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.

Renewable Revolution!

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

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

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

 

 

References:

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

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

 

 

Sustainable Development Reborn From The Ashes of Climate Change

sustainable development and natural resources blog rahul

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.

 

Both Danger and Opportunity for Sustainable Development in the Climate Crisis

A Green Economy

President John F. Kennedy once remarked that, “when written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters; one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”[1]  The crisis of climate change poses many threats to the current global economic status quo, especially as many nations are developing at a rapid rate of speed.  Their predecessors, the developed nations, experienced growth under the mantra of “grow fast, clean up later;”[2] this second group of nations, however, doesn’t have that same luxury due to the threats posed by climate change.  But, while it poses threats to the old economic ways and development paths already taken, there are also a plethora of opportunities presented through the climate crisis, which could carve a new development path that is more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

The current system at the core of the global economy emerged as a result of the development paths taken by the Annex-I nations, which gave very little weight to environmental costs and degradation; this economy is still the one currently installed.  Central to its philosophy and functionality is a “growth fetish” or “growth imperative”[3] that places absolute focus upon GDP and whether or not it is increasing as the main indicator for development and growth.  However, GDP doesn’t represent the full picture of economic growth, as it doesn’t indicate whether there is a fair or equitable distribution of benefits or an increasing or decreasing environmental quality.  These two factors are an inseparable part of the threats climate change poses to society, and, if not taken into account as economies grow, could lead to “a lot of people [being] poor and polluted – the worst of all possible worlds.”[4]  With uncontrolled economic growth as has been seen historically, the world and global economy will be a great departure from what is currently enjoyed, with higher social inequality, lower environmental quality, and potentially severe climate change, all of which will make sustainable development increasingly more difficult to achieve.

Without making drastic changes to the current economic system and philosophy in response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development will be out of reach for developing countries.   The effects of anthropogenic climate change will directly and negatively affect many of the essential drivers of sustainable development, namely food, water, and infrastructure, among others.[5]  These pose considerable economic threats to emerging and developing economies; it was estimated that the “total annual damage to China’s economy from environmental degradation is the equivalent of 9% of GDP…[and] bad sanitation and water pollution cost India 6% of national income,”[6] to name a few examples.  That is a crippling cost for an economy to absorb year after year, and, if perpetuated and extended, would have the potential to halt any growth that nations plan to achieve in the future.

However, there are numerous beneficial opportunities for sustainable development that arise in response to the threats posed by the climate crisis.  These opportunities must be taken in light of the new economic reality that all future growth and development must be sustainable and sensitive to its effects upon the social, environmental, and economic systems in play.  A green economy, as described above, is “characterized by substantially increased investments in economic activities…such as renewable energy, low-carbon transport, energy- and water-efficient buildings, sustainable agriculture and forest management, and sustainable fisheries.”[7]  All of these create good jobs and increase investment in local, regional, and national economies, while also establishing environmentally-friendly and sustainable infrastructure that will have impacts for its entire lifespan.  Infrastructure plays a major role in the future of the economy and the scale at which sustainable development is achieved; “about two-thirds of the $8 trillion need for infrastructure investment in Asia and the Pacific between 2010 and 2020 will be in the form of new infrastructure, which creates tremendous opportunities to design, finance, and manage more sustainable infrastructure.”[8]

This is a defining characteristic of green growth, as it, by definition and in practice, “means looking for investment-hungry projects that bring high returns in broad environmental and narrow commercial terms.”[9]  Green growth or sustainable development policies incentivize the private sector to innovate and discover even better and more sustainable methods in order to maximize their profits and market share.  In effect, this allows for economic growth to be sustained over time, while also protecting and increasing the value of the environment as an asset for future generations.  As the Stern Report declared, “tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries.”[10]

 

[1] Kennedy, John F.  BrainQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2014.  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn103820.html, accessed November 2, 2014.

[2] “Shoots, greens, and leaves.”  The Economist, June 16, 2012, accessed November 2, 2014.  http://www.economist.com/node/21556904.

[3] Speth, James Gustave. “A New American Environmentalism and the New Economy.” Lecture, Tenth Annual John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science and the Environment from the National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington, DC, January 21, 2010.

[4] “Shoots, greens, and leaves,” The Economist.

[5] United Nations and Asian Development Bank.  Green Growth, Resources, and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific.  Accessed 9 October 2014.  http://www.unep.org/dewa/Portals/67/pdf/G2R2_web.pdf.

[6] “Shoots, greens, and leaves,” The Economist.

[7] United Nations and Asian Development Bank, Green Growth, Resources, and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific. xv.

[8] United Nations and Asian Development Bank, Green Growth, Resources, and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific. xviii.

[9] “Shoots, greens, and leaves,” The Economist.

[10] Stern, Nicholas, “The Stern Review on the Economic Effects of Climate Change,” Population and Development Review 32 (2006): ii, accessed November 2, 2014, doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2006.00153.x.

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.

 

 

 

Climate Change and Sustainable Development: A Perfect Fit

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According to the latest IPCC Synthesis Report there is a clear human influence on the climate system. The “unequivocal warming” can be seen very well over the last three decades, which have been warmed successively. The effects of this human induced climate destabilization can be seen in the present and are projected to worsen over time, regardless of the level of carbon emitted into the future. This does not mean that global and regional systems should not be overhauled to reduce carbon emissions. A rapid decrease in emissions is necessary to avert further warming of the planet and changes in the climate system. As the various effects of the shifting climate are being seen now, it can be clear that a level of dangerous climate change has been reached, although not threatening on a global scale. In order to ensure the perpetuity of our species in conditions that are not life threatening, a new development pattern must be adopted. The old way, some may say the “dirty way,” is no longer feasible. No longer may we dig up energy reserves that were sequestered over millions of years and burn them in a matter of hours. This is not as sustainable as once was thought. The planet is telling us that we must radically shift the way we build, develop, live, connect, move, eat, recreate, etc.

Sustainable development is a young notion, but a powerful one. Around it, is a conversation that attempts to unite every person on the planet in the hopes that we all might work together to further our species. Climate change fits into this conversation very well. Results of unsustainable development, the effects of climate change are a huge risk to the safety of our species. It however lends itself nicely to sustainable development. While posing significant threats to the stability of society, it is a driving force of this newfound development scheme. With changes in line with sustainable development, great gains in living conditions can be seen.

Wedding photos from a smog-day in Beijing, China. Source: http://bit.ly/1o6jan6
Wedding photos from a smog-day in Beijing, China. Source: http://bit.ly/1o6jan6

In looking at the driver of climate change, fossil fuels, an obvious need for doing away with all fossil fuels can be seen.
Just as important to look at though, are the public health benefits that come from reducing the burning of fossil fuels. Smog and airborne particulate matter are a huge health risk all over the world, from the smog filled skies of Beijing to the United States, where in 2013 118 of the 231 counties in the United States exceeded the EPA’s allowed level of ozone.[1] These dangers are a direct result of burning fossil fuels. Switching to power-generation systems that do not emit will not only slow global warming, it will directly save lives and promote healthier activities.

The alleviation of poverty is one of the United Nation’s direct responsibilities.[2] Taking a look at poverty one will find that about 1.3 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity.[3] One solution to this would be to build large centralized coal plants, which would be the centers of massive electricity transportation networks. This inefficient and unsustainable system is currently in place in much of the developed world. However other solutions exist. There has been a great deal of work done on the link between renewable energy and poverty alleviation. Not only studying the prospects, but actual tangible change. For instance in India, Project Chirag is bringing light to rural villages across the nation and it is being done with the use of solar panels and batteries.

Source: http://www.ids.ac.uk/news/can-renewable-electricity-reduce-poverty
Effect of electricity on poverty. Source: http://www.ids.ac.uk/news/can-renewable-electricity-reduce-poverty

 

Climate change has been described as the biggest challenge our species has ever faced. And a challenge it is, altering the way nature of the planet that humans have grown up in. Why look at climate change merely as a challenge? The notion that by 2100 fossil fuels must be phased out and renewable grids in place is just incredible. A recent study estimates, with an 80% chance, that the projected population by 2100 will range between 9.6 and 12.3 billion. They will all need electricity, food, water, and space. Developing for sustainability is the only option if we want to be sure that this population will be able to live safely and without struggle. Using climate change as a tool, rather than looking at it simply as challenge, to make the world a better place seems like a reasonable way to ensure that type of development.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Bodies, History, Visits, Employment, Address, Members, Budget, Information.” UN News Center. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.

 

“Can Renewable Electricity Reduce Poverty? – Institute of Development Studies.” 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 2

Nov. 2014.

 

“Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, Longer Report.” Intergovernmental Panel on Cliamte Change.

November 1, 2014.

 

Gerland, Patrick, Adrian E. Raftery, Hana Sevcikova, Nan Li, Danan Gu, Thomas Spoorenberg, and John

Wilmoth, et al. 2014. “World population stabilization unlikely this century.” Science no. 6206: 234.

 

Resutek, Audrey. “Study: Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself.” MIT News. 24 Aug. 2014. Web. 2 Nov.

 

[1]http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/cutting-carbon-health-care-savings-0824

[2]http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml

[3]http://www.ids.ac.uk/news/can-renewable-electricity-reduce-poverty

 

Another Obstacle on the Road to Sustainable Development

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By Maeve Hogel

When it comes to talking about climate change, it is easy to leave the conversation feeling like there is no hope left for the world. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising and policies have yet to be drastic enough to bring levels down where they need to be. Sitting in the comfort of a highly developed country, climate change means having to sacrifice some luxuries, like driving large SUVs, that have become customary. Looking through the eyes of a developing country, climate change hits harder and faster, interfering with the ability to ever reach a point where the developed country’s luxuries would even be attainable. Climate change, among other factors, is certainly an obstacle in the way of sustainable development. Developing countries need financial support, incentives to develop sustainably and help adapting to the damage that has already been caused.

The global nature of climate change requires cooperation from all countries, both developed and developing, despite who was historically the source of emissions. However, even with the idea of “common but differentiated responsibilities” supported by the UNFCCC, developing countries inherently get hit harder by climate change and have less ability to do anything about it. South Center’s report, Integrating Development in Climate Change, discusses that idea of developed countries taking a larger role in decreasing emissions in order to give incentives to developing countries to develop in a sustainable manner (South Center, 7). Developing sustainably, by diversifying the energy sector and increasing reliance on renewable energies can be both environmentally and economically beneficial for a developing country. However, most developing countries do not have the money or resources to implement new policies or develop new technologies. If climate change was not a concern, developing countries could continue to develop exactly how the United States did; by industrializing rapidly without a care about how much CO2 is being emitted. Climate change does exist though, and therefore countries need to develop with climate-friendly policies and technologies. South Center states that future climate change policy “should ensure that the best appropriate technologies for climate change monitoring, mitigation and adaptation be a made available to developing countries…”(17). However, how to make these technologies available and how to finance them are the more difficult questions. Essentially, developing countries cannot develop sustainably, in a world where climate change exists, without the assistance of developed countries.

The path to development is a long one. Climate change adds just another obstacle in order for a developing country to develop sustainable. However, obstacles are meant to be overcome, and it is still possible to develop sustainably in a world with climate change. Global cooperation is necessary and shared responsibilities between developed and developing countries. Getting all countries to make the best decisions, not only for themselves, but for the environment has certainly shown not be an easy feat. Climate change makes sustainable development more difficult, but it doesn’t make it impossible.

 

 

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