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News articles on economics
Mongabay.com news articles on economics in blog format. Updated regularly.
(03/31/2014) It's not just melting glaciers and bizarrely-early Springs anymore; climate change is impacting every facet of human civilization from our ability to grow enough crops to our ability to get along with each other, according to a new 2,300-page report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The massive report states definitively that climate change is already affecting human societies on every continent.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Quantifying the cost of forest degradation
(03/27/2014) How much is a forest really worth? And what is the cost of forest degradation? These values are difficult to estimate, but according to Dr. Phillip Fearnside, we need to do a better job. For nearly forty years, Fearnside has lived in Amazonia doing ecological research, looking at the value of forests in terms of environmental or ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water cycling, and biodiversity preservation. Fearnside then works to convert these services into a basis for sustainable development for rural populations.
The best of the worst: fossil-fuel extractors pave the way for the low-carbon revolution
(03/26/2014) At the end of last year, the world got some good news on the green business front concerning a very unlikely set of participants. A recent market review revealed that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Duke Energy, PG&E Corporation, American Electric Power Company, ConAgra Foods and Walmart, among others, are including shadow carbon prices in their forecasts.
Cocaine: the new face of deforestation in Central America
(03/11/2014) In 2006, Mexico intensified its security strategy, forming an inhospitable environment for drug trafficking organizations (also known as DTOs) within the nation. The drug cartels responded by creating new trade routes along the border of Guatemala and Honduras. Soon shipments of cocaine from South America began to flow through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). This multi-national swathe of forest, encompassing several national parks and protected areas, was originally created to protect endangered species, such as Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and jaguar (Panthera onca), as well as the world's second largest coral reef. Today, its future hinges on the world's drug producers and consumers.
The price of gold: winners and losers in Latin America's mining industry
(03/05/2014) On a Friday afternoon in June, the Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca is pulsing with life. It's winter here, and although thick white clouds hover low in the distance, the sun in this northern Peruvian city is warm. Couples sit on benches facing one another. Kids run in the grass between flowerbeds. Men in suits stride along the perimeter. It's an idyllic day. But signs of something more ominous are not far from sight. On the mountainside overlooking the town the words Nova Conga have been carved into the vegetation. It is a constant reminder that beyond the square, hemmed with international hotels and expensive restaurants, there is another reality.
Ecotourism pays: study finds lower poverty where nature-based tourism is prevalent
(02/25/2014) A new study has quantified a point long advocated by advocates of setting aside protected areas: ecotourism pays. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), finds that communities neighboring conservation areas in Costa Rica had lower rates of poverty relative to other areas.
Environmental groups: top secret Pacific trade agreement to sacrifice wildlife, environment
(01/16/2014) Environmental groups have blasted draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released yesterday by WikiLeaks as potentially devastating to the environment and wildlife. The massive 12-nation free trade agreement has been negotiated in secret now for almost four years, and the information release by WikiLeaks shows that key environmental safeguards in the agreement are being stripped away, including a ban on shark finning and illegal logging, as well as legally-enforced pollution regulations.
Making cap-and-trade work: the history and future of a proven program
(12/09/2013) While the merits for slowing climate change will be treated here as a given, the method for doing so looms elusive. In a recent article, I described pricing carbon through carbon taxes and carbon credits as a way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and slow global climate change. As there has been some emotive controversy towards both of these, I would like to analyze them more deeply, starting here with carbon credits.
Zoos join fossil fuel divestment movement
(11/05/2013) Last month, over a hundred representatives from zoos and aquariums around the world joined climate activism group, 350.org, pledging that their institutions would take action against global warming, including the possibility of divesting from fossil fuel companies. The effort, dubbed Zoos and Aquariums for 350, was launched during the annual meeting of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG).
America's growing inequality helped scuttle the global climate change initiative
(10/28/2013) The link between good economic policy and climate change mitigation is instigated by policies such as the triple-bottom line, carbon limitations, and pro-environmental legislation. However, economic inequality is a little explored piece of the successful fight against climate change. For climate change mitigation and good economic policy to work, economic growth must be broad-based. Indeed, the inability for the United States to make a coherent and progressive stance on climate change has effectively stymied the global initiative—and is in part due to growing inequality. Due to the nation's market size and political power, U.S. policy is often a decisive factor for many global issues.
David Attenborough: someone who believes in infinite growth is 'either a madman or an economist'
(10/16/2013) Sir David Attenborough has said that people living in poorer countries are just as concerned about the environment as those in the developed world, and "exporting environmentalism" isn't necessarily an "uphill struggle". The veteran broadcaster said ideas about protecting the natural world were not unwelcome in less developed nations—but added that wealthier countries should work to improve women's rights around the world to bring down birth rates and avoid overpopulation.
Divestment campaign could cause considerable damage to fossil fuel industry
(10/08/2013) A campaign to persuade investors to take their money out of the fossil fuel sector is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and could cause significant damage to coal, oil and gas companies, according to a study from the University of Oxford. The report compares the current fossil fuel divestment campaign, which has attracted 41 institutions since 2010, with those against tobacco, apartheid in South Africa, armaments, gambling and pornography. It concludes that the direct financial impact of such campaigns on share prices or the ability to raise funds is small but the reputational damage can still have major financial consequences.
Climate change policy is just good economics
(09/25/2013) For the majority of the new century, Americans have largely stopped caring about the environment. In that time, America has suffered 9/11, two of the nation's four longest wars, the deepest depression in 80 years, increased inequality, and incompetent or fractured leadership. There's been a lot on the public mind.
Tools against climate change: carbon tax and cap-and-trade
(09/04/2013) Climate-conscious folk agree that atmospheric carbon concentration is a key greenhouse gas and a large factor in global climate change. However, there are discrepancies in the methods chosen to address the problem. Some say that carbon emissions should be banned. Some say fossil fuels should be priced. Others say that there are nuances within each. Which tools can we realistically use to mitigate climate change and the drastic effects it will have on our world?
In defense of the financial industry: stocking up to end climate change
(08/20/2013) On a cross-country bus trip through the American Midwest, I watch cool morning mist rise from patchwork fields. Between the fields stand groves of dark green mid-summer trees, I am reminded that this scene is in jeopardy. The region is cited for its vulnerability to desertification associated with climate change.
China's growing wine industry threatening pandas and other endangered species
(08/14/2013) In 1985, Li Hua visited a valley in the foothills of the Tibetan plateau. The area was better known for its panda population, but the oenologist realized that its high altitude, hours of sunshine, sandy soil and low precipitation also offered ideal conditions for growing grapes.
Arctic melt to cost trillions
(07/30/2013) Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic "economic timebomb" which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system, say a group of economists and polar scientists. Governments and industry have expected the widespread warming of the Arctic region in the past 20 years to be an economic boon, allowing the exploitation of new gas and oilfields and enabling shipping to travel faster between Europe and Asia.
In age of climate change, Australia's vast coal fields could become worthless
(07/02/2013) Australia's huge coal industry is a speculative bubble ripe for financial implosion if the world's governments fulfill their agreement to act on climate change, according to a new report. The warning that much of the nation's coal reserves will become worthless as the world hits carbon emission limits comes after banking giant Citi also warned Australian investors that fossil fuel companies could do little to avoid the future loss of value.
Local economy ruined by pesticide pollution in the Caribbean
(05/29/2013) On 15 April more than 100 fishermen demonstrated in the streets of Fort de France, the main town on Martinique, in the French West Indies. In January they barricaded the port until the government in Paris allocated €2m ($2.6m) in aid, which they are still waiting for. The contamination caused by chlordecone, a persistent organochlorine pesticide, means their spiny lobsters are no longer fit for human consumption. The people of neighboring Guadeloupe are increasingly angry for the same reason. After polluting the soil, the chemical is wreaking havoc out at sea, an environmental disaster that now threatens the whole economy.
Ten U.S. cities pledge to kick fossil fuel investments to the curb
(05/01/2013) The cities of San Francisco and Seattle have pulled their money out of fossil fuel companies, taking a climate divestment campaign from college campuses to local government. The campaign group 350.org said on Thursday it had won commitments from a total of 10 cities and towns to divest from 200 of leading fossil fuel companies.
Conservation without supervision: Peruvian community group creates and patrols its own protected area
(04/30/2013) When we think of conservation areas, many of us think of iconic National Parks overseen by uniformed government employees or wilderness areas purchased and run from afar by big-donor organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, or Conservation International. But what happens to ecosystems and wildlife in areas where there's a total lack of government presence and no money coming in for its protection? This is the story of one rural Peruvian community that took conservation matters into their own hands, with a little help from a dedicated pair of primate researchers, in order to protect a high biodiversity cloud forest.
What if companies actually had to compensate society for environmental destruction?
(04/29/2013) The environment is a public good. We all share and depend on clean water, a stable atmosphere, and abundant biodiversity for survival, not to mention health and societal well-being. But under our current global economy, industries can often destroy and pollute the environment—degrading public health and communities—without paying adequate compensation to the public good. Economists call this process "externalizing costs," i.e. the cost of environmental degradation in many cases is borne by society, instead of the companies that cause it. A new report from TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), conducted by Trucost, highlights the scale of the problem: unpriced natural capital (i.e. that which is not taken into account by the global market) was worth $7.3 trillion in 2009, equal to 13 percent of that year's global economic output.
'Carbon bubble' could cause next global financial crisis
(04/22/2013) The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists. "The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed," said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was "very big indeed" and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.
REDD+ and Business Sustainability: A Guide to Reversing Deforestation for Forward Thinking Companies – book review
(04/08/2013) Brian McFarland has published a concise, yet comprehensive, DōShort book titled REDD+ and Business Sustainability.
Proposed coal plant threatens Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo
(04/02/2013) One kilometer off the Philippine island of Palawan lies the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary; here forest grows unimpeded from a coral island surrounded by mangroves and coral reefs. Although tiny, over a hundred bird species have been recorded on the island along with a major population of large flying foxes, while in the waters below swim at least 130 species of coral fish, three types of marine turtles, and that curious-looking marine mammal, dugongs. Most importantly, perhaps, the island is home to the world's largest population of Philippine cockatoos (Cacatua haematuropygia), currently listed as Critically Endangered. But, although uninhabited by people, Rasa Island may soon be altered irrevocably by human impacts.
Carbon Markets or Climate Finance - book review
(03/25/2013) Carbon markets or climate finance? This is the question posed by Carbon Markets or Climate Finance, edited by Axel Michaelowa. First of all, let’s define climate finance as the financial resources used to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Planet organic: achieving sustainable food security and environmental gains
(03/19/2013) The global farmland area certified organic has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares since 1999, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute. The Institute argues that organic farming has the potential to contribute to sustainable food security by improving nutrition intake and sustaining rural livelihoods, while reducing vulnerability to climate change and enhancing biodiversity.
A New Blueprint for a Green Economy - book review
(03/04/2013) Edward B. Barbier and Anil Markandya, contributing authors to 1989 classic Blueprint for a Green Economy, have revisited the theme to implement a green economy and published A New Blueprint for a Green Economy. The central theme of A New Blueprint for a Green Economy is how we can make economies green today given what we have learned from our efforts since 1989.
Investors beware: global land grabbing ends in 'financial damage' and human rights violations
(02/07/2013) Investing in companies that flout local community rights in developing countries often leads to severe economic losses, according to a new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A rising trend in "land grabbing" from Africa to South America by corporations and even foreign governments results in social instability, which can lead to large-scale protests, violence, and even murder, delaying and sometimes derailing projects. Such instability poses massive risk to any investor, not to mention supporting corporate entities that are accused of ignoring human rights.
Head of IMF: climate change is 'the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century'
(02/06/2013) Climate change not debt or austerity is "the greatest economic challenge of the 21st Century," according to Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Lagarde painted a stark picture of the challenges the world faces when up against rising temperatures.
Lean Design Management: Applications to Natural Resource Management
(02/04/2013) Lean Design Management is a design management process that is applied most often within the construction sector. Its applicability to natural resources management is evident through the similarities between construction management and natural resources management.
Forests in Kenya worth much more intact says government report
(01/24/2013) Kenya's forests provide greater services and wealth to the nation when they are left standing. A landmark report by The Kenyan Government and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) addresses the importance of forests to the well-being of the nation, putting Kenya among a pioneering group of countries that aim to center development plans around nature-based assets.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Local and Regional Policy - a book review
(01/21/2013) The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Local and Regional Policy, edited by Heidi Wittmar and Haripriya Gundimeda, provides thoughtful and actionable approaches to integrate nature’s benefits into decision-making frameworks for local and regional policy and public management institutions. Filled with numerous case studies, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Local and Regional Policy, delivers a compendium of concepts and ideas.
A second look at 'Fewer, Richer, Greener: The End of the Population Explosion and the Future for Investors'
(01/14/2013) Fewer, Richer, Greener: The End of the Population Explosion and the Future for Investors (November/December 2012, Vol. 68, No. 6: 20–37), by Mr. Laurence B. Siegel provides us with a commentary of population explosion and green investment opportunities over the long-run.
Paradigm shift needed to avert global environmental collapse, according to author of new book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse
(01/10/2013) Global strategist, trained educator, and international lecturer Daniel Rirdan set out to create a plan addressing the future of our planet. His book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse, published this year, does just that. "It has been a sixty hour a week routine," Rirdan told mongabay.com in a recent interview. "Basically, I would wake up with the burden of the world on my shoulders and go to sleep with it. It went on like this for eighteen months." It becomes apparent when reading The Blueprint that it was indeed a monumental undertaking.
World has lost half its wetlands
(11/29/2012) Half of the worlds wetlands have been destroyed in just the last 100 years, says a new report. Published by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the report found that of the 25 million square kilometers of wetlands that existed in 1900 just 12.8 million square kilometers now remain. The rate of destruction varies geographically with notable loses in East Asia running at 1.6 per cent per year. In places where aquaculture, over-exploitation (e.g. unsustainable harvesting of fish) and storm damage have been severe, the rate of destruction can be as high as 80 percent.
Investors shouldn't ignore financial risk of environmental damage
(11/29/2012) Environmental damage poses a long-ignored risk to sovereign bonds, according to a new report by the UNEP FI (The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative) and the Global Footprint Network. The report, E-RISC Report, A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk, finds that the overuse of natural resources and their degradation has put considerable, and largely unrecognized, risk against national economies.
Legislation leaves future of world's largest temperate rainforest up in the air
(11/27/2012) Although unlikely to pass anytime in the near term, recurring legislation that would hand over 80,000 acres of the Tongass Rainforest to a Native-owned logging corporation has put local communities on guard in Southeast Alaska. "The legislation privatizes a public resource. It takes land that belongs to all of us, and that all of us have a say in the use and management of, and it gives that land to a private for-profit corporation," Andrew Thoms, Executive Director of the Sitka Conservation Society, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.
Mr. Jeremy Grantham and Extreme Weather and The Financial Markets: Opportunities in Commodities and Futures
(11/19/2012) Mr. Jeremy Grantham, co-chair of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and co-founder and chief investment strategist at GMO, published an online column November 14, 2012 in Nature asking scientists to speak out forcefully, publicly and directly on strategies to mitigate climate change. Mr. Grantham’s column titled Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary) is a clear clarion call for action. As a fellow natural resources scientist, I agree with Mr. Grantham’s intent.
Good Derivatives: A Story of Financial and Environmental Innovation – Book Review
(11/18/2012) In Good Derivatives: A Story of Financial and Environmental Innovation, Richard Sandor, PhD has written a rich compelling first-person narrative of the development of financial futures and environmental markets over the past 40 years. With personal stories describing both failures and successes, Dr. Richard Sandor engages us with details that expand our knowledge of the capacities and limitations capital markets present to us in our efforts to finance climate change mitigation and natural resources conservation.
How to see the forest for the trees: new textbook helps to craft a global understanding of forest economics for all stakeholders
(11/13/2012) Environmental economics is similar to other expanding fields, it turns out. For example, Tauhid Zaman, assistant professor of operations management at the MIT Sloan School of Business, lamented that network analytics far too often focuses on the purely theoretical, and quipped that his colleagues "want to date a model more than they want to model data." William F. Hyde might argue that the same could be said for environmental economists.
Tanzania weighs new soda ash plant in prime flamingo territory
(11/08/2012) In a choice between flamingoes and a soda ash plant, a new report shows that local residents near Lake Natron, Tanzania prefer flamingoes. This is good news for conservationists as the area is the most important breeding site in the world for lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor). While the report shows agreement between residents and conservation groups that the project isn't worth its cost or risk, the Tanzanian government is not giving up yet.
Over 100,000 farmers squatting in Sumatran park to grow coffee
(11/06/2012) Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park—home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants—has become overrun with coffee farmers, loggers, and opportunists according to a new paper in Conservation and Society. An issue facing the park for decades, the study attempted for the first time to determine the number of squatters either living in or farming off Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the rough census—over 100,000 people—shocked scientists.
Wealthy nations, excluding U.S., pledge to double funds for biodiversity
(10/22/2012) Although negotiations came down to the wire, nations finally brokered a new deal at the 11th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India; at its heart is a pledge to double resources from wealthier countries to the developing world by 2015 to conserve embattled species and ecosystems. While no numbers were put on the table, observers say a doubling of current resources would mean around $10-12 billion a year. However, this amount is still far short of what scientists and conservation groups say is necessary to stem current extinctions.
India pledges over $60 million for biodiversity, but experts say much more needed
(10/18/2012) The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, pledged around $50 million (Rs. 264 crore) for domestic biodiversity protection, reports the Hindu. The pledge came this week at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Hyderabad, India. The CBD has set bold goals on stemming the rate of extinction worldwide, but these have suffered from a lack of funding. India also said it had set aside another $10 million (Rs. 50 crore) for biodiversity projects abroad. Still, such funds are far below what scientists say is necessary to stem ongoing extinctions.
Will we need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere to save ourselves?
(10/17/2012) This year saw the Arctic sea ice extent fall to a new and shocking low, while the U.S. experienced it warmest month ever on record (July), beating even Dust Bowl temperatures. Meanwhile, a flood of new research has convincingly connected a rise in extreme weather events, especially droughts and heatwaves, to global climate change, and a recent report by the DARA Group and Climate Vulnerability Forum finds that climate change contributes to around 400,000 deaths a year and costs the world 1.6 percent of its GDP, or $1.2 trillion. All this and global temperatures have only risen about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early Twentieth Century. Scientists predict that temperatures could rise between 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) to a staggering 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
One in eight people suffer from malnutrition worldwide
(10/16/2012) In a world where technology has advanced to a point where I can instantly have a face-to-face conversation via online video with a friend in Tokyo, nearly 870 million people, or one in eight, still suffer from malnutrition, according to a new UN report. While worldwide hunger declined from 1990 to 2007, progress was slowed by the global economic crisis. Over the last few years, numerous and record-breaking extreme weather events have also taken tolls on food production. Currently, food prices hover just below crisis levels.
Saving the world's species from oblivion will cost around $80 billion a year, but still a good deal
(10/11/2012) If the world is to conserve its wealth of life—species great and small, beautiful and terrible, beloved and unknown—it will cost from $3.41-4.76 billion annually in targeted conservation funds, according to a new study in Science. But that's not all, the cost of protecting and managing the world's conservation areas was estimated at an additional $76.1 billion a year.
First REDD Textbook - Forest and Climate Change: The Social Dimensions of REDD in Latin America – Book Review
(10/08/2012) Thank you Professor Anthony Hall. After many years, we finally have a REDD textbook that can be used in the undergraduate and graduate classroom. Professor Hall has produced an excellent contribution to the growing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) literature.
World Bank agrees to fund project related to controversial Gibe III dam
(09/27/2012) Originally refusing to provide funding to Ethiopia's controversial Gibe III hydroelectric dam, the World Bank has now announced plans to fund the power lines that will carry generated electricity away from it. In their official statement they report that the lines will "connect Ethiopia’s electrical grid with Kenya’s, create power-sharing between the two countries, reduce energy costs, promote sustainable and renewable power generation [and] better protect the region’s environment...eventually benefiting 212 million people in five countries."
Conflict and perseverance: rehabilitating a forgotten park in the Congo
(09/19/2012) Zebra racing across the yellow-green savannah is an iconic image for Africa, but imagine you're seeing this not in Kenya or South Africa, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Welcome to Upemba National Park: once a jewel in the African wildlife crown, this protected area has been decimated by civil war. Now, a new bold initiative by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), dubbed Forgotten Parks, is working to rehabilitate Upemba after not only decades of conflict but also poaching, neglect, and severe poverty.
Human society surpasses 'nature's budget' today
(08/22/2012) As of today, August 22nd, humanity has overshot the world's annual ecological budget, according to the Global Footprint Network, which tracks global consumption related to resource availability and sustainability. The organization looks at a variety of data including the world's fisheries, forests, agriculture, water, mining, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Guyana rainforests secure trust fund
(07/30/2012) The nation of Guyana sports some of South America's most intact and least-imperiled rainforests, and a new $8.5 million trust fund hopes to keep it that way. The Guyanese government has teamed up with Germany and Conservation International (CI) to create a long-term trust fund to manage the country's protected areas system (PAS).
Saving 'Avatar Grove': the battle to preserve old-growth forests in British Columbia
(07/23/2012) A picture is worth a thousand words: this common adage comes instantly to mind when viewing T.J. Watt's unforgettable photos of lost trees. For years, Watt has been photographing the beauty of Vancouver Island's ancient temperate rainforests, and documenting their loss to clearcut logging. The photographer and environmental activist recently helped co-found the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), a group devoted to saving the island's and British Columbia's (BC) last old-growth while working with the logging industry to adopt sustainable practices. This February the organization succeeded in saving Avatar Grove—which was only discovered in 2009—from being clearcut. The grove, a rare stand of massive and ancient trees named after the popular eco science-fiction movie, has become a popular tourist destination, providing a new economic incentive for communities to protect rather than cut Canada's last great forests.
Experts: sustainable logging in rainforests impossible
(07/19/2012) Industrial logging in primary tropical forests that is both sustainable and profitable is impossible, argues a new study in Bioscience, which finds that the ecology of tropical hardwoods makes logging with truly sustainable practices not only impractical, but completely unprofitable. Given this, the researchers recommend industrial logging subsidies be dropped from the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. The study, which adds to the growing debate about the role of logging in tropical forests, counters recent research making the case that well-managed logging in old-growth rainforests could provide a "middle way" between conservation and outright conversion of forests to monocultures or pasture.
Climate change increased the probability of Texas drought, African famine, and other extreme weather
(07/11/2012) Climate change is here and its increasing the chances for crazy weather, according to scientists. A prestigious group of climatologists have released a landmark report that makes the dramatic point that climate change is impacting our weather systems—and in turn our food crops, our economies, and even our lives—here-and-now. The new report in the American Meteorological Society is first of what is intended to be an annual offering that will attempt to tease out the connections between climate change and individual extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and floods.
Wealthy consumption threatens species in developing countries
(07/11/2012) Consumption in wealthy nations is imperiling biodiversity abroad, according to a new study in Nature that investigates the link between international trade and biodiversity decline. The study shows how threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, located primarily in developing countries, can be connected to consumer demand for goods in wealthier nations. Some of the major commodities include coffee, cocoa, soy, beef and palm oil.
Making reforestation work in abandoned pasturelands
(07/09/2012) Tropical reforestation is not easy, especially in abandoned pasturelands. But a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that removing grasses prior to and after planting native tree seeds significantly improves the chances of forests to take root. The study site, located in Mexico's Lacandon rainforest, was covered in an invasive African grass (Cynodon plectostachyus).
Agricultural area larger than Texas has been 'land-grabbed'
(06/26/2012) Compiling over 1,000 foreign land deals from 2000-2010, a new report finds that 702,000 square kilometers (271,043 square miles) of agricultural land worldwide has been sold-off to foreign governments or international corporations, an area larger than Texas. The report by the Worldwatch Institute finds that such land deals, often referred to as "land grabbing," have declined since a peak in 2009, but still remain high.
Rio+20 and economic perils in Europe: opportunity for linkage
(06/19/2012) This month, momentous events will occur on the global scene that will set the tone for whether 2012 will be a hopeful year or one in which dislocations and disconnects are further exacerbated by political failings. The EU will decide on its fiscal and monetary union that hinges on Greece’s recent June election, which backed the political party that wants to stay in the Euro zone, but insists on adjustments to the earlier-negotiated economic rescue package.
Ten African nations pledge to transform their economies to take nature into account
(06/11/2012) Last month ten African nations, led by Botswana, pledged to incorporate "natural capital" into their economies. Natural capital, which seeks to measure the economic worth of the services provided by ecosystems and biodiversity—for example pollination, clean water, and carbon—is a nascent, but growing, method to curtail environmental damage and ensure more sustainable development. Dubbed the Gaborone Declaration, the pledge was signed by Botswana, Liberia, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania following a two day summit.
Scientists: if we don't act now we're screwed
(06/07/2012) Scientists warn that the Earth may be reaching a planetary tipping point due to a unsustainable human pressures, while the UN releases a new report that finds global society has made significant progress on only four environmental issues out of ninety in the last twenty years. Climate change, overpopulation, overconsumption, and ecosystem destruction could lead to a tipping point that causes planetary collapse, according to a new paper in Nature by 22 scientists. The collapse may lead to a new planetary state that scientists say will be far harsher for human well-being, let alone survival.
Want to stop climate change: buy fossil fuel deposits
(06/07/2012) Governments, NGOs, and others fighting climate change should consider buying coal and oil deposits—not to exploit them, but to keep them from being exploited, according to a bold new policy paper in the Journal of Political Economy. Economist Bard Harstad with the Kellogg School of Management argues that climate coalitions could quickly slash carbon emissions by purchasing and conserving marginal fossil fuel deposits, a strategy that would solve the current problem of carbon leakage, i.e. when cutting emissions in one place pushes others to burn more elsewhere. Given that carbon emissions rose to a new record last year—31.6 gigatons—and carbon has hit 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 800,000 years, Harstad's analysis comes at a time when scientists are warning that urgent and bold action is needed to mitigate global climate change before it becomes irreversible.
Massive economic growth does little for happiness in China
(05/29/2012) Economic growth alone may not raise happiness, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy Science (PNAS). Despite a stunning economic growth rate of around 10 percent per year over the last two decades, China's people have not seem a big boost in their overall life satisfaction.
Charting a new environmental course in China
(05/21/2012) Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works in more than 30 countries and has projects in all 50 of the United States. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 119 million acres of wild-lands and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. TNC has taken an active interest in China, the world's most populated nation, and in many important ways, a critical center of global development. The following is an interview with multiple directors of The Nature Conservancy's China Program.
Consumption, population, and declining Earth: wake-up call for Rio+20
(05/15/2012) Currently, human society is consuming natural resources as if there were one-and-a-half Earths, and not just a single blue planet, according to the most recent Living Planet Report released today. If governments and societies continue with 'business-as-usual' practices, we could be consuming three years of natural resources in 12 months by 2050. Already, this ecological debt is decimating wildlife populations worldwide, disproportionately hurting the world's poor and most vulnerable, threatening imperative resources like food and water, heating up the atmosphere, and risking global well-being.
For Earth Day, 17 celebrated scientists on how to make a better world
(04/22/2012) Seventeen top scientists and four acclaimed conservation organizations have called for radical action to create a better world for this and future generations. Compiled by 21 past winners of the prestigious Blue Planet Prize, a new paper recommends solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems including climate change, poverty, and mass extinction. The paper, entitled Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act, was recently presented at the UN Environment Program governing council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
Smoking gun for bee collapse? popular pesticides
(03/29/2012) Commonly used pesticides may be a primary driver of the collapsing bee populations, finds two new studies in Science. The studies, one focused on honeybees and the other on bumblebees, found that even small doses of these pesticides, which target insect's central nervous system, impact bee behavior and, ultimately, their survival. The studies may have far-reaching repercussions for the regulation of agricultural chemicals, known as neonicotinoid insecticides, that have been in use since the 1990s.
Innovative program seeks to safeguard Peruvian Amazon from impacts of Inter-Oceanic Highway
(03/06/2012) Arbio was begun by Michel Saini and Tatiana Espinosa Q. in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The project focuses on a protective response to the increased encroachment and destructive land use driven by development. The recent construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway in the Madre de Dios area presents an enormous threat to forest biodiversity. Arbio provides opportunities to help establish a buffer zone near the road to limit intrusive agricultural and deforestation activities.
Tourism for biodiversity in Tambopata
(02/27/2012) Research and exploration in the Neotropics are extraordinary, life-changing experiences. In the past two decades, a new generation of collaborative projects has emerged throughout Central and South America to provide access to tropical biodiversity. Scientists, local naturalists, guides, students and travelers now have the chance to mingle and share knowledge. Fusion programs offering immersion in tropical biology, travel, ecological field work, and adventure often support local wilderness preservation, inspire and educate visitors.
Innovative conservation: wild silk, endangered species, and poverty in Madagascar
(02/20/2012) For anyone who works in conservation in Madagascar, confronting the complex difficulties of widespread poverty is a part of the job. But with the wealth of Madagascar's wildlife rapidly diminishing— such as lemurs, miniature chameleons, and hedgehog-looking tenrecs found no-where else in the world—the island-nation has become a testing ground for innovative conservation programs that focus on tackling entrenched poverty to save dwindling species and degraded places. The local NGO, the Madagascar Organization of Silk Workers or SEPALI, along with its U.S. partner Conservation through Poverty Alleviation (CPALI), is one such innovative program. In order to alleviate local pressure on the newly-established Makira Protected Area, SEPALI is aiding local farmers in artisanal silk production from endemic moths. The program uses Madagascar's famed wildlife to help create more economically stable communities.
California cap-and-trade law spurs U.S. forest carbon projects
(02/15/2012) Now that California's carbon market has arrived, an Australian-based company that specializes in forest carbon offsets has jump started two forest projects with private landowners in the western U.S. The new company, Forest Carbon Partners, will make the projects available as carbon offsets for California polluters.
Big oil makes $137 billion, gives 28 percent back to themselves
(02/13/2012) The world's top five oil companies—BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—made a record $137 billion in 2011 beating out the previous record in 2008, reports Climate Progress. Still even as the companies made record profits they produced 4 percent less oil than the prior year.
Tropical ecologist: Australia must follow U.S. and EU in banning illegally logged wood
(02/09/2012) Australia should join the widening effort to stamp out illegal logging, according to testimony given this week by tropical ecologist William Laurance with James Cook University. Presenting before the Australian Senate's rural affairs committee, Laurance argued that the massive environmental and economic costs of illegal logging worldwide should press Australia to tighten regulations against importing illegally logged timber at home.
Black Swans and bottom-up environmental action
(02/08/2012) The defining events shaping the modern world - economic, social, environmental, progressive and disruptive - are frequently characterized as "Black Swans."The Black Swan term and theory were characterized by author and analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb who explains, "What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable." Taleb identifies the emergence of the internet, the attacks of September 11, 2001, the popularity of Facebook, stock market crashes, the success of Harry Potter, and World War I as among Black Swan events.
More big companies disclosing impacts on forests
(02/07/2012) More companies are reporting on the impact of their operations on global forests, finds a new report. Eighty-seven global corporations disclosed their "forest footprint" in 2011, according to the third Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD), which asks companies to report on their impact on forests based on their use of five commodities: soy, palm oil, timber and pulp, cattle, and biofuels. This is a 11 percent rise from the companies that reported in 2010, including the first reports by companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Tesco UK, and Johnson & Johnson. However a number of so-called "green" companies continue to refuse to disclose, including Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, and Whole Foods Markets Inc.
Wall Street Journal climate op-ed: the "equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology"
(02/06/2012) Climate scientists have struck back at the Wall Street Journal after it published an op-ed authored by 16 mostly non-climatologists arguing that global warming was not an urgent concern. The response letter, entitled Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate, responds that the Wall Street Journal should seek input on global warming from climate scientists. Six of the 16 authors who published the original article have ties to Exxon Mobil and their professions range from engineers to astronauts. In turn the letter to Wall Street Journal was signed by 38 well-noted climatologists.
Wall Street Journal under attack for climate op-ed
(01/31/2012) The Wall Street Journal is under attack for publishing an op-ed attacking climate science last Friday, while turning down another op-ed explaining climate change and signed by 255 researchers with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which was eventually published in the journal Science. The op-ed last Friday first garnered attention because it was signed by 16 scientists, however other journalists have shown that most of these signatories are not climatologists (the list includes an astronaut, a physician, and an airplane engineer), many are well-known deniers, and at least six have been tied to the fossil fuels industry.
Brazilian mining company connected to Belo Monte dam voted worst corporation
(01/31/2012) The world's second largest mining company, Vale, has been given the dubious honor of being voted the world's most awful corporation in terms of human rights abuses and environmental destruction by the Public Eye Awards. Vale received over 25,000 votes online, likely prompted in part by its stake in the hugely controversial Brazilian mega-dam, Belo Monte, which is being constructed on the Xingu River. An expert panel gave a second award to British bank Barclay's for speculation on food prices, which the experts stated was worsening hunger worldwide.
California sets tough new clean car standards
(01/30/2012) The U.S. state that takes climate change most seriously—California—has unanimously approved new rules dubbed the Advanced Clean Cars program to lower carbon emissions, reduce oil dependence, mitigate health impacts from pollution, and save consumers money in the long-term. According to the new standards, by 2025 cars sold in California must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and smog emissions by 75 percent. The program will also require 15.4 percent of all cars sold in California to be zero or near-zero emissions by 2025.
Economic slowdown leads to the pulping of Latvia's forests
(01/23/2012) The economic crisis has pushed many nations to scramble for revenue and jobs in tight times, and the small Eastern European nation of Latvia is no different. Facing tough circumstances, the country turned to its most important and abundant natural resource: forests. The Latvian government accepted a new plan for the nation's forests, which has resulted in logging at rates many scientists say are clearly unsustainable. In addition, researchers contend that the on-the-ground practices of state-owned timber giant, Latvijas Valsts meži (LVM), are hurting wildlife and destroying rare ecosystems.
One company behind U.S.'s top three biggest greenhouse gas emitters
(01/16/2012) The Atlanta-based Southern company owns the top three biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. according to recent data released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Three of Southern's coal-fired plants—two in Georgia and one in Alabama—account for around 64.74 million metric tons of total greenhouse gas emissions, higher than all of Finland's carbon emission in 2008.
How much is the life of a whale worth?
(01/16/2012) How do you end a decades-long conflict between culture and conservation? How do you stop a conflict where both sides are dug in? A new paper in Nature proposes a way to end the long and bitter battle over whaling: environmentalists could pay whalers not to whale.
Eco-toilets help save hippos and birds in Kenya
(01/04/2012) It may appear unintuitive that special toilets could benefit hippos and other wetland species, but the Center for Rural Empowerment and the Environment (CREE) has proven the unique benefits of new toilets in the Dunga Wetlands on Lake Victoria's Kenyan side. By building ecologically-sanitary (eco-san) toilets, CREE has managed to alleviate some of the conflict that has cropped up between hippos and humans for space.
Earth systems disruption: Does 2011 indicate the "new normal" of climate chaos and conflict?
(12/21/2011) The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.
Issues of the Day: 100 Commentaries on Climate, Energy, the Environment, Transportation, and Public Health Policy: Book Review
(12/14/2011) Issues of the Day: 100 Commentaries on Climate, Energy, the Environment, Transportation, and Public Health Policy is a wonderful overview of 100 different issues presented in two-page briefs by teams of expert individuals.
Carbon Coalitions: Business, Climate Politics, and the Rise of Emissions Trading: Book Review
(12/13/2011) Jonas Meckling, PhD., writes the first critical analysis demonstrating how various types of not-for-profit, governmental and for-profit coalitions over the past couple of decades have led to the development of the global carbon market, valued in 2010 at US$ 142 billion.
Paper commitments for the Indonesian industry
(12/13/2011) The Indonesian group Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has been the target of many NGOs for years due to its alleged negative impacts on tropical forests. This culminated in a spectacular campaign launched by Greenpeace in 2011 based on Ken "dumping" Barbie. The rationale was that toy brand Mattel was accused of using APP paper products linked to the clear-cutting of natural forests in the Indonesian archipelago. APP organized a counter-attack in the media with the daily publication of advertisements promoting its sustainable development practices. Journalists from all over the world were also invited to attend guided tours of APP concessions to demonstrate their conservation efforts, and a number of articles were subsequently written.
Mixed reactions to the Durban agreement
(12/12/2011) Early Sunday morning over 190 of the world's countries signed on to a new climate agreement at the 17th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa. The summit was supposed to end on Friday, but marathon negotiations pushed government officials to burn the midnight oil for about 36 extra hours. The final agreement was better than many expected out of the two week summit, but still very far from what science says is necessary to ensure the world does not suffer catastrophic climate change.
Yasuni ITT: the virtues and vices of environmental innovation
(12/07/2011) As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Durban, Ecuador has embarked on the development of a project presented as highly innovative. This project targets Yasuni National Park, which has been protected since 1979. Yasuni is home to several indigenous peoples and is a biodiversity hotspot. But it so happens that the park also sits atop a vast oil field of 846 million barrels, representing about 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The acronym Yasuni ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin, which are the names of three potential zones for oil extraction.
Top 20 banks that finance big coal
(11/30/2011) A new report from civil and environmental organizations highlights the top 20 banks that spend the most money on coal, the world's most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Released as officials from around the world meet for the 17th UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, the report investigated the funding practices of 93 major private banks, finding that the top five funders of big coal are (in order): JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Barclay's.
Civilization shifting: a new leaderless era
(11/15/2011) For well over a decade global change scientists have ushered calls for urgent alteration in what they refer to as the “Business-as-Usual (BAU) paradigm” to cope with the interlinking social, economic, and environmental issues of the 21st Century. In 2001, one of the world’s largest Earth Science collaborative organizations, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), published their "A Planet Under Pressure" summary report for policy makers.
Featured video: could a forest be worth more than a gold mine?
(10/31/2011) Jason A. Sohigian, the Deputy Director of the Armenia Tree Project (ATP), presents at TEDx on the often-unacknowledged economic value of forests, including wildlife habitat, safeguarding watersheds, soil health, and tourism. In Amerina, Sohigian estimates the economic value of forests to be between $7 million to $1.1 billion annually, if not more.
11 challenges facing 7 billion super-consumers
(10/31/2011) Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Halloween this year is not the ghouls and goblins taking to the streets, but a baby born somewhere in the world. It's not the baby's or the parent's fault, of course, but this child will become a part of an artificial, but still important, milestone: according to the UN, the Earth's seventh billionth person will be born today. That's seven billion people who require, in the very least, freshwater, food, shelter, medicine, and education. In some parts of the world, they will also have a car, an iPod, a suburban house and yard, pets, computers, a lawn-mower, a microwave, and perhaps a swimming pool. Though rarely addressed directly in policy (and more often than not avoided in polite conversations), the issue of overpopulation is central to environmentally sustainability and human welfare.
New study: price carbon at the point of fossil fuel extraction
(10/17/2011) Global carbon emissions are a complicated matter. Currently, officials estimate national fossil fuel-related emissions by what is burned (known as production) within a nation, but this approach underestimates the emissions contributions from countries that extract oil and oil for export. Is there a better way to account for a country's total climate change footprint?
Tea party versus Madagascar's forests
(10/02/2011) The Tea Party and the African island-nation of Madagascar are having dueling concerts over the issue of illegal logging, reports the Associated Press. A concert in Madagascar over the weekend was meant to highlight the problem of illegal deforestation in one of the world's poorest countries. Meanwhile the Tea Party is holding a rally and concert on October 8th to support Gibson Guitar, a musical instruments company currently under investigation for breaking US law by allegedly purchasing illegally logged wood products from Madagascar.
Putting people to work: restoring our ecosystems, sequestering carbon
(10/02/2011) President Obama's sole focus of his September 8th speech to the United States Congress was job creation. He closed his speech by summoning an earlier time of promise: "President Kennedy once said, ' Our problems are man-made—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.' These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work..." Inspiration is surely needed because in addition to the United States, where unemployment remains at about 9 percent, severe unemployment is found throughout the world, with Greece, Spain, and South Africa, for example, having 2011 summer unemployment rates at over 16, 20, and 25 percent, respectively.
Forest carbon projects rake in $178 million in 2010
(09/29/2011) Investors funneled $178 million into forest carbon projects intended to mitigate global climate change last year, according to a new report by Forest Trends' Ecosystem Marketplace. By trading a record 30.1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtC02e), the market saw a 48 percent rise over 2009—including a rise in private investors over non-profits as well as greater support for the global program Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD)—shows that the burgeoning market may be beginning to make good on its promise to provide funds to save forests for their ecosystem services with an initial focus on carbon.
From Red to Green? How the Financial Credit Crunch Could Bankrupt the Environment - a book review
(09/19/2011) Paul Donovan and Julie Hudson, CFA argue in From Red to Green? How the Financial Credit Crunch Could Bankrupt the Environment that twin credit crunches – both environment and financial – have been underway for some time. With chapters on food, water, energy, infrastructure, housing, consumer durables, health, education, work and leisure accompanied by a thorough economic analysis regarding both credit and environmental debts driving supply and demand of these goods and services, the authors discuss at length how global economics may be impacted in an environmentally constrained future.
Conserving and Valuing Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity: Economic, Institutional and Social Challenges
(09/11/2011) Conserving and Valuing Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity: Economic, Institutional and Social Challenges provides a much needed survey reflecting upon recent institutional experience yielding analysis that concludes that there exists financially rigorous rationale to justify conservation of biodiversity for economic reasons, above and beyond the usual rationale of conservation only for biodiversity, spiritual or ethical reasons.
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