The German Sustainability Revolution

Energiewende-500x333I just wanted to flag the fact that I led a group of grad students to Berlin at the end of May and we had a fabulous six-day series of tours and briefings.  I’ll be writing with a bit of depth about the trip here soon, but in the meantime, you can see my post at our NYU Center for Global Affairs blog, The Global Citizen.


Print pagePDF page

“Our Sister, Mother Earth”

laudato-si-itThe title of the new, long anticipated, hugely important treatise from the leader of over a billion Roman Catholics in the world, Pope Francis, is Laudato Si.  The title comes from his namesake’s “Canticle of the Creatures” in which St. Francis writes:  “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”  Laudato Si’ – Praised be to you.

Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

“Think ahead. Act together.”

G7_Germany_Logo_lang_640_201The G7 members were hosted in Germany this year and made some bold pronouncements relative to the future of energy and the climate system.  I am manifestly not a cynic on the progress the world has been making on climate and energy over the past decade or so.  That is certainly the premise of my book and this blog:  that there are scores of important breakthroughs and initiatives being made every year, most everywhere.  I have, however, taken a cautious approach to the importance of the global approach to mitigating greenhouse gases.  A consensus has been building and continues to build about the need for action.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  But the speed and depth of commitment from some of the leading actors remains in question. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

Great Minds Against Tar Sands Development

before and after tar sandsI am sorry to say I’ve been off the air for too many weeks.  It’s been a busy Spring, culminating in a week-long trip to Berlin with my graduate students to take a live and in-color look at German clean tech.  I will be following up here with some reporting on that.  Great stuff!  Stay tuned.  Plus there’s other news on which I will add my two cents, including the recent G7 talks and the upcoming encyclical from Pope Francis. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

The President Gets Angry

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner was the venue for one of the funniest, most totally in-your-face performances I’ve ever seen:  Stephen Colbert just eviscerating nearly everybody in the room in 2006.  (Start at 1:45 to skip the boring introduction.)  There is an extensive Wikipedia page just for this performance. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

The New Yorker Gets One Wrong

Franzen graphicWhat can you say about a publication, the venerable “New Yorker,” that has brought us writers the likes of Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben and Betsy Kolbert?  Easy:  They’ve got their environmental worldview very nicely in order.  But nobody’s perfect, so the editors responsible for accepting a recent essay, questionable (to be kind) in its logic and facts, by the novelist Jonathan Franzen, are to be forgiven.

There was, in fact, another reasonably bone-headed essay on the environmental movement from another distinguished writer, Nicholas Lemann, a couple of years ago that elicited responses from some worthy environmental leaders in whose company I found myself when the magazine printed my letter alongside theirs. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

Peak Carbon?

Well, maybe not Peak Carbon yet, but it was a pretty hopeful signal that the International Energy Agency sent on March 13th in announcing Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014.  The IEA noted “…that efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought.” Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

Norway Gets It! Deutsche Bank Gets It!

end of fossil fuelsAl Gore called them “subprime carbon assets.”  More and more banks, companies, countries, pension funds, universities, churches, and many others are beginning to understand the considerable investment risks in the constellations of fossil fuel companies.  The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world’s biggest and most efficient sovereign wealth fund, last week jettisoned 32 coal mining companies, 5 tar sand producers, 2 cement companies and 1 coal-based electricity generator from its $850 billion portfolio.  The Guardian quotes a GPFG rep here:  “Our risk-based approach means that we exit sectors and areas where we see elevated levels of risk to our investments in the long term.” Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

India Gets On Board

150126-obamamodigardens-editorial

This is a chart of the total GHGs in the world, by country, as of 2011.  This, including greenhouse gases from land-use change, amounts to about 46 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.  (The brilliant folks at the World Resources Institute have made this very valuable “climate data explorer,” CAIT 2.0 available to everyone.)   As you no doubt know – and can see clearly from the chart – China and the US account for 36% of the world’s annual output of GHGs.  India, although much less of a contributor, is still responsible for more than 5% of the problem. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page

Thresholds

PB_FIG33_upgraded_mediaBLANK_11jan2015The Stockholm Resilience Centre has a paper in Science that updates their work on planetary boundaries.  “The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System.”  Of the nine planetary boundaries, the scientists reckon that four have now been crossed.  Does this mean we’re dead?  Not necessarily.  The lead author, Will Steffen, says “Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state,…”  We’ve heightened the risk.  There’s quite a bit more here on the updated findings. Continue reading


Print pagePDF page