Nov 23 2012

News This Week: Climate Change Threatens Thanksgiving and the World Bank Warns that 4 Degrees of Warming would be Catastrophic

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Photo by Kelci Block

A carbon tax has long been bandied about as perhaps the best and least controversial (though still incredibly controversial) option for reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. However, a carbon tax is trickier to implement effectively than most believe. [Grist]

Climate change may ruin your Thanksgiving along with everything else. For example, drought in the Midwest may make wheat too scarce to feed the quarter of a billion turkeys we eat every year.  [Mother Jones] [Grist]

Two international treaties regarding sharing multi-national rivers could become reality in the coming months. Such treaties are important to prevent upstream countries from building dams and performing other actions that harm their downstream neighbors. [Yale 360]

The World Bank has published its first major statement on climate change since the leadership changed in July. It emphasized the scientific underpinnings supporting climate change and refuted the idea that action on climate change is antithetical to economic development. It’s conclusion: four degrees of warming must be avoided to prevent immense suffering. [Scientific American] [Think Progress] [Scientific American (2)]

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Oct 12 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Environmental Issues in SCOTUS and Indonesian Palm Oil Increasing CO2 Emissions

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Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Feb 24 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: US Joins Agreement to Reduce Methane and Soot and Shell Oil Drilling in the Arctic

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Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Feb 17 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Colorado’s Roadless Rule and Two-Headed Trout

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Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Nov 11 2011

Twitter Link Round-Up: The Health Tab for Climate Change Reaches $14 Billion and Australia Passes Landmark Carbon Tax

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Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Oct 19 2011

Feed the World, Save the Environment?: A New Plan for Increasing Agricultural Yield Without Trashing the Planet

Published by under Land Use

Dryland Agriculture in Palouse Hills, Washington, by Chris Devaraj, via wikimedia

An international group of scientists, hailing from the US, Sweden, Germany, and Canada, has released a report setting out a plan for feeding the projected global population of 9 billion people…while also protecting the environment from the devastating effects of agriculture.  The article, entitled “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet” will be published in the October 20th issue of Nature (online version is here, behind a paywall) and will set out five key factors: boosting productivity on low-yield farms, raising water and fertilizer use efficiency, reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and stopping the conversion of tropical rainforest to farmland.  Their plan would require a coordinated, global, effort toward these goals, which sounds like a pipe dream.  However, the significance of this report is that, for the first time, researchers have shown that it is possible to feed the growing population and at the same time keep a habitable planet.

Agriculture has always been regarded as the biggest threat to the environment while at the same time being the most necessary undertaking for human survival in our modern world.  As it exists today, agriculture has allowed humans to live and flourish without having to grow their own food or even live near a farm.  But with increasing use of chemicals on our crops to increase food yield, the conversion of open land and forests to farmland, and agriculture’s high contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, feeding ourselves is taking a huge toll on water quality, climate change, energy availability, and water supplies.  What’s more, a third of all crops go for non-food products such as feed for livestock or biofuels, which means that a lot of this harm is not even going towards the production of human calories.

The plan as laid out in “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet” would call for an increase in food yield that would go toward human consumption.  This means a change in diet; meat production uses up a lot of food that could go directly to humans.  It also means reducing food waste, not just at the consumer level but also at the growing and shipping stage, and increasing efficiency in water and fertilizer use.   At the same time, the researchers call for a halt to expanding farmland into forests and other wild spaces, especially rainforests, by providing economic incentives for farmers to keep such places intact.  This would provide a big environmental benefit without cutting very much into production or economic well-being.  Finally, the researchers suggest closing gaps in yield between the highest producing agriculture countries and those that aren’t living up to their potential, such as parts of Eastern Europe and Africa.  If such a wide-reaching, comprehensive plan could be put into place, we might avoid the intense crises that will arise when our population outstrips the amount of agriculture our planet can sustain. Continue Reading »

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