Preparation for Paris

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The post Lima preparation for Paris is already underway. While each country and their delegations have their own expectations and responsibilities, it is imperative that the entire global community prepares as well. What better way to spread global awareness and participation than with live music!? Al Gore and pop icon Pharrell Williams have teamed up to announce a global Live Earth concert in June. This concert, with its purpose to demand climate action, will be staged in six cities on all seven continents. Yes, Antarctica will also be participating in this global event. On this day, the entire globe will stand up together for a cause that is affecting all aspects of our shared planet. The ultimate goal of this music festival is to collect 1 billion signatures to encourage world leaders to adopt a new climate agreement in Paris at COP21. There is a lot of pressure for the outcomes in Paris, especially after 2014 was recorded as the Earth’s warmest year on record. A global event like this could be groundbreaking for increasing public action and awareness.

 

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pharrell-al-gore-live-earth-2015-20150121

Pacha Mama

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It only made sense that we end our semester long climate change adventure visiting some of the most incredible sites provided by Mother Earth, or “Pacha Mama” known as by the Quechua indigenous people of the Andes. After our experiences at COP20 chasing down delegates, collecting and trading business cards, shuffling from meeting to meeting, and escaping the heat (from both inside and outside the plenary) with some gelato, it was exciting to visit ancient sites that climate change could prohibit future generations from enjoying. I considered myself lucky to be able to visit Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, where within the next year the Ministry of Culture in Cusco has decided tourism will be restricted to a certain number of visitors who must be accompanied by an official guide. The ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu is a gold mine for Peru’s tourism industry. Our guide, Hamilton, informed us just the 1Sol fee to use the bathroom generates 6,000 Soles per day.

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This tourist attraction is huge part of Peru’s economy and they would never close it, but it is sad to see that years of previous human degradation will restrict future generations to enjoy one of Mother Earth’s marvelous sites. This same concept applies to the Earth’s changing climate, years of environmental degradation caused by previous generations of humans is changing how future generations will be able to live on our shared planet. My experience at COP20 was both optimistic and skeptic. While it is optimistic to see progress in negotiations and progress in the use of sustainable technology, there is still a long way to go until we reach a global participation and agreement. Every year there is this extravagant event where representatives from each party meet to discuss what needs to be done to save the planet. However, much of this event is excessive and wasteful, which makes it seem counterproductive. But I am certainly invested in following the road to Paris and beyond.

Dinner with Delegates

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Thus far our time in Lima has been spent sightseeing, for both people and places. We have been spending our days at Voces por el Clima interviewing delegates and representatives from various countries, Peru, Bolivia, Netherlands, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to name a few. While also exploring Lima outside of COP venues, we continue to run into party members and representatives. We were fortunate enough to have dinner with Gabriel Blanco a delegate from Argentina who has attended 9 previous COPs. Through a more relaxed interview involving cebiche and cerveza, Señor Blanco held nothing back about Argentina’s insufficient climate action. While it was surprising to hear about Argentina’s climate denial, it was even more surprising to me that Argentinas government continued to send delegates to a convention in which the argentine people had very little commitment towards. Leaving that dinner was a bit frustrating to hear that despite this being the twentieth conference of the parties, some governments are still in disagreement about the changing climate which is greatly impacting the lack of education for its citizens. Therefore a cycle of negligence occurs. However, Gabriel Blanco seemed somewhat optimistic for the outcomes in Lima, and we told him we will come to Argentina to help change the minds of the many Argentines who remain apathetic towards climate change.

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Brazil: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Brazil Protest

In today’s class lecture we discussed Brazil’s progress towards mitigating climate change. Brazil has made an enormous effort in reducing tropical deforestation, Brazil has kept 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere since 2004″ (Atkin, 2014). Brazil once had the highest deforestation rate in the world mainly due to livestock and logging. Rainforests are an important carbon sink, however deforestation emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus changing the climate. Although Brazil’s 70 percent decline in deforestation has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, other parts of Brazil are still feeling the effects of climate change. Sao Paulo is suffering from one of the worst droughts to have hit Southern Brazil in several decades. The water scarcity is causing violent conflicts between residents. As the climate continues to change, and droughts become more prevalent we can expect to see more violent conflicts and citizens protesting for access to resources like water, which are necessary for survival. Rainy seasons in Brazil have shown a pattern of less rainfall each year, “The Sao Paulo metropolitan area ended its last rainy season in February with just a third of the usual rain total only 9 inches” (Gomez-Licon, 2014). The government is being blamed for the issues of water scarcity, which shows that as the climate keeps changing and water becomes more limited there must be systems implemented for distributing water equally. Otherwise the world’s poor will be exposed to more vulnerabilities, and violent conflicts will increase. 

 

Atkin, Emily. “Brazil Has Done More To Stop Climate Change Than Any Other Country, Study Finds.” ThinkProgress. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/06/3446097/brazil-cuts-carbon/>.

Gomez Licon, Adriana. “Sao Paulo Drought Leaves Brazil’s Biggest City Desperate For Water.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/sao-paulo-drought_n_6118888.html?utm_hp_ref=green>.

 

Movement Towards A Sustainable World

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Climate change is by far one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Humans are creating this change in the climate; therefore humanity must take responsibility for previous actions. Developed and developing nations must switch to an energy efficient and renewable world, but it is a global effort. Climate change is expected to put pressure on natural environments as well as those constructed by humans. Therefore, in order to minimize these challenges, it is imperative to put adaptation plans into action. While the world continues to grow and develop, it is important further development is done in a sustainable manner. Sustainable development is a considerable solution towards developing in a way that lessens environmental degradation. Sustainable development is defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development  as, “a mechanism for growth without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Warner, 2014). Sustainable development can be achieved through climate resilient pathways, which combine methods of adaptation and mitigation. However, it is argued if climate change will pose significant threats to prospects for sustainable development.

According to the UNFCCC, “Climate change poses a moderate threat to current sustainable development and a severe threat to future sustainable development.” Climate change involves a complex interaction between social and ecological systems; therefore new approaches to sustainable development must take this into consideration. Adaptation and mitigation are both essential for minimizing the risks attributed with climate change. Currently and previously, actions on sustainable development have been delayed, which poses a threat for future sustainable development because it can reduce the options for climate resilient pathways.

On the other hand, researchers at MIT, “looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big” (Resutek, 2014). Policies that aim at reducing carbon emissions are beneficial to health problems because these policies lead to reductions in harmful pollutants. These emission reductions also in turn have huge cost reductions for healthcare. One of the researchers Tammy Thompson states, “If cost-benefit analyses of climate policies don’t include the significant health benefits from healthier air, they dramatically underestimate the benefits of these policies” (Resutek, 2014). These results show that climate policies not only benefit the environment, but also benefit health and the economy. The recent advances in technology for renewable energy can achieve more than just meeting the goals of emissions reductions.

While the future in respect to climate change looks entirely too bleak, humanity must use existing technology and implement policy towards continuous sustainable development. We cannot move forward without doing so in a sustainable manner. All nations must work together and assist the most vulnerable nations in taking drastic measures in order to remain under the two-degree limit. Sustainable development produces global benefits in combating climate change.

Works Cited

Resutek, Audrey. “Study: Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself.” MIT News. MIT, 24 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Warner, Koko, Dr. “Climate Resilient Pathways to Sustainable Development.” Multiple Resilience Pathways: (n.d.): n. pag. UNFCCC. UNFCCC, 19 May 2014. Web.

 

 

 

Two Years Later, What have we learned from Sandy?

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Two years ago the Jersey Shore, a place where I call home, was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. My friends and family were left without heat, electricity, and some were left without homes. While my family was fortunate enough to have mild damages to our properties, others had lost everything. The first time I returned home, about a month after Sandy, there were still incredible signs of the destruction. Boats were still washed up on major roads, the streets were still full of debris, and beach towns resembled ghost towns. I observed places that were once very familiar seem almost unrecognizable.

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This famous photograph (above) was taken in a nearby town, which I recalled having to pull a u-turn in the driveway during the previous summer months. Hurricane Sandy forever altered the landscapes of the Jersey Shore.

During our trip to Washington DC, we spoke with Joel Scheraga, the Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation in the Office of Policy in the Office of the Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Joel Scheraga spoke to us about the importance of mainstreaming climate adaptation planning. As we have already seen impacts of climate change through intensifying natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, it is imperative that the process of redevelopment incorporates climate-resilient methods. It is the EPA’s mission to anticipate and plan for future changes in climate. Climate adaptation will prepare the world for the impacts of climate change.

After meeting with Joel Scheraga, I began to wonder in what ways the Jersey Shore was rebuilt to withstand future climatic events.

Will New Jersey be ready for the next superstorm?

These images show the changes in the landscape after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. 

 

Trick or Treat? The truth about Halloween candy

Lets face it, Halloween is all about the candy! Every October, Americans spend at least $2 Billion dollars on Halloween candy. However, what most people don’t realize is that the environmental impact of these sweet treats is actually a trick. Here is the low down on Halloween candy, and how you can avoid the tricks and enjoy more treats.

Palm oil, a type of edible vegetable oil grown specifically in tropical climates, is an extremely versatile cooking oil that, among many other household items, is also found in candies. Palm oil is inexpensive and can be found in “50 percent of items found in supermarkets” (Donlon, 2014). This global commodity is extremely popular and production rates are doubling. So what is the problem with palm oil? Palm oil is a driving force of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions, which are all contributing factors to climate change. Large areas of tropical forests have been destroyed throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa in order to clear land for palm plantations. This process of deforestation has several impacts on the environment. The process of clearing the land involves slash and burn agriculture, which is the deliberate burning down of forests. This burning results in habitat loss and species disruption, which in some cases is leading to extinction. The clearing of the land also makes it easier for poachers to capture and sell wildlife. Orangoutangs are often targeted by poachers. Not only does this impact wildlife, but also it releases stored carbon into the atmosphere, thus altering the concentrations of greenhouse gasses. This is just one aspect that shows the unsustainable side of Halloween.

Read further on sustainable chocolate!

This Halloween be “HalloGREEN” and refrain from consuming candies containing palm oil!

See how to enjoy Halloween treats without destroying the planet here!

Find more information about Palm Oil and how to get involved!! 

Happy HalloGREEN !!

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Donlon, Diana. “Trick or Treat? The Frightening Climate Costs of Halloween Candy.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

What Actually Is Nature?

In addition to our mosaic courses, Global Climate Change and Global Environmental Challenges and Governance, I am taking an elective course, History of the Environment. This course takes us way back to the original hominids and the beginning of human interactions with the environment.

Contrary to popular belief, humans have been altering the Earth’s natural landscapes from centuries before the industrial revolution. If you feel bad about your environmental footprint, your ancestors are to blame. Our ancestors have been exploiting Earth’s resources since their existence, and yes that includes Native Americans. Even when humans aren’t transforming the land, natural occurrences and other organisms do. One of the debated topics in class is questioning What is nature? Is there such thing as “pristine” wilderness? Well, I hate to break it to you but there is no such thing as pristine wilderness, there are no places that remain untouched. Some people identify nature as a getaway from urban centers to the country or forests. However these “natural” places were created by humans. Most of the species that exist now did not exist before our time. Do you have a dog? Well, dogs did not always exist until humans selectively domesticated wolves. And that is just one example. The primitive hunter and gatherer societies caused the megafaunal extinction, and we will never get to meet any of the large species once served on a dinner plate…or rock. Since the discovery of fire, one of human’s greatest accomplishments, Earth’s landscapes have been forever transformed. Slash-and-burn methods, or fire-stick farming, have been a major part of human interaction with the land. The aboriginals in present day Australia were complete pyromaniacs and actually burned the land so intensely that today’s existing landscapes are a product of it. Some primitive civilizations exploited their land so badly it resulted in their own self-destruction.

So, the history of the environment has made me aware that the transformation of Earth’s landscapes is not at all a new phenomenon. Will history repeat itself? Is our present day society on its way to self-destruction?

As I now know nature is not defined as “pristine wilderness” I am still looking for a new definition. How would you define nature?

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Have your cake and eat it too with the “Mixed-track” Approach

 

The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) has two objectives taken on by two different workstreams. The goals of the ADP are to develop a new framework that will govern all parties under the UNFCCC by the COP 21 in 2015 and to close the ambition gap by ensuring the highest mitigation efforts by all parties. Keeping in mind the golden number, 2 degrees Celsius, is the limited amount of global temperature rise. The complexities of climate change involve multilevel governance. Finding the best approach towards climate governance is a heavily debated topic, given the difficulty of reaching a global agreement. Two opposing approaches are a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach. These approaches are used to link the economy and greenhouse gas emissions.  Top-down involves a, “contractual approach favoring binding targets and timetables” (Bodansky, 1). While bottom-up involves, “facilitative approach favoring voluntary actions defined unilaterally”(Bodansky, 1). David Bodansky argues that an effective international agreement relies on multiple variables: stringency, participation, and compliance. However, “weakness along any of these three dimensions will undermine an agreement’s effectiveness” (Bodansky, 2). Which is why he argues both models should be merged in order to cumulate an effective agreement.

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The Kyoto Protocol was expected to lead a long-term top-down approach for mitigating climate change. Developed and developing countries could not come to a consensus in the negotiation process. Instead, countries have taken on their own climate obligations through a bottom-up approach. The failure of the top-down approach through the Kyoto protocol allowed for alternative approaches to take way, such as the Cancun Agreements.  At Cancun, “the Brazilian government declared it would halt all deforestation in Brazil by 2025” (King, 2011).  A bottom-up approach essentially implements policies at the lowest level of organization. Thus, proposing the idea that action can be taken at every level. There are numerous municipal initiatives and cities that are the centers of innovation for more sustainable practices. While a top-down approach focuses its attention on mitigation, a bottom-up approach concentrates on adaptation and the notion of vulnerability. Local approaches tend to have more short-term results, whereas top-down methods involve long-term impacts.

A hybrid, or “mixed track,” approach will be necessary in order to establish absolute commitments. Both approaches have different strengths and weaknesses, but together the weaknesses are compensated. For example, bottom-up attracts participation and implementation but does not effectively enact regulations. On the other hand, top-down results show the opposite. Mitigation and adaptation are both equally important in combating climate change and can both be reached through a mixed track approach of governance. We must not only rely on global agreement and regulation, but also on local implementations and participation. A legally binding treaty would ensure compliance but in addition we need local projects and governance in order to take fast action. The combination of both top-down and bottom-up approaches will be the most effective route in achieving the post-2020 goals of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action.

Works cited

David Bodansky, “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement,” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (2012): 1-11.

King, David, and Achim Steiner. “Is a Global Agreement the Only Way to Take Climate Change?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, n.d. Web. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/27/durban-climate-change-delivery

Today is the day: An optimistic approach.

Is it just me or does Morgan Freeman’s distinctive voice make anything sound possible? Freeman does just this through his narration of the short film What’s Possible, which was presented to the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York a few weeks ago. This short film expresses global concerns through magnificent images in under 4 minutes. Morgan Freeman points out we already have all the technology we need in order to solve climate change. Now we must get our world leaders together to take action. This short film shows we have already done half of the work through developing groundbreaking technologies fostering sustainability, now we must have a cooperative approach towards governance.

Having a pessimistic view on climate change is the world’s demise. The people who think it is too late to act on climate change must realize everything we need is right here with us. We must be optimistic in order to change towards more sustainable ways. We have the capability to destroy this planet (which we are) but we have an even greater capability to save it. It is up to us to take action, this is our problem!

 

Watch the sequel to What’s Possible, A World of Solutions!!

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