view that almost every discussion of different ways to address the climate challenge is helpful because the discussion calls to people’s attention that there is a climate change challenge. What is the best way to deal with this challenge? That’s the debate I wish we were all having, rather than a continuing debate about whether or not it’s happening, which has become kind of ridiculous in the face of the evidence.
e360: You’ve spent a lot of time dealing with people on Capitol Hill. Do you have advice for your colleagues moving forward? What should scientists be doing? 
Holdren: Scientists, number one, should keep talking about the science and what it’s telling us, what the implications are. That includes the implications of delay. How much more damage are we buying into if we say, “Let’s deal with this later,” rather than dealing with it now. It’s becoming possible to talk about that. The other thing that is becoming possible is to talk about impacts in a much more regional way. The third U.S. National Climate Assessment, which was released in 2014, succeeded in disaggregating things regionally and sectorally to a much greater extent than any previous assessment had done. 
I went around the country that year, and talked to state, local, and tribal leaders. And I was actually astonished by the number of people, including mayors, governors, who came up to me and said, “For the first time, this is a report about climate science that’s useful to us because it brings it to the level that we have to operate at.” What’s going to happen to fisheries? What’s going to happen to farming? What’s going to happen to forests? How is it different in the Northwest and the Southeast? 
That’s going to be important for scientists: to focus on what’s happening where people live and in relation to what they do for a living or what they enjoy. 
e360: What arguments do you find really get to people? 
Holdren: The local gets them, the relation to things they care about. The productivity of farms, forests, and fisheries. Hey, that matters. The prevalence of oppressive heat and humidity. That matters to folks. 
One of the things I found very effective is explaining to people that the global average surface temperature is simply an index of the state of a very complicated system, just like your body temperature is an index of the state of a very complicated system. When your body temperature goes up 2 degrees C, you know it’s telling you that something’s amiss in the system. What could be going on can be extremely complicated and extremely dangerous. 
e360: One last question. I don’t think that the president-elect is reading environmental websites, but if you could offer some advice to the incoming administration, what would it be? Maybe he will read it – if I tweet it, or something. 
Holdren: We have a transition process. I don’t think we should be talking about the details of the transition. But I’ve written down a lot of advice and my colleagues have written down a lot of advice. I just have to hope that at least some of that advice will be taken. 
I got such advice when I came in from my predecessor, John Marburger, who not only wrote a superb transition book for me, but met with me personally at great length. You don’t have to take all the advice of your predecessor. No one expects that to happen in a new administration with a different political cast. But there are things that ought to make sense regardless of political leaning. We hope that those will register.

Press link for more: Alternet.org

Climate Change is not an “act of God” #auspol 

The threat of large-scale natural disasters and climate is growing across the world, leaving nations increasingly exposed to a myriad of risks. 


As a result, many initiatives are under way at the international, regional, national and local levels by a diverse range of stakeholders to better ways to protect human lives and livelihoods, and reduce economic losses.

Human development and settlement patterns, such as growing urban population, wealth and concentration of assets in high-risk regions, determine if and how a natural hazard could turn into a disaster (World Bank Group and United Nations, 2010).

 These impacts are further exacerbated by climate change, through changing characteristics of weather-related extremes, sea level rise and other environmental changes (IPCC, 2014; IPCC, 2012).

Whilst for a long time dismissed as ‘acts of God’, these socio-economic impacts can only be reduced through proactive integrated risk management. 

Over the last three decades, international policy dialogue on disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change and sustainable development has advanced, with the goal to address the underpinning causes of these risks. 

Golnaraghi et al. (2016) de ne 2015 as a landmark year in bringing clarity and coherence to reshape the global development pathway. 

In that year, over 190 Member States adopted three international agreements: (i) the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) (United Nations General Assembly, 2015a) (ii) the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations General Assembly, 2015b) and (iii) the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015). 


They highlight that, whilst each has its respective priorities for action, their common thread is the recognition of the importance of a cohesive and integrated approach to managing the risks of extreme events and climate across different economic sectors, levels of government and the society as a whole. 

Such an approach is risk- informed, and includes ex ante investments,

 (i) to reduce risks through early warning systems, emergency preparedness, and preventive measures; and,

 (ii) distribute the residual economic risk through risk nancing and risk transfer (e.g. insurance and alternative risk transfer).

 This should be augmented with effective post-disaster reconstruction plans to reduce further the risks and build resilience.

 Finally, the three framework agreements have, recognised, explicitly or implicitly, the important role of insurance in building economic resilience to extreme events and climate risks.

With governments at the centre of these issues, an increasing number of coordinated multilateral initiatives have been forged over the last decade to raise awareness and enable the implementation of disaster and climate risk management capacities at the international, regional, national and local levels.

 These efforts have engaged various stakeholders, including the United Nations, socio-economic groupings, international development community, NGOs, scienti c communities and academia, media agencies and the (re)insurance industry. 

An analysis of the complex landscape of stakeholders and initiatives indicates progress along four main areas, namely:

 (i) enhancing risk knowledge and expansion of risk assessment capacities to the public sector,

 (ii) promoting the integrated approach to disaster and climate risk management,

 (iii) developing solutions in disaster risk nancing and risk transfer and 

(iv) expanding innovative insurance products in the agriculture sector.

According to Golnaraghi et al. (2016), despite the evident progress and achievements, multi-stakeholder engagement and related initiatives remain highly fragmented. 

They stress that development of sustainable and scalable risk management practices could benefit from stronger strategic public–private partnerships that leverage stakeholders’ strengths, avoid redundancies and align priorities.

Press link for more: Geneva Association

Strategies for urban economies #auspol 

The effects of human activity on the environment over the past few centuries have given rise to some of today’s most pressing challenges. This article is the second in a five-part series outlining economic, ecological, political, and cultural stratgies for creating a more sustainable and equitable world.

By Glenn Robert Erikson
Given today’s concerns regarding global warming, mass extinctions, and income inequality, we must address the underlying economic facets of these challenges to our urban fabric. Following the foundations put forward in the lead article, “Strategizing Urban Policies for the Anthropocene,” this analysis will help form strategies for sustainable cities that provide enhanced qualities of life for all citizens.
Economic sustainability. Large global firms cannot be relied on to create and maintain long-term, high-paying, and life-fulfilling jobs. Instead, they too frequently buy out and absorb smaller firms, then export and/or cut jobs in their pursuit of low labor costs, minimized taxes, and increased short-term profits. On the other hand, regional institutional organizations and industrial firms that are tied to local natural resources tend to utilize long-term economic planning, which helps to stabilize communities, while local entrepreneurial firms employing native competitive advantages create a large share of job and income growth for most urban areas. Individual urban economies must subsequently work closely with regional firms and nurture, promote, and incentivize local entrepreneurs.
Present levels of income inequality and poverty are unsustainable. Present rates of growth on capital and high-income earnings together with low tax rates on high incomes and inheritances have resulted in immense wealth gains among the world’s top 1 percent. The worldwide wealth of the richest 1 percent now equals that of the remaining 99 percent. In addition to this stark level of inequality, there is also tremendous poverty, and hundreds of millions of people live in slum conditions.

Both inequality and poverty appear to be as great now as at any time in the past. Income inequality historically courses between peaks and troughs with wars, revolutions, and periods of high taxation creating the troughs. While we lack exact statistics, it appears that revolutions have historically occurred when income inequality reaches levels approximating those of today. To solve these issues, our urban areas should pursue the following policies: first, encourage entrepreneurs who create both jobs and new wealth; second, equalize educational opportunities between the poor and the wealthy; third, distribute low-income housing equally throughout the city to increase education and job opportunities for lower-income families; fourth, curtail public projects that benefit only the wealthy; fifth, encourage a society of authenticity, culture and work/life balance; and sixth, appropriately adjust tax policies that favor the wealthy.
World hunger is a function of poverty, not food production. The world is currently producing enough food to feed today’s population. However, the world’s poor do not have sufficient financial resources to overcome the causes of their lack of food. The most important factors are the use of a substantial amount of these food resources for the production of meat, food waste in its production, transportation and storage, over-consumption or obesity, and international food and agricultural aid policies. While all of these factors can be addressed at the urban level through an appropriate combination of education, regulation, and taxation, cities can also work with organizations to better produce food in their urban environments—be they on rooftops, empty lots, or brownfields.

Present levels of resource extraction are unsustainable. The earth’s resources are being extracted, consumed, and disposed at immense scales. Phosphorus, oil and natural gas, copper, zinc, aluminum, and iron are all non-renewal resources with known available reserves that will likely be economically depleted during the 21st century. Even if new sources or economic alternatives are found, sustainability demands that we conserve. Use of all such materials should be husbanded, and they should be recycled to the extent possible.
Trading economies. Trading has always been a major attribute to a society’s sustainability, as resources, skills, and industries present in the local economy are traded for goods available from other societies. Each region’s trading economy should be developed and supported so it is of long-term value to other regions, and of a nature and supply that is sustainable into the future
Regionalism. Authentic regional distinctions and their associated cultural identities provide residents with an important element of self-concept and contribute to a sense of belonging to a distinct and identifiable community. They also assist tourism and trade and attract individuals and firms with needed skills, jobs, and capital by offering a variety of cultural amenities. Unfortunately, other mediums work to dilute these distinctions and identities, including global media, retail franchising, and many examples of post-modern architecture. This dilution of regional identity works against the interests of a region’s tourism, trade and residents’ quality of life. An authentic regionalism should be encouraged and promoted.
Global finance and small business. Both the financial meltdown of 2007-08 and the Dodd-Frank response to it in the U.S. created a global financial system more attuned to large corporations than to smaller, entrepreneurial firms, which decreased both the formation and growth rates of small businesses. This in turn has had an impact on economic growth, especially in the U.S. Cities should not only encourage local and regional banks to make more small business loans available, but also encourage crowd-funding through incentives and other forms of financial support.
The Collaborative Commons. Historically, public ownership of and access to important Collaborative Commons, including but not limited to utilities, roads, waterways, schools, parks, entertainment, and cultural venues, has been considered a given. However, in today’s context, the Collaborative Commons also includes the internet, higher education, and basic health care. Where available, many of these Commons are now under threat of corporate ownership and thus profit-maximizing fees, or of being crowded out for funding due to mega-projects that are unresponsive to most citizens’ needs, such as Brazil’s 2016 Olympic village, which displaced thousands in its creation. Instead, societies should husband and improve these common amenities and resources and at low economic cost for all citizens, especially those who wish to opt out of developing and maintaining high per-capita incomes.
In effect, use of the Collaborative Commons can provide citizens with meaningful alternative pathways to the sacrifices of long hours and unsatisfying jobs too often necessary to acquire high-income jobs and attain wealth and access to education. And as the internet can provide the means for those in the developing world to vastly increase their quality of life as well as income levels, aid to these countries’ urban areas should be directed toward providing dependable, free and fast service.
Quality of life vs. economic enhancement. Historically, quality of life is associated with a sufficiency in food and necessary material goods together with engagement in a worthwhile activity, whether intellectual, religious, or familial. Enlightenment philosophies promoted a belief that scientific progress would increase societies’ overall quality of life through industrial and economic gains. However, two world wars, nuclear weapons, industrial pollution, and global warming tell us that the link is less direct. There is a need to refocus on the ethics of our current economy and what it is that truly enhances quality of life among a society’s participant. Planning and design should follow this focus.
One aspect of this refocusing and rebalancing is that large numbers of individuals would likely prefer to adjust their work/life balance to less work and less income, especially if there are significant Collaborative Commons available for their lifestyle. The coming era of automation and artificial intelligence may well cause this shift to be necessary. It will require urban governments to find ways to provide sufficient amenities free or at low cost, such as internet access, transportation, parks, health care, art and entertainment venues, exercise and sports options, plus other opportunities for socialization and engagement.
Home ownership and pricing. Government-sponsored housing finance was successful when the U.S. and the developed world were growing at a fast pace. However, the financial meltdown of 2008 destroyed many families’ equity, and housing markets have been spotty in their recovery. Home ownership is appropriate for many families when population growth is strong, but the benefits may evaporate when population growth and housing demand stagnate. Policies and programs that encourage or favor urban home ownership should be directly tied to the region’s and/or nation’s immigration and population growth policies.
Revitalization vs. gentrification. From the beginning of urban renewal, planners have worked to re-envision and rebuild slums. The result too often has been displacement of the urban poor, whether through gentrification or the bulldozers of “economic development.” The revitalization of Harlem in the 1990s and early 2000s demonstrated that well-designed revitalization efforts, which included programs for small business and job creation, along with low-income housing targeted at local residents, can improve neighborhoods both physically and economically, while keeping the vast majority of residents in place.
Economic realignment. Significant societal realignments have occurred over the past 600 years as new economic regimes have replaced previous ones: from feudalism to colonialism to the present regime of global corporate capitalism. We now appear to be entering the latest realignment: an economy defined by robot assembly, artificial intelligence, zero marginal costs of production, and a sharing economy. We need to encourage the positive aspects of these changes and prepare our urban areas for realignment, which will include a significant increase in the turnover of wealth, thus reducing, at least temporarily, income inequality. This entrepreneurial spirit and the interconnectivity it will bring should be encouraged, but with checks and balances regarding privacy, freedom of access, and the potential for heightened income inequality.
Creative destruction. Economic realignment is just one aspect of the force of creative destruction. This is an engine for societal progress and income redistribution as entrenched economic interests falter while new, smaller, more creative and nimble entrepreneurial firms flourish and create jobs. Over 50 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have been delisted since 2000, and the new digital economy accounts for most of the new companies listed. Unfortunately, politicians and bureaucracies tend to assist and promote entrenched economic interests instead of newer entrepreneurs. The cities that sustainably embrace such creative destruction will be the cities of the future.
Time value of money vs. sustainability. The fundamental dogma of the time value of money is that today’s funds are worth more than tomorrow’s. This creates several problems. The first is that this value concept is clearly not consistent with long-term inter-generational sustainability. Second, most non-renewable resources will have a higher relative value to future generations than they have today for a profit-seeking corporation. Third, for-profit corporations seeking to maximize shareholder wealth are intrinsically set up to reject sustainable projects that only provide fair profits in the long run. As a society, we need to reconsider the appropriateness of corporate ownership of valuable non-renewable resources and find fair ways to convert these resources to public and/or non-profit ownership.
Integrating these economic strategies will enhance the sustainability and resiliency of our cities, lessen income inequality, and reduce poverty, and together with the following strategies for an urban ecology, political regimes, and cultural life, will lead to a higher quality of life for all urban citizens.
While free market forces will force corrective responses to many of our challenges, the tipping points for these corrections may come too late for many of society’s least economically resourceful members, with potentially dire consequences for all of society.
*****
*****
Glenn Robert Erikson is a member of the World Policy Institute Advisory Council.

Press link for more: worldpolicy.org

Strategizing Urban Policies for the Anthropocene #Auspol 

The effects of human activity on the environment over the past few centuries have given rise to some of today’s most pressing challenges. This article is the first in a five-part series outlining economic, ecological, political, and cultural stratgies for creating a more sustainable and equitable world.

By Glenn Robert Erikson
Many ecologists are disheartened by what is being called the Anthropocene Age, characterized by humans’ capricious manipulation of the environment. The result is the loss of thousands of species; dangerous declines in genetic diversity; increasing ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, warming our world; and the initiation of a devastating rise in sea levels. Meanwhile, economists decry income inequality caused by our present mode of global corporate capitalism while predicting the elimination of millions of jobs through the automation of factory production. Others theorize the potential for economic disruption in the form of a post-capitalist economy. Urban planners decry current levels of poverty and the lack of quality, affordable housing, while demographers predict that the current world population could double by 2100 and that migration could skyrocket from rural areas to mega metropolises unable to provide for newcomers. Regrettably, most of heavily populated cities are near coasts, in areas most threatened by rising sea levels. Clearly, some of the policies of the past 200 years exacerbated problems to the point that they will lead to outright catastrophes. 
At the same time, many politicians seem more concerned with ideology or raising money than with solving problems, and too many policy-makers are locked into old stratagems—many of which are post-colonial, racist, and sexist. Attempting to break out of this deadlock, some researchers and theorists are proposing digital system analytics; others look to foment a socialist revolt of the growing, but until now disparate, groups of urban poor and disenfranchised people. Neither of these paths, however, will solve underlying problems and provide for the quality of life we would like everyone to have.

It is time to reconsider our situation. Jared Diamond writes, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, that the success or failure of historical societies was defined not by environmental and cultural challenges but rather by the societies’ responses to these challenges. The tragic contrast between the collapse of Haiti and the success of the Dominican Republic on their shared island of Hispaniola offers a dramatic example of his thesis. Overpopulation, tremendous economic and power inequalities, democratic failures, and environmental mismanagement led to Haiti’s downward path. Yet with very similar initial conditions, the Dominican Republic has been able to prosper. The first issue that must be addressed is preventing collapses in the short run; the second is to promote environmental and economic sustainability in the long run.
Diamond goes on to show that the leading causes of societal collapse from environmental impacts have been the long-term loss of arable land, lower crop yields due to rapid climate change, and a too-quick rise in population. These issues are fairly well known, even if they are not accepted by some political elites who are less scientifically attuned. However, citizens living in urban areas tend to be more aware of environmental problems and are more open to implementing solutions than are political elites. Therefore, achieving sustainable urban policies (as opposed to national policies) is more likely attainable, at least in the near term. A set of urban policy strategies, as proposed here, can provide the basis for individual urban areas to create region-wide, integrated models that can be applied to national and global contexts.
In our pursuit to improve living conditions worldwide, should we risk environmental collapse, or should we accept a sustainable world that is forever separated into haves and have-nots? The answer hinges on how much we value consumer goods, considered an essential element in the Western notion of “standard of living.” The other attributes important to quality of life—such as freedom, health, family, friends, education, and a satisfying work and cultural life—are conceivably attainable without risking environmental collapse.

A grand strategy is necessary to achieve the goal of a sustainable urban world with a high quality of life for all citizens. Combining and integrating critical theory, critical urban theory, and engaged theory provides the overall principles for a “Critically Engaged Urban Theory.” It can be outlined as follows: Increasing the availability of the components of “quality of life” improves the human condition, maximizing personal freedom and assisting individual engagement in the pursuit of happiness. We must free the objective of attaining high income and wealth from our pursuit of a high global quality of life, recognize that creative destruction will likely be necessary to achieve positive change in urban spaces, and expand the concept of sustainability to include our ethical relationship to both the global population and the earth’s ecology. 
The first step is to steer society away from potential collapse, and the second will be to develop a sustainable relationship with our ecosystems while improving living conditions for all. The next four articles in this series will cover economic, ecological, political, and cultural issues, providing insights into challenges we must confront and strategies we can use to overcome them.
*****
*****
Glenn Robert Erikson is a member of the World Policy Institute Advisory Council.

Press link for more: worldpolicy.org