Environmental Economics


By: Lykke E. Andersen*

One of my favourite Christmas presents this season was a book recommendation: Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction written by British biologist and ecologist Chris D. Thomas.

As the gift-giver very well knows, I don’t particularly sympathise with ecologists, conservationists, and conservatives, as I find them irrational in their fixation on an imagined perfect world 50 to 150 years ago, which they cling on to at all costs, ignoring billions of years of evolution, and thinking they know better which species (and people) ought to be where and when.

The author of the book, Chris D. Thomas, is labelled “shockingly contrarian” because, in contrast to the popular perception of humans being in the process of causing the 6th mass extinction on this planet, he argues that biodiversity has increased in almost every country, county or island as a direct consequence of human activity.

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The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Max Roser, who created and maintains Our World In Data at the University of Oxford, complains that we never see such a headline in the newspapers, although, on average, this would have been an accurate title every single day during the last 25 years.

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Are we inadvertently doing something good for the environment?

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

To celebrate Earth Day 2017, which is tomorrow, I would like to highlight the important findings of a paper by Campbell et al. published earlier this month in Nature (1). The paper documents, through the analysis of air trapped in ice from Antarctica, that the growth of global terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) –the amount of carbon dioxide that is ‘fixed’ into organic material through photosynthesis– is larger now than it has been at any time during the last 54,000 years. This basically means that the planet is greener and nature is thriving more now than at any time during human history, despite all the havoc we humans are wreaking everywhere.

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To bee or not to bee? Is the world really facing a beepocalypse?

By Lykke E. Andersen

Like many people, I hate insects, especially the ones that sting or bite; and spiders simply for being spiders. Still, like many people, I regularly worry about the collapse of the honey bee population, since, apart from producing honey and wax, they are clearly very important for fertilizing a large proportion of our crops and wild plants. These regular worries are caused by alarming news articles such as:

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Energy = Modern Civilization²

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The World’s most famous equation is undoubtedly Einstein’s E=mc2, and while it stipulates that the total amount of energy in the Universe is constant and cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed, I will argue that the harnessing of energy for human purposes is what has made the exponential growth of our civilization possible. Read More »

To eat meat or not to eat meat: that is the question

By Anna Sophia Doyle*

I was browsing through one of my favorite environmental news and commentary sites (favorite as it’s both intelligent but also hilarious when reporting on very serious issues such as climate, food, energy, etc.) and came across a great article on whether eating meat could be eco-friendly.

Having wrestled with the subject myself and in honor of it being Meatless Monday, I thought I’d share some if the article’s insights with the Development Roast readers as well as a few other thoughts and related links. Read More »

Oil exploitation in protected areas – a contradiction in terms?

LykkeAndersen2By: Lykke E. Andersen*

During this week’s Climate Change Conference in La Paz, several participants expressed concern about Bolivia’s plans for oil drilling in National Parks following the recent Supreme Decree 2366 of 20 May 2015, which explicitly permits oil drilling in some protected areas in Bolivia in the name of poverty reduction and integral development for the people living in these areas.

In the conference session on Climate Change and Ecosystems, the panelists were asked if it was not contradictory to allow oil exploitation in national parks, and if anybody knew of any examples anywhere in the World where it had been done successfully. One of the panelists, Stanley Arguedas, Co-President of the Commission on Environmental Management of the International Union of Nature Conservation (CGE-IUCN) from Costa Rica, admitted that he did not personally know of any successful examples, but that, in theory, oil exploitation could be done in protected areas without compromising the objectives of the national park.

This tiny theoretical opening, coming from a top conservationist, is what I would like to explore in this blog.

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Tropical glacier loss: Real and fake solutions

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Bernard Francou, a famous glaciologist from the IRD in France, today made a very interesting presentation in La Paz about the loss of tropical glaciers around the World. It was only one of many interesting presentations made at the Climate Change Conference that is taking place these days, but it was so interesting indeed, that it inspired me to write my second blog in one day.

Francou documented the decrease in tropical glacier mass starting roughly in 1976 for the glaciers in the Andes and the Rocky Mountains and about a decade later for most other tropical glaciers in the World. Although tropical glaciers contain only a tiny part of all the ice on the planet, their melting currently contributes to about 26% of global sea level rise.

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Making smarter climate change policies requires us to acknowledge the limits to our knowledge

LykkeAndersen2By: Lykke E. Andersen*

There is little doubt that human greenhouse gas emissions, mainly arising from the burning of fossil fuels and forests, are warming the planet. The physical properties of CO2 in the atmosphere imply that a doubling of CO2 concentrations from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to 800 ppm would directly cause an increase in the average global temperature of about 1°C, and with that increase in temperatures we would also experience an increase in global precipitation. That much we know with a high degree of certainty.

Anything beyond that, however, is highly uncertain. While most climate models incorporate positive feedback effects that amplify the initial direct warming effect several times, historical data suggests that there are important negative feedbacks that help stabilize global temperatures. Most importantly, Earth’s temperature has oscillated within a relatively narrow band for hundreds of millions of years despite much higher and much lower CO2 concentrations in the past (see Figures 1 and 2). In addition, during the last couple of decades, global temperatures have not increased nearly as much as suggested by the models with strong positive feedbacks. Thus, we should have only low confidence in our knowledge about feedback effects and temperature increases beyond 1°C.

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Pope Francis’ encyclical: A landmark in environmental thinking

By Susana del Granado *

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

Pope Francis, 2015

“I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” is one of the beginning lines of the Pope’s encyclical, released by the Vatican yesterday at noon. Traditionally the encyclical is a letter from the Pope to the Bishops about Catholicism, but it has evolved into an open letter to society discussing the Pope’s insights and concerns on a particular matter. Pope John XXII (1963) was the first, to my knowledge, to address society in general in his efforts to reform the Catholic Church.

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