Daily Archives: October 28, 2014

Do the One Percent Make the Wealth Pie Bigger?


ForaTv

Published on Oct 28, 2014

Full video from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates available at: http://fora.tv/2014/10/22/Income_Ineq…

Nick Hanauer attributes the concentration of profits to the wealthy as the cause of stagnating wages at the bottom. Edward Conard argues that redistribution will not raise median income.

Global Climate Change
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Climate Report Predicts “Pervasive and Irreversible” Impacts

Delegates from more than 100 countries are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week to approve a new report on the effects of climate change. Known as the synthesis report, the draft warns an ongoing rise in greenhouse gas emissions is “increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” Denmark’s energy minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, opened the meeting.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen: “Today we can measure the rising temperatures, the rising seas and our rising insurance bills, and tomorrow we’ll have to measure our rising debt to the future generations. As fossil fuel is burning, so is the platform underneath us. We can stop the fire, or we can jump into the sea — and the first solution does cost money, and the second seems to be free, but it isn’t.”

The meeting in Copenhagen comes ahead of the 2014 U.N. climate summit in December in Lima, Peru. Democracy Now! will be broadcasting live from the summit.

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Monsanto, BigAg Spend Millions Fighting Colorado, Oregon Ballot Measures to Label GMO Foods


democracynow

Published on Oct 28, 2014

http://democracynow.org – Colorado and Oregon could soon become the first states in the nation to pass ballot initiatives mandating the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms. Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to approve GMO labeling through the legislative process, but the decision is now being challenged in the courts. Numerous items are already sold in grocery stores containing genetically modified corn and soy, but companies are currently not required to inform consumers. Advocates of Prop 105 in Colorado and Measure 92 in Oregon say GMO foods can be harmful to human health due to pesticide residues and the altered crop genetics. Opponents say the effort to label genetically modified food is overly cumbersome and will spread misinformation. Leading corporations opposing the labeling measures include Monsanto, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo Inc., Kellogg Co. and Coca-Cola. By some accounts, opponents of labeling have contributed roughly $20 million for campaigning against the proposed laws, nearly triple the money raised by supporters of the initiatives. In Oregon, the fight for GMO labeling has turned into the most expensive ballot measure campaign in the state’s history. We speak to Tufts University professor Sheldon Krimsky, editor of “The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk.”

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Sheldon Krimsky, co-editor of the new book, The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. He is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at the Tufts School of Medicine. Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics.

Food-Matters
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Harvard faculty for divestment hold public forum, meet privately with Faust | Harvard Magazine

Photograph by istock

10.28.14

A group of Harvard faculty members calling for the University to divest endowment resources from fossil-fuel companies has marked two developments in their campaign during the past weeks: a private conversation with President Drew Faust and the Harvard Corporation’s senior fellow, William F. Lee; and an open forum on the science and economics of divestment, the first public event the group has held since forming last spring.

Harvard Faculty for Divestment (HFD), which first publicly called for the University to divest in an open letter dated April 10, has engaged in a slow-moving, public e-mail exchange with the administration since then. Writing on July 10, Lee reiterated Harvard’s commitment to combatting climate change without divesting endowment funds from companies that produce fossil fuel. HFD responded with a rebuttal in its own e-mail of September 9, and a call for both “individual conversations” and “an open and public forum” (see “Divestment Discussions,” November-December 2014, page 35).

On October 17, the group achieved the first of those goals with a private, hour-long conversation with Faust and Lee. Eight of HFD’s unofficial leaders presented what the group’s release called the “scientific, moral, economic, and political arguments for divestment,” and “both sides had the opportunity to articulate their stance,” reported James Recht, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, in an interview after the meeting. “It was definitely a very civil meeting and it gave us confidence, for one thing, that the possibility of finding ways to work collaboratively exist….We are hoping and are confident that that meeting was not just a one-off.”

Faust and Lee offered a similar perspective. “Bill Lee and I enjoyed the opportunity to have another fruitful conversation Friday [October 17] with faculty members who believe Harvard should divest from fossil fuels,” the president said in a statement. “Our discussion reminded me again that we share the same goal—preserving the environment by reducing the release of carbon into our atmosphere—and that we only differ on how that is best accomplished. I expect that we all will continue to express our points of view [on] how we as a community can have the most positive effect on our planet.”

A week later, HFD leaders presented their arguments to fellow faculty members, students, and alumni in the group’s first public event, held in Fong Auditorium on a Sunday afternoon. The two-hour forum, which featured three faculty presentations, attracted about 50 audience members—most of them already supporters of the campaign. “I’m profoundly proud of the students at this university. I haven’t seen a reaction against the system of this intensity since the Vietnam War,” Weld professor of atmospheric chemistry James G. Anderson said in his opening remarks. “And I’m one of the 15 faculty who are attempting to become pink-slipped over our position in this as well.”

Anderson offered a scientific primer on how we’ve begun to reach “inevitable” and “irreversible” changes in climate, presenting evidence of how melting polar icecaps and other changes in energy flow within the climate system will have consequences far beyond what scientists thought would happen even five years ago. To drive the point home, he showed a map of what Boston and Cambridge would look like after a three-meter sea-level rise, a level that would reflect ice melt of 40 percent of the Greenland ice sheet. “We might as well pick on ourselves,” he said. Much of Allston would be underwater at one meter of rise, and three meters would bring “a whole new connotation to the word River House.”

Gurney professor of English literature and professor of comparative literature James Engell followed Anderson; he discussed various proposals for “bending the curve” of carbon-dioxide emissions downward. Divestment, he argued, would build up the political pressure to change laws, increase subsidies for renewable energy and other technology, and even alter consumer habits. The known reserves of fossil fuel, if burned, “would be enough to fry the planet,” Engell said. “So the question is: Do you want to be part of a bet that such business is good business—and I mean good in every sense of the word? I would say I don’t think we do.”

Barker professor of economics Stephen A. Marglin closed the event with a presentation focused specifically on the arguments for divestment. He explained his belief that the University’s other efforts, including greening the campus and supporting climate research, are important but insufficient. “[Politicians] respond to pressure. We need to build political will. That’s what’s missing right now. And that’s what divestment will contribute,” he said. “Divestment is a small part of a big problem, but it’s what we can do here.”

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
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Harvard’s Dale Jorgenson advocates taxing carbon and recycling the revenue

Enhancing environmental quality and economic growth Research

Photograph © Les Stone/Corbis ImagesA coal-fired power plant, southern United States

September-October 2014

Dale Jorgenson

Next year, representatives from nations around the world will meet in Paris to discuss a global climate-change agreement that would take effect in 2020. Central to those discussions will be setting a price on carbon and its equivalents—a figure that captures the social costs of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The impacts of those emissions range from the health effects of burning fossil fuels, to inundation and adaptation of coastal cities threatened by rising seas, to extinction of plant and animal species as a consequence of rapidly changing environmental conditions. These costs amount to nearly $1.6 trillion annually worldwide, based on Yale scholars’ estimates of the damages at $44 per metric ton of CO2 and 2013 emissions of 36 billion metric tons.

As the no doubt fraught scientific and political discussion in the French capital nears, the work of Morris University Professor Dale Jorgenson, an economist known for his ability to marry theory and practice, is especially important. Jorgenson has studied the factors that drive economic growth, the relationship between energy and the environment, and the effects of tax policy on both. His 2013 book, Double Dividend: Environmental Taxes and Fiscal Reform in the United States, is the first to examine what would happen if revenues from a carbon tax—based on the price of carbon that will be the subject of debate in Paris—were recycled into the nation’s economy. After examining four strategies for deploying the revenue from a carbon tax, Jorgenson and coauthors Richard J. Goettle of Northeastern University, Mun S. Ho, Ph.D. ’89, a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and Peter J. Wilcoxen, Ph.D. ’89, of Syracuse University, found that one strategy in particular—reducing taxes on capital—leads to an increase in economic efficiency that improves economic well-being despite greater inequality, as well as a decrease in carbon emissions: the “double dividend” of the book’s title. Jorgenson has also studied economic growth, energy utilization, and environmental quality in China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon. There, and in other developing countries, he projects a triple dividend, because a carbon tax would also lead to major improvements in human health.

As a means of limiting greenhouse gases, a tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels competes with proposals for outright regulations (such as those advanced by the Obama administration) that would limit electric power-plant emissions, and with cap-and-trade systems that let such big polluters trade permits among themselves, always seeking the most efficient means of reducing emissions. No solution to this massive problem will make everyone happy, so the best outcome will involve striking an optimal balance. A carbon tax may do that because it raises revenue, and thus the additional possibility of redeploying those funds in ways that stimulate economic growth.

Harvard Magazine interviewed Jorgenson in June. An edited version of the conversation appears here.

~Jonathan Shaw

…(read more).

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Why ‘climate-smart agriculture’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

It’s a buzzword beloved by corporations but there is nothing to ensure “climate-smart” means good for the environment

Is ‘climate-smart’ agriculture good for people and planet? Photograph: Martin Godwin

There’s a new phrase in town. A growing number of governments, corporations and NGOs are using the term “climate-smart agriculture” to describe their activities. With climate change affecting farming worldwide, you might assume we should be celebrating this as a step in the right direction.

But many organisations in the food movement are wary of – or even opposed to – this concept. They share growing concerns that the term is being used to green-wash practices that are, in fact, damaging for the climate and for farming. Many are worried that the promotion of “climate-smart agriculture” could end up doing more harm than good.

At the United Nations secretary general’s climate summit in New York last month, heads of state such as President Barack Obama referred to the need for “climate-smart” crops to weather the challenges ahead. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, announced the launch of the new Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, involving governments, corporations, research institutes and NGOs.

This was followed by announcements from McDonalds, which use 2% of the world’s beef, and Walmart, the world’s largest corporation, about their own “climate-smart” initiatives.

Proponents of “climate-smart agriculture” claim that their approaches aim to achieve a “triple win” of increasing food security, adaptation and mitigation. So far so good, right? Actually, no.

…(read more).

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The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights


University of California Television (UCTV)

Uploaded on Feb 7, 2008

Robert D. Bullard has been described as the nation’s leading authority on race and the environment. In this presentation from UC Santa Barbara, Bullard takes a look at the connection between human rights and the politics of pollution. Series: Voices [8/2006] [Public Affairs] [Show ID:
11878]

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