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Greater Middle Eastern and North African representation on Yale campus

Greater Middle Eastern and North African representation on Yale campus

As Yalies continue to push for greater Middle Eastern and North African representation on Yale campus, the student organization advocating for the creation of a MENA Cultural Center held a launch event Thursday.

MENA students association holds launch event by Alayna Lee & Ella Goldblum on September 27, 2019.

Asha Prihar

While there are only four institutionalized cultural centers at Yale, the Middle Eastern and North African Students Association has advocated for MENA to become the fifth cultural center for the past two years. Spearheaded by members of the Arab Students Association and other cultural groups, the association is still in the midst of advocating for full-fledged cultural center status from the University. With support from the Yale College Council, the club plans to proceed in the meantime with programming similar to that of existing cultural centers.

Thursday’s MENA “Welcome Mixer” was intended to connect students and faculty who identify as Middle Eastern, as North African or who are interested in the region. The event was the club’s second official event since becoming a formally registered student organization last semester.

“[Last year], I started thinking about why a MENA house did not exist on campus to act as a [homey] umbrella for various students on campus who did not identify with the existing four institutionalized cultural centers,” MENA Co-Presidents Shady Qubaty ’20 and Yasmin Alamdeen ’21 said in a joint email to the News on Monday. “After all, breaking up the MENA region into an ‘Asian’ identifying region in the [Asian-American Cultural Center] and an ‘African’ identifying region in the [Afro-American] House disregards the social and cultural realities of Middle Eastern and North African identifying persons.”

Approximately 40 people attended the welcome mixer, including undergraduate Yale students, a student from Gateway Community College in New Haven and Jackson Institute World Fellows. They served a wide array of food, including treats from the MENA region such as baklava and grape leaves. The desserts came from Havenly, a startup bakery created by Yale students that employs refugee women in New Haven.

Qubaty and Alamdeen explained that the cultural house project first started to gain attention at the YCC Elections Debate in 2018, where Qubaty introduced the idea of a fifth cultural center to each of the candidates. They added that each candidate then incorporated the initiative into their platform, starting the YCC’s involvement in advocating for the MENA club.

According Qubaty and Alamdeen’s email, three questions related to the MENA club received a “nearly [unanimously]” positive reaction on the 2018-2019 YCC survey, motivating Qutaby and Alamdeen’s team to move forward with the project. Since then, they explained, the club has secured a base room at 305 Crown St., which is also next to the AACC and La Casa Cultural.

Qubaty and Alamdeen also emphasized that the momentum gained since receiving the official endorsement of the YCC signals that a MENA cultural center is “no longer just the demand of [their] association, but one concerning Yale’s official undergraduate student government.”

They added that this “huge step forward” has provided a YCC-based task force that has helped facilitate contact and advocacy on the prospective cultural center’s behalf.

“In addition, we have managed to garner the support of countless faculty members and are now in the process of forming an advisory board for the club consisting of Yale Alumni who are very passionate about this proposal,” the email said. “In that respect, we will have students, faculty and alumni all heading in the same direction.”

YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21 said that while MENA is “still in the process of advocacy that started last year,” the first step in establishing an official cultural center has already been achieved.

According to the email, Qubaty and Alamdeen characterized the process of achieving formal recognition as “very sticky” and one that “involves a lot of bureaucracy that is not just related to funding.”

They noted that the establishment of the other cultural houses took decades and that Yale administration has to be convinced that demand for a new cultural center is “real.” The email also explained that from there, the Administration will have to form a committee devoted to discussing its need and its feasibility “which takes time.”

Still, Qubaty and Alamdeen emphasized that formal recognition is “definitely possible” and that they “will not stop pushing” for a MENA house to be established.

Zakaria Gedi ’22, communications chair for the MENA Students Association, told the News that there is a large group of students who could be served by a MENA house and that this need applies “especially for a first-year who is trying to find their identity and make friends of similar heritage.”

Onur Burcak Belli, a Turkey-based journalist and Jackson Institute World Fellow at Yale, attended Thursday’s event and told the News that she was “really disappointed when [she] learned you don’t have a particular place to represent an area that has a lot to do with U.S. politics.”

She is proud of the students who have pushed for the establishment of the MENA Cultural Center and hopes to send a message that people living in the MENA region “are much more than victims.”

As the MENA Students Association does not currently have their own space, the Welcome Mixer took place on the first floor of the Asian-American Cultural Center.

Alayna Lee | alayna.lee@yale.edu

Ella Goldblum | ella.goldblum@yale.edu

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Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change

Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change

Marc Hudson, of University of Manchester in this article, says “Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change – it’s failed for 30 years.” We would like to think that this is some sort of a gentle form of a warning that things ought not to be left to the United Nations alone to sort out, but up to us all, each in its own specific situation to contribute.

For instance, the UN chief calls for ‘concrete plans’ as climate emergency summit convenes in New York today.

Is the UN’s climate process fit for purpose? Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

We’re constantly encouraged to think of the next big climate summit, conference or protest as the most important one, the one that is about to make the all-important breakthrough. The UN’s Climate Action Summit on September 23 in New York is no different. The UN’s Secretary General António Guterres is calling on world leaders to come with concrete and realistic plans to bring their national net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050.

But amid the hype, it’s worth putting this UN summit in context against the history of 30 years of such international meetings. Is it a vain hope for 197 countries to agree on any meaningful climate action at all, especially when it involves so much money and power?

Scientists knew from the late 1950s that carbon dioxide was building up and that this could be a problem. By the late 1970s, they knew it would be – it was just a question of when. By 1985, at a workshop of scientists in Villach, Austria, the answer became “sooner than we thought”.

Scientists and activists mobilised and in 1988 the stars aligned. An American drought, a NASA scientist called James Hansen willing to stick his neck out and an international conference in Toronto meant politicians had to respond.

On the 1988 American presidential campaign trail, George Bush Senior promised to convene a global conference on the environment at the White House to “talk about global warming”. But when it finally happened it wasn’t truly global.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was born the same year, endorsed by the UN general assembly, and produced its first report in 1990. By then, there had been fine declarations of motherhood-and-apple-pie in various European cities, such as the Hague and Bergen. However, negotiations towards an international treaty to do something about climate change itself did not begin until February 1991. The world’s media largely ignored them, as the 1991 Gulf War was underway.

UNFCCC birth pangs

Very little progress was made – a sign of things to come – and with a hard deadline of May 1992 approaching, a month before the world’s nations were to gather in Rio de Janeiro for an “Earth Summit”, powerful countries were at loggerheads.

The birth pangs of this search for an international UN treaty on climate change still shape what is and isn’t possible today.

The sticking point was – and still is – what the US government, and the business lobbies behind it, would find acceptable. The French government was keen that any treaty include actual commitments to reduce CO2 emissions, with targets and timetables for the rich nations. The Bush government warned that if these were included in the text they would not attend the Rio summit, leaving any treaty languishing. The French blinked, the UK acted as a middleman, and a deal was done.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) became law in March 1994, two years after the Rio summit.

The French, and others, had hoped that once the UNFCCC was signed and ratified, they could quickly address the question of rich country commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. But this didn’t happen.

When the Kyoto Protocol, which extended the UNFCCC, was agreed in 1997, despite the fact that carbon trading and other economic instruments within it were designed to keep the Americans happy, no serious commitment to reductions was made. The Americans then pulled out of the implementation process of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, when George W Bush became president.

The process staggered on and there was another helping of motherhood-and-apple-pie at Copenhagen in 2009. Finally, in 2015 a non-binding Paris Agreement was cobbled together, based on a previously discarded “pledge and review” mechanism, which has created an endless round of promises that haven’t been met.

The scientist who had warned that climate change was upon us in 1988 – James Hansen – called the Paris Agreement a fraud, and since 2015, many nations are failing to meet their Paris commitments. Even if they did, global average temperature rise this century would be far in excess of the two degrees above pre-industrial levels that the deal is supposed to ensure.

The US pulled out of the Paris agreement in June 2017. A clear pattern has emerged.


Read more: Will politicians take action and try to save the planet from climate change?


The role of the UN

Some would argue that trying to get 197 countries to agree on anything is a fool’s errand. For 20 years, critics such as the international relations expert David Victor have questioned whether the UN is the appropriate venue for climate negotiations. Victor argues that such a forum is inevitably going to lead to gridlock. He’s not alone in this – as early as 1983 some policy analysts in the US were saying that such a global problem could not be solved because of the complexity of its politics.

The counter argument is that if a deal is agreed outside of the UN process, between the world’s major emitters – the EU, US and China – then it will be perceived as illegitimate, and will likely involve an even greater reliance on speculative technologies than the current Paris Agreement.

Ultimately, it becomes a matter of trust: do those already suffering the impacts of climate change trust those who have caused it to sort it out.

In my experience of talking to people who work in and around the UNFCCC’s bodies, many speak knowledgeably without hesitation, deviation or repetition about the alphabet soup of climate change acronyms, but are completely oblivious of much of this awkward history. Yet what happened – straightforward veto power by the US of anything that would look like real action – remains with us today, and it doesn’t help to pretend otherwise.

Whether the world can a transition to sustainability – the stated aims of both the UNFCCC and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – remains to be seen. But the stakes could not be higher. If political, economic, technological and cultural solutions aren’t now found, the outlook for humanity – and the other species we share this planet with – is exceptionally bleak.


This article is part of The Covering Climate Now series
This is a concerted effort among news organisations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage. This article is published under a Creative Commons license and can be reproduced for free – just hit the “Republish this article” button on the page to copy the full HTML coding. The Conversation also runs Imagine, a newsletter in which academics explore how the world can rise to the challenge of climate change. Sign up here.

Marc Hudson, Researcher, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

What are the world’s best universities?

What are the world’s best universities?

The World Economic Forum posted an article dated September 12, 2019, that is an answer to What are the world’s best universities?

These are the best universities in the world

By Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content

So vital is education to the future of society, billionaire Jack Ma has just stepped down from Alibaba to focus on it. But does it matter where you go to be educated?

Graduates throw their mortar boards in the air after a graduation ceremony at Oxford University, in Oxford, Britain July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay - RC1383346AE0
The University of Oxford topped the rankings for the fourth year in a row.
Image: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The former teacher, who studied for a BA in English at Hangzhou Normal University, told the World Economic Forum he was rejected from Harvard Business School 10 times, but it didn’t deter him from building a world-beating company.

Like Alibaba, universities in Ma’s homeland China are starting to “expand their influence and presence on the world stage”, according to the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.

Asia’s top two universities – Tsinghua (23rd) and Peking (24th) – are both in mainland China. With 81 institutions, China is also the fourth most-represented nation in the list for the fourth year in a row.

The ‘THE’ says: “Overall, China’s universities have improved in the areas of citation impact, share of international staff and share of international co-authorship over the past year, driven by higher levels of funding.”

There are 11 more Iranian universities ranked this year, taking its total up to 40, and new regions whose institutions join the list for the first time this year include Brunei, Cuba, Malta, Montenegro, Puerto Rico and Vietnam.

These are the top five:

1. University of Oxford

Topping the rankings for the fourth year in a row, Oxford prides itself on having an ‘international character’. It’s first overseas student, Emo of Friesland, was enrolled in 1190. Today, 40% of its faculty are from overseas.

Among its famous alumni are 30 modern world leaders, including Bill Clinton, Indira Ghandi and the current British prime minister, Boris Johnson.

2. California Institute of Technology

Despite having an unusual anti-growth model, Caltech has risen three places to take the second spot this year, thanks to an improvement in its score for international staff.

“We try to get better, not bigger,” says its president, Thomas F. Rosenbaum.

Along with MIT, it’s one of just two institutions in the ranking to achieve a score of more than 80 out of 100 in all five areas: teaching, research, citation impact, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

3. University of Cambridge

Like Oxford, Cambridge is a ‘good all-rounder’, but this year it slips from second to third place. It’s called home by more than 18,000 students – including 4,000 international students from more than 120 countries.

It also boasts more than 100 libraries, which hold 15 million books.

4. Stanford University

Stanford has also dropped one place this year, to fourth.

Like the other two US institutions in the top 5, MIT and Caltech, is known for its technology focus.

THE says: “Companies founded by Stanford affiliates and alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion annual revenue – which would be the 10th largest economy in the world.”

Among them are Google, Nike, Netflix, Hewlett-Packard and Instagram.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT rounds off the top five this year. Major scientific discoveries and advances accredited to the university include the development of radar, the first chemical synthesis of penicillin, the discovery of quarks, and the invention of magnetic core memory, which enabled the development of digital computers.

Written by Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content

Education and Skills: Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Fossil Fuel Complicity as No Longer Hidden

Fossil Fuel Complicity as No Longer Hidden

­CleanTechnica Fossil Fuels elaborated on the more and more overwhelming tendency of eying Fossil Fuel complicity as no longer hidden in America’s investments institutions. as well as elsewhere in the world. Here it is.

Fossil Fuel Complicity No Longer Hidden Behind ‘Fiduciary Duty’

May 7th, 2019 by Carolyn Fortuna 

They’re not giving up. Yes, several attempts were defeated to persuade the Massachusetts municipal and county retirement systems to remove fossil fuel investments from their portfolios. But the Massachusetts Legislature is still considering measures that open up possibilities for divestment. To do otherwise, they argue, is to engage in fossil fuel complicity.

And they’re not alone. All over the US, organizations are pushing for divestments within institutions and municipalities. Led by FossilFree.org, individuals and advocacy groups are raising the discourse around the necessity to stop and ban all new oil, coal, and gas projects bypassing local resolutions to divest and by building community resistance.

fossil fuel complicity

Divestment has been a tool used to promote social change since at least the 1970s, when anti-apartheid activists urged institutions to move their investment dollars away from companies that did business with South Africa. Fossil fuel divestment has been gaining momentum in recent years, with more than 1,000 institutions pledging to remove $8.55 trillion from investments in the fossil fuel sector.

fossil fuel complicity

Fiduciary Duty is Now a Companion Argument to Social & Environmental Reasons to Divest

In 2017, Somerville, Massachusetts’ governing board agreed to move $9.2 million — 4.5% of the total invested funds — out of fossil fuel investments. The regulatory body that oversees public pension systems rejected the move, however, with reasons ranging from procedural to breach of fiduciary duty. The Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) claimed Somerville was failing to put the financial needs of its beneficiaries ahead of social and environmental causes. PERAC oversees 104 public pension plans across the state, with about $86 billion in total assets.

However, 2 counterarguments quickly made that position untenable.

  1. Demand for fossil fuels is likely to drop as much of the global economy shifts to renewable energy.
  2. Increased storm frequency due to climate change can cause supply chain disruption and infrastructure damage for oil companies.

“From the fiduciary perspective, there are a lot of questions as to the economic health of the fossil fuel sector moving forward,” Alex Nosnik, a member of the Somerville board, said. “Risk, certainly in concert with the environmental and social issues, was driving our decision to move forward.”

Ultimately, after lots of divestment advocates worked alongside sympathetic legislators to craft a local option bill that would authorize any municipal or county retirement system to divest from fossil fuels should they so choose. Standalone bills have been filed in the House and Senate; similar language has also been included in a wide-ranging clean energy bill pending in the Senate.

Several of the state’s environmental groups have come out in favour of these measures, including the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance, and the Climate Action Business Association.

“We have to stop putting money into fossil fuels,” said Deb Pasternak, director of Sierra Club Massachusetts. “We need to take our money and direct it toward the renewable energy economy.”

Read more on CleanTechnica.

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

According to Yale Climate Connections, in a February 20, 2019, Food & Agriculture topic article, it is said that “Researchers look for ways to meet rising global food demand. The challenge: produce 50 percent more food while reducing GHG emissions by one-third.”

Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 in a warming world

By Kristen Pope


Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population – currently at 7.6 billion and expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 – without exacerbating climate change will require the closing of three significant gaps, according to a new report, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.”

The gaps highlighted in a recent World Resources Institute (WRI) report involve:

  • food supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
  • land for food production: The report estimates that if current production rates continue with the same yields, an additional area almost twice the size of India would be required to produce enough food; and
  • mitigating increased greenhouse gas emissions likely to be produced by the additional food production needed by 2050.

Feeding a rapidly growing population in a sustainable way is a challenge, researchers have grappled with for some time. “If you just wanted to feed the world and you didn’t worry about the environment at all, you know that’s probably not that hard because we just basically go and chop down a lot more land, a lot more forest,” says lead author Tim Searchinger. “But the challenge is inherently producing all that more food plus not converting additional land – that’s where the challenge is.”

Searchinger is a Princeton University research scholar who collaborated with an array of international researchers over the past six years to produce the WRI report. A synthesis version was released in December 2018, and the roughly 500-page full report is to be published this spring.

Challenges in feeding 10 billion people by 2050

The synthesis report outlines a variety of options and opportunities to meet the rapidly growing need for nutrition while at the same time working to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, the authors seek to answer the question: “How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?”

“If you want to solve climate change, you have to solve this question,” Searchinger says. He points to estimates that agriculture and associated land use change could make up 70 percent of “allowable emissions from all human sources” by 2050 if current practices continue.

How to produce 50 percent more food with two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? Click To Tweet

“That would basically leave almost no room for any other emissions, so it would basically make solving climate change impossible,” he says. “So we have to figure out a way to do both and figure out a way to produce 50 percent more food with [approximately] two-thirds fewer emissions – so that’s the challenge.”

The report joins a growing list of documents proposing solutions to climate change that revolve around food and agriculture. Peter de Menocal, dean of science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University, points to Project Drawdown as another analysis focusing on solutions.

Project Drawdown includes a ranked list of climate solutions, and three of the top five involve food and agriculture. The third-ranked solution is to reduce food waste, number four is a “plant-rich diet,” and fifth on the list is “tropical forests,” which de Menocal notes is related to palm oil and other agricultural uses. He emphasizes the need to take real actions soon.

“I think ultimately we’re in for a big surprise, a big shock if you will, and so I think that transition can be lessened by becoming aware of what the solutions look like and how individuals can change their behaviors to align with the fact that we’re living on a single planet with ever expanding numbers of people,” de Menocal said in an interview.

A menu of sustainable food futures — not a la carte

The WRI report provides a “menu for a sustainable food future” detailing 22 approaches that could help fill the three gaps, including ways to increase agricultural efficiency and produce more food while using less land, fertilizer, and other resources. Along with other measures, the report focuses on restoring certain types of land, like peatlands and forests; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; holding steady the use of biofuels; increasing fish stocks; and reducing the consumption of meat – particularly ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats.

However, this “menu” isn’t an a la carte array of pick-and-choose options. “Significant progress in all 22 menu items is necessary to close the three gaps, requiring action by many millions of farmers, businesses, consumers, and all governments,” the report cautions.

Getting the cooperation of all stakeholders – essentially the entire world – is, unsurprisingly, a difficult feat. Governmental cooperation to preserve land, rather than converting it to agriculture, is imperative. That’s clearly a challenge for the many leaders who are under pressure to convert forests and other types of land for agricultural purposes to meet immediate food needs and produce foods for export.

Political leadership ‘just overwhelmingly important’

Changing political leadership can also speed-up or slow-down change. According to Searchinger, Brazil had made a lot of progress in reducing deforestation, but recent changes in leadership make the future of such progress uncertain. “Politics is critical,” he says. “Politics is just overwhelmingly important – this is mustering the political will,” Searchinger says. “This is true of everything to do with climate change.”

Land use changes are critical especially in certain areas, such as peatlands, wetland areas covering around 3 percent of the Earth and storing massive amounts of carbon. When they are damaged, drained, or used for agriculture, these areas contribute significantly to climate change. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, damaged or drained peatlands are “annually releasing almost 6 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”

Searchinger notes that restoring or rewetting peatlands previously damaged, drained, or used for purposes like agriculture can go a long way toward meeting climate change goals and restoring ecosystems. Some of these opportunities are immediate, such as rewetting peatland areas that are seldom used for agriculture. “[We have a] huge opportunity to do something right away just by restoring water to those peatlands,” Searchinger says.

With food supply problems come ‘human conflict’

In addition to the 22 items listed in the report, de Menocal notes a few additional food and agriculture-related areas relevant to climate change and food. He points to climate-related vulnerabilities in the food system, including food distribution; and points also to threats to the crops themselves, including environmental shocks, such as crops being decimated by sudden storms and heat waves.

“Those food shocks are going to become increasingly frequent and I think that’s going to do two things,” de Menocal says. “One is it obviously reduces the food supply, but it also introduces uncertainty in the food supply, and both those things are not great.”

Human conflict goes hand-in-hand with food supply issues, de Menocal cautions. “With food insecurity comes human conflict,” he says. “This is something that’s been well documented both in the prehistorical record but also in the recent historical record such as Syria and of course migrations out of North Africa into Europe. When people are hungry, they migrate, and they’ll migrate to places where there’s food, which is typically the wealthier nations.” He cautions that this migration can also lead to political instability, and says these types of geopolitical concerns are monitored not only by climate modelers and researchers, but also by government intelligence agencies seeking to anticipate and mitigate conflicts.

The need for innovation and change

While analysts work to predict future conflicts and issues, scientists are striving to make progress in the laboratory. New technological innovations could help alleviate some major issues, but predicting the trajectory of scientific developments is a huge challenge since breakthroughs looking out several decades are unpredictable.

New technology could help improve crop yields; produce crops with resistance to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions; and even help develop feed additives to reduce the amount of methane cows emit, among many possibilities. But technology is a wild card dependent on countless unknown future factors. Innovations could take the form of anything from increasing the efficiency of current methods to developing technology far beyond anyone’s current imagination.

That said, plant-based meat substitutes are one area of potential innovation. Producing beef and other ruminant meat is resource-intensive and a major source of greenhouse gases going well beyond emissions from cows themselves.

Searchinger says a variety of meat substitutes, or even half meat/half mushroom mixes, have great potential, especially if they become more economical. They are already a tasty choice, he adds: “Hamburger substitutes are getting really good.”

He is undaunted by the notion of many people having to shift their dietary habits. Searchinger points out that most of the world doesn’t consume much beef, and that people in the U.S. and Europe eat about one-third less beef today than they did in the 1960s.

Eating less meat is important, de Menocal agrees, and he encourages his students to consider trying out “Meatless Monday” as part of a campus initiative. “It’s just introducing people to the idea that you can eat well and still do well by the planet,” de Menocal says. “Even small changes like that make a big difference in terms of collective behavior.” Additionally, he points to meat subsidies as a factor that impact consumption, particularly in the U.S. These subsidies make meat far more affordable than it is in some other parts of the world. “As long as there’s no accounting for the accompanying environmental risks that come with meat production, then I think the price of meat will not reflect its true cost to society,” de Menocal says.

By thinking about what’s on their plate and what’s in their fridge, people can take their own steps toward a sustainable food future. Searchinger urges people to cut down on eating ruminant meat – such as beef and lamb – and work to avoid tossing out food. “[In the U.S.] people tend to buy a lot of food and throw it in the back of the refrigerator and ‘rediscover’ things,” he says. Planning meals and shopping more efficiently, keeping track of food items and using them before they spoil, and being sure to eat leftovers before they go bad are just a few steps people can take that go a long way.

“If we don’t meet these goals, we won’t solve climate change,” Searchinger says.

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No longer Climate Change but an Environmental breakdown

No longer Climate Change but an Environmental breakdown

“To confront environmental catastrophe, we need urgent political transformation.” Professes Laurie Laybourn-Langton in this article where he maintains that:

It’s no longer climate change we’re living through. It’s environmental breakdown

Getty

In 1962, American playwright James Baldwin wrote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Today, his words should give us succour. We need more than ever to face the reality of environmental change.

I’m a researcher at IPPR, a think tank. We have been observing warnings of rapid, negative environmental change from the scientific community. So we decided to understand what that means for our work, for policy, and for politics.

In a report released today, we bring together the latest science on human-induced environmental change and seek to understand how politicians should respond. We conclude that when it comes to climate change, political debate has failed us in three different ways.

First, the term “climate change” no longer captures reality. The scale of environmental change that our earth is currently experiencing far exceeds it. We are depleting soil, killing species, damaging oceans. This is happening at a pace that is unprecedented in human history and in some cases millions, or even billions, of years.

We call this what it is: the age of environmental breakdown – a term that is a more proportionate description of the totality that the earth presently faces.

Second, political debate does not adequately recognise the consequences of environmental breakdown. This isn’t just about saving polar bears or the health impacts of air pollution, however crucial these issues are. It is about higher incidences of drought, an impaired ability to grow food, cities afflicted by extreme weather events. It is about the resulting consequences: famines, forced migration, economic crises – and war.

Our age of environmental breakdown has inaugurated a new “domain of risk,” unprecedented in its complexity and the potential severity of its impact.

Finally, current political debates skirt around the urgent need to transform our social and economic systems in response to environmental breakdown. Tinkering in the margins and providing quick fixes or short term measures will no longer suffice.

The consequences of environmental breakdown will fall hardest on the poorest, who are most vulnerable to its effects, and the least responsible for the problem.

The poorest half of the global population account for around 10 per cent of yearly global greenhouse gas emissions; half of global emissions are attributed to the richest 10 per cent of people. In the UK, per capita emissions of the wealthiest 10 per cent are up to five times higher than those of the bottom half.

The question of how we confront environmental breakdown, and who will feel its effects, intersects with inequalities of class, ethnicity and gender. Environmental breakdown isn’t just about climate change: it’s about justice.

To confront environmental breakdown, we need two overall transformations.

The first is to make to make societies sustainable and just, bringing human activity within environmentally sustainable limits while ensuring a decent quality of life is available to all. This sits at the heart of arguments for a Green New Deal. Programmes to halt environmental breakdown can and should include measures to improve social and economic outcomes, including providing good jobs for all, tackling structural discrimination, and expanding free education.

The second is to build societies that are prepared for environmental breakdown. Infrastructure, markets and political processes need to be resilient to environmental breakdown resulting from past and future activity. We don’t talk about this enough. While it may be scary to think about preparing for environmental catastrophe, it is fast becoming necessary. In particular, we need to develop a politics that runs counter to the nativist right, whose programme of anti-migrant and anti-environmental could win big as the seas rise and the food runs out.

Policies like the rollout of renewable energy and the successful efforts to stem the breakdown of the ozone layer have made progress towards realising these transformations. But most efforts have neither adequately focussed on all elements of environmental breakdown, nor sought to fundamentally transform key social and economic systems. Little attention has been given to ensuring societies are robust enough to face the increasingly severe consequences of breakdown.

Younger generations are now faced with a daunting twin task: preventing environmental breakdown and responding to its growing impact. IPPR will be exploring how to help younger generations find the energy that often eludes them as they confront a rapidly destabilising world.

The scale and pace of environmental change confirms that the only credible way forward is systemic transformation of societies and economies. To change the path that lies ahead, we must first admit that we are entering an age of unprecedented breakdown. Time is running out. 

Laurie Laybourn-Langton is a senior research fellow at IPPR. He tweets @Laurie_L_L

Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016

Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016

Solar Overtakes Fossil Fuels for the First Time

North Hollywood, CA — (ReleaseWire) — 12/07/2018 –

2019 is just around the corner, and across the globe observations and statistics indicate that clean, renewable energy production is growing faster than fossil fuels, and multiple studies predict that this trend will continue to grow. Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016 (the last time full-year data was collected), while only $143 billion was spent on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels as early as 2020. Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018 forecasts that “By 2050 wind and solar technology provide almost 50% of total electricity globally – ’50 by 50′ – with hydro, nuclear and other renewables taking total zero-carbon electricity up to 71%.”

Developing nations are now forging ahead of the wealthiest countries (and previous leaders in renewable energy) by practicing the use of producing energy through environmentally friendly methods, like wind and solar, more than traditional, harmful methods.

Because many developing countries are plentiful in natural resources and equipment costs are relatively low, clean energy has been shown to be financially beneficial for less wealthy countries allowing them to dominate in clean energy production. In fact, research shows that, in many cases, due to the sharp decline in prices of solar technology in recent years, the same amount of energy produced from fossil fuels can be produced by solar panel systems at half the cost of coal.

According to an article on Bloomberg News, “Emerging markets added the least new coal-fired power generating capacity last year since at least2006.” The article continues, “New coal plants in these countries slumped 38 percent from a year earlier to 48 gigawatts in 2017, which was about half of the peak in 2015, according to BNEF.”

Countries like the US can learn from these developing nations. Nicki Zvik, founder of Green Solar Technologies, states, “As resources for fossil fuels diminish, and as the need take measures to prevent climate change remains at the forefront of people’s minds, it is essential that wealthier nations take advantage of the flourishing clean energy market, and thankfully, they are.”

According to an article published on Engadget,”Renewable energy played an important role in the US last year…” The article continues to note, “solar and wind power represented 94.7 percent of the net new electricity capacity (15.8GW out of 16.7GW) added in 2017.”

2018 has been a banner year for renewable energy. The rapid progression of investment in clean, reliable, eco-friendly renewables continues at record-breaking levels, and all indicators point to strong and steady growth in renewable energy into the foreseeable future. More than ever, global awareness that renewable energy is the only viable answer to the world’s growing energy demands, and hope for the future grows apace.

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Posted Friday, December 07, 2018 at 11:41 AM CST – Permalink

Human-caused Climate Change is a major global threat

Human-caused Climate Change is a major global threat

How Big Oil distorts climate change reality with tweaks in language

 

Sylvia Jaworska, of University of Reading explains that :

Almost every climate scientist agrees human-caused climate change is a major global threat. Yet, despite efforts over the past 30 years to do something about it, emissions keep increasing.

Any successful coordinated international response will require action from businesses. However, some organisations, especially those in sectors that significantly contribute to environmental degradation such as the oil industry, seem rather reluctant to embrace the challenge.

Those climate initiatives they have embraced were more often than not prompted by litigation risks or enforced by governmental policies rather than a result of an intrinsic “green” commitment.

This isn’t the impression the industry likes to give off, of course, and it’s no wonder oil companies’ statements on corporate social responsibility and environmental reporting tend to highlight their greenest side. Yet the fact these documents give the oil firms the opportunity to construct their own narrative means they are a useful source for my research in applied linguistics. When a huge volume of language is analysed, features and patterns can emerge that would be invisible to the casual human reader.

My latest study looked at the “climate change reality” constructed by oil industry in its corporate reporting, what language was used to create this reality, and how this changed over time. This sort of analysis of language is important. Language not only mirrors the social world but acts as a lens through which objects, situations and people are given meaning. Features and associations that are foregrounded can point to some level of significance, while what is kept in the background or not mentioned at all can highlight a lack of interest.

‘Climate change’ or ‘global warming’? ‘Fixable problem’ or ‘unavoidable risk’?
Giorgiogp2 / NCDC, CC BY-SA

This is why I used corpus-linguistic tools – essentially, using a computer to analyse vast amounts of text for certain patterns – to investigate nearly 500 corporate documents produced between 2000 and 2013 by major oil companies (including all the big names). This comprised some 14.8m words published in corporate social responsibility and environmental reports and relevant chapters in annual reports. That’s a lot of words – roughly equivalent to 25 copies of War and Peace.

Using software program Sketch Engine, I looked at how frequently the key corporate terms “climate change”, “greenhouse effect”, and “global warming” were used in each year to reveal how patterns of attention changed over time.

My analysis shows that the most frequently adopted term in the studied sample is “climate change”, while other terms such as “global warming” and “greenhouse effect” are rarely used. The preference for “climate change” and near absence of “global warming” reflects patterns observed in public and media discourse, too.

The use of the term “climate change” experienced peaks and troughs over time, with most mentions between 2004 and 2008, and fewer and fewer mentions since 2010. Less attention to climate change in public debates and overt anti-climate change attitudes on the parts of some governments in recent years might have contributed to the decline in attention given to climate change in corporate reporting.

The rise and fall of ‘climate change’ (frequency per million words).
Sylvia Jaworska, Author provided

I then looked at words used alongside “climate change” to gather clues as to the company’s attitude towards it. This showed a significant change in the way it has been portrayed. In the mid-2000s, the most frequent associated terms were “tackle”, “combat” and “fight”, showing climate change was seen as a phenomenon that something could be done about.

However, in recent years, the corporate discourse has increasingly emphasised the notion of “risks”. Climate change is portrayed as an unpredictable agent “causing harm” to the oil industry. The industry tends to present itself as a technological leader, but the measures it proposes to tackle climate change are mainly technological or market-based and thus firmly embedded within the corporate world’s drive for profits. Meanwhile, social, ethical, or alternative solutions are largely absent.

It seems that climate change has become an elusive concept that is losing its relevance even as an impression management strategy. The proactive stance of a decade earlier is now offset by a distancing strategy, often indicated through the use of qualifying words like “potential” or “eventual”, which push the problem into the future or pass responsibility to others.

The ConversationIn doing so, the discourse obscures the oil sector’s large contribution to environmental degradation and “grooms” the public to believe that the industry is serious about tackling climate change.

Sylvia Jaworska, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics, University of Reading

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Ground-breaking test bed for new offshore Wind Technologies

Ground-breaking test bed for new offshore Wind Technologies

Clean Technica in an article dated April 10th, 2018 by reported that the world’s most powerful wind turbine, the first of two 8.8 megawatt (MW) turbines, has been successfully installed at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the coast of North East Scotland, which is set to be a ground-breaking test bed for new offshore wind technologies.

Vattenfall is a leading European energy company, that for more than 100 years has electrified industries, supplied energy to people’s homes and modernised our way of living through innovation and cooperation.

World’s Most Powerful Wind Turbine Installed At Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre


 

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay, Scotland, was conceived as a 92.4 MW, 11 turbine offshore wind test and demonstration facility. The project was initially caught up in a protracted legal battle with none other than then-real estate magnate Donald Trump — who promptly lost all legal challenges to prevent the construction of an offshore wind farm he considered would be an eyesore for members of his nearby Trump International Golf Club.

Since then, however, progress has proceeded rapidly, and the hopes of many have come to fruition with the creation of a next-generation testbed for new offshore wind technologies, such as the recently demonstrated suction bucket jacket foundations — which I maintain are cooler than they sound. Supported by the massive 25,000 tonne Asian Hercules III floating crane (seen below), the foundations for the EOWDC are being installed using a new method of securing the massive towers to the seafloor that is faster, more environmentally friendly and quiet, and much easier to uninstall if and when necessary.

Now, the next phase of construction has resulted in the installation of one of two wind turbines which have been specifically enhanced to increase their output by modifying their internal power modes. Specifically, the two turbines have been increased from 8.4 MW to 8.8 MW, which in turn increases EOWDC’s output to 93.2 MW, and as such it will generate 70% of Aberdeen’s domestic electricity demand while displacing 134,128 tonnes of CO2 annually. This is the first time an 8.8 MW wind turbine has been installed for commercial application.

It might not sound a lot — an increase of 0.4 MW — but the EOWDC is intended to serve as a demonstration facility, first and foremost, and testing the application of these incremental increases to wind turbine output could yield significant benefits. Two wind turbines modified such may only increase overall output by 0.8 MW, but a wind farm made up of 100 of these turbines would benefit from a 40 MW increase, simply by modifying existing turbines.

“The turbines for the EOWDC, Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility, help secure Vattenfall’s vision to be fossil fuel free within one generation,” said Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s Head of Business Area Wind. “The EOWDC, through its innovative approach to cost reduction and pioneering technologies, leads the industry drive towards generating clean and competitive wind energy power – one that will reinforce Scotland’s global energy status.”

The V164-8.4 MW and V164-8.8 MW wind turbines were manufactured and modified by MHI Vestas, and have an enormous tip height of 191 meters, with 80 meter blades.

“The first turbine installation is a significant achievement and credit to the diligence and engineering know-how of the project team and contractors,” added EOWDC project director at Vattenfall, Adam Ezzamel. “For it to be one of the 8.8MW models makes it an even more momentous moment because it further endorses the EOWDC as a world-class hub of offshore wind innovation.

“We are very excited by the cutting-edge technology deployed on all the turbines and it is remarkable that just one rotation of the blades can power the average UK home for a day.”

The news was unsurprisingly met with appreciation from UK environmental groups as well.

“Scotland is home to approximately 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resource and projects like Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen promise to harness this potential on a massive scale,” said Stephanie Conesa, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “This ground-breaking facility leads Aberdeen’s ongoing transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and reinforces Scotland’s global energy status.

“As the windiest country in Europe with some of the deepest waters, we should be proud of Scotland’s burgeoning offshore wind industry,” Conesa added. “With many more promising offshore wind sites on our doorstep, we hope to see similar facilities deployed in Scottish waters in future so we can fully utilise our country’s natural resources.”

“The installation of the first of these powerful turbines at Aberdeen Bay is another milestone in Scotland’s renewables story,” added Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland. “Offshore wind, which has halved in cost in recent years, is critical in the fight against climate change, helping to reduce emissions, keep the lights on and create thousands of jobs across the Scotland and the UK.

“Developments like this have an important role to play in securing the Scottish Government’s target to meet half of all Scotland’s energy demand from renewables by 2030.”

via April 11 Energy News

Hate Globalisation? Try Localism, not Nationalism

Hate Globalisation? Try Localism, not Nationalism

Today, a post of  Kevin Albertson, Manchester Metropolitan University  posed a question that is increasingly relevant to most countries of the European Union. That question is : do you hate globalisation? try localism, not nationalism .  It is to be noted that most elites of countries in the MENA region have reportedly been asking themselves similar question for centuries. Scotland, Catalonia, BREXIT and countless other provinces of centuries old nation-states could be precedent to this new worldwide current of globalisation or in other words a world without borders.

Hate globalisation? Try localism, not nationalism

File 20171109 13299 1gj0mop.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
shutterstock.
italianestro/Shutterstock

 

It hardly needs saying, but there are changes afoot in the political economy of the world. Where there is globalisation, there are globalisation protestors. This is nothing new, but it is becoming mainstream.

The antithesis of globalisation, nationalism, and the pursuit of your own country’s interests over those of everyone else, has bubbled back up in Europe. And it’s not just Europe, of course. In the US, president Donald Trump is (among other initiatives) rethinking the American commitment to free trade.

In the rest of the world, the experience of globalisation shows it creates some winners and some losers. This varies geographically and in different economic fields, and is shown in different aspects of our lives.

And so, someone in London might find their house is worth more. As foreign capital flows in to buy up large swaths of the capital it increases their wealth, while others might be priced out of the market. In some sectors of the market, wages might be declining as a result of global competition, migration, casualisation or automation. In the final analysis, however, it is not a matter of whether globalisation causes these changes, it is rather more that people feel that it does.

Wealth curve.
Tana888/Shutterstock

Walls and Wails

Globalisation is not, however, merely a matter of trade, migration and foreign outsourcing. To many it seems Britain itself is for sale as an increasing proportion of UK businesses and assets answer to foreign owners.

Economic theory suggests, therefore, the nation will increasingly be run for the benefit of foreign capital, rather than the citizens. On top of this, there is the danger that inflows of foreign capital will cause the exchange rate to appreciate, making it more difficult to export, reducing manufacturing output and reducing employment in those sectors affected.

To protect them from forces beyond their control, citizens across the world are increasingly looking to the nation state for protection, hence the rise of what is often called nationalism. As Abraham Lincoln noted:

The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.

It is clear, no individual or community can stand against the forces of global capital, and Western governments appear averse to giving the workforce the means to protect itself, through, for example, increasing employment rights and unionisation. However, in their search for a strong government to protect them, citizens are in danger of giving the state too much power over their lives.

It is by no means assured that the policies which suit a strong domestic government will be better than those which suit foreign owned multi-national corporations. Also, history indicates the fear of global capital may be coopted by unscrupulous politicians into a fear of other nations or fear of other peoples.

Think Locally

Rather than nationalism, therefore, we might turn to localism. In the UK context, this might be devolution with real (financial) localised power, and that power realised through local government and local business.

An economy of big businesses (operated for the benefit of global owners) is less than ideal for the individual and society. In contrast, a society of many small local businesses is more resilient, more empowering and more in keeping with the spirit of capitalism and of the market. We must also bear in mind that increasing business concentration (fewer, but larger firms) is a driver of increasing inequality. If a business is too big to (be allowed to) fail, then the government has failed in its duty to keep business small.

Small enough?
Ekaterina_Minaeva

Economic theory indicates that those with no stake in a community other than profit extraction avoid suffering from localised ill effects such as unemployment, poverty, want and homelessness. It follows those who live and work in a community have a greater stake in its prosperity.

The government might likewise consider how we might prevent those who do not even live in the country from driving up house prices.

Local protection from exploitation by global interests requires the right mix of global and local policies. And local government policies require adequate financing. By local financial power, I don’t mean local taxes. That has the potential to fragment the nation, as it has, to some extent, in the EU (whether perceived rightly or wrongly).

If we fund education or social care out of local taxes, for example, there will tend to be a race to the bottom as local authorities will be motivated to underperform to encourage vulnerable families to go and live elsewhere. It follows taxes should be collected nationally, and shared proportionally (on the basis of demographic profile) to the devolved authorities.

There is no space here to discuss in detail other possible localism policies here, but there are many ways to promote local ownership and local empowerment. That could include local currencies, boosts to council housing, local authority ownership of utilities or support for locally-owned high street shops. However, it is not a policy mix I suggest, rather it is an emphasis.

The ConversationUltimately, the only viable alternative to the choice currently on offer, the choice of Big State or Big Business, is Small State and Small Business, or more appropriately Local Government and Local Business. To pursue localism will require a systemic shift in how the national government goes about shaping society, but I suggest it is possible to promote social justice in a capitalist context in no other way.

Kevin Albertson, Professor of Economics, Manchester Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.