Preparation for Paris

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

 

 

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

Pacha Mama

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

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

Dinner with Delegates

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

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Paradigm Shift

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In my Religion and Modern Culture class, we have talked about paradigm shifts this semester which is directly related to the climate change conversation. The movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” is a, excellent example of a paradigm shift emerging. The movie, and the work of Al Gore, is an attempt at shifting the worldview of the climate change problem. The movie acts to summarize a brief synopsis of the problem and it does so in a way that can be easily understood to the general public and is easily relatable. Towards the end of the movie, Gore brings up the topic of the Kyoto Protocol. The United States originally signed the Kyoto Protocol but never ratified it; this caused a huge global controversy that continued along with the US not ratifying the second commitment period to Kyoto. Where the visible shift can be seen is through initiatives in the United States being taken in California and the nine north eastern states banding together to take action. In Gore’s presentation, he shows a list of a multitude of major cities that are in support of the Kyoto. This is where the paradigm shift is starting to be seen, at the bottom-up level.

He also mentions, towards the end of the movie that he is doing his part by doing what he can. This entails giving presentations in major cities all around the world, addressing people at a more local level. His approach of conveying the message and the approach of the movie is extremely similar to that of James Balog and the film Chasing Ice. Sitting and chatting with Balog on a more personal basis and seeing his presentation while he visited Dickinson really put a lot of things into perspective. Balog, in the same way that Gore does, conveys his message in the best way he possibly can, through his photography. Both men express a sense of urgency and the need for further communication. Gore mentions that the issue of the ozone hole has been depleted; the climate change problem is not completely out of our grasp. What is needed, is a complete shift in cooperation globally, a paradigm shift. Not everyone is currently sitting at the table, but everyone is invited.

Eight years has passed since this movie came out and the shift is still continuing; there is power growing. I think the Peoples Climate March, the largest climate march in history, that took place recently is an extremely powerful example of the movement. Well over 400,000 people took the streets of Manhattan to express their voices and to take a stand. However, the shift needs to continue. Even here at Dickinson College, ranked in the nation among the most environmentally friendly schools, still needs change. There are people that don’t think anything of their actions throughout their day, perhaps they should. Everything we do in our everyday lives, literally everything, has an impact. The amount of times I hear students and friends say that their minute actions make no difference, that one or two things makes no difference, is literally sickening. The fact that people can leave their phone charger plugged into a wall while it is not in use and it is still emitting .5 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere per hour is again, a sickening thought. People NEED to be more conscious. The shift must continue.

The title of the movie is what it is; the issue of climate change that needs to be addressed is inconvenient in many ways. It has been ignored for so many for way too long because people would rather pretend the problem is not there than actually address it head on. The novel, Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes is a perfect example of doubt being used in many controversies over time. It is inconvenient both in that we have to deal with it and it’s impacts on today’s world, with some nations being more vulnerable than others. The definition of sustainability, to uphold the needs of today’s people without compromising the needs of future generations, relates to this inconvenience in that the paradigm shift must occur in order to comply with the needs of future generations.

Brazil: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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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>.

 

Sustainable Development Reborn From The Ashes of Climate Change

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From the predicted heat waves lasting for 100 years to the Arctic Ice melting by 2080 to islands in Pacific being completely submerged, climate change’s projected future outcomes seem dire. The pressing issues generated from climate change poses serious threats for millions around the globe. However, the projected gloomy future could further the development in sustainability. Sustainable energy is often seen as alternative energy source, but in order to counteract climate change, a transition away from a fossil fuel based energy system is needed. Although climate change is inherently destructive, the dangers from climate change have furthered development in for sustainability and depending on future negotiations, the prospects for sustainable development should be accelerated due to an increased demand for alternative energy.

First of all, if climate change did not result in significant risks or simply did not exist, there would be not necessarily be a need to develop sustainable energy. Unfortunately, the human-induced green house gas emissions result in an imbalance in Earth’s climate systems.  This imbalance has called for reform in many different sanctions in climate change negotiations. As policies become more restrictive with CO2 emissions, the demand for alternative energy sources should increase because there will be a need to utilize less carbon intensive energy sources. In areas where the current global energy system is lacking, renewable energy is well suited. For example, sustainable energy’s benefits range from: providing energy to some of the poorest regions to improving human health to creating new jobs. In particular, the major benefit is that it avoids adding more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which will have long-term benefits in counteracting climate change. The wide array of benefits from sustainable energy and the increase in demand for sustainable energy to achieve climate goals has resulted in climate change furthering development in sustainability.

Although the energy demand is currently concentrated on carbon emitting sources, the risks from climate changes have already resulted in a shift towards renewables and projected outcomes indicate advancement in renewables. Specifically, a trend towards renewables has already begun for renewable shares have “jumped from 5% in 2003 to 23% in 2008” (Sawin and Moomaw 2009). In addition, areas ranging in size and location are implementing sustainable developments by increasing energy efficiency and utilizing renewables. The current increasing trends are projected to extend seen in the global energy scenarios that show “a gradual shift to renewables” and hypothetically, “a transformation or step-change in how the world produces and uses energy” (Sawin and Moomaw 2009). In order to meet the suggested climate change emissions targets in the IPCC, a need for renewable energy may increase.

It is key to note that climate change will negatively impact various aspects, which includes the development of sustainability.  The threats from climate change are and will cause economic, social and political strain. Due to finances, some developed nations will be less vulnerable and have the funds to further sustainability. Whereas, some developing nations do not have the funds to invest in expensive sustainable resources and need to focus available funds to alleviate climate change damage, limiting sustainable development.  Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help solve the issues around implementing sustainability. One strategy is implementing a carbon tax, which would raise fuel prices and encourage the transition to alternative energy.  Another possible strategy is for developed nations to provide finances for sustainable development in developing regions. An additional strategy is ratifying more aggressive short and long-term policies that will help eliminate the support for fossil fuels. Overall, sustainability has is weaknesses, but it is necessary in transitioning away from fossil fuel emissions.

The need for sustainable development would not be as pressing if our current fossil fuel energy system did not have lasting and negative impacts on the planet. Climate change could undermine economic and social goals, but if negotiations are successful there could be a development in sustainability.  As conditions worsen, there will hopefully be more stringent carbon emission reductions. Hence, if future negotiations are progressive there could be a movement towards further developing suitability and moving away from carbon-emitting energy sources.

Work Cited

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

 

Mixing Art with Science

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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.

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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.

 

DC Trip – A Wide Array of Climate Change

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Last week the members of Dickinson’s Climate Change Mosaic was lucky enough to engage in valuable discussions with a wide range of climate change related actors, including: Tom Lovejoy, Bill Breed, John Holdren, Jacob Scherr, Mike MacCraken, Mike MacCracken, Dallas Butraw and many other highly regarded individuals. Although these private, public and governmental actors had careers focused in differentiated climate-related fields, their talks involved a common expected theme.  This theme was the how to approach future issues surrounding with climate change and it’s governance.
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In which, Lovejoy’s solution was to restore vegetation, allowing for carbon sequestration through natural processes. Lovejoy explained that if restoration is implemented at a large scale, global temperatures could decrease by 0.6 degrees.  One of his recommended mechanism was for everyone to plant a tree, allowing for carbon sequestration.  Whereas Daniel Reifsnyder’s solutions consisted of closing the divide between developed and developing countries in the Paris’s agreement by requiring global participation with the right commitments.  Jacob Sherr highlighted the importance of addressing the climate change crisis with “new architecture”. The “new architecture” consisted of having a mixed-track approach towards climate change governance due the need to engage multiple players around the globe.   MacCraken focused on the benefits from completely cutting out long-term greenhouse gases, such as methane and black carbon.  These gases stay in the atmosphere longer than CO2 and IPCC currently does not deal with the effects from black carbon. Keya Chatterjee encouraged the switch to solar energy for it was cheaper than diesel (in some areas of the world).  She also discussed the need to engage the public through music and other sources of media to create global involvement. Overall, each speaker had influential ideas and thoughts on the varying issues surrounding climate change. It was evident that in order to approach climate change, actors from various fields need to come together to tackle the differentiating issues.

Artistic Expressions of Climate Change

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When photographer and climate scientist James Balog visited Dickinson College a few weeks ago, our community was introduced to a new way of looking at climate issues in a means expressed through art. Balog expresses his concerns of climate change in the best way he knows possible, through his photography. His work was so stunning and moving that the movie Chasing Ice was made to motivate society and create a sense of urgency in calling for action.

Furthermore, on Monday October 20th and Tuesday October 21st, the mosaic group spent time in Washington DC listening to many guest speakers with several different backgrounds. Our last speaker, Keya Chatterjee, of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had a very optimistic and positive aspect on the direction that the climate change movement is headed. She mentioned the power of art and music in modern society and suggested that maybe if climate concerns were expressed though different forms of art that this might have a monumental affect on modern society.

The New York Times article, “Extreme Weather” Explores the Climate Fight As a Family Feud, by Andrew C. Revkin, talks about the play “Extreme Weather”. Play writer Karen Maldpede, uses  “theater to explore the clashing passions around human-driven global warming and our fossil fuel fixation” (Revkin). Included in this article is a video of author Andrew Revkin singing his song “Liberated Carbon”, listening to this song for the first time made me chuckle; the idea of climate change expressed though song is such a foreign concept to me.