COP 21: Coping with a cop-out or decoupling?

There is a mixture of hope and cynicism ahead of the COP 21 climate meeting in Paris this November. Hope because the well-being of people and the planet depend on drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cynicism because past meetings have failed to produce anything that would avert a climate crisis—which is where we seem to be headed. But beyond the outcome of this next meeting, a climate agreement will only be part of the solution; the move towards a low-emissions society will require progress on many other fronts.

This is not to say that global climate agreements do not matter. They do. When the international community comes together to seriously commit to curbing CO2 and other greenhouse gases, this is meaningful action to combat climate change. Similarly, it mattered when countries united to ban ozone-harming CFCs in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol. We were able to phase out the use of these harmful substances and prevent us all from getting skin cancer.

But the problem with the ongoing climate negotiations is not that they don’t have the potential to make a meaningful impact, but that countries who participate in them lack the political will and grit to make this happen. While commitments may be international, their implementation takes place in individual countries. The international collaboration to phase out CFCs might seem like a guiding example, however the solution to the climate problem is much more complex and expensive.

Continue reading


Article on Chomping Climate Change

I wrote some reflections on Chomping Climate Change about the presence of the livestock-climate issue at the People’s Climate March this past Sunday. The blog is run by Jeff Anhang, Environmental Specialist with the World Bank Group.

Mark Bittman on the externalities of fast food

Mark Bittman’s latest New York Times article, which focuses on the externalized health costs of the fast food industry: The True Cost of a Burger


Stockholm Food Forum: Nutrition, Health, and Sustainability in Our Global Food System

The first annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum brought together over 600 world leaders and experts earlier this month to “help develop goals, strategies, and guidelines to meet the interconnected challenges of hunger and malnutrition, chronic disease, climate change, and environmental degradation,” all while attempting to bridge the divides between business, science, and politics. Pretty awesome, multidisciplinary approach to some of the key problems that have arisen with our ever-evolving global food system. This video with professor Timothy Lang of City University London touches on some of these important issues. In this clip, he states that without significant changes in consumer dietary habits, we will not be able to live within our environmental limits or ensure public health. He underscores the importance of governments in promoting this vision through policy such as sustainable dietary guidelines – which would be somewhat similar to the nutritional dietary guidelines that were created decades ago.


Recently released paper outlines nuances of a sustainable global diet

Since the release of Tara Garnett’s discussion paper in April entitled What is a Sustainable Healthy Diet? there has been a healthy discussion of this important issue on the Food and Climate Research Network (FCRN). The paper is definitely worth reading, as it calls for both nutrition and sustainability in our global food system, with a focus on the need to assure access to food, to reduce food wastage, and alter global eating habits. The chart below contains an apt characterization of how we might think about diet and sustainability:

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 10.59.05 PM

Freak Storms, De Blasio, and the Food-Climate Issue in NYC

Typhoon Haiyan and the increasing occurrence of other extreme weather phenomena in recent years are evidence of the impact human activity has on the climate [see IPCC report]. This underscores the dire need for collective global action to slow and even reverse climate change. Incidentally, delegates from around the world are meeting in Warsaw this week for COP19, the main UN climate change conference of 2013; the destructiveness of Haiyan underscores the importance of these talks.

But if past climate talks are any indicator of the progress we can expect out of Warsaw, then prepare to be underwhelmed. One problem with these talks is that nations tend to be unwilling to compromise their economic growth (or the business interests of their companies) for climate mitigation, even though climate change will put an immense strain on future economic activity and cost more to mitigate down the road. In other words, nations are willing to pursue short-term gains, even if it means jeoporizing the well-being of their future economy and the future world in general.

Continue reading

Meat and Development in Liberia

Originally posted on Brighter Green

Meat consumption correlates with income; poorer individuals and countries tend to consume less than their wealthier counterparts. This applies to Liberia, one of the poorest nations in the world, which has an annual per capita income of about 374 dollars and an annual per capita meat consumption of about 10.4 kilograms/kg (22.9 pounds/lbs).

Three decades ago Liberia was one of the more prosperous nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the violent, fourteen year civil war (1989 to 2003) devastated the country in countless ways; it claimed 250,000 lives, displaced over 600,000 people, demolished infrastructure, and ravaged the economy.

Continue reading