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Why the Oil Sands Matter to Climate Policy in Canada

Clare Demerse is Director, Climate Change, at the Pembina Institute. This post originally appeared in its full form on the Pembina Institute's website.

Anyone who works on climate change policy in Canada, like I do, ends up talking about the oil sands on a daily basis.

The massive development reshaping parts of Alberta's landscape attracts criticism like no other project in Canada, and those concerns don't stop at our borders.

Famine in the Horn of Africa

As the climate changes, the global community and national governments both need to take action to prevent the kind of humanitarian disaster underway In parts of the Horn of Africa. Early action can help communities confront climate change, take advantage of ecosystem services, and prevent future food-related tragedies due to drought and other extreme weather.

People relying on agriculture and livestock rearing for their livelihoods make up over seventy percent of the total population of east Africa. Over the last two years, the eastern part of the region has faced two consecutive failed rainy seasons. The UN reported that dry-lands of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were facing "one of the driest years since 1950/51." This extreme lack of rain has reduced the ability of people in the region to grow their food. Pastures have dried up, making it impossible to sustain cattle. With animals and agriculture in jeopardy, the main sources of food and income for many in the region have been greatly threatened. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declared a famine in parts of Somalia on July 28, 2011.

How to Reduce Your Coral Reef Footprint

”Reeling Reefs,” a feature story in the August 15th issue of American Way magazine, showcases Reefs at Risk Revisited, WRI’s map-based global assessment of current and future threats to coral reefs. The article also shows how people in the Dominican Republic and Fiji are working to protect coral reefs and promote human well-being. Below we highlight why coral reefs are important to human society, how they are threatened, and what you can do to reduce your reef footprint and help save coral reefs.

China’s Climate Minister Speaks in Support of Carbon Capture and Storage

This piece originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.

China’s Climate Change Minister Xie Zhenhua offered a new phrase to emphasize the importance of technologies to reduce carbon in a speech at a major international conference on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Beijing, July 27.

Minister Xie said that China’s energy and environment policies support “energy efficiency and carbon reduction” (jieneng jiantan). This is a modification of the phrase used to support the national policy of “energy efficiency and pollution reduction” (jieneng jianpai), which addresses the broad range of pollutants. Based on a number of signals, including these phrases and the day’s speeches, it seems that China’s interest in CCS is increasing. These developments occurred at the conference sponsored by Xie’s own National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In Next Practice Collaborative, Top Companies Transition to Low-Carbon Future

The world 20 years ago looked very different from today. There was no widespread use of the internet. VHS movies rather than streaming video were the norm, and few could (nor did) imagine oil costing $100 a barrel. Innovations over this timeframe, like instant global financial transactions, social networking, and virtual communications unheard of when today’s managers entered the workforce, have fundamentally changed the way that companies do business.

Looking forward, business competitiveness and leadership depends on understanding and navigating the trends that will shape tomorrow’s markets, and positioning companies to balance the risks and opportunities to come. CK Prahalad, former WRI board member and business thought leader described the process of benchmarking corporate performance against tomorrow’s emerging opportunities as ‘next practice’.

How Germany Plans to Succeed in a Nuclear Free, Low Carbon Economy

This piece was written by Felix Matthes, Oeko-Institut, and Jennifer Morgan, WRI.

Germany has taken some fundamental energy decisions in recent months, ones that are interesting for other countries to study and learn from. The most "famous" decision recently has been to phase out nuclear power in the next ten years. This move builds on years of debate and a societal decision after Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident to move away from nuclear energy.

There has been much less focus, however, on the phasing in of other sources of energy. Nor has there been much focus on how Germany can remain the economic powerhouse of Europe, and the world's second largest exporting country, while removing a significant source of energy from its grid.

This phase-in story is vital to understand, especially taking into account that Germany plans to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets while it phases out nuclear power. So, how will this work?

Five Myths About Extreme Weather

This story originally appeared in the Washington Post.

It's too darn hot. From Maine to Hawaii, the mercury has been rising relentlessly. The oven-like conditions in the United States are just the latest in a series of extreme weather events over the past year -- epic floods in Pakistan and Australia, record heat waves in Moscow, the heaviest snowfall in more than a century in South Korea. These extremes are pushing the limits of human experience. What is driving this phenomenon? And rather than just complain, what can we do about it?

California Cap-and-Trade: Taking the Time to Get the Details Right

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff is holding a workshop today on additional details that were recently announced for California’s cap-and-trade program. These details on allowance allocation, reporting, verification, and other aspects of the program, and the recent announcement on the program’s timing by CARB Chairman Mary Nichols are important, since they show that California is taking the time needed to get it right.

What happens with this program is important for U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions – California represents one-eighth of the U.S. economy and the program will place a price on carbon for 85 percent of its emissions. In the absence of a comprehensive federal climate policy, state-level and regional actions like these will be key drivers for achieving GHG emission reductions in the U.S. in the near term.

Turn Climate Change Risk Into Business Opportunity

This piece originally appeared on Bloomberg Government and is reposted with permission.

Extreme weather events and climate- related disruptions are occurring with alarming frequency and intensity, whether it’s the Mississippi and Missouri rivers overflowing or the sight of parched earth across the U.S. Southwest.

As climate-change models show, we’re on a course for more extreme weather and other environmental disruptions that don’t just affect the people and infrastructure in their path -- they also have profound effects on businesses, the economy and government policy.

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