“Man and nature are two things, man is master”


So I just finished reading The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis for my Sustainability, Social Justice, and Human Rights class… I have to say, I am left completely disagreeing with Lynn White’s perspective of our ecological crisis (coming from someone living in the 21st century while the article was written in 1976. When White says, “By destroying Pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects” (White 1205) I began to wonder why I have never learned this Christian view seeing that I went to catholic schooling for several years and we supposedly were taught world religions. If I have to say I learned something from this reading I certainly have. The idea that Christianity establishes a dualism of man and nature but insists God’s will is that man exploits nature for their own ends is a totally new concept to me. (White 1205)

White’s main point is essentially that the joining of science and technology together had huge ecological impacts and that Christianity is to blame for this. She states, “I personally doubt that disastrous ecological backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology” which I do agree with. I don’t think technology advances will solve our problems- costly carbon sucking vacuums can only do such much for our atmosphere but behavioral and cultural changes along with changes in worldwide frameworks are what will solve our ecological disaster. Where I do not agree, however, is when White says the only way to solve our disaster is through a change in religion… “More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one.”

This graph (2005) shows world religious identifications where 77% are not identified as Christian and of that 16% identified as nonreligious. Can you blame a global problem on 33% percent of the world? I don’t think so… furthermore, I do not think it’s plausible that any religious changes could make a significant enough impact to better today’s environmental crisis


White, Lynn. The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis. 10 March 1967. Science 155, 3736; 1203-1207.

What actually happened at the COP?

Now that I’ve had a solid 4 weeks of relaxation (and transcribing interviews) since I got home from Peru and the COP, it’s time to begin thinking about school again, and as such, I’ve decided to reflect on the COP with a blog post.

I never actually stopped thinking about the COP, or at least climate change. Every time my mom made me a home-cooked meal, or I was out driving somewhere or eating with friends, I couldn’t help but think about the effect my actions were having on the climate. Something as simple as eating, and I couldn’t help but think about the emissions that went into putting a simple pizza on my plate! And Christmas was horrible, especially after hearing dozens of people talking about how we need to turn away from being such a consumer culture. I had already told my mom I didn’t really want to make a big deal about Christmas, but even so, it was still a huge operation, albeit less so than in past years.


But to get back to the topic at hand, in the weeks and months leading up to COP20, you could hear people such as Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, stressing the importance of this COP. In September, thousands of people worldwide took to the streets to take action. In New York City alone, more than 300,000 people took to the streets to demand action from those taking part in the New York Climate Summit, happening during the same time, with companies and investors declaring their commitment to a low-carbon world. The momentum leading up to this COP was amazing.


And it was deserved, too. COP20 in Lima was very important, as it would lay the groundwork for negotiations to take place in Paris the next year for COP21, which would be even more important as the Paris COP, where governments will attempt to reach a universal climate agreement. But, being at COP20, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to catch what’s actually going on in the main negotiations. I don’t think I actually knew what had come out of Lima until I came home. So here I will try to show some important things that came out of the Lima negotiations:


First of all, a draft text was decided on that will be used in negotiations leading up to Paris. Over 100 countries are now advocating for a long-term mitigation goal, which is a good sign, and there is also good support for review cycles to strengthen emission reduction actions and support low-carbon growth.


In terms of the INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which are to be submitted by March of this year (2015), proposed contributions will require information concerning the sectors and the gases covered, in addition to accounting approaches. The Lima decisions also allows for an analysis to be published by the UNFCCC aggregating all the contributions and reviewing how well they add up to staying below the 2 degrees Celsius marker.


Some progress was made on finance, which is a huge part of the climate negotiations. Contributions to the Green Climate Fund surpassed $10 billion, with 27 developed and 5 developing countries pledging money, giving a strong foundation to the GCF. Even with this, though, there is still much to be done on finance for crafting a post-2020 regime. The Lima decision urges developed countries to provide support, not necessarily finance, to developing countries, and the COP did request that developed countries help to “enhance the available quantitative and qualitative elements of a pathway,” but there is still much to be done in terms of specification in the Paris agreement about allocation and levels of finance, etc., in the post-2020 world.


One disagreement between developed and developing countries is about the attention that should be paid to adaptation (something I didn’t know until transcribing interviews). Developed countries believe negotiations should be focused on mitigation mainly, while developing countries want an equal focus on adaptation. Lima saw more attention paid to adaptation than previous COPs, with developing countries pushing for equal billing of adaptation in the Paris agreement. Many developed countries wanted to limit national contributions to mitigation only, but with the world already facing record-breaking floods and heat waves, developing countries were able to get adaptation included, albeit without much guidance on what information will be provided, and how these contributions will be assessed.


In addition to this, the process of how national adaptation planning is reported was improved, and there is now a work plan focusing on loss and damage.


Although much focus has been paid to a post-2020 agreement, the year is 2015, which means we have 5 years until that agreement would take hold. As such, negotiations also focused on pre-2020 actions. Countries will continue to share experiences curbing emissions, identify best policy actions, and continue expert meetings about actions through 2020.


Forests and reforestation, including REDD+, was also a talking point, due to the COP being held in a country with extensive forests. Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia, Guyana, Mexico and Malaysia all submitted reference levels benchmarking their emissions from deforestation, which paves the way to start receiving performance based payments for forest conservation and restoration. At the Global Landscapes Forum, Initiative 20×20 was launched, a Latin American country-led initiative to restore 20 million hectares of degraded forestland. Five impact investment firms pledged $365 million to recover cloud forests, avoid deforestation and boost climate-resilient agriculture. Also, advances in satellite forest monitoring and carbon mapping were announced in Lima.


But inside the COP, the focus on REDD+ was mainly on clarifying safeguards. Countries ended up not elaborating more on the safeguards, meaning countries can decide for themselves how to report on safeguards; disappointing for me as this is a topic which I got interested down in Lima, and this development is not something that will be good for many indigenous forest dwelling peoples.


Outside of these things, many cities including Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Tokyo highlighted best practices and pushed for greater action at the international level. Also, the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories was announced. The first step of this is to identify and measure where city emissions come from through the use of the first global emissions standards for cities to track performance and set credible targets.


A lot of good stuff came out of COP20, but it is much weaker than what many people were hoping for. There is still a lot to be done in the coming year leading up to COP21, which will be crucial in keeping our world below 2 degrees Celsius. With so many countries and so many different viewpoints that need to be addressed to solve such a huge and time-sensitive problem, it’s very hard to stay optimistic, especially with so many people saying that we won’t be able to skirt disaster, but we’ve all got to try and keep on working to do what we can to avoid potential disaster.



Post COP Commentary


“I attended a United Nations Conference on Climate Change.” I have said this sentence many times over the weeks following COP20 in Lima, to friends, family, and random aquaintences that asked why I spent the three weeks following thanksgiving in Peru. “Afterwards, we traveled both as a group and individually; so I got to go to the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and then Lake Titicaca and Arequipa.” My response when asked what I did with the rest of my time in South America. All-in-all not a very causal conversation, but one I am fortunate enough to get to have.

However, I learned to use only this exchange after several failed attempts to explain the trip. Upon returning home I was frankly shocked at just how few people I talked to that had never heard of the conference, let alone knew that it was an anual event happening then. Initially I responded to the  inevitable, “So what did you do in Peru?” with, “I was at COP20 doing research with my school.” Confused faces egged me to elaborate, “You know the UNFCCC conference?” (always said as “UNF triple C” because as Neil taught us, only dweebs would say C three times). This never worked so I would continue with something like, “Remember the Copenhangen Conference a few years ago? Or maybe the Kyoto Protocol? It was like that but this year’s conference in Peru.” Sometimes this would work, however, I have a suspicion that many of them who just smiled and nodded with some vaguely affirmative phrase, did so not in understanding but as a means to change the course of conversation to a more familiar topic.

After a full semester of nothing but talk of the climate change and the UNFCCC, I had forgotten that just a few short months ago I too would have been equally unaware of what happened in Lima. Finally, my family confronted me saying I needed to find a way to explain what I did in a way that would allow people to understand.

However, I was talking to people who know at least the basics of what is happening with climate change, have maybe even read an Inconvenient Truth or the Omnivore’s Dilemma, fully believe the science, and furthermore, enjoy following world news and current events. They were aware of China- US deal to curb emissions and yet, only a few had even heard of the UNFCCC, or COP, and were able to converse about what happened in Peru. If even the people who are well educated, generally aware and genuinely care about climate change are not well informed of a hugely important and impactful process, how are world leaders supposed to feel a great pressure to make real progress? In not throughly and consistently covering what happened in Lima at the larger news outlets and mainstream media there is an immense disservice to both the public and the UNFCCC process.  I noticed a lack of conversation about Lima even from the many environmental organizations I receive emails from. I usually have an inbox full of updates, petitions, and information about how to get involved in important environmental battles. Yet, nowhere did I see this type of awareness raising or request from their constituents to press for international cooperation and action to come out of COP20.

Obviously the uphill battle of climate change cannot be won if we focus exclusively on the UNFCCC or the outcomes of a COP. The issue is complex and requires action on individual, local and domestic levels as well. However, we need to fight on every front possible, especially the international level, to stand a chance. I believe that by essentially ignoring it, we are all but surrendering.


The Food System and Climate Change

Two billion people all over the world are affected by iron deficiency contributing to anemia. Two hundred and fifty million children suffer in more than half the countries on the planet suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. And 805 million people suffer from hunger. In the U.S. though, 1.3 billion people are overweight or obese due to a diet that is damaging to our bodies and our environment.

How could something so simple as eating, the most natural human activity, damage our environment? It is in the way in which our food system is set up, built upon fossil fuels. In the tropics, destruction of natural rainforests for agriculture contributes to 12% of total warming annually, even though only 50% of the food produced ever make it onto a plate. The creation of chemical fertilizers rely on oil, coal, or natural gas to supply the hydrogen gases necessary to artificially re-create the act of nitrogen fixation. Corn- and soy-fed cows consume on average the equivalent of 35 gallons of oil in their lifetime, due to the fertilizer used to grow their corn, transportation emissions, and many other sources of emissions along the industrial food chain. Wet milling, the process factories use to break down corn into factories to become cornstarch and various sweeteners, burns 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of processed food it produces. It takes 1.3 gallons of oil to make 4,150 calories. Food transportation is yet another contributor to GHG emissions, producing about 12% of emissions in developed countries, such as the United Kingdom.

The food supply chain greatly affects climate, but a warming climate will also affect the food supply chain. It disrupts crop yields and pushes food prices up, increasing food insecurity for the world’s population. A study led by the Harvard School of Public Health found that rising CO2 levels strip foods of vital nutrients, which will increase the number of undernourished children in developing countries. In Africa, this number is expected to rise ten-fold by the year 2050.

Poverty and climate change are self-reinforcing. As climate change threatens crop production, the number of hungry and malnourished in the developing world will increase, which will result in unsustainable practices in these places to meet their current needs. To mitigate climate change, and in turn allay undernourishment and poverty, we must reimagine our food system. We should support small farms, which will rely less on fertilizers due to their being polycultures (most likely, because it will make more financial sense for a small farm), as opposed to many corn farms in Iowa, which are grown as monocultures with no other plants and animals, other than corn and soy. We should convert degraded lands into productive farms, which will help adapt to and mitigate climate change, reduce rainforest destruction, along with enhancing global food security. Breastfeeding for infants is a highly sustainable intervention that will reduce the carbon footprint of our food consumption.

As we near the COP and the world inches ever closer to the 2 degrees C limit, we must remember not to treat climate change as an isolated issue. Every action we take will affect it, and it, in turn, will affect every action we take.


All statistics without a link from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

REDD+ and Indigenous Peoples

Many of my peers here at COP20 have probably heard the various rantings of me and Heather Morrison about REDD+, and why we believe it is wrong and should be taken out of a future Paris agreement. Because the COP is this year located in Peru, it seems that discussions surrounding REDD+ have taken a much larger public presence, because Peru is a country with mining and other extractive industries, and also Peru has in its country and in neighboring countries populations of indigenous peoples that are highly affected by REDD+. In this post, I will discuss REDD+, and the problems surrounding it.


REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that mainly focuses on offsetting carbon emissions by sequestering it in trees in reforested areas. It is a way to combat both deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that, because climate change has no boundaries, the location where greenhouse gasses are emitted does not really matter, so if you can take up the same amount of carbon in one location that is emitted in another, you can achieve net zero emissions. At the same time, you would be combatting deforestation, because transnational corporations or governments would finance reforestation projects in other parts of the world with deforestation problems.


REDD+ combats two very important problems: climate change and deforestation, and this seems like a great idea at first. But there are problems with how REDD+ is implemented, and many of those problems start with those people living in the areas that are home to REDD+ projects. Indigenous peoples and local communities are very adversely affected by REDD+. First of all, REDD+ has tried to build various safeguards into it, mainly dealing with getting allowing for indigenous participation in REDD+ governance and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights. But these safeguards are generally not well enforced at all, leading to the eviction of many indigenous and local communities off of their traditional lands, and lands that they rely on for agriculture and livelihoods. Most of the time this eviction is quite violent, with houses being burned down and people being murdered or thrown in jail, all in the name of conservation.


But even if it was possible to strictly enforce the REDD+ safeguards, there would still be the problem that these indigenous traditional lands, lands that should be under the ownership of those that live on them and monitor them, are being privatized, and the peoples living on these lands are being told that they can no longer practice their traditional livelihoods, because the land is now being used as a tree plantation for a specific type of tree which maximizes the sequestration of carbon. Biodiversity is reduced in favor of a monoculture of trees, and traditional agricultural practices, or land clearing for local communities is outlawed, as this would reduce the space available for tree space. The framework of REDD+ naturally causes the privatization of traditional lands and the marginalization of those that live on them.


And REDD+ really just allows transnational corporations and national governments to continue polluting. Financing a REDD+ project in a country means that these organizations don’t have to reduce their own emissions, because they are supposedly offsetting the emissions. And even though the idea that emissions are global and not regional is true, those communities living adjacent to huge power plants or extractive industries don’t really care if a company is offsetting their global emissions or not, because regionally the environment is being negatively affected, causing a degradation in the health of populations and their water quality. Just look at the chemical valley in Canada, or Cerro de Pasco, Peru. Even if governments or corporations are offsetting global emissions, they are still having just as much of a negative impact regionally.


REDD+ should be stopped and indigenous peoples given ownership over their traditional lands, and corporations and governments need to be made to reduce emissions and not just try to offset them in another part of the world. REDD+ has good intentions, but it won’t help to allow for the systemic change really needed to combat climate change. Stop REDD+, and change the system, not the climate.

The Life of a Climate Change Groupie


My week at the COP20 in Lima was a completely different experience than I had ever imagined. I am normally a relatively shy person when it comes to approaching strangers, but in order to succeed in getting interviews, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone. So the first question I faced was how on earth do I get these intelligent, busy and experienced people to talk to me?  From my time at the COP, I found several successful ways to score an interview. The first approach was stopping at any information booth that had to do with our topics. We began asking the booth operators what their organization was and from there we evaluated whether interviewing them could help us further our research. Most of our potential interviewees informed us that they “weren’t the person to interview” and handed us a business card of “someone that could help us with our research”. However later we learned the chances of the mysterious business card person e-mailing us back was a fifty, fifty chance. We were lucky with some of our booth-approach interviews for we were able to talk with the Head of Climate Alliance, a Peruvian indigenous chief, a scientist who worked on the REDD+ monitoring technology and other NGOS.

Another interview approach is something I call the after-side-event-creep.  The technique consists of attending specific side events and waiting until the speakers have finished talking. Then you approach them (often more awkwardly than I participated) and then say “Hi I really loved your talk! Is there anyway I could ask you a few questions for my undergraduate research”. This mechanism I found to be more successful, but it does allow for the occasional embarrassing interview strike out. With this approach, I learned several lessons to be a successful climate change groupie- One: you must be fast. The speaker often has a line of fellow climate change groupies that that tend to shoot you death glares if you take too much time in your interview. Also there is a press for time because the room is often booked for another event directly afterwards, so the speakers leave the room quickly before you have time to chat with them. Two: you must pick your interviewee wisely. Often you want to chat with all the panelists, but usually there is only time to interview one person. So it’s important to evaluate which panelist could provide you with the most vital information and which panelist most likely to agree to an interview. Three:  have your equipment ready. For the first couple interviews, our equipment was all over the place, creating obstacles for everyone around us. We learned to have tripod ready with the camera attached, so again the interview did not take too much time. This approach was the most groupie-like, but by the end of the week I felt like we had almost perfected the process.

Lastly is the luck-of-the-draw approach. A great deal of the strongest connections I made occurred randomly without the help of my detailed schedule. Due to circumstance and timing, I was able to chat with people who provided me with valuable input on my research. The first day at the COP sat next to a man on the bus who worked on REDD+ projects in Indonesia, which provided me with information on how Indonesia differs from the Amazon.  Another interview only occurred because I dropped a pamphlet and the man sitting next to me picked it up and then began discussing the event. He use was a key member of Leave It In the Group and I had a 30 minute long interview with him.  My classmate and I also met an undergraduate from Northeastern who we later met up with an discussed our concerns about REDD+ and Indigenous communities.

From taking undercover selfies with Christiana Figures to following a man who resembled the past President of Peru to memorizing the faces of delegates from photos on the Internet to trying to strike up conversations at the printer, the Week 1 team were successful climate change groupies.

Climate Change is Simple

Dubbed “Politicians Discussing Global Warming” by social media. Street sculpture by Isaac Cordal.

Why is no one talking about climate change?

A 2014 Gallop poll found that more than half (56 percent) of Americans are concerned a great deal or a fair amount about climate change. However, how often do you hear people bring up the subject of climate change in everyday conversation? It’s a downer, that’s true, but you think the impending doom of the climate as we know it would get more air time.

In a recent TED talk, David Roberts talks about why some people don’t like to talk about climate change- they think it’s too complicated.

Anytime you mention it, the hoards descend, bearing complicated stories about the medieval ice age or sun spots or water vapor… and you know there’s a lot of myths born by these climate skeptics but to debunk these myths you have to go online and research and read and be able to respond to them in detail and a lot of people just find that prospect dreary and so they don’t bother. -David Roberts

However, Roberts assures us that climate change is simple. You just need to know a few key facts.

1. Gases surround the Earth to warm it and keep it stable.

2. For the last 10,000 years the climate has been relatively stable (around +/- 1 degree C).

3. All advanced human civilization since the dawn of agriculture has taken place within this 10,000 year period of stability. In other words, our present society is built upon the Earth’s climate remaining the same.

4. However, humans are changing this past climate stability by burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. We’ve already raised the global average temperature 0.8 degrees C.

5. The data is very strong on the cause of climate change, but, in spite of this, we humans are not doing much to change our habits. Unfortunately, our present course leads to certain catastrophe.  


The iconic “stay below 2 degrees C” is a goal almost certainly too high to be safe and too low to possible. At the rate we are going, global average temperatures could increase around 4 or 6 degrees C by the end of this century. This means a completely different Earth than the one we inhabit today. This means intense droughts, different coastlines, and vast amounts of uninhabitable land.


There are many complicated and fascinating discussions to be had about what to do about it or about what effect our actions might have on the climate and when or which policies are best based on cost benefit analysis. There’s complexity, plenty of complexity, for those who like complexity but we now know to a fair degree or certainty that if we keep doing what we are now doing, we will face unthinkable catastrophe.

That’s the bumper sticker, that’s the take home message.


And saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about that because I don’t know the ends and outs is like saying ‘I don’t want to raise alarms about Hitler’s army being 100 miles out because I don’t know the thread count of their uniforms or I don’t know the average calorie intake of a German solider. You don’t need to know those things to be scared that the army’s on the margin, to raise alarms about it.

-David Roberts

Now, it’s our job as citizens of the Earth to talk about what’s going to happen. We know potentially catastrophic change is coming. We know how to decrease the danger. Now we just have to take collective action as the human race.



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>.


Potential of Renewables


In the World Watch Report, Renewable Revolution: Low-Carbon Energy by 2030 there are several topics about renewable energy sources discussed including future US scenarios, future global scenarios, policies, ways forward, etc.. Another important area of focus is the huge potential of renewable energy sources in helping reduce levels of emissions. (Sawin and Moomaw) This brings to the table a significant debate over whether or not the best approach to stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations is through mitigation implemented by policy instruments such as cap and trade systems or carbon taxes or if the best approach is a global transition to renewable energy sources. The evidence of previously successful transitions to renewables is strong enough to support the idea of an entire energy transformation.

There is enormous potential for all sectors of the economy to improve by investing in renewable sources of energy such as wind, hydro, tidal, and solar among others. “No one benefits from the release of greenhouse gas emissions, but developed and developing nations alike will benefit in numerousways from the transition to an energy-efficient and renewable world”(Sawin and Moomaw) To ensure the largest emissions reductions, both improvements in energy efficiency and renewables will be required however, this essay will focus on renewables. Advanced technologies can already be seen in several success stories including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, among several others.

Germany, for example, went from using essentially no renewable sources of energy to being one of the world’s leaders in the transition within just a decade. In eight years the amount of the country’s electricity coming from renewables, has increased from 6% to over 15%, leaving them well on their way to achieving their aggressive national targets for 2020. Also in the last decade, their wind and solar industries have accelerated tremendously, and the contribution of renewables to the overall final energy demand has tripled. The benefits of this movement has been not only in heavy carbon emissions reductions, but also in jobs, industry saving from fuel imports, and less pollution in the environment. The example of Germany’s noble efforts is “proof that, with a clear sense of direction and effective policies, rapid change is possible” (Sawin and Moomaw) In 2008,Germany emitted about 748 million tons of CO2 from energy use, it is estimated that if not for renewable sources, total emissions might have been about 860 million tons or 15% higher.

Furthermore, illustrations can be seen Denmark, Sweden, China, Brazil, and Isreal. First, in Denmark, their “economy has grown 75%since 1980, while the share of energy from renewables increased from 3 percent to 17 percent by mid-2008. In 2007, the country generated 21 percent of its electricity with the wind (Sawin and Moomaw). The Danes have set a target of 30% of their energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. Next, a significant shift away from fossil fuels can be seen in the heating industry in Sweden. They are now using biomass and waste as alternatives, because of heavy energy and carbon taxes, accounting for over 61% of total district heat production.

Also in the forefront of renewable action is China, hopefully setting a strong example for other nations by leading in the use of solar water heating, small hydropower, production of solar cells and wind (explosive growth rates). “A 2007 national plan aims for renewables to meet 15 percent of China’s primary energy demand by 2020. The government has tripled its 2020 wind target,from 30 gigawatts to100GW, and recently pushed its 2020 solar target from 1.8 GW to 20 GW” (Sawin and Moonmaw). Other models include Brazil who is thriving by using ethanol as a non-diesel fuel in vehicles and Israel who is a world leader in solar water heating.

As all of these examples show, over the past several decades renewable technologies have seen significant cost reductions and a real ready helping to avoid energy-related CO2 emissions. Estimates such as this one, On a world wide basis, the Global Wind Energy Council estimates that wind power avoided 123 million tons of CO2 in 2007” (Sawin and Moomaw) among others should be reason enough to see the potential of pushing for a quick revolution to renewable sources. Examples of places such as Germany show the great potential that can be unlocked.

clean-energy-world-leaders-2012-570x382 Check out this chart of leading countries in the renewable revolution.

Works cited

Sawin & Moomaw, Renewable revolution: low-carbon energy by 2030, Worldwatch Institute, 2009.

Renewable Revolution!


Climate change does pose significant threats to prospects for sustainable development. It impacts our environmental, economic, and social development. With climate change in our radar, our ability to meet basic needs to sustain life would be difficult. The behavior that we are carrying out currently may allow or disallow our use of planet earth by future generations. It is also very difficult for developing countries to develop sustainably due to lack of government policy, finance and adaption plans.

In “Renewable Revolution: Low-Carbon Energy by 2030” by Janet L. Sawin and William R. Moomaw, the focus is on sustainable development but by the reduction of energy usage by using it more efficiently and using mostly renewable energy resources.  “Humanity can prevent catastrophic climate change if we act now and adopt policies that reduce energy usage by unleashing the full potential of energy efficiency in concert with renewable energy resources” (Sawin & Moomsaw, 2009).  This is a valid statement because climate change is first and foremost a challenge to development.  Climate change is not just a pollution problem.  In Sawin and Moomsaw’s article, they also stated that “A combination of political will and the right policies can get the world on track to mitigate climate change in the near term while also meeting demand for energy services, providing energy access for the world’s poorest, boosting the global economy, bolstering energy security, and improving the natural environment and human health” (Sawin & Moomsaw, 2009).

According to “Integrating Development in Climate Change: A Framework Policy Discussion Paper on Key Elements for the Development of the Post-2012 Global Climate Policy Regime” by the South Centre, global cooperation to reduce developed countries’ climate footprint and support developing countries’ adoption and implementation of low carbon sustainable development methods should be a priority. In context of the climate change negotiations, there is hope for developing countries to form policies that would promote and aid sustainable development objectives. The South Centre proposed that the post-2012 framework should support the creation of an international economic system that supports and promotes economic development of developing countries (South Centre, 2007). However, certain aspects need to be accounted for such as the need of flexibility to properly determine what policies are needed for development as well as what is best for adaptation to climate change. Policy parameters for the design of economic and environmental policies that were projected by the South Centre are “…the development policy space for developing countries in the areas of tariff and non-tariff barriers, intellectual property, investment promotion and regulation, regional integration, industrial policy, and finance regulation; and the environment and carbon space to increase GHG emissions, to the extent that may be required to enable them to increase the standards of living of their peoples to levels commensurate with a decent and dignified way of life” (South Centre, 2007).




Sawin & Moomaw, Renewable revolution: low-carbon energy by 2030, Worldwatch Institute, 2009.

South Center, Integrating Development in Climate Change. Nov. 2007.