Corker N.,Sustainable Development
Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Engineering Sustainability | Year: 2011
How do we allocate natural resources in an equitable way? For many, Garret Hardin's 'The tragedy of the commons' published in Science in 1968 became a parable of its time, giving succour to both environmentalist and capitalist alike. The intervening years have seen developments in environmental economics, participatory planning, environmental regulation, governance and resource efficiency, all strands that Hardin would recognise. New multi-disciplinary fields have emerged in topics such as socio-ecological systems theory, environmental cognition and resilience, all things that Hardin alludes to. The new science of ecosystem services is providing a robust framework for natural resource evaluation as it starts to underpin exactly what nature provides to us all in common. As we face the challenges of a changing climate and other 'wicked' problems, is Hardin's analysis of a 'class of problem with no technical solution' still a useful one? Followers of the debate over sustainable communities and the 'big society' may think so. This paper aims to introduce the reader to Hardin's now classic tragic scenario of natural resource use, place it within an evolving corpus of environmental literature, explore a little of the author's own life and attempt to asses its impact and relevance today. Source
News Article | January 5, 2016
People will definitely achieve some success in decarbonization by 2030—but how much, asks the 2016 Masdar Engage blogging competition? Globally and locally, the answer depends on finance and political will. Both vary widely by nation, as the successful bottom-up INDC process of 2015 has shown us. In a centrally controlled country like China, it takes only minutes to enact reforms like banning coal power within cities and mandating jail time for energy managers who fail to reach pollution control goals. Developing countries can only fund energy transition with help from development banks, richer nations, and private capital. Industrialized democracies pay the price of their freedom in terms of haggling time. Deception by vested interests and congressional deadlock in the United States are probably the most egregious examples. Sustainability, low to zero carbon attainment, resilience, and flexibility overarch the concerns of individual nations or states. For a sustainable future, the entire world economy needs to move from depending on fossil fuels for energy to setting up less harmful, more effective electrification. An energy shift is nothing new: two centuries ago, we shifted to fossil fuels (now 80% of the world’s energy), enabling the Industrial Revolution. It’s now time to reverse our use of coal, oil, and gas (stock value, $5 trillion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance) to renewables, currently worth about $300 billion. Time-wasting, exorbitant measures such as “clean” natural gas development, unproven carbon capture, and costly new nuclear technology don’t figure into the equation. The LPAA initiative begun in Lima showcases fruitful energy partnerships of national governments and subregions, cities, business, nonprofit/special interest groups, and ordinary citizens. Almost 11,000 commitments to the NAZCA platform involve 2,250 cities and 150 regions (1.25 billion people in all), 2,025 companies, 424 investors, and 235 nongovernment and citizen organizations. Dozens of major cooperative initiatives have come from almost 10,000 players in 180 countries. Policymakers need to continue encouraging this work. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide good models for interaction of governments and involved parties. The unprecedented Paris Agreement has poured hundreds of billions into developing countries that seek low-carbon, sustainable economies. A third of the world’s largest companies have committed themselves to climate action equivalent to the combined GDPs of China, Germany, and Japan. Paris also showed the world the necessity of universal input. Subnational groups, like the C-40 cities and the international Compact of Mayors, and regional alliances such as the EU’s cap-and-trade system and regional energy alliances have already begun to outpace tardy national actions. Exemplary corporate groups like B Team now embrace renewables. Their efforts go far beyond superficial installation of solar panels on warehouses into the sustainable extraction, processing, and transportation of product raw materials and zero-carbon pledges within the next couple of decades. Nongovernment organizations and citizen groups must continue prodding other players out of complacency and into solutions. Guidance from Pope Francis and other religious leaders over the past year has informed previously uninvolved faith groups. All these influences have helped drown out the vocal minority that does not accept current climate science and or the need for new energy modes. What we need—especially in developed countries like the US, Australia, and Canada—is long-term sustainable policymaking that can survive short-term politics. The biggest determinant of renewable success will be the long-term signals that good policy relays to energy investors. Ending fossil fuel subsidies and taxing carbon are also fruitful steps on the road to deep decarbonization. Current national energy promises and the 2-degree temperature goal will not prevent environmental damage by 2030—but they do make a pretty good start. Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.” Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
At the fourth plenary session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) last month, the thematic assessment on sustainable biodiversity use was referred for a second scoping by experts. I suggest that the new analysis needs to include biodiversity's contribution to ecosystem services that are essential to agricultural sustainability and food security. Agricultural ecosystems are directly linked to human and environmental health ( and Nature 515, 518–522; 2014). They are essential to the IPBES' ambition to influence progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, by 2050, the food supply for 9.6 billion people will depend on the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and its multiple ecosystem services (see go.nature.com/7ympnb). A narrow scope that focuses on harvesting wild, uncultivated species will fail to capture biodiversity's importance to ecosystem services. Instead, we need a systems-based approach (see et al. Science http://doi.org/627; 2015).
News Article | February 11, 2016
Today marks the first-ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to celebrate the achievements made by females in all areas of science, technology and math. The United Nations previously announced the resolution to establish Feb. 11 as the annual day to commemorate women in STEM back in December, finally paying credit where credit is due. Throughout history, women have failed to be as recognized as their male counterparts — who continue to dominate the fields — for their breakthroughs. Take the example of Emmy Noether, the woman Albert Einstein called the "most significant" mathematician of the time. She was discriminated against because of her gender. Or Jocelyn Bell Nurnell, who discovered the first pulsar, but the Noble prize was awarded only to her male colleagues in 1974. There's Caroline Herschel, who was the first woman to discover a comet, Alice Catherine Evans, who discovered unpasteurized milk could make us sick, Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and Lise Meitner, who was the first physics professor in Germany who spilt the atom along with her male colleague. The list goes on and on. While women in STEM of the past and present have made significant accomplishments, according to a report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), only 28 percent of researchers worldwide are women. While women are underrepresented in these fields (only 30 percent of women make up the tech industry), they are also underpaid compared with men who hold the same jobs. The goal of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is to "eliminate gender inequality in science, employment, opportunities and education," which is part of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. "The International Day of Women and Girls in Science will directly influence the perception of women in science for sustainable development and elevate the contributions of women in science, past, present and future that equitably reflects the aspirations and ambitions of all global citizens," HRH Prince Adel El-Hashemite said in a statement on Dec. 22, 2015. The Internet is embracing the day with the trending Twitter hashtag #WomeinSTEM, with accounts paying homage to the women making a difference in these fields. Not only is today a day to celebrate women who are often overshadowed by their male colleagues in science, tech and math, but it is also a day to encourage young girls to explore these fields.
News Article | March 31, 2016
France has issued a radical ban on the exploitation of shale gas. Yet French companies ENGIE, in which the State has a large share, and EDF, which is 75% state-owned, will soon import and handsomely profit from shale gas imported from the United States, notes UK-based shale gas expert Nick Grealy. This is like banning sweatshops but importing cheap clothes made by child labour, says Grealy. At the end of January during a demonstration in France against shale gas, one of the key slogans was Ni ici, ni ailleurs. Ni aujourd’hui, ni demain. Like most things, it sounds better in French, but the translation is simple enough that the message reverberates not only around Europe but to Algeria, Quebec and even among shale opponents in the US: Not here, not anywhere. Not today, not tomorrow. The total lack of any nuance in the French shale debate poisons the shale debate worldwide. How many times do we hear in Lancashire or New York State or even in Denton, Texas that France has banned shale gas so why can’t we follow their example. Before antis dismiss me as right-wing Euro-sceptic French basher, let me out myself as would be left-wing Bernie Sanders (except shale) voter in the US and a Remain (in the EU) and Sadiq Khan (Labour candidate) for Mayor voter in London. I’m also a Francophile and French speaker who has been consistently mystified by the French blind spot about shale. A famous saying in France from the 1970’s was “We don’t have oil, but we do have ideas”.. Back then, that led to a sudden nuclearisation of the French power system, which replaced oil with nuclear. French power generation was thus almost 100% decarbonised via nuclear and hydro even before renewables entered the picture. French nuclear exports help Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain accelerate their renewable uptake. France, more than anything is a country built on rationality. This is the country of Descartes after all, but is also one founded on great scientists like Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, Ampère in electricity, the Curies, etc. But bizarrely, paradoxically, and to Anglo-Saxon eyes, hypocritically, France today has oil but it no longer possesses ideas. France has a long history in oil. Total, Schlumberger and Technip are only three huge companies which signify how ideas about energy don’t need to come from Texas or the UK or Russia where resources may actually be located. I won’t go too much into France’s problem with fracking. I’ve written extensively about it over the years. The simple answer is that France’s politics combined in 2011 to produce a situation where all political parties suddenly found themselves aligned against shale, which led to a ban on shale exploitation, although it left a loophole for experimental drilling or research. The current Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal, has recently said the new Mining Code legislation will include a formal specific ban against hydraulic fracturing. (http://www.franceinfo.fr/fil-info/article/l-interdiction-d-exploiter-le-gaz-de-schiste-bientot-inscrite-au-code-minier-771157), which would close this last loophole. The size of French shale resources is uncertain. The US Energy Information believes there may be over a hundred years of shale resources in France, while the US Geological Survey states there may be only 18 months worth. Even the lower estimate would mean several billions of French tax revenue lost due to imported gas. Equally important, both LNG and long distance Russian pipeline gas have a CO2 cost far above the CO2 impact of locally sourced supply. What is certain is that with no exploration, there can be no way of ever settling the question. We’re now at a strange conjunction. A few months ago a senior French (Socialist) politician I won’t name told me something very telling: “In English, France’s shale policy sounds like hypocrisy. In French, we call it a paradox”. It’s only 13 months to the next Presidential Election. Until the Paris terror attacks, President Hollande was considered unlikely to run thanks to his failure on employment. The attack changed that and he may run again empowered by the terror issue. But in the interim, the government is threatening to enshrine a ban of even research into fracking in the new mining law that is only a few months away. Ségolène Royal sounds increasingly like Josh Fox without the banjo and beard when she describes shale as poisoning the water and completely unacceptable. So in some ways, France shale sounds as if it’s completely buried. But is it? Consider this. Last year, Engie SA agreed to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Cheniere Energy Inc., increasing the importance of France as a market for U.S. fuel. The Houston-based company will ship as many as 12 LNG cargoes a year to France’s Montoir-de-Bretagne regasification terminal under a five-year contract. The deliveries, on an ex-ship basis, will start in 2018 at prices linked to northern European markets. The LNG can alternatively be shipped to other European terminals. U.S. LNG will help diversify the origin of gas consumed in Europe, according to Engie. A third of European gas demand is met by Russian gas delivered by pipeline from Siberian fields. Norway, domestic production and LNG from existing suppliers such as Qatar and Algeria account for the rest. “Importing U.S. LNG will [help] to strengthen the security of supply of Europe,” Pierre Chareyre, Engie executive vice president in charge of global gas and LNG, said in the statement. If you don’t think this is a paradox, where Engie, the former Gaz de France in which the state still has a large share and a seat on the board is importing US shale LNG, here is another one. France’s leading utility company, EDF, 75% owned by the government which thinks shale is poisonous, is even more invested in shale LNG. US LNG exporter Cheniere Energy last year made a deal to sell up to 24 cargoes to EDF from 2017 through 2018. Let’s get this straight: Shale gas is so damaging a technique that production of it must be banned in France, as an example to the world. Yet, it’s fine for it to be consumed in France. Does something stink here? This is like banning sweatshops but importing cheap clothes. It’s no different from banning GMO food and then eating it. To Ségolène Royal it’s an illegal substance yet one the government profits from. If France’s virulent anti-shale opponents can demonstrate against shale in deepest France they should demonstrate against it in their space heating, hot water taps and at restaurant kitchens. They probably won’t. After all, with so many of them retired in the country, and EDF and Engie making up so much of their pensions, they may decide that while they don’t want shale gas near them, they will allow it into their wallet. I say the French oil industry shouldn’t let the new mining code through Parliament without making the EDF/Engie shale paradox key to the debate. France has to come to terms with a new paradox where they have both shale and ideas. Unfortunately when ideas are wrong-headed and out of date, legislating a ban on shale is something the French, and especially the jobless among them, will have to live with. Nick Grealy is director of the energy consultancy No Hot Air, specialising in public perception and acceptance issues of shale energy worldwide. This article was first published on his website and is republished here with permission.