The Outcome




I’ll admit it, I came to COP20 as a dewy-eyed, idealistic college student. After being immersed in the UNFCCC all semester, I was ready to see climate change tackled head on by the thousands of delegates that flew in from almost every country in the world. We came off the plane in Lima filled with excitement for the next two weeks.


I still felt the energy from attending the People’s Climate March in September. The EU had just announced its plans to reduce its total emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and, the previous month, China and the US, had jointly committed to addressing climate change.


The task for COP20 seemed simple enough: use voluntary agreements to create a draft of the Paris agreement. Even jaded COP20 attendees who I talked to felt that an agreement of voluntary commitments would be completed, even if the commitments were not very strong.


However, after two weeks of negotiating, the climate talks seemed on the verge of collapse. A day after the meetings were scheduled to end, a heated discussion ended in over 80 developing countries refusing to back proposals suggested by UN officials.


The delegates pulled a 32-hour marathon session to produce a modest compromise. With the overtime session, 195 countries agreed to adopt a four page document that explains the types of national climate targets they will need to deliver in the next six months.


Countries with the leading economies will submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by March 2015 and others will follow by June.


Still, most NGOs have called the agreement a weak one. A statement signed by Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Christian Aid said the agreement left the world on course of a warming of 4C or worse.


Countries do not need to explain how their INDCs are fair or ambitious. Instead, the UNFCCC will analyze the aggregate effect of all the pledges only a month before COP21 in Paris. Developing countries were placated with text including the importance of loss and damage. However, there is no concrete plan for raising the promised $100 billion by 2020 for developing countries.


Neither did Lima deliver concrete commitments to reduce short term emissions. Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF Global Climate and Energy Initiative said: “The science is clear that delaying action until 2020 will make it near impossible to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, yet political expediency won over scientific urgency. Instead of leadership, they delivered a lackluster plan with little scientific relevancy.”


In the end, the UNFCCC is just one tool for combating climate change. Waiting on politicians may take too long. A ground-up movement may be our best bet to avoid disaster.

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.

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A Green New World

green infra

Climate change mitigation can work hand in hand with development. In fact, a “green” world currently seems like the best economic option. According to a study by MIT, certain policies to decrease carbon emissions would save large amounts of money if implemented, even without calculating in the benefits from mitigated climate change (Resutek 2014). Lessening future climate change is not a cost to disregard either; refusing to take drastic measures to mitigate climate change only creates increased costs the future. According to a new report from the White House, allowing the climate to warm 3ºC would decrease global productivity by 0.9 percent. 0.9 percent of the United States’ GDP alone is over $150 billion (House 2014). All around the world, communities are transitioning to infrastructure that is run by renewables (Sawin and Moomaw 2009). These communities must be used as models and frame a new, low-carbon infrastructure system for the globe. A low-carbon world is needed urgently and working towards this world will increase development and decrease premature deaths.

There is a cost in transitioning to a less carbon intensive world, but there is an even greater economic benefit. Establishing a cap-and-trade policy on carbon will create over 10.5 times the benefit in health benefits alone than the cost of the policy (Resutek 2014). This is only a small portion of the total benefits that will accompany a low carbon world. Furthermore, costs from reduced use of fossil fuels and improved technology methods are less of a moral “cost” than the costs of asthma and other illnesses. We must work together to create a healthier, cleaner world.

By increasing the energy efficiency of households and infrastructure and convert to renewable fuels, we can raise the standard of living for many people while also decreasing the odds of experiencing catastrophic climate change. As the Worldwatch report states, “the current reliance on fossil fuels is not supportable by poor developing countries, and increasing demand for fossil fuels is creating dangerous competition for remaining available resources of oil and gas” (Sawin and Moomaw 2009, 6). Renewables such as solar can allow people in less developed places to use clean energy without being on a grid or contributing to poor air quality and climate change. Competing for the last amount of oil will only result in war and high amounts of climate change. It is much smarter to forget the stored carbon and move on together with new technology.

These shifts can and are happening quickly. Germany had virtually no renewable energy industry in 1990 but is now a world leader in solar and wind. This seemingly cloudy country has increased solar photovoltaics by a factor of more than a hundred. Denmark, Sweden, China, Brazil and Israel are quickly transitioning their energy sector. For the first time, in 2008, investment in new renewable power capacity exceeded that for fossil-fueled technologies. Revamping the energy system of communities creates new industries and jobs. In Gussing, Austria, the community members used biodiesel to become energy self-sufficient and improved the quality of life for the local residents (Sawin and Moomaw 2009). Working within and among communities can be a powerful tool for combating climate change while improving standards of living for world citizens.

The Worldwatch report creates a scenario of the United States transitioning to a renewable energy economy; however, an actual application of this idea does not currently seem politically feasible. The scenario can be achieved by first increasing energy efficiency of all states, requiring all new buildings to be zero-carbon and retrofitting two-thirds of currently existing buildings, reducing heat waste in industries, and shifting towards a reliance on renewable energies. The report, produced in 2009, says that a “green” U.S. can emerge by 2030 (Sawin and Moomaw 2009).  The pictures of clean energy for everyone, improving the lives of the impoverished, using the most efficient economic policy to produce mass health and climate benefits, or transitioning entire economies to efficient renewables seems almost unfeasible at the moment. In reality, if we start towards these goals, the policy will be much messier and less economically efficient. Transitioning will take much longer than could be possible. Providing development aid to poorer countries may be much less than needed. A perfect scenario to slow climate change should not be expected. Moving forward to a “green” world does not necessarily need to be a straight line, but as long as we keep fighting for change, some good will happen.





White House. June 2014. The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change. Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Resutek, Audrey. 2014. Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself. August 24.

Sawin, Janet L., and William R. Moomaw. 2009. Renewable Revolution: Low-Carbon Energy by 2030. Worldwatch Institute.




Mixing Art with Science


Just a bit ago, James Balog came to Dickinson to receive his Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. He came to check out all sectors of environmentalism at our college. I was able to spend lots of quality time with Balog– he ate breakfast at my home, the Center for Sustainable Living, came to my work at the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, and he stopped by our mosaic class.

During our interactions, I was struck by how eloquent Balog was when talking about nature. When asked about how he felt connected with nature, he talked about how the night connected him with the universe. The sky is deceiving, he said, when the light stops hitting the particles in the atmosphere, you see where we really are. You see that we are actually on a rock, speeding though outer space. You see that we have a small home in a vast universe and we have to protect it. We can’t allow our little space ship to be uninhabitable.


He said several times that there is no one thing that each person should do to combat climate change, we each have our own talents and should use those talents for the cause. Balog is using his artistic skills to raise awareness about increased glacial melting due to climate change. Sometimes, visual evidence can persuade people of the danger in ways charts and figures cannot.

You don’t need to be an economist or environmental expert to make a difference- if everyone used their own talents in slowing climate change, the force would be unstoppable.


A New Kind of Climate Agreement.



Throughout its history, the UNFCCC negotiations have been struggling to find the right kind of agreement that will have enough stringency in regulating emissions to avoid dangerous warming, participation from many nations involved in the global problem of climate change, and compliance of the pacts agreed upon by the Parties.  The Kyoto Protocol was, for some parties, too contractual of an agreement. The US refused to ratify it, Canada dropped out rather than legally exceed its set emission limits, and Japan and Russia decided not to accept the second commitment period targets. This top-down approach, a focus on the international governance of the UNFCCC, made participation and compliance difficult, and, currently, global emission regulations are not powerful enough to keep us from exceeding a 2ºC warming.


In order to step away from this sort of tactic, the bottom-up agreement reached in Cancun had nations volunteer their own mitigation and adaptation strategies. This resulted in participation among more nations but, because nations had an incentive to underestimate their capabilities, the agreement exudes a lack of ambition.


How can we find the perfect balance of governance that invites widespread participation, strict obedience to the rules, and ambitious guidelines that give this planet a better chance of staying below a 2ºC increase? The planet is warming quickly and many domestic governments do not seem willing to pass stringent emission regulations. It is difficult to enact a stringent climate policy when nations feel there is no reciprocity. At the same time, watering down an agreement so that more people participate is not enough action to stop dangerous global warming.


The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was established at the Durban Climate Change Conference in 2011. They are working on a protocol or agreement to present at the COP21 in Paris to implement in 2020. They hope for some agreement with legal force and a large impact in preventing dangerous climate change. The ADP needs an agreement with the stringency of a top-down approach with the compliance and participation of a bottom-up method. To do this, the ADP should try both- a mixed track approach.


We do not need everyone to participate, but we do need the largest emitters of greenhouse gases to comply with regulations. In the current political climate, a legally binding emission reduction agreement probably would not pass many nations’ governing bodies. The US Senate, for example, does not seem willing to approve a stringent protocol regarding climate change. Because of the recent recession, many nations are hesitant to enact legislation that may decrease GDP or economic revenue in any way. Some agreement is better than no agreement with these countries. A non-legally binding agreement from the bottom-up will allow big greenhouse gas emitters such as the US and China to get involved in reducing their emissions.    This may be the best we can do with regards to these countries. However, with a mixed track approach, we would not have to let the political failings of a couple large emitting countries hold the rest of the world back. It is foreseeable that the European Union (EU) and other developed nations would pass a legally binding climate agreement. Like the Kyoto Protocol, they could have an emission trading system and more stringent emission caps. As Bodansky and O’Connor point out, “stringency and participation should be seen as dynamic variables.” Hopefully, the US, China, and India can transition into the legally binding agreement with time and become participants in the emissions trading system.


The mixed track approach is the best solution for our current political situation. It is better to include large emitting countries like the US in a voluntary emission reduction program than send an agreement to their Congress knowing it will not pass. For other nations, a stringent global emission policy is necessary in order to prevent catastrophic warming. Ideally, even nations such as China, Brazil, and India may elect to sign onto the legally binding, top-down track. They may find that it is their nation’s best interest to reduce air pollution, increase energy independence, and be perceived favorably by the EU. With a mixed track approach, policy can retain the best aspects of both the bottom-up and top-down approaches. We can enact more stringent policy with select nations while allowing less compliant nations to participate. Many difficulties lay ahead, but trying this approach my make the negotiating efforts of the ADP more effective.


Works Cited:

Bodansky, Daniel and O’Connor, Sandra Day. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” December 2012. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Web. file:///C:/Users/Jess/Downloads/03%20Bodansky%202012%20durban-platform-issues-and-options.pdf.


Can Environmentalists and Economists get along?

econ - environment

When I’m not focusing on climate change in terms of the science and policy, I’m learning about climate change in terms of economics. My chosen class outside of the mosaic is Environmental Economics. As it turns out, I have a very themed semester because my economics professor specializes in the economics of climate change.


I’ve never been much of an economist. I love science and I love policy but figuring out how much Joe Smith should charge for his wooden chair has never been of much interest to me. From my perspective, economics and environmentalism often butt heads. The curriculum for environmental science majors at Dickinson has a large emphasis on economics classes. I think this is very practical; however, I never quite felt morally comfortable assigning all these economic values to humans and the natural world.


This semester I have a type of professor I’ve never had before. I have an economics professor who is also an environmentalist. I’m sure he would just call himself an environmental economist. I, however, am still working on merging the two worlds. I respect economics. I understand that it is advantageous to have proof that the cost of reducing CO2 emissions is lower than the regional environmental benefits, even if we don’t take the costs of climate change into account. 


Now, this class is helping me to flesh out my issues with assigning monetary values to all benefits and costs. Disliking this aspect doesn’t mean that you aren’t a proper economist, to the contrary, many economists are currently debating this issue. One point in economist Frank Ackerman’s essay, “Climate Economics in Four Easy Pieces” is the idea that in cost-benefit analyses regarding climate change mitigation, some economists do not take into account the concept that all costs are not morally equal. The economic cost of strictly reducing emissions now compared to the cost of human lives in the future is not comparable.


When human lives or entire species are categorized as monetary values for comparison, some economists can forget what these dollar numbers actually represent. For example, if the cost to build a seawall is $2 billion and the cost of damage and deaths from a hurricane is $2 billion, then some economists might cite the situations as equal. Furthermore, if the hurricane was several years into the future, the damage cost may be preferable when taking into account a discount rate. However, we are comparing construction costs, which create jobs and improve infrastructure, to the cost of human suffering and death. These are not in the same category.


When considering whether to act on climate change now or suffer the consequences in the future, we must remember that we are not comparing apples to apples. The costs now (creating better infrastructure; building cleaner energy production resulting in cleaner air; inventing more efficient technology; implementing taxes on carbon emissions) are in no way morally similar to the costs we could face in the future (increased drought, fires, storms, flooding and erosion; food and energy insecurity resulting in famine and wars; an extinction of possibly half of the organisms on the planet; a rise in sea level resulting in mass migration of coastal cities). Many economists agree with this argument and are fighting to convey this logic to the public. Now, I realize that I am on their side.



Cap and Trade



The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a transnational cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions in states and provinces in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont currently participate in this program, in addition to four states and provinces acting as observers. In an attempt to lower emissions to combat climate change, these states began auctioning emission permits in September 2008. These online auctions were the largest at the time. RGGI aims to stabilize CO2 emissions from power plants at 2002-2004 levels by 2015 and then reduce the level by 2020. So far, this network has been effective in advancing its objectives with respect to governing climate change.

As symptomatic of a transnational network, RGGI was started in order to act on the issue of climate change quickly despite federal lag. In December of 2005, governors of seven states agreed to the RGGI and outlined a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines the framework of the initiative. In response to public comment, amendments were made to the memorandum. This cap and trade program hoped to provide a model for larger implementation and reduce CO2 levels at the lowest possible cost. They aimed to create a fair and open carbon market for New England states. The RGGI explicitly states that it has no regulating or enforcement authority. As a transnational network, it uses soft measures in order to achieve its goals. It tracks and monitors CO2 allowances and it implements the auction platform, but individual states must voluntarily regulate their own emissions and pressure others to comply as well.  It engages in technical assistance, creating an environment of sharing information and building capacity within the members.

The RGGI has not been without challenges. The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, pulled his state out of the carbon trading system in 2011. His administration said that the RGGI does not work in cutting carbon emissions; they said it is simply an unnecessary tax to businesses. Those statements, however, are untrue. State environmentalists say that, because of the withdrawal, New Jersey is on track to lose $500 million by 2020. The New Jersey Superior Court recently ruled that because Christie’s administration refused to hold public hearing for the withdraw, it did not follow RGGI protocol. A new resolution is now coming through New Jersey’s legislature. If passed, New Jersey can return to RGGI, without needing approval from Christie. Regional governments have the power with regards to transnational networks; however, those regional governments are still responsible for acting with the needs of the public.

Transnational networks such as RGGI are often criticized on their effectiveness. Are these measures being proposed progressive actions that would not otherwise come into effect? Because of lower natural gas prices and the recession, 2012 emissions from regulated power plants equated to only 91 million tons of carbon. However, the cap for 2012 emissions was 165 million tons. Looking at these numbers, the RGGI hardly seems useful. In response to this, the RGGI created a program review to decrease the cap to 91 million tons until 2015 and maintained the 2.5 percent reduction in emissions per year from 2015 to 2020. The adaptation of policy to line up with the current emission trend is commendable. Is this enough?

Although the RGGI could have more stringent caps emissions, the transnational network is effective. Some reduction is better than no reduction. Furthermore, the New England states have the non-capped carbon states across the country to compete with. RGGI has been effective at reducing carbon emissions from the New England states.  To date, the program has prevented 792,000 short tons of CO2 emissions. The RGGI auction proceeds do a great deal in steering the region towards renewable energy sources. According to their 2012 Investment Report, RGGI’s auction proceeds to date will provide a more than $2 billion lifetime savings in energy bill savings for 3.2 million households and over 12,000 businesses in the region. The Analysis Group conducted an independent study in 2011 regarding the program and found that 16,000 job-years have resulted from RGGI’s investments.This concrete data shows the substantial impact that RGGI has had on combating climate change. It is an effective program because it is both in the best interest financially for the states and the best interest for the planet.

Are we doomed? How doomed?


Realists, believers that international anarchy means unavoidable conflict, predict a bleak future in regards to climate change. This paradigm in the study of international relations regards power as the driving force in nation state interactions. Realism tries to understand the interactions and conflicts that arise. Through this lens, nation states act out of self interest in the unrelenting pursuit of power. Cooperation among nations is limited; there is no higher order in international governance to enforce agreements among countries.[1]

Realism is only one of many paradigms with which to view the world in the study of global politics.  Furthermore, paradigms do not explain every historical and future event. These lenses are explainers and predictors in their most pure, almost exaggerated, form.  Unlike the hard sciences, these paradigms can co-exist; in some situations, some models will be more helpful than others in analyzing the causes of an event.  Other major paradigms include liberalism, constructivism, feminism, and neo-Marxism. Neo-Marxism is the only one that, like realism, dooms the world to inherent conflict. The others believe that with certain circumstances, cooperation can replace conflict in global politics. However, neo-Marxism sees economics as the driver of politics and, in an inherently unequal system, conflict is inevitable and cooperation is fleeting.[2] When considering the current handling of climate change, neo-Marxism is the best lens with which to predict the outcome of the international effort to attempt to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Looking at the debate around mitigating climate change, most of the conflict has been due to disparities in economies. The United States refused to ratify out of the Kyoto Protocol because China, as a non-Annex 1 nation, did not have any legally binding restrictions on emissions. This meant that the U.S. would have a distinct disadvantage in the global markets. China would be able to produce goods more cheaply, without having pay for the externality of emissions. They would also be more attractive to multinational businesses looking to lower the expenses of regulating pollution in production. Because of this conflict in economy, nation states could not cooperate and the Kyoto Protocol launched into effect without the ratification of the (then) largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, the United States.

When negotiating climate change mitigation strategies on a multinational scale, the barrier to cooperation is often economics. The fossil fuel industry is seen as so fundamental to the culture of development, that restrictions and regulations are often perceived as a direct threat to jobs and income. It is true, we must suffer a reduction in GDP now in order to prevent more dire losses in production in the future. According to the Stern Review, in order to stabilize greenhouse gases at around 500-550 ppm, the world would suffer an annual loss of 1 percent global GDP by 2050. However, this cost is low relative to the cost of inaction. A 5-6ºC warming could cause a 5-10 percent reduction in global GDP.[3]  Nations struggle with making legislation that reduces GDP, even if it is a better long term solution. This creates tensions between actors as they attempt to negotiate the boundaries between scientific warnings and short term economics as they collaborate in a global arena.

The economies of the many nations involved in these negotiations are central to the climate change policy debate. Non-Annex 1 nations perceive it unfair to have imposed policies that could slow their growing economies. Forcing developing nations to pay for more efficient technology in order to combat a problem they historically did not cause seems unfair. These issues are now crucial sources of conflict in the policy debates. Which economies should pay to reduce global emissions? How do we weigh the luxury economies of the North to the survival economies of the South when determining cuts? Which economies will suffer the most from the effects of climate change? Questions of weight and fairness create large fissions when working among nations of differing amounts of wealth and responsibility.

Unlike realist perceptions that inherent conflict between nations stems from military power struggles, the neo-Marxist approach cites differing economies as the intrinsic barrier to global cooperation. This paradigm fits the current international negotiation surrounding climate change. However, does looking at the global mitigation of climate change through a neo-Marxist lens mean that the earth is doomed? The world might not work together as well as the climate scientists are saying they must, but the future is simply uncertain. Neo-Marxism only states that international cooperation is difficult, not impossible. The question is whether nation states can act together quickly and forcefully enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change upon their citizens. It is a mystery as to whether the international community will cooperate well enough to prevent the great conflicts and deaths that will arise from the new, hotter earth we are creating. What are important, regardless of the outcome, are the serious actions that citizens and governments take now in attempt to avoid disaster.



[1] Bova, R., 2011, “How to think about world politics, realism and its critics” (pp 3-37). In R. Bova, How the World Works: A Brief Survey of International Relations, Longman Publishing, pp 3-37.

[2] Bova, R., 2011, “How to think about world politics, realism and its critics” (pp 3-37). In R. Bova, How the World Works: A Brief Survey of International Relations, Longman Publishing, pp 3-37.

[3] Stern, N. (2006). “Summary of Conclusions.” Executive summary. Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition). HM Treasury.


Change and Complexity

climate change deny


This drawing illustrates two things.


1. Change is hard. People are often stuck in their own beliefs. It usually takes a generation or two of people dying out to change society’s beliefs. Just ask Ignaz Semmelweis, one of the first people to observe the germ theory. The scientific community thought his claims of hand washing to reduce mortality in hospitals were baseless and insulting. (Ironically, he was beaten by guards in a mental hospital and died at the age of 47 of blood poisoning when the staff treated his wounds without sterilizing their tools or hands.) The scientific laws and theories that we take for granted as accepted facts today were not always so widely accepted. There is always a struggle to gain acceptance of a truth that seems strange and complicated.


2. The science of climate change is extremely complex. Complex ideas are hard to grasp. They cannot be built up or taken down with just one accusation. They must be discussed and explained so that the public understands what “global warming” actually involves. In a study conducted by Bord and colleagues at Penn State, the correct understanding of the causes of climate change was what determined how the participants acted and voted on climate change.


The discovery of global warming was as complicated as content. It wasn’t straight forward at all; there were many false starts and persistent uncertainties. At first, scientists thought that there was too little CO2 to act as a greenhouse for the earth. Once that was disproven, no one thought there was enough CO2 in our atmosphere to make any difference in the climate. Then, no one imagined the industrial and population boom would be quite so big and quite so fast.Once global warming was even considered a possible threat, it was already the 1960s.


Getting the public on board with the warning of climate change was another task altogether. Scientists needed to convince the government, citizens, and industries that their findings on global warming were valid and urgent. This is not in most scientists’ comfort zones. Climate change is a complex issue, and it is difficult to transfer the scientific jargon into public knowledge. And today, scientists and citizens alike are arguing for action on climate change. The history of climate change is still being written today. Let’s make sure it has a happy ending.




Do you want to live on a new planet?

kepler planet


Living on a different planet sounds exciting, right? I think of a space ship finally landing on its far traveled destination and discovering completely a new environment. This picture above is an artist’s depictions of Kepler-186f, a newly found Earth-size planet orbiting inside a red dwarf star’s habitable zone.  It’s rocky, it might have water, it might even have life, but could we, evolved through Earth’s distinct conditions, ever thrive there? It’s likely not.


We may not have to travel light-years away to find a new planet- ours is transforming right before our eyes. Bill McKibben describes this new planet we are creating, Eaarth, in his book of the same name. This new world is plagued by drought, fires, and storms. The planet, as before, is primarily covered in water, but this time, the pH is slipping down, the temperature is creeping up, and the coastline is rising to cover the many cities of humans. Everything’s changing. The rise in global temperature means that the mountain pine beetle can survive through the winter and kill trees in the western United States. These huge tree kills increase mudslides and erosion and decrease forest carbon uptake.  The snow and ice in Greenland and the Arctic are melting, swallowing up small island nations like the Maldives in the process. Other places become deserts. Depending on the nation’s affluence, people must either spend more money on desalination plants or spend more time traveling to gather water. Crops are frozen, parched, and diseased, increasing food costs and human starvation.


This new planet no longer seems exciting; it is menacing. The current seven billion humans that depend on a hospitable planet to are actually very temperamental. How do we survive this new planet? McKibben wants us to think small. We must shrink our economy, limit growth, and give our tired planet some space. New planets have new limitations and restrictions, these are some of ours. Now we have to learn how to adapt to living on this mad experiment we have created.