Daily Archives: October 22, 2013

Fox News used undercover PR staff to refute negative publicity

E120, media,

ISSUU – Environment@Harvard by Harvard University Center for the Environment


Fighting for the Future

Activists and scholars debate the role of social movements in climate change
The world is on track to experience an average increase in air temperature of four to six degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, according to recent analysis by the International Energy Agency. Such warming would pose severe threats to human society: displacement by rising seas of millions of people who live along vulnerable coastlines; increasing frequency and intensity of storms; diminished agricultural harvests; declines in biodiversity; desertification; and more severe droughts and floods, among its effects.

Carbon-capping legislation, which most climate experts and economists say will be necessary (if not sufficient) if we are to avert the most dire scenarios, and which stalled in Congress in 2010—is unlikely to be revived soon. But the political fight is just beginning.

Harvard faculty, students, and alumni are actively considering how the climate change issue will move forward. Many do this through their scholarship and teaching, but some are getting more involved, from shaping climate policy inside the White House to engaging in civil disobedience outside its front gate. Their work confronts a wide range of questions. What is the role of social movements in addressing a challenge as complex and daunting as climate change? What kinds of specific actions will be effective in swaying decision-makers, polluters and the public? What mix of tactics, targets and articulated goals are most likely to break political gridlock on the issue, and make a real difference in everyone’s stated goal: dramatically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse pollutants? And most importantly, what should be the goal of activism? That question is at the center of an impending battle for the heart and soul of the environmental movement.

Morality as Motivation

On the climate issue, the problem is that “urgency is not felt by many people,” says Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School. “But one thing that movements do is come up with ways to make the important urgent.”
Ganz speaks from experience. He left Harvard during his junior year to work with the civil rights movement in Mississippi in 1964. He went on to work with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers for 16 years, before eventually returning to Harvard to complete a Ph.D. in sociology. One of the lessons he draws from his decades working in and studying social movements is that moral urgency—a sense of injustice, or even anger—is often needed to move individuals to act. This is often accompanied by hope, or the sense of the plausible, the possible. Action of this kind may produce change in the participants themselves, as well as in the world around them.

“If you look at the core of any social movement there are highly committed people who are ready to take risks,” he says. “It’s not just about passing a law—at heart they are movements of moral reform. Take the Harvard living wage campaign back in 2001, when the students sat in the president’s office and said, ‘We’re not going to leave until it gets dealt with.’” This had the effect of turning what the students saw as a morally urgent problem into a practically urgent problem for decision-makers to resolve.

“How to make that cosmic sense of urgency immediately felt is one of the challenges of this (climate) movement,” Ganz continues. “That’s where civil disobedience and that kind of activity comes in—it’s a way of saying we’re not going to cooperate until you address this need.”

See also:

Divest Harvard – Faust sets out Harvard position on divestment

The Time To Divest: A Response to Harvard President Drew Faust

Al Gore: “Carbon Bubble” Is Going to Burst – Avoid Oil Stocks | Daily Ticker


Let’s Prevent This Crisis: A Letter to Harvard’s President Faust | Mayor Michael Patrick McGinn – Divest Harvard

as well as a short essay that reflects on the institutional constraints that Harvard faces at:

Beyond Rage, Beyond Anger… Our Institutions are Tragically Trapped: Some reflections….

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Climate Change, Public Policy, and the University | An Economic View of the Environment


      About the Author

Robert N. Stavins

    is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, and Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Group.

Posted on October 22, 2013 by Robert Stavins

Over the past year or more, across the United States, there has been a groundswell of student activism pressing colleges and universities to divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios. On October 3, 2013, after many months of assessment, discussion, and debate, the President of Harvard University, Drew Faust, issued a long, well-reasoned, and – in my view – ultimately sensible statement on “fossil fuel divestment,” in which she explained why she and the Corporation (Harvard’s governing board) do not believe that “university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise.” I urge you to read her statement, and decide for yourself how compelling you find it, and whether and how it may apply to your institution, as well.

About 10 days later, two leaders of the student movement at Harvard responded to President Faust in The Nation. Andrew Revkin, writing at the New York Times Dot Earth blog, highlighted the fact that the students responded in part by saying, “We do not expect divestment to have a financial impact on fossil fuel companies … Divestment is a moral and political strategy to expose the reckless business model of the fossil fuel industry that puts our world at risk.”

I agree with these students that fossil-fuel divestment by the University would not have financial impacts on the industry, and I also agree with their implication that it would be (potentially) of symbolic value only. However, it is precisely because of this that I believe President Faust made the right decision. Let me explain.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

What’s the Proper Role of Individuals and Institutions in Addressing Climate C hange? | An Economic View of the Environment


About the Author

Posted on March 8, 2010 by Robert Stavins

This may seem like a trivial question with an obvious answer. But what really is the proper role for individuals and institutions in addressing climate change? An immediate and natural response may be that everyone should do their part. Let’s see what that really means.

Decisions affecting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, for example, are made primarily by companies and consumers. This includes decisions by companiesabout how to produce electricity, as well as thousands of other goods and services; and decisions by consumers regarding what to buy, how to transport themselves, and how to keep their homes warm, cool, and light.

However, despite the fact that these decisions are made by firms and individuals, government action is clearly key, because climate change is an externality, and it is rarely, if ever, in the self-interest of firms or individuals to take unilateral actions. That’s why the climate problem exists, in the first place. Voluntary initiatives – no matter how well-intended – will not only be insufficient, but insignificant relative to the magnitude of the problem.

So, the question becomes how to shift decisions by firms and individuals in a climate-friendly direction, such as toward emissions reductions. Whether conventional standards or market-based instruments are used, meaningful government regulation will be required.

But where does this leave the role and responsibility of individuals and institutions? Let me use as an example my employer, a university. A couple of years ago, I met with students advocating for a reduced “carbon foot-print” for the school. Here is what I told them.

“I was asked by a major oil company to advise on the design of an internal, voluntary tradable permit systems for CO2 emissions. My response to the company was ‘fine, but the emissions from your production processes — largely refineries — are trivial compared with the emissions from the use of your products (combustion of fossil fuels). If you really want to do something meaningful about climate change, the focus should be on the use of your products, not your internal production process.’ (My response would have been different had they been a cement producer.) The oil company proceeded with its internal measures, which – as I anticipated – had trivial, if any impacts on the environment (and they subsequently used the existence of their voluntary program as an argument against government attempts to put in place a meaningful climate policy).”

My view of a university’s responsibilities in the environmental realm is similar. Our direct impact on the natural environment — such as in terms of CO2 emissions from our heating plants — is absolutely trivial compared with the impacts on the environment (including climate change) of our products: knowledge produced through research, informed students produced through our teaching, and outreach to the policy world carried out by faculty.

So, I suggested to the students that if they were really concerned with how the university affects climate change, then their greatest attention should be given to priorities and performance in the realms of teaching, research, and outreach.

Of course, it is also true that work on the “greening of the university” can in some cases play a relevant role in research and teaching. And, more broadly — and more importantly — the university’s actions in regard to its “carbon footprint” can have symbolic value.

And symbolic actions — even when they mean little in terms of real, direct impacts — can have effects in the larger political world. This is particularly true in the case of a prominent university, such as my own.

But, overall, my institution’s greatest opportunity — indeed, its greatest responsibility — with regard to addressing global climate change is and will be through its research, teaching, and outreach to the policy community.

Why not focus equally on reducing the university’s carbon foot-print while also working to increase and improve relevant research, teaching, and outreach? The answer brings up a phrase that will be familiar to readers of this blog – opportunity cost. Faculty, staff, and students all have limited time; indeed, as in many other professional settings, time is the scarcest of scarce resources. Giving more attention to one issue inevitably means – for some people – giving less time to another.

So my advice to the students was to advocate for more faculty appointments in the environmental realm and to press for more and better courses. After all, it was student demand at my institution that resulted in the creation of the college’s highly successful concentration (major) in environmental science and public policy.

My bottom line? Try to focus on actions that can make a real difference, as opposed to actions that may feel good or look good but have relatively little real-world impact, particularly when those feel-good/look-good actions have opportunity costs, that is, divert us from focusing on actions that would make a significant difference. Climate change is a real and pressing problem. Strong government actions will be required, as well as enlightened political leadership at the national and international levels.


Epilogue: After I posted the above essay, I was reminded of an incident that took place many years ago (before I came to Harvard for graduate school, in fact) when I was working full-time for the Environmental Defense Fund in Berkeley, California, under the inspired leadership of the late (and truly great) Tom Graff, the long-time guru of progressive California water policy. EDF was very engaged at the time in promoting better water policies in California, including the use of trading mechanisms and appropriate pricing schemes for scarce water supplies. A prominent national newspaper which was not friendly to EDF’s work sent a reporter to EDF’s office to profile the group’s efforts on water policy in the State. A staff member found the reporter in the office bathroom examining whether EDF had voluntarily installed various kinds of water conservation devices. Our reaction at the time was that whether or not EDF had voluntarily installed water conservation devices was simply and purely an (intentional) distraction from the important work the group was carrying out. After several decades, my view of that incident has not changed.

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Creationism (Penn and Teller) (2003)

Tiffany Ondracek

Published on Nov 24, 2012

Creationism (Penn and Teller) (2003)

Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Penn & Teller on The Conspiracy™

Arlis Tyner

Published on Apr 22, 2013

It’s really evil how these guys use logic and reason to debunk conspiracy theory. Highly paid propagandists, plain and simple.

Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Penn & Teller : Crap – Global Warming


Uploaded on Sep 2, 2011

Man made Global Warming is BULLSHIT !!! See how and why you are sold the lie of global warming to enslave you into a system of feudal serfdom. U.N. OFFICIAL ADMITS: WE REDISTRIBUTE WORLD’S WEALTH BY CLIMATE POLICY …The earth is not warming the seas are not rising you’ve been conned lol http://www.theblaze.com/stories/u-n-o…

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

On the Line: “Cooling A Warming World”


Published on Oct 18, 2013

The world is getting warmer and many believe humans are largely to blame. In its recently released report, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims with 95% certainty that humans are causing global warming. While the scientists around the globe seem to be coming to a consensus, the skeptics remain unconvinced and many of the world’s governments still appear reluctant to do much about it. Is there enough will to slow global warming, and, is there enough time? “Cooling a Warming World” next On The Line.GUESTSDr. Kevin Trenberth: Distinguished Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research. Dr. Joe Casola: Staff Scientist & Program Director, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Films Offer Contrasting Views of WikiLeaks


Published on Oct 22, 2013

Bill Condon’s feature film, “The Fifth Estate,” on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, focuses on the war of information in the digital era and asks whether the freedom to publish classified documents should supersede national security. The docudrama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, comes on the heels of Alex Gibney’s documentary, “We Steal Secrets,” on the same subject. Both movies, though very different, show that in the digital age, information is still power. VOA’s Penelope Poulou reports.

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Rights-based approaches to Food Security in Protracted Crises


Rights-based approaches to Food Security in Protracted Crises
Sponsored by: http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/

until 12th November 2013

This e-discussion will explore efforts to ensure food security and nutritional needs through human rights-based approaches in protracted crises. It will seek to identify suggestions for the Agenda for Action for Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises, to be considered by the CFS in 2014.

What distinguishes this topic from previous e-discussions, is that it already benefits from a well-developed normative framework of treaties, general principles and norms of international law, and provides an opportunity to “operationalize” those binding and bonding standards of universal application to policies, programs, projects and relationships, both within institutions as well as in the field.

The global community, faced with the suffering that accompanies food insecurity, is challenged also to address its causes rooted in violations of human rights as defined in international law. A further challenge lies in ensuring human rights through the harmonization of humanitarian and development aid processes with human rights norms.

…(read more).

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120
ood-Matters http://Food-Matters.TV