No Borders for the CCP

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Cities are some of the most populated areas around the world, which make them a practical starting point for raising awareness and initiating action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cities are an important area of concentration for production and consumption, therefore a number of environmental issues arise in cities around the world. The Cities for Climate Protection is a transnational network, which concentrates on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in urban spaces. “The ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection program originated as both climate change and sustainability began to become significant issues for local authorities.”[1]This network effectively advances its objectives with respect to governing climate change by promoting renewable energy and clean development in cities worldwide. The actions performed by the Cities for Climate Protection emphasize how critical local governments are in the response to global climate change.

Participation in the Cities for Climate Protection is different than other transnational networks, in which the CCP is not an exclusive organization and they “seek to recruit as many members as possible.”[2] Once a program member, the CCP network is committed to assisting in the reduction of local emissions through, “a series of five milestones of progress, involving conducting an emissions inventory, setting an emissions reduction target, formulating an action plan, implementing policies, and monitoring progress.”[3] The ICLEI’s offers assistance for cities to pursue these five milestones. The Cities for Climate Protection program, as a transnational governance network, is both beneficial at local and international levels. Cities that are members of the program have access to financial resources, interact in a support network compromised of international cities, and have the ability to voice their environmental concerns. The CCP Australia, for example, has access to national funding specifically set aside for the program. Success has been seen through the CCP Australia resulting in, “saving 4.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007/8 and a total of 18 million tonnes since the program started.”[4]

The campaign of the CCP focuses on a collective effort made by cities, which creates a more effective route rather than having cities competing with each other. The CCP encourages membership by focusing on appealing strategies such as cost reductions. The U.S. city of Denver, Colorado has its own success with the CCP, “Denver’s municipal government invested $1.6 million into installing light-emitting diodes into all red traffic lights and ‘don’t walk’ signs across the city. The LEDs, having longer life spans and lower energy requirements, led to a $5million savings in energy use and maintenance for the city.”[5]The success of the CCP shows that tackling the issues of global climate change can be extremely productive even at a local level.

Growth of the CCP has also led to a global effort against climate change. “Today the CCP has 674 members responsible for 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”[6] Teamwork seems to be a recurring theme in governance for global climate change. The CCP and other transnational networks can collectively contribute to mitigation of global climate change. The ICLEI has set up a network compromised of strong, diverse local organizations, which together will improve communities around the world and work together against the larger threat of climate change.

 

 

 

[1]Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing Climate Change. London: Routledge, 2010. 55, Print

[2] Ibid,68.

[3] Ibid, 62.

[4] Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing Climate Change. London: Routledge, 2010. 67, Print

[5]Fay, Chris. “Think Locally, Act Globally: Lessons to Learn from the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.” Innovations: A Journal of Politics 7 (2007): 1-12. Web.

[6] Ibid.

Actors pretend for a living, the rest of the population does not.

 

Tuesday morning actor Leonardo DiCaprio addressed world leaders at the UN Climate Summit. What was this product of hollywood doing in a room full of heads of states? Well, he compared his acting career of “pretending for a living” and “solving fictitious problems” to how humankind is confronting climate change, pretending it is not happening to our planet. I’m sure many of us has seen hollywood “climate-fiction” films such as The Day After Tomorrow, but we must be able to differentiate fact from hollywood’s fiction. Is getting the fictitious world of hollywood involved in the fight against climate change an effective wake up call? How do we get the people to stop pretending and face reality?

 

Read DiCaprio’s full speech here

 

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Climate Change Governance Efforts: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

the good the bad and the ugly

In a history class, the covered material often consists of past societies’ wars, plagues, rebellions and leadership transitions. Whereas, it seems that periods of peace and prosperity are glimpsed over in the history books and its importance is disregarded.  This neglect for positivity is demonstrated in the climate change’s history where the efforts are often described as failures.  Global climate change is a multifaceted crisis and evidently does not have a straightforward solution. However to describe the notion of a “cooperative response” at the COP20 convention as “naïve and contrary to the record of human history” is unfair (Bova, pg 249-50). Bova’s realist perspective is supported from aspects of past climate change governance; yet, the constructivist international relations paradigm is a more appropriate theory due to the climate change policy landmarks, the global participation in the climate change crisis and negotiations’ advancement through science.

The previous efforts to govern climate change refute the realism view due to: the international efforts and acceptance of climate change, the advancement of international institutions and the number of climate change milestones throughout history.  First of all, realism is a power-based regime theory in which states behave to benefit their own-self-interest politically, socially and economically.  This theory may be applicable for some countries, but holistically countries have worked cohesively on the climate change crisis. One example of successful international climate change relations is the emergence of various institutions, consisting of countries that share similar climate change interests and goals.  The UNFCC and COP are two examples of decision-making bodies that have world-wide involvement to tackle climate change.  Other institutions consisting of SBI, POS, EU and G77 are divided based on geography, current conditions, issues and interests; they are all involved in globally collective institutions and are not motivated by their countries own self-interest.  The advancement of international institutions has led to the organization and planning of climate change governance, which is the first step in the negotiation process.

In contradiction of the realistic view, the history of climate change has achieved many historic milestones, especially, since the knowledge that human-induced climate change was not accepted in the scientific world until the 1970s.  In the last 44 years, climate change has resulted in a change of beliefs, “deepening of cooperation”, “firming–up obligation to act”, “identified problems pressing for a need for action” and the creation of “concrete, legally binding emission reduction commitments” (Bulkeley & Newell 20).  The international acceptance of climate change lead to a successful moment in history was when the UNFCC was agreed upon to deal with climate change. Afterwards the Montreal Protocol was passed to stop the use of chemicals that caused the depletion in the ozone. Another success was Kyoto Protocol that binded 38 countries to reduce their emissions (5.2% below levels in 1990) by 2008-12.  Despite the United States’ refusal to ratify agreement, overall the EU and G77 did not follow the United States’ self-interested footsteps. Instead they acted in regards to the knowledge that climate change was a pressing issue and become even more determined for Kytoto Protocol to succeed.  Regardless of climate change’s complexity and difficulties, there was a strength in climate change’s history for countries around the globe were able to work together through creating institutions and policies.

Although the climate change governance issues had momentum, not every country is participating the global prevention of climate change outlook and behaved with the self-interest as a priority.  One of these self-interested nations is the United States for they focused on the developing countries being required to follow protocols rather than focusing on its own high greenhouse gas emissions.  One example was when the United States refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol even though they helped develop it, 150 other countries signed it and are highly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.  Another realistic issue is that there are more components that require attention in the next conference. One component is that developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa have become heavy greenhouse gas emitting countries.   These countries now need to be more involved in the negotiation process and have to make vast changes in their organization. From the past, it is evident that all countries including developing nations need to be included/ restricted in the next agreement. Another component is the strong involvement of businesses for in the past countries did not want to make a mistake economically by altering their energy usage. Money necessary for the mitigations and adaptations strategies to be successful, so the involvement of businesses is vital. Although these components have proven to be difficult in the past, there is a clear need for countries to action from the scientific knowledge.

Although the history of climate change is foggy with self-interest intentions, it mainly consists of countries that have acted due to the acquirement of knowledge.  First of all, without science/ knowledge, the globe would not be aware of climate change and no efforts to govern climate change would be made. Specifically, the history of climate change begins at the Villa Conference of 1980 when scientist were asked to see if climate change was an issue.  From their science, it was realized that further investigation was required and WMO, UEP, ICSU were all created to define climate changes risks.  These organizations were key players in the efforts to govern climate change.  Most importantly, the most credible source used for climate change is the IPCC which is composed of a variety of scientist whom inform the globe about climate change.  The IPCC report determines how countries act towards climate change, which explains that the constructivist international relations theory is the most applicable for understanding the climate change governance.

Although, there are aspects of power-based international relations theory seen throughout the history of climate change, it seems that most of the efforts were based upon knowledge from scientists. Science has played a detrimental role in climate change governance for resulted in global participation and acceptance of climate change.  Although, climate negotiations will be difficult, if countries rely on the pressing dangers that science has demonstrated in the IPCC reports, countries can work together to avoid such issues and avoid the outcome of the youtube video below.

The Cost of Flying to Peru- INCORRECT

THE BELOW CALCULATIONS ARE INCORRECT. PLEASE GO TO THIS LINK TO SEE THE CORRECT NUMBERS.


 

During our first class of the semester, while discussing the coming trip to COP20, Neil asked the mosaic to think about the costs of traveling thousands of miles in order to be a part of high-level climate negotiations. For this part of the semester we will not be riding our bikes down the street for class, we will be flying. Air travel is an extremely carbon intensive way to get around, but our only realistic choice (we could sail?). He asked us to reflect on this and during this reflection to ask ourselves how is the carbon emitted from traveling there worth it?

In order to do this I needed to quantify those emissions. Using EPA values for air travel and the emissions per mile of CO2, N2O, and CH4. I then converted those three values into carbon dioxide equivalent values using an EPA calculator. The results are below in Table 1. If you would like the excel worksheet to use for yourself please comment below with an email address. For simplicity’s sake I used four flights as the entire trip. Some of the mosaic will be traveling elsewhere in South America or not returning to Washington DC after the meeting. The four flights are: Flight 1 from Dulles to Panama City, Flight 2 from Panama City into Lima, Flight 3 from Lima to Panama City, Flight 4 from Panama City to Dulles. While this may not be each member of the mosaics travel plans it is easier to group all of us into one. The results are in Table 2. Each flight assumes a total capacity of 177 passengers and spreads the emissions out, per passenger. This means that, according to the EPA, each passenger would be emitting the same amount of carbon as about 25 pounds of coal would, when burned.

Table 1
Table 1

 

 

 

Table 2
Table 2
Eight pounds of coal on a dinner plate.

 

 

 

 

 

The question I ask myself now is how do I make that worth it? It may not be a huge amount of carbon emitted, but it is still some and I the entire trip will only be resulting in more. This investigation also brought to mind an article in the Wall Street Journal about the coming “People’s Climate March” in NYC. The author points out the amount of emissions that will result in traveling to and from NYC for the marchers. This could be seen as a counterproductive practice, but I think that it is a good point to make. If we treat emissions from travel similar to an investment, can we assume that some sort of positive return will be had? When the mosaic flies to Peru, we have to work as hard as possible to make sure that the cost of our traveling there is not a negative impact on the atmosphere in the long-term, but that it leads to further reductions down the road. Whether that is from the readers of our blog or directly related to something learned from the COP.

How to End an Awkward Dinner Conversation? – Talk about Climate Change

hot topic cartoon

Everyone has experienced the endless question fandango. What school do you go to? Do you like it? What are you studying? What are you going to do with that? What’s next? Well, one day I hit a breaking point, so when one of my mother’s friend finished asking me those five questions. I went on an extended rant about the projected gloomy future of our planet. I discussed: the Arctic ice sheets completely melting by 2080, the rising sea levels that will engulf the Pacific Islands, the decreasing Amazon rainforest, the increase in frequency/intensity of hurricane and etc. Afterwards, I glanced over at my mother’s friend and she had a horrified look on her face. She made an excuse about “dying to see the renovation on the garage”.  Mission Accomplished.

However, after reading Bill McKibben’s book, eaarth , I realize now what I did was wrong.  Climate Change is apocalyptic enough, and the last thing I should be doing is crushing people’s moral regarding climate change. Climate change needs people’s interest, not dread.  McKibben informs the reader about the anthropogenic alteration to Earth’s atmosphere, biodiversity, oceans and landscape. These changes will result in a new planet and there have been consequences that have already negatively impacted thousands of people.

Rather than my end of the world scenario with no hope, McKibben paints positivity on to his pages.  He offers encouragement, hope and solutions.  For example, he acknowledges the switch to local farming and the individual level changes. Like other climatologists, McKibben calls for political and global level changes to green house gas emissions.  His website demonstrates the power of protesting and encourages people around the world to get involved. I gained a vast amount of positivity from reading earth and I hope to take McKibben’s approach towards climate change.

http://350.org/

 

Climate Change and Rhetoric

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The power of words is indescribable. They are: how we communicate with each other, how we express our feelings and how we share our thoughts.  How these words are used is up to the beholder, for words can completely alter how one perceives a topic.  A topic that demonstrates the effect of the right words by the right people is climate change.

In Merchants of Doubt, authors, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, convey the events that lead to the cloud of uncertainty surrounding global warming.   Surprisingly, it all started with three well-respected physicists who were able to orchestrate doubt through the media and politics.  Their approach was described as the “Tobacco Strategy”, which was utilizing the “lack of certainty” to it’s advantage to avoid the truth. For example, tobacco companies were able to argue that tobacco was not proven to be detrimental to one’s health because data was “uncertain”.   The three scientists applied the power of the word, “uncertainty”, to acid rain, the ozone hole and the cause of climate change.

However, only three scientists would not be able to spread the whole anti-climate change movement, so they hired scientists to add credibility and started the George Marshall Institute.  The right words were now coming from the right people, which is when rhetoric is most successful. If a civil war solider, not Abraham Lincoln, gave the Gettysburg Address it would not have even close to the same effect. In addition to the credible sources, they were able to use the media to their advantage and spread their ideas. Below is a talk by a scientist from the George Marshall Institute that exhibits climate change rhetoric.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5wqAaLf4Rk

After reading this book, it is slightly terrifying to think about the power of words and it’s effect on our ideas unconsciously.  It makes me wonder how the media’s crafty words have infiltrated my thoughts, ideas and actions.  Hopefully, after reading this book I can be more aware of my thought process.

The Impact of Human’s Hamartia on Climate Change: Procrastination at it’s Finest

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In a discussion about climate change with my father, I mentioned the dire circumstance of Earth’s future and the necessity for change on a global scale. He smiled at me and said with a shrug “Heather, they were saying that stuff when I was at school. And look, nothing happened, we are still fine and we will continue to be fine”.  I hate to admit it, but my father is a climate-change-denier.

Denial is a trait that we all share and exhibit to varying degrees, which can ultimately lead to procrastination.  When a hard-to-grasp or difficult situation arises, it’s easy to ignore the major issue and focus on the smaller ones.  In regard’s to climate change, human’s hamartia (fatal flaw) is denying that climate change is an issue, leading to the worldwide procrastination of changing our high-energy consuming lifestyles.  Fencer R. Weart discusses this dilemma through the historical analysis of scientist’s climate change discoveries in his book “The Discovery of Global Warming”.

Surprisingly enough, as far back at 1896, scientists already understood that global warming was occurring and human activities were responsible for contributing to atmosphere’s imbalance. Meaning that the academic world has been aware of climate change for 118 years and there has only been an increase in fossil fuel emissions.  It seems that as a race we are in severe denial about what is going on with our planet and the implications we are causing for ourselves for two major reasons. One reason is that climate change is a long-term issue that so far has not required immediate attention.  At least in American society, it seems that people would rather concentrate on the internal issues, such as gun laws and health care. These issues are important, but are more short term rather than long term.  Even though, the effects of global warming have not drastically affected our daily lives, there will be consequence for future generations around the world due to longevity of the feedback cycle.

The other reason is due to the orchestration of science is based on theory and uncertainties. People value certainty for when something is unsure it allows for people to believe there is another possible outcome or that action is not required because it COULD not happen.  For example, if the weather report predicts 100% chance of rain, then one will most likely wear a rain jacket; but if the report predicts for 50% chance of rain, one will most likely ignore the report. A problem that requires immediate attention will often receive action because it’s easier to act upon something that is more concrete. Throughout human history, the uncertainties have affected the credibility of climate change.  Even though, that’s how science works, people were able to foster in the unknown and say that even the professionals don’t know what is occurring.

When an issue is not set in stone and is at a global scale that requires an immense change in lifestyle, it is understandable why dealing with climate change has been pushed to the back- burner for over a hundred years. However, if we continue this extensive error in judgment about global warming, it could lead to our ultimate downfall.

Bringing Back Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Community members of Lambertville, NJ enjoy Community Kitchen- a great way to foster the community-mindedness McKibben percribes.
Community members of Lambertville, NJ enjoy Community Kitchen- a great way to foster the community-mindedness McKibben prescribes.

Eaarth by Bill McKibben is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in living through climate change. Focusing on what we need to do as a society and personally to adapt to our new planet, Eaarth, McKibben brings some hope to an otherwise hopeless subject. Just like any probable solution to adapting to a changing world, McKibben prescribes a paradigm shift, this time a shift from a centralized, ever-expanding society to more decentralized societies aiming to sustain community, not expand it. My sister and I were “raised by a village”. Growing up in a small town, the daughter of a folklorist and homebody, neighbors have always been an important part of my life. We are just as comfortable in our home as we are in the local library or other places we volunteer at. We barely ever get through a spontaneous baking job without borrowing a cup of sugar from one neighbor or a teaspoon of vanilla from another. Thus, McKibben’s prescription of more community-based efforts like micro-grids for power and local food initiatives resonated with me but even more so, the idea that we will need to rely on our neighbors for help as we continue to face climate changes hit close to home.

Already with Hurricane Sandy and losing power for 10-15 days in town, being neighborly became a requirement. Volunteering at the Community Kitchen in town, where there was no lights but still hot water and a working stove, we cooked everything that started to defrost from the freezer and must have fed the whole town at least twice. Everyone came out for the hot meal, not just the usual crowd. And those who did not show up, we brought chili to the charging station at City Hall. Just as McKibben claims, when we were hit with a disaster debatably a symptom of climate change, the whole town became neighborly as we could no longer rely on central power or central authorities to come to our rescue. The bottom line: people like to be neighborly once they give it a chance. When push comes to shove, they will reach out to help and get help not just from the poor half way across the world but those right across the street.

 

 

Being Neighborly- Lambertville, NJ’s Community Kitchen