Movement Towards A Sustainable World

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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




Two Years Later, What have we learned from Sandy?


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



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

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

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

Will New Jersey be ready for the next superstorm?

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


Trick or Treat? The truth about Halloween candy

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

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

Read further on sustainable chocolate!

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

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

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

Happy HalloGREEN !!



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

Just a Minute


The other day while in a cab in Washington DC, my driver started reciting Benjamin Mays’ Just a Minute immediately after he rushed through a yellow traffic light…

Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it,

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it,

Give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it.

I had never heard this poem before but it struck me. Every single minute matters and every single minute must be maximized. The negotiations of COP20 need to maximize each minute. There are strong hopes that the outcome of Lima will not be one similar to that in Durban. It is essential that texts are negotiated and ready to go for COP 21 in Paris, 2015. The time is now.

An interview with the President of the COP

Image from:
Image from:

Ok, no I didn’t have the interview, but Peru’s Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was recently interviewed by Charlotta Lomas. He discusses his hopes for COP20 and how the Peruvian government is prepared to help make the event successful.

This is going to be the biggest conference in Peru’s history, but they are ready for the challenge!

Read the interview for yourself here.


What Actually Is Nature?

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Works cited

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

King, David, and Achim Steiner. “Is a Global Agreement the Only Way to Take Climate Change?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, n.d. Web.

Perfect Chair: Goldilocks; as the Mixed Track Approach: COP20


Global Climate Change is a multi-faceted problem resulting in 20 years of relatively stagnant climate change negotiations. The past negotiations have failed to ratify a climate change agreement that involves all the nation- state actors. The involvement of all nation-states is necessary to achieve the goal of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which is closing the gap between the countries’ emission pledges and the actuality of countries ability to reach the global average temperature to be below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.  Hence to achieve global involvement and to attain the necessary mitigation goals, alternative negotiations from the “top-bottom” approach may offer a better solution. The “mixed-track” approach is the most effective method of achieving the post-2020 goals of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action for it incorporates successful aspects of the “top-bottom” and “bottom-up” approaches, but also resolves the issues that both approaches pose.

Neither the “top-down” nor the “bottom-up” approaches allow for completely successful climate change negotiations. One issue with the “top-down” approach is that it has led to a division between developed and developing nation-states, which has made negotiations tense.  This divide has become a wall due to most climate policy’s constant incorporation of the CBDR principle (Kallbekken 2014).  The CBDR policy and changed dynamics between the developed and developing countries should be altered because these nation-states situations have changed and climate change’s current state requires global participation. Another reason why the “top-down” approach has failed in the past is because nation-state’s participation is voluntary and also there is  “no enforcement machinery” despite being “under international law” (Bodansky 2012).  The Kyoto Protocol operated under these standards and its “failure” was highlighted due to the withdrawals of the United States, Canada, Russia and Japan. Although the Kyoto Protocol had its disadvantages, it was a major milestone for it provided a framework that was accepted around the globe.  If the future negotiations can generate this same global participation, it could lead to the achievement of the Ad Hoc’s goals for 2020.

Similar to the “bottom-up” approach, the “top-down” approach has its strengths and weaknesses. Compared to the “top-down” approach, it has improved international relations for it acts across boarders and has found commonality among nation-states basis.  Since private and public transnational networks play such a large role in the negotiations, they should be integrated into the decision-making process.  Another strength is that it allows for flexibility and inclusivity for it does not require a protocol or international legal agreement (Bondansky 2012). An example of the “bottom-up” approach was the Copenhagen Accord and Cancún Agreements, which operate at a national level and are only partially committed, not legally binded. The flexibility of the agreement generates greater public approval of an agreement, since it does not necessarily have negative effects if the nation-state deviates from the agreement.  However, this flexibility is also the downfall of this approach for it gives states too much freedom in which they could lessen their responsibilities towards climate change.

The “mixed track” approach adds upon “top-down”’ approach’s successful aspect, but also incorporates the “bottom-up”’ approach’s alternative mechanisms. The “mixed track” approach gives a role to both international and national regime, since they both have been effective in different mechanisms. The “mixed track” positive aspects consist of: legal agreement with some binding and non binding component, variable structure incorporating national and international regimes, multiple types of commitments and mixed mitigation process (Bodansky 2012). Hopefully, the “mixed track” approach would encourage the necessary qualities in decision making , which are “tringency, participation and compliance” .


Bodansky, D., 2012. The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). Analysis of President Bush’s Climate Change Plan. February, 2002.

A Mixed-Tack Paris Agreement Is the Way to Go

Cartoon by Matt Bors
Cartoon by Matt Bors


The COP 20 is hoped to make progress for the 2015 COP, the deadline COP the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) set for finishing negotiations for a new, more aggressive agreement between UNFCCC nations to combat climate change. As this deadline comes closer and closer, academics, delegates, NGOs and country leaders are scrambling to find the best type of new solution. Daniel Bodansky, of Arizona State University, explains that the three variables in international climate agreements, stringency, participation, and compliance, are all present in each negotiation, in various degrees depending on the nature of the agreement (Bodansky 2). For example, a top-down approach like that of the Kyoto Protocol in which international laws enforce internationally agreed-upon actions, leads to a greater degree of stringency and an uncertain outcome in terms of the participation and compliance variables. The level of presence for these two variables depends on whether the mutually-assured-compliance feature of top-down approaches is enough to convince states to take part and participate in the treaty (Bodansky 2). Conversely, the bottom-up approach like that of the Cancun Agreements where nations come up with their own commitments for international agreements, tend to have higher participation and commitment but low stringency (Bodansky 2). With advantages and disadvantages to both the bottom-up and top-down approaches, a mixed-track approach is the most promising structure for a 2015 agreement providing the increased ambition needed to act against climate change.

Not all scholars would agree that a mixed-track approach is the answer. David Shorr, an analyst of multilateral affairs, argues that the best way to go for the COP21 agreement is a top-down structure. He writes in his “Think Again: Climate Treaties”, “there is no substitute for high-level diplomacy in getting everyone to do their utmost and in keeping track of their efforts” (Shorr). Shorr acknowledges that there has been increased, and important, participation at the “bottom”, but when push comes to shove, a diplomatic treaty is a necessity in climate negotiations, quoting their stringency strengths through “keeping track of [countries’] efforts”. On the other side of the debate, Michael C. McCracken, the Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington, D.C. argues that an international diplomatic agreement will not cut, as it has not for the past two decades. In his article “The Time to Act is Now”, McCracken argues that international agreements fail to inspire ambitious enough goals as signatories do not want to face punishments for goals they cannot keep (McCracken 15). Both McCracken and Shorr are correct in their own ways, but neither of their solutions will do enough on their own.

The multi-track approach Bodansky suggests, includes a combination of the strong points of both top-down and bottom-approaches, allowing in theory for the “best of both worlds”. He suggests offering various tracks of an agreement, allowing for nations to choose which tracks best suits their abilities, going off of the bottom-up approach. For example, one country might find it easiest to reduce greenhouse emissions as it is in desperate need of new infrastructure while another country may find it easier to develop and distribute new technologies aimed at a greener world (Bodanksy 9-10). The top-down aspect of this approach consists of a “core agreement” where economic-wide commitments are set out and a system for comparing different tracks’ efforts is established. Thus, an overall high level of stringency is achieved through a top-down core agreement alongside high levels of participation and compliance through bottom-up multi-track options. This structure offers the most promise looking forward to a 2015 agreement as it offers success in all three variables of success-measurement. Furthermore, those countries like the United States, who are not parties of the top-down Kyoto Protocol and those countries not parties to the Cancun Agreements are more likely to find a happy medium in a mixed-track agreement.

Works Cited

Bodansky, D., 2012. The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

MacCracken, M., 2014, “The time to act is now,” pp 13-19, G7 Summit 2014

Schorr, D., 2014, “Think Again: Climate Treaties” Foreign Policy: The Magazine. 17 March 2014. Web. 6 October 2014.

Today is the day: An optimistic approach.

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

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


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