Showing posts with label Climate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Climate. Show all posts

26 October 2021

Reinventing Climate Change Education

Ulla Hemminki-Reijonen, Halla Hrund Logadóttir

This paper will review the changing world of climate change education and opportunities for adopting innovative pedagogical approaches such as immersive technologies, participatory methods, and art-based learning. It will also point out examples of how institutional collaboration and support from policymakers can facilitate climate change education and make a great impact. It concludes with a pilot project on increasing engagement in climate change education at Harvard Kennedy School. The lessons learned offer three main considerations when designing climate change education: 1) allow students to experience climate change instead of just asking them to read about it, 2) prioritize creative, cross-curricular, and participatory methods, and 3) improve the systemic support and involve policymakers and educational institutions to collaborate.

A Quartet of Warnings Highlight Climate-Related Threats


Climate change is likely to crank up geopolitical tensions as temperatures rise and nations argue about who is responsible for fixing it, according to a new national intelligence estimate.

The intelligence community document is one of four climate-related reports released on Thursday by national-security agencies ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the end of this month. They explain how a warming planet is expected to escalate geopolitical tensions, increase instability, and drive migration. Biden will travel to Glasgow for the conference armed with this data in a bid to convince allies around the world to act.

“We alone cannot solve this challenge. We need the rest of the world to accelerate their progress alongside with us,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the report release. “These analyses will serve as a foundation for our critical work on climate and security moving forward.”

25 October 2021

Catalyzing India’s Climate Ambition

China’s recent commitment to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 means that for the first time ever, India is on track to become the world’s largest emitter. At a time that demands urgent action if we are to stay within the goals of the Paris Agreement, this brings into contrast India’s traditionally bifurcated approach that it has used to guard against taking greater action in light of the responsibility of the developed world to lead the way.

Nevertheless, in recent decades, a political appetite for climate action has been growing in India, including reinforcing its global leadership credentials at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Climate-related disasters have also driven public support for more constructive engagement by Delhi. However, this appetite does not yet match growing international expectations for Indian action, as momentum for global climate action and ambition accelerates rapidly around the world in the lead-up to the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow in November 2021. The election of U.S. President Joe Biden and recent commitments to net-zero by other Asian economies such as Japan and Korea underscore the weight of growing expectations on India.

China’s Overseas Coal Pledge Is Not a Climate Change Gamechanger

Mathias Lund Larsen

To great fanfare at the U.N. General Assembly, Xi Jinping promised that China would not build more coal plants overseas. The global response, including from heads of states, was that this is a historic turning point in the fight against climate change. But it’s most likely not.

In fact, the pledge has already been gradually fulfilled over the last few years as part of broader tendencies that have little to do with Chinese climate policies. The climate impact of the pledge is, therefore, likely to be minimal. Problematically, overly praising the pledge reduces pressure on China to make a similar commitment where it really counts – domestically rather than overseas. With COP26 scheduled to begin in two weeks in Glasgow, international pressure needs to be upheld for China to increase its climate ambitions. Keeping up the pressure requires curbing the enthusiastic response to Xi’s coal pledge and seeing it as part of an underlying context of four main areas.

20 October 2021

Raising climate ambition at COP26

Anna Åberg, Antony Froggatt, Rebecca Peters

COP26 is a crucial opportunity to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change and uphold the credibility of the Paris Agreement. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°C, emissions of greenhouse gases must halve by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. Every additional increment of warming escalates the risks to people, ecosystems and communities.

National emission reduction targets submitted in 2015 were not ambitious enough to keep the rise in the global average temperature to ‘well below’ 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. And across the world, countries are grappling with increasingly severe and more frequent climate change impacts. COP26 needs to be a turning point. For a positive outcome in Glasgow substantial progress is needed in three main areas: in raising the ambition of countries’ 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDCs); on providing support for climate-vulnerable developing countries; and on agreeing the remaining details of the ‘Paris Rulebook’.

15 October 2021

Why Climate Policy Has Failed

William Nordhaus

The world is witnessing an alarming outbreak of weather disasters—giant wildfires, deadly heat waves, powerful hurricanes, and 1,000-year floods. There can be little doubt that this is only the beginning of the grim toll that climate change will take in the years ahead. Today, the central question is whether our political systems can catch up with the geophysical realities that threaten our lives and livelihoods. As world leaders struggle to design and adopt policies that can slow the pace of warming and mitigate its consequences, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this November will be an important test.

How do we evaluate the success of past climate policies? The best indicator is carbon intensity, which is a measure of carbon dioxide emissions divided by global real GDP. Figure 1 displays the levels of carbon intensity between 1990 and 2019. There are small fluctuations in the annual changes, but the trend is basically a straight line showing a decline of 1.8 percent per year.

11 October 2021

New Solutions for a Changing Climate


The government must recognize investment opportunities in US agricultural research and development in order to address current and future climate challenges.
Executive Summary

US public investment in agricultural research in the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in unprecedented worldwide production of a few staple crops and the improvement of dozens more. Increased crop yields and animal production have drastically reduced famine compared to previous centuries and supported an overall increase in global affluence.

Today, agricultural producers around the world are facing new challenges as global climate changes become increasingly unpredictable. Inconsistent rain, extreme temperatures, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and shifting pest and disease patterns are just a few of the obstacles farmers face as they try to feed their families and produce enough food to feed the world.

Climate change risk assessment 2021

At COP26, the governments of highly emitting countries will have a critical opportunity to accelerate emissions reductions through ambitious revisions of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

If emissions follow the trajectory set by current NDCs, there is a less than five per cent chance of keeping temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and less than one per cent chance of reaching the 1.5°C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Unless NDCs are dramatically increased, and policy and delivery mechanisms are revised accordingly, many of the climate change impacts described in this research paper are likely to be locked in by 2040, and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what nations can adapt to.

As well as the immediate physical and socio-economic consequences of changes in climate, the paper captures the systemic cascading risks likely to arise as these direct risks and impacts compound to affect whole systems, including people, infrastructure, the economy, societal systems and ecosystems.

10 October 2021

How Deep Is the North-South Divide on Climate Negotiations?


At their core, climate negotiations continue to be shaped by equity concerns between postindustrial countries in the Global North and emerging economies in the Global South. The debate is largely over which countries have contributed most to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change should be shared. How effectively the principle of equity will be embodied in global efforts to combat climate change will help determine the scope and ambition of these efforts.


Industrialized and postindustrialized nations are responsible for a great share of the historical carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere today (see figure 1). The United States has emitted more carbon than any other country to date and is responsible for 25 percent of historical emissions. Next in line are the twenty-seven countries of the EU (plus the UK), which are responsible for 22 percent of global CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, China’s historical contributions are estimated to be around 12.7 percent. By contrast, India (3 percent) and Brazil (0.9 percent) have not been large contributors to global emissions in a historical sense. Similarly, the contributions of African countries (3 percent combined), relative to the continent’s population size, has also been very small.

In addition, the Global North continues to have much higher per capita emissions than much of the world even today (see figure 2). The United States ranked high among postindustrialized countries in 2019 with 16 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita, just behind Australia (16.3 tonnes per capita) and ahead of Canada (15.4 tonnes per capita). The figures for Europe generally fall between 5 and 10 tonnes per capita depending on the country. Hydrocarbon-based economies like Russia and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Persian Gulf like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates also rank quite high, some of them even higher than countries in the Global North.

Equity concerns essentially stem from the asymmetry between countries’ emissions and their respective burdens to respond to climate change (including the costs of emissions mitigation, adaptation, and other impacts and risks). Most human-driven GHG emissions in the atmosphere are from economic activities performed in or for affluent countries. Yet a more significant burden of the impacts of climate change is carried by poorer nations weathering climate-induced environmental shocks.

A further dividing line in climate negotiations is a result of the contrast between past emissions and future emissions. While industrialized and postindustrialized countries in the Global North are responsible for the majority of past emissions, these countries led by the EU are implementing policies to reduce their GHG emissions. At the same time, the emissions of most developing nations (particularly China) remain on an upward trajectory. This second group of countries will not reach peak emissions for another decade at least. As a result, developing countries share the responsibility for reducing future emissions. These juxtaposed trends also create issues of generational justice.

These differences coupled with the immediacy of the effects of climate change also shape the diplomatic groups engaging in multilateral climate negotiations. Subgroups among countries in the Global South and issue-based coalitions of countries in the Global North and South have emerged on the basis of common concerns. Less developed economies and small island nations, which are already facing the existential threat of climate change, are demanding immediate answers from postindustrialized and developing countries alike. The members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are urging postindustrialized economies to embrace policies that reduce welfare losses in nations that rely on petroleum exports.

Although all uphold the principle that developed and developing countries have different responsibilities for mitigating carbon emissions, as established at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the four countries in the BASIC grouping split when Brazil and South Africa accepted greater responsibility than India and China. More recently, however, China announced in September 2020 (to widespread praise) its intention to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping further unveiled plans to curtail (or even end) Chinese funding for overseas coal power plans in September 2021. Yet the equity principle in the global debate over adjustments to climate change still leads to several important, commonly held policy positions among developing countries on mitigating GHG emissions, adapting to climate change, and financing the climate transition.


First, developing countries generally expect postindustrialized nations to lead efforts to reduce GHG emissions. In multilateral climate negotiations, India articulated the basic positions on climate change held by many emerging economies on the respective roles of developed and developing countries. As Sandeep Sengupta has put it:

First, the primary responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . . . rested with the developed world. . . . Second, the emissions of developing countries were still very low and needed to grow to meet their future development [needs]. . . . Third, any formal agreement on climate change needed to provide for technology transfer and funds for developing countries to help them address this challenge.

Latin American countries have also regularly emphasized that their historical contributions to the problem of climate change are minimal and that developed countries therefore bear more responsibility for working to mitigate its effects and otherwise help developing countries adapt with financing, technology, and other resources. In Latin America, the term climate justice is used to express the need for developed countries to pay their environmental and ecological debt to developing countries affected by climate change and help them remedy its effects.

Meanwhile, African countries have emphasized their need to be free to pursue economic development at least to some degree through new and existing deposits of fossil fuels. These countries firmly believe that it is unjust for immediate and severe mitigating targets to be erected without any form of compensation or financial aid. The African continent has plenty of fossil fuels, but the global shift away from hydrocarbons may cause further economic losses. According to a United Nations University report, oil, gas, and minerals contribute to over half of African GDP and account for around 70 percent of African exports. As the global economy transitions to greener, more renewable energy systems, African countries with large deposits of fossil fuels will pay a high price for not extracting these resources, a price for which they believe they should be compensated.

In addition, African countries will increasingly face the social, economic, financial, and governance challenges of responding to climate disruptions. They believe that the Global North has failed to acknowledge the extent of this economic stunting and these structural inequities. Some of these countries are vulnerable and have few resources, so they require regional and international assistance. Despite these considerations, any mention of the special vulnerabilities of African countries was excluded from the text of the Paris Agreement. African countries have been attempting to rectify this ever since.

China has also backed the position of developing countries writ large, emphasizing the historical responsibilities of postindustrialized nations. At an April 2021 climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden, Xi stated:

Developed countries need to increase [their] climate ambition and action . . . they need to make concrete efforts to help developing countries strengthen the capacity and resilience against climate change, support them in financing, technology, and capacity building, and refrain from creating green trade barriers, so as to help developing countries accelerate the transition to green and low-carbon development.

Yet China’s position on climate change remains controversial given its current and rising levels of carbon emissions. China reportedly emitted an estimated 27 percent of global GHG emissions in 2019—more than twice as much as the second-ranking country (the United States with 11 percent) and more than the combined emissions of all developed nations. China’s emissions ballooned by a factor of more than three in the past three decades, according to the Rhodium Group.

More generally, developing countries insist on the recognition of the UN-enshrined principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and “respective capabilities” between postindustrial and developing countries for reducing GHG emissions. This claim takes into account differences in countries’ historical contributions to global emissions as well as developing countries’ need to have flexible policy options for spurring economic development.

But the future paradigms of economic and urban development will likely be very different from past ones. As things stand, policymakers around the world lack a proper understanding of how development in a climate-disrupted world will look. It is difficult for many developing nations to craft policy responses to address this new reality and these uncertainties. Their development goals and strategies remain embedded in past experience, which in all likelihood will not provide an adequate vision to drive sustainable growth in the future.


Although developing countries have put equity concerns on the agenda for climate negotiations, postindustrialized countries have largely done the agenda setting, which thus far primarily has focused on mitigating climate change, as opposed to adapting to its effects through resilience. The vast majority of green finance is earmarked for climate mitigation initiatives, which lower emissions from existing sources. For example, according to San Bilal and Pamella Eunice Ahairwe, the European Investment Bank allocated only $432 million for climate adaptation, even as it poured more than ten times that amount (nearly $5.3 billion) into climate mitigation efforts. These mitigation-focused initiatives allow funders to earn solid returns on their investment. The benefits of decreasing those emissions are felt around the world, resulting in widespread societal returns. Funds to help communities adapt to and weather the effects of climate change, on the other hand, are often used for initiatives with more localized benefits. As a result, these projects typically have lower financial incentives and more concentrated societal benefits, making them less appealing to potential funders.

Yet developing nations want the disproportionate burden of weathering the impact of climate change and the costs of adaptation to take center stage in the climate debate. Emerging economies are calling on developed countries to honor their financial pledges and help them build resilience. Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries pledged to furnish $100 billion per year for climate action. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the pledged money actually flowing to developing countries may have reached nearly $80 billion in 2019. This figure nonetheless has been controversial. India has, for instance, raised issues with the skewed flows of climate financing. After all, the bulk of climate finance (more than 90 percent) continues to be tapped for climate mitigation even though developing countries need funds focused on adaptation.


The support of postindustrialized economies will be critical for helping developing countries—through financial assistance, capacity building, and technology—as the latter undergo a green transition.

Consider, for instance, how most of the obligations of African countries under the Paris Agreement are conditional on such support. The African Development Bank has estimated that African countries will need $20 billion to $30 billion per year for climate adaptation until 2030 or so. This amount could increase to $50 billion per year by 2050 even if temperature rises are kept in check (below 2 degrees Celsius), according to a 2015 UN report. Meanwhile, the acceleration of climate disruptions suggests that even the most advanced climate models still may be underestimating the pace and extent of climate disruptions.

A host of developing countries have explicitly tied the availability of climate finance to their mitigation ambitions. For example, in a 2019 report, the Indian government argued that in contrast to its significant needs, global financial flows to India were miniscule. The document explicitly tied India’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement obligations to access to climate financing, stating, “in order to respond to the worldwide call for stepping up climate actions, [there will need] . . . adequate provision of means of implementation to developing countries. Climate finance is a key pillar in enabling climate actions.

A welcome development has been the newfound enthusiasm of China and the United States for allocating more funding to help countries adapt to climate change. China has prioritized efforts to help the world’s least developed countries, such as African nations and small island states. Ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Xi established the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to provide 20 billion renminbi ($3.1 billion) to help developing countries tackle climate change. Subsequently, at the summit itself, Xi elaborated on his commitment, stating that China would implement ten low-carbon industrial parks, 100 climate mitigation and adaptation projects, and 1,000 training opportunities on climate change for participants from developing countries. Climate policy is a pillar of Beijing’s charm offensive to increase its soft power worldwide as well as an economic policy aimed to enhancing market access for Chinese goods.

The EU and more recently the United States have been among the leading contributors to the instruments of climate finance. In 2019, the EU provided the largest share of external public funding for climate projects to the tune of 23.2 billion euros (about $26 billion). Meanwhile, Washington has promised to significantly increase its contributions to climate finance for developing nations to around $11 billion per year.


In addition to the prevailing divisions over mitigation responsibilities and climate finance allocations, another highly divisive issue between developed countries and the developing world is the potential impact of the carbon pricing schemes that several countries in the Global North are gradually implementing.

Postindustrialized countries view carbon pricing not only as a tool to raise additional public revenues but also as a way to account for the negative externalities of carbon emissions. To this end, some have suggested the creation of a global carbon pricing mechanism, in the form of a tax or an emissions trading system (ETS). With carbon taxes, regulators set a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on GHG emissions or the carbon content of fossil fuels, while emissions reductions depend on the corresponding measures taken by companies. For instance, the International Monetary Fund states that large GHG-emitting countries need to introduce a carbon tax of $75 per ton or more by 2030 to be consistent with the goal of limiting global warming.

An ETS—a cap-and-trade system—puts a ceiling on the total level of GHG emissions and allows firms with low emissions to sell their surplus allowances to those who emit more. Under an ETS, the market determines the price, while regulators determine the quantity of emissions reductions. The effectiveness of the ETS model remains debated, with some claiming that it allows larger polluters to continue polluting the atmosphere by acquiring emissions rights.

The chief strength of such a global price mechanism for carbon is its potential ability to shift the burden for mitigating the harm caused by climate change onto the market players that are responsible for this harm and can reduce it. Such mechanisms would encourage producers in all countries to adopt low- or zero-carbon technologies by sending an economic signal instead of dictating who should reduce emissions and how they should do so. Such price mechanisms would remove uncertainty for the private carbon-offset markets, which companies and individuals use to compensate for their emissions. Specifically, supporters claim that a price that is applied simultaneously in all countries may help level the international playing field.

Meanwhile, critics argue that global carbon pricing tends to treat inevitable and unavoidable emissions like electricity generation for consumption in poor households on par with other categories of emissions and fails to allocate emissions rights fairly between developing and developed countries. A global ETS would leave less room for developing economies to burn fossil fuels to meet their economic needs. The increase in energy costs that would arise from reduced fuel consumption in wealthier countries may curtail economic activity in markets that cannot absorb such price changes. In countries where the economic structures depend on energy-intensive activities that are heavily exposed to international competition, industries fear that competitive disadvantages in international markets could result in job losses.

For these reasons, developing countries tend to reject ETSs for sidelining the multilaterally agreed-upon international regime and establishing ad hoc norms. They view ETS schemes as protectionist measures at odds with the rules of international trade. They want multilateral negotiations to lead norm creation, as these focus not just on mitigation targets but also on minimizing subsequent welfare losses.

A second and more recent policy option discussed in developed countries is a domestic carbon tax levied together with border adjustments on imports from countries that do not impose an equivalent carbon duty on their producers. Led by the EU, supporters of this approach view it as an efficient way to let the consumers of postindustrial economies take responsibility for their GHG footprint both domestically and in the emissions of other countries. The underlying logic rests on an expectation that unilaterally imposed border adjustments would provide a building block toward global price mechanisms by incentivizing exporting countries to impose equivalent domestic carbon taxes to prevent companies from paying taxes at the importing country’s borders. Proponents propose that the revenue collected at the border could be channelled to overseas climate aid programs to prevent the mechanism from functioning as a de facto tariff.

From the perspective of developing countries, however, a carbon border-adjustment mechanism incorporates several pitfalls. A carbon tax may raise the price of energy-intensive products such as steel and cement, which would increase construction costs and imperil infrastructure projects in developing countries that import these products. When imposed only by the importing countries, domestic carbon pricing would hinder the competitiveness of exporters. Developing countries have less capacity to offer offsets to their companies in the industrial sectors that would suffer a resulting competitive disadvantage against international competition. Moreover, border adjustments can act as tariffs because if carbon taxes are imposed at the importing country’s border, rather than within the exporting country, the importing country gets to keep the tax revenue with no assurances over how the funds would be used. In light of these considerations, developing countries view these types of policies as a disguised form of protectionism.


Ultimately, the cleavages in international climate negotiations between the Global North and the Global South are driven by the need for an adequately ambitious global response to climate change. In other words, the current agenda of the Conference of Parties’ (COP) gatherings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change may not be comprehensive enough to tackle this structural and critical challenge. COP meetings like the upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference in October and November 2021 provide a forum for exchanging views and deliberating about climate mitigation and adaptation.

But these global discussions need to be more open and ambitious and must account for the needs of developing countries, not just postindustrial ones. There are other important matters these deliberations cannot ignore. For instance, there is a need to address issues like climate-induced migrations and an overhaul of the international regime governing the treatment of refugees. These discussions should also include proposals to reform the intellectual property rights regime to incentivize a clean development agenda for the developing world. A fair settlement on the burdens of adjusting to the realities of climate change can only emerge if a broader policy agenda can be constructively promoted.

7 October 2021

Can climate change be tackled without ditching economic growth?


Higher levels of economic activity tend to go hand-in-hand with additional energy use and consumption of natural resources. As fossil fuels still account for 80 percent of the global energy mix, energy consumption remains closely related to greenhouse gas emissions and hence to climate forcing. This paper explores whether decarbonisation and economic growth are compatible or whether the world economy needs to grow less to be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to reach net zero in 2050. The literature provides profoundly different answers to this question, with scholars positioning along a spectrum that extends from the most optimist version of ‘green growth’ theories to sceptical ‘degrowth’ theories.

While globally, CO2 emissions per unit of GDP are declining, the decoupling rate from 1995 to 2018 was only -1.8 percent annually. To achieve net zero by 2050, the rate would have to accelerate to -8.7 percent, assuming population and GDP growth projections as given, or by a factor of almost five. To keep GDP growth and population at their projections and thus reject the proposition of de-growth, decoupling would have to accelerate massively. Two avenues are crucial: reducing the energy intensity of production and/or the emissions intensity of energy. The huge fall in the price of renewable energy provides hope that decoupling can accelerate. Decoupling rates have accelerated in the last decade and decoupling is substantially faster in the European Union. In the EU, we estimate that decoupling only has to accelerate by a factor of 2.5.

We do not think degrowth propositions advanced in the literature will be pursued and therefore focus on the main challenges that must be tackled to achieve decoupling. Unprecedented efforts are required to achieve green growth. But hoping for humanity to sacrifice growth appears unrealistic.

4 October 2021

These 7 advances in natural climate solutions are gaining momentum

Eron Bloomgarden, Bill Winters and Izabella Teixeira

Natural climate solutions (NCS) could provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions needed to achieve a 1.5-degree pathway. For this to happen, stakeholders in the public and private sectors will need confidence that NCS can be effective in addressing local needs as well as global challenges. Technical and conceptual hurdles that presently limit uptake of NCS.

This agenda mapped out in the final Nature and Net Zero report from the World Economic Forum and McKinsey, won’t be easy to execute—but change is accelerating. The year 2021 has seen several noteworthy developments that could help speed the growth of NCS.

22 September 2021

Climate-Tech to Watch: Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Linh Nguyen


An enhanced geothermal system (EGS) produces carbon-free power by harnessing the earth’s heat from far below the ground. An EGS accesses the heat by injecting water at high pressure from wells on the surface. The water creates fractures in deep rock formations, and the rocks, in turn, heat up the water. The water is then pumped back up, carrying enough heat to produce steam for power generation. EGS promises to harness the inexhaustible heat of the earth’s crust to help power the world for generations to come.

Figure 1: An enhanced geothermal system