Ending poverty and addressing climate change are the two defining issues of our time. Both are essential to achieving sustainable global development. But they cannot be considered in isolation. This report brings together these two over-arching objectives and explores how they can be more easily achieved if considered together. It demonstrates the urgency of efforts to reduce poverty and the vulnerability of poor people in the face of climate change. It also provides guidance on how to ensure that climate change policies contribute to poverty reduction and poverty reduction policies contribute to climate change mitigation and resilience building. Our studies show that without action, climate change would likely spark higher agricultural prices and could threaten food security in poorer regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. And in most countries where we have data, poor urban households are more exposed to floods than the average urban population. Climate change also will magnify many threats to health, as poor people are more susceptible to climate-related diseases such as malaria and diarrhea.
As the report points out, poverty reduction is not a one-way street. Many people exit or fall back into poverty each year. The poor live in uncertainty, just one natural disaster away from losing every- thing they have. We need good, climate-informed development to reduce the impacts of climate change on the poor. This means, in part, providing poor people with social safety nets and universal health care. These efforts will need to be coupled with targeted climate resilience measures, such as the introduction of heat- resistant crops and disaster preparedness systems. The report shows that without this type of development, climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. But with rapid, inclusive development that is adapted to changing climate conditions, most of these impacts can be prevented.
Read the full story at Pacific Standard.
There’s one question that appears to underlie virtually every report, book, and paper on the topic: Why are we not responding more actively and effectively to one of the greatest threats facing life on the planet today? Last week, a study was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science responding to this question, identifying “Five ‘Best Practice’ Insights From Psychological Sciences” for improving public engagement on climate change. The authors’ aim was to distill “five simple but important guidelines for improving public policy and decision making about climate change.” The paper reflects a growing movement to translate and bridge research findings with on-the-ground applications in policy, advocacy, and communities of practice. We need this kind of connection between research and practice, without question. However, we must ask: What about additional—and arguably critical—psychological insights that may be lost in translation?
Christine Costello, Xiaobo Xue, and Robert W Howarth (2015). “Comparison of production-phase environmental impact metrics derived at the farm- and national-scale for United States agricultural commodities.” Environmental Research Letters 10(11), 14 p. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/10/11/114004. Open access.
Abstract: Agricultural production is critical for human survival and simultaneously contributes to ecosystem degradation. There is a need for transparent, rapid methods for evaluating the environmental impacts of agricultural production at the system-level in order to develop sustainable food supplies. We have developed a method for estimating the greenhouse gas (GHG), land use and reactive nitrogen inputs associated with the agricultural production phase of major crop and livestock commodities produced in the United States (US). Materials flow analysis (MFA) and life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques were applied to national inventory datasets. The net anthropogenic nitrogen inputs (NANI) toolbox served as the primary accounting tool for LCA and MFA. NANI was updated to create links between nitrogen fertilizer and nitrogen fixation associated with feed crops and animal food commodities. Results for the functional units kilogram (kg) of product and kg of protein for 2002 data fall within ranges of published LCA results from farm-scale studies across most metrics. Exceptions include eutrophication potential for milk and GHGs for chicken and eggs, these exceptions arise due to differing methods and boundary assumptions; suggestions for increasing agreement are identified. Land use for livestock commodities are generally higher than reported by other LCA studies due to the inclusion of all land identified as pasture or grazing land in the US in this study and given that most of the estimates from other LCAs were completed in Europe where land is less abundant. The method provides a view of the entire US agricultural system and could be applied to any year using publically available data. Additionally, utilizing a top-down approach reduces data collection and processing time making it possible to develop environmental inventory metrics rapidly for system-level decision-making.
Read the full story from MIT.
As the availability of clean, potable water becomes an increasingly urgent issue in many parts of the world, researchers are searching for new ways to treat salty, brackish or contaminated water to make it usable. Now a team at MIT has come up with an innovative approach that, unlike most traditional desalination systems, does not separate ions or water molecules with filters, which can become clogged, or boiling, which consumes great amounts of energy.
Instead, the system uses an electrically driven shockwave within a stream of flowing water, which pushes salty water to one side of the flow and fresh water to the other, allowing easy separation of the two streams. The new approach is described in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, in a paper by professor of chemical engineering and mathematics Martin Bazant, graduate student Sven Schlumpberger, undergraduate Nancy Lu, and former postdoc Matthew Suss.
Two new technology assessment reports from The 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) are now available.
Advanced Sensors, Controls, Platforms and Modeling for Manufacturing – 6C
Advanced Sensors, Controls, Platforms and Modeling for Manufacturing is one of fourteen manufacturing-focused technology assessments prepared in support of Chapter 6: Innovating Clean Energy Technologies in Advanced Manufacturing.
Process Intensification – 6J
Process Intensification is one of fourteen manufacturing-focused technology assessments prepared in support of Chapter 6: Innovating Clean Energy Technologies in Advanced Manufacturing.
“Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners” is a collaborative research project undertaken by the Policy and Mediation Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA/PMD) and the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The project has also received support from Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR), the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), and the EU-UN Global Partnership on Land, Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention.
This guide collects and summarizes good practices on the successful mediation of resource conflicts. It consolidates lessons from decades of hands-on experience at both the local and international levels mediating conflicts over extractive resources, land and water. It draws on the field experiences of DPA’s mediators and mediation experts, and also features lessons learned from UNEP’s work on environmental diplomacy.
Portland, Boston, and Los Angeles are further along than many U.S. cities in planning for extreme weather events linked to global warming, according to a study published in the journal Global Environmental Change. The report found that Tucson, Arizona, and Raleigh, North Carolina, are in the middle-to-early stages of planning, while Tampa, Florida — which is at the highest risk for hurricanes in the U.S. and is located very near sea level — largely dismisses climate change and has done little to plan for it. The study is the first to look at societal factors, such as a city’s political environment, and how those factors affect action on climate change. Interviews with 65 local policymakers in each of the six cities revealed three factors that play a role in how well city planners prepare for climate change: the risk of extreme weather in a given area, public acceptance of climate change, and how aggressively a city’s residents engage in public policy and politics.