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The Environment

  • Top 5 Unanswered Questions About The BP Oil Spill

    In this Wednesday, April 21, 2010 aerial file photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, an oil slick is seen as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERALD HERBERT, FILE It’s officially been five years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, a well blowout and subsequent oil spill that caused the deaths of 11 men. A lot has happened since — a massive cleanup effort, scientific research on impacts, civil and criminal court cases galore. But the answers to many basic questions about the historic tragedy remain either unknown…

  • The Fatal Flaw In The Climate Change Debate

    Everyone loves a courtroom drama--especially one that pits a feisty, but a determined criminal defense attorney against the awesome power of a prosecutor who has the resources of the state behind him or her. We see such David and Goliath stories every week on television. We cheer as the defense attorney pokes one hole after another in the case of the prosecutor, raising what the audience now perceives as reasonable doubt. But will the jury see it that way? We'll return after these messages.... This is just the sort of metaphorical setting into which the climate change denial lobby is…

  • Is The Paris Climate Conference Doomed To Fail?

    The United Nations Climate Change Conference – or Paris 2015 – is just around the corner, seven months to be exact. The goal is ambitious: to develop a viable, and comprehensive, successor to Kyoto, applicable to all countries, and with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. Expectations are tempered, but hopes remain high as the particulars begin to take shape and individual nations confer their climate goals. Conspicuously absent thus far however, is any meaningful carbon dialogue from the world’s second largest emitter, the United States. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs are beginning to…

  • Who Will Control The World’s Water: Governments Or Corporations?

    Water is perhaps the world’s most important resource, and one of the most common resources. For decades water was regarded as a common good, and it was plentiful enough that in most parts of the world there was little money to be made off of it. Now as the world’s population continues to grow, all of that is changing. Late in March, Tetra Tech was awarded a $1B five year contract to help support the US Agency of International Development (USAID) and its water development strategies. Tetra Tech will help USAID by collecting data related to water use, develop water…

  • California: A Microcosm For Impending Global Water Crisis

    The move by California to require mandatory cuts in water use for the first time in its history has highlighted the world’s looming water crisis and increased the focus on the links between sustainable water and sustainable energy. “We need a new paradigm,” says Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. “The days when we could just go further into the mountains and find new sources of water are past. We need to make better use of the water we have.” The good news is that this offers opportunities for investors in everything from…

  • The Uncomfortable Truth Behind Flat Carbon Emissions

    Last week we learned that maybe, just maybe, global carbon emissions were flat in 2014 even though the global economy supposedly grew by 3 percent. As Brad Plumer of Vox (whose work I greatly respect) points out, carbon emissions have moved up almost in lockstep with economic growth for the entire industrial age except during recessions and one year of growth 40 years ago. This is why I use "supposedly" when referring to the global economic growth number. It's because there is another obvious and plausible explanation for the flat carbon emissions, namely, that the global economy did not grow…

  • Is China Exporting Its Pollution?

    China is in the midst of a historic transformation, and the surprising progress the country has made at energy efficiency has raised hopes that the world may get a grip on global greenhouse gas emissions much sooner than expected. As a result of the progress China is making in cleaning up its industrial sector, global greenhouse gas emissions hit the pause button in 2014, the first time that has happened in four decades (absent a major economic contraction). The International Energy Agency said on March 13 that global greenhouse gas emissions hit 32.3 billion tons in 2014, the same level…

  • Climate Security Pits US Military Against Congress

    A new study concludes that climate change played a role in sparking the civil war in Syria, adding to the body of research showing a climate link to the unrest in the Middle East. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 2, finds that a multi-year drought between 2007 and 2010 led to “widespread crop failure,” forcing rural communities to migrate to urban centers en masse. As a result, Syrian cities became a tinderbox, and the subsequent political instability ignited into violence in 2011 at the onset of the Arab Spring. The Syrian…

  • Can We Fix Climate Change With Technology?

    A report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded that experiments in blotting out the sun in order to reduce the amount of the sun’s rays that hit the Earth would be too risky. Spraying aerosols into the atmosphere – one leading approaching to “geoengineering” – would be a massive science experiment that would have unknown environmental side effects. The fallout on precipitation patterns, agricultural productivity, and the global climate cannot be fully known until it is unleashed. If the United States seeded the atmosphere with aerosols that produced more drought in, say, sub-Saharan Africa, that would potentially raise indefensible…

  • China Ramps Up Emissions Efforts With New Carbon Market

    A man wearing a mask walks past trees shrouded with pollution haze in Beijing, China Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Credit: AP/ANDY WONG On Wednesday, a Chinese government official said that China plans to launch the first stages of a national carbon market next year. According to the South China Morning Post, Jiang Zhaoli, a senior official with National Development and Reform Commission’s (NDRC’s) climate change department, said that China plans to initially cap emissions from six industrial sectors. These include power generation, metallurgical, nonferrous metal, building materials, chemicals, and aviation. “We hope to kick off the national market in summer…