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A Look Back at U.S. Climate Policy in 2011

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to take stock of climate policy in the United States. Here’s a quick round up of what happened -- or didn’t happen -- in 2011.

The year began with big questions about what the Obama Administration and states would do to address climate change and clean energy, absent a comprehensive federal climate policy. This year’s record was decidedly mixed. Not as much happened as some would have liked, but it was in total better than many feared as the year began.

Arrecifes en Peligro (Reexamen)

El Instituto de Recursos Mundiales (World Resources Institute - WRI) y sus socios han publicado el "Reexamen de Arrecifes en Peligro."

Shale Gas: Time to Look Before We Leap Any Further

Shale gas is a game-changer for global energy supply. It is already transforming the U.S. energy outlook, and is expected to deliver over 40% of domestic gas production by 2025 (Figure 1). Other countries and regions, notably Europe and China, may soon follow suit, in a repeat of the early 20th century oil rush.

Opinion is bitterly divided, however, over the environmental risks and benefits of this abundant new source of energy – so much so, that the different sides struggle to agree even on basic facts. The debate is raging over two key issues – on-the-ground impacts to water, air, communities, land use, wildlife, and habitats; and the broader energy and global warming implications of developing shale gas.

Dispatches from Durban: Lessons for Climate Negotiators from Africa Then and Now

I touched down in Durban, South Africa, on Sunday night met by a cool tropical breeze. Since I arrived in this large port city, I’ve been thinking about Africa, which serves as a powerful backdrop for this year’s annual climate conference.

Like many places I’ve visited, especially among developing countries, there is great diversity to the surroundings. The convention center is large and modern. Nearby you find industrial buildings, shopping malls, and hotels – and lots of people in a city pulsating with life.

Mining Megatrends for Innovation: Making a case for bolder action in a changing climate

This article is one in a series of updates WRI’s Next Practice research team is sharing about its ongoing work with business to develop tools and guidance for sustainability strategies. It builds on themes introduced here and here with examples of how companies are currently acting on megatrends. It also appears on the Corporate EcoForum's EcoInnovator blog.

Long-term, large-scale trends like population growth, resource constraints, and climate change are reshaping buyers’ needs and business practices. These big shifts and other “megatrends” are creating major risks (think: geopolitical unrest) and opportunities (think: clean technology innovations).

WRI is working with partners in the private sector to make a compelling case for next practices — innovations that will help solve urgent challenges, like global climate change. In doing so, we can draw several lessons from how companies approach megatrends today.

Week Two in Durban Climate Talks: The Clock is Ticking

Three years ago, I attended a performance of Athol Fugard’s powerful play “My Children! My Africa!” Set in South Africa at the end of apartheid, the play deals with a conflict over the most effective means to address a great injustice. Throughout the play, there are signs of progress but it’s slow and it’s hard-won. The protagonists struggle to reconcile the growing demand for urgent change with the need to show patience with a fragile process. Sound familiar?

Expectations Low, But Urgency Very High at Durban Climate Talks

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, "What should negotiators seek to accomplish during this year's international climate talks?"

As the climate negotiations open in Durban, we find a peculiar paradox. While expectations for the talks remain quite low, the urgency is very high.

This dynamic is even more pronounced in the United States, where climate change continues to be largely ignored in political circles; except, that is, when the science is under attack. Meanwhile study after study show that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as the climate crisis worsens.

COP17 and the Periodic Review: Putting Ambition Back at the Heart of the UNFCCC

Are our current efforts to avert dangerous climate change, safeguard the development aspirations of vulnerable communities, and catalyze the transition to a low-carbon future sufficient? One of the key results from last year’s climate talks in Cancun was the decision to periodically review collective efforts to stabilize the climate and prevent global average temperatures from reaching 2°C above preindustrial levels. At COP17 in Durban negotiators will be tasked with finalizing the scope, modalities, and other design elements of the first so-called Periodic Review, which is scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2015. With careful design this often-overlooked product of Cancun could inject urgency and purpose into the negotiations once more.

Adaptation in COP17 Durban: Opportunities for Clarity and Consolidation

The Cancun Adaptation Framework agreed during COP16 provides potential for a new action orientation to adaptation under the UNFCCC. COP17 in Durban presents a big opportunity to resolve several critical pieces of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, to integrate and streamline the many strands of adaptation negotiations, and to move forward on helping countries around the world adapt. Expectations of significant progress on adaptation are high – especially since Durban is an “African COP,” taking place on a continent where vulnerability to climate change is palpable and affects so many people’s future. But the Durban adaptation agenda is long, and negotiation time limited, so Parties have no time to waste. Key issues are summarized here:

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