Climate change all over the news

2007-01-29

in Daily updates, Politics, Science, The environment, Writing

Jet contrail and pruned tree

Sorry to be less esoteric and entertaining in my writing recently, but I have been focused by necessity on issues pertinent to ongoing projects. The process distorts one’s perception of the world. I cannot really judge, for instance, the extent to which the apparent increase in coverage of climate change issues in the media is (a) the product of my increased focus on those stories, (b) the result of cyclical phenomena, like the release of IPCC reports, or (c) a demonstration of increased awareness – or at least increased newsworthiness – of the climate change situation. With that caveat stated, it certainly seems as though climate change related stories are getting top billing in the media to an increasing degree.

The front page of today’s Globe and Mail site features four articles on climate change. One is on climate change and Parliamentary politics, another deals with the proper role of scientists. There is a question and answer session, and finally an article on the impact of rising sea levels on Indonesia. Many organizations, including the BBC, now have dedicated portions on their websites to cover climate change news.

Even President Bush has acknowledged the need to take action. It’s enough to make one hope that a massive shift from talk to action might take place within the next few years, going beyond Kyoto and into the realm of mechanisms to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move into a post fossil fuel economy.

From the perspective of a concerned citizen, this all seems like good news. It is very important to reach as good an understanding about the likely costs and benefits of climate change as possible. Also essential is the development of political consensus to take action to prevent climate change and mitigate the impact. From the perspective of a graduate student working partially on climate change, it is all quite overwhelming. It makes one wonder how relevant one’s research will be in a year or two. Additionally, it makes it seem less likely that one can add anything new to the discussion. My hope is that by drawing together more types of information than most people will be examining, I will be able to develop some insights. The degree to which my thesis will be a real contribution to scholarship largely depends on it.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick January 29, 2007 at 8:37 pm

When you write about stuff that’s really scattershot, you apologize. When you write about just one thing, you apologize.

Dude… just chill

Ben January 30, 2007 at 12:14 am

I don’t follow closely, but I think climate change has been topical lately.

I was writing my thesis – concerning elections/voting mechanisms – in the build up to the UK general election of 2005. Sadly the election was two late to include, but I tried to save interesting newspapers snippets for future reference/use (not that I would be able to find them now)

Tristan Laing January 30, 2007 at 6:35 am

The front page of one of the papers inner sections (I don’t remember, but it was likely the business section) was a triumphant review of an entrepreneur who had “taken on the big boys” with a good idea of some environmentally friendly low power lightbulb.

I’ve frankly had enough of people who think the planet will be saved by low wattage lightbulbs Fair enough in hot climates where a/c actually accounts for a large proportion of electricity costs, but anytime a furnace is running a low wattage bulb won’t save you a nickel. In fact, an incondescent lightbulb is a more efficient heater than any forced air furnace (because it emits radiant heat, some of which is visible, rather than blown air).

Brett January 30, 2007 at 8:26 am

Tristain you just need to think of that light bulb as a seed that has been planted. The actual lightbulb and its ability to reduce climate change is not the important aspect. Once the idea is there it will spread and invade other aspects of societal thinking and acting on the matter. That is why I still recycle and convince others to do so even though I realize it is not even a drop in the bucket but I am still helping sow that seed.

Milan January 30, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Once again, I feel as though I should direct people to the concise and convincing: “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” by Michael F. Maniates. Try Google Scholar and, if your institution doesn’t have access, I can send you a copy.

Here is the abstract:

An increasingly dominant, largely American response to the contemporary environmental crisis understands environmental degradation as the product of individual shortcomings and finds solutions in enlightened, uncoordinated consumer choice. Several forces promote this process of individualization, including the historical baggage of mainstream environmentalism, the core tenets of liberalism, the dynamic ability of capitalism to commodify dissent, and the relatively recent rise of global environmental threats to human prosperity. The result is to narrow our collective ability to imagine and pursue a variety of productive responses to the environmental problems before us. When responsibility for environmental problems is individualized, there is little room to ponder institutions, the nature and exercise of political power, or ways of collectively changing the distribution of power and influence in society. Confronting consumption requires individuals to understand themselves not primarily as consumers but rather as citizens in a participatory democracy, working together to change broader policy and larger social institutions. It also requires linking explorations of consumption to politically charged issues that challenge the political imagination.

Alena Prazak January 30, 2007 at 3:33 pm

I always wonder why people endorse some ideas with great passion, and others are so difficult for them. Perhaps it applies to a scale of inconvenience that it causes them. Recycling has become the norm in North Vancouver and nobody minds. As the price of gas fluctuates in the upward direction, so does the number of SUV’s that you see on the North Shore. This is presumably for safety on more busy roads. We cry over Stanley Park, but douse our lawns with chemicals each spring to get rid of moss. I love my moss because you don’t have to cut it.

Tom January 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Interesting:

“New York’s biggest environmental contribution lies in the fact that less than one-third of New Yorkers drive to work. Nationwide, more than seven out of eight commuters drive. More than one-third of all the public transportation commuters in America live in the five boroughs. The absence of cars leads Matthew Kahn, in his fascinating book, “Green Cities,” to estimate that New York has by a wide margin the least gas usage per capita of all American metropolitan areas. The Department of Energy data confirm that New York State’s energy consumption is next to last in the country because of New York City.”

From the New York Times

Via here

Brett January 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I partially disagree with Maniates(which i noted in my Consumption essay that was published in the UBCIR journal a year and a half ago). I argue that consumption in of itself isnt the problem but its what we consume that is. If everything we consumed was renewable and enviro friendly then no prob. If we reduce consumption in general then capitalism can not work and we must find a new system. I think that is not really feasible at this last stage of the game. So in turn what better way to influence individuals than through consumption(we are all well conditioned as such). Institutions can not change unless the majority of individuals are of the enviro conservational mindset. If the majority of citizens recycled and used enviro friendly bulbs then chances are the consensus would be there for institutional change needed to really combat our unfriendly non-renewable consumption habits…sorry about the rambling rant

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