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  • Author: Benjamin Attia, Shayle Kann, Morgan D. Bazilian
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The global energy transition has reached an inflection point. In numerous markets, the declining cost of solar photovoltaics (PV) has already beaten the cost of new-build coal and natural gas and is now chasing down operating costs of existing thermal power plants, forcing a growing crowd of thermal generation assets into early retirement. Perfect comparability between dispatchable and non-dispatchable resources invites debate, but the cost declines in solar PV are irrefutable: the global average unit cost of competitively-procured solar electricity declined by 83 percent from 2010 to 2018. This is due in part to module cost reductions of approximately 90 percent, capacity-weighted average construction cost declines of 74 percent, and a global paradigm shift in renewable energy procurement policies in the last six years.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Science and Technology, Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Elizabeth Ferris, Sanjula Weerasinghe
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: In light of the science and evidence on hazards and climate risk, and the scale and breadth of large-scale disasters witnessed around the world, it is time for states and other actors to begin developing national and local frameworks on planned relocation. While planned relocations have had a poor record in terms of their socioeconomic effects, it is precisely for these reasons that proactive action is necessary. Planned relocation has the potential to save lives and assets, and consequently to safeguard or augment the human security of populations living in areas at high risk for disasters and the effects of climate change. Among the challenges hampering better outcomes for people, however, are the lack of national and local frameworks, community-driven decision making, and sufficient lead times to plan and implement appropriate interventions that promote human security. Relocation of populations is referenced in global frameworks on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) because it is a tool that will become increasingly important as a preventive and responsive measure to reduce the risks of disasters and displacement. This article recommends that national and local DRR and CCA strategies and development plans begin to incorporate planned relocation among the options under consideration to protect people and their human security. It argues that planning for relocations is an expression of a government’s responsibility to protect the human security of its people.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Weronika Michalak, Dr hab. Zbigniew Karaczun
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Warsaw East European Review (WEER)
  • Institution: Centre for East European Studies, University of Warsaw
  • Abstract: The phenomenon of climate change, observed for years and constantly intensifying, has had a negative impact on health, significantly deteriorating the quality of life of people in many regions of the world, including Poland. Already now we are dealing with increasingly frequent extreme weather phenomena; hurricanes, storms and increasingly longer heat waves no longer surprise us. Unfortunately, this is merely the beginning of the negative effects of climate change. Others will come before long. In the coming years, many other new threats will be observed, such as flooding of ocean islands, desertification of areas exposed to water scarcity or serious loss of biodiversity, which will translate into food security. Unfortunately, it does not end there.1 The greenhouse effect is a process by which radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere. We can differentiate short-term solar radiation (0.15-4.0 nm) and long-term radiation. Thermal radiation escapes into the cosmic sphere and heat radiation returns to the ground, being stopped by a layer of GHG – greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, water vapor etc.), which warm up Earth’s athmosphere to a dangerous level – even a 1°C degree increase (in comparison to pre-industrial level, when emissions stared to rise) in the average world temperature can be detrimental to human health and change the conditions of life on this planet (Figure 1). However, we currently face a risk of global warming even up to 3°C degrees, unless GHG emissions are significantly reduced. Any further rise of the global temperature will have deteriorating impact on people and whole humanity, as well as staying at the current level of emissions.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Health, Food, Food Security
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland, Global Focus
  • Author: Edmund Downie
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: China’s Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) initiative presents a transformational vision for meeting the world’s growing power demand with a globally interconnected electricity grid. The concept involves ultra-high-voltage transmission lines strung across vast distances and smart grid technology tapping large-scale renewable power sources. Chinese President Xi Jinping first touted GEI’s goal to “facilitate efforts to meet the global power demand with clean and green alternatives” at the UN General Assembly in 2015. The ambition of the GEI vision is enormous, especially since there is very little cross-border trade in electricity around the world today. Regional electricity integration initiatives championed by development banks and multilateral organizations have largely struggled against the formidable political, economic and technical complications that accompany interstate electricity trade. China has seen these challenges firsthand in its participation in the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion electricity trade endeavor, which has progressed fitfully since the 1990s amid regional infrastructure gaps and uneven political support from member states. This report, prepared as part of the Belt and Road Initiative series published by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, uses a case study of power trade in the Greater Mekong Subregion to assess the prospects for GEI in catalyzing energy integration around the world. It discusses why Greater Mekong Subregion integration has been slow, how GEI might help accelerate interconnection in the area, and what lessons the region offers for understanding the overall outlook for GEI. Based on this study, the author finds the following: Establishing a GEI-style global energy grid backbone by 2070 would require overcoming an extraordinary set of political challenges. The global grid outlined by GEI for the coming decades serves more as a demonstration of technical potential than a strict blueprint to be implemented. The limited scale attained thus far by the Greater Mekong Subregion project for grid integration and cross-border electricity trading demonstrates the headwinds such multinational efforts can face. Weak internal power sector development in recent decades has left some member states without the generation surpluses and robust power grids necessary to support meaningful levels of trade. In addition, power trade requires a strong degree of interstate political trust, motivated engagement by national utilities, and support from civil society players for the specific generation and transmission projects involved. Integration backers have historically struggled to build consensus across this diverse array of stakeholders. While enormous generation and transmission infrastructure projects are core components of the GEI vision and dovetail with the interests of China’s domestic proponents, considerable debate persists about their merits for fostering the renewables transition. Ultra-high-voltage transmission, a specialty of Chinese utilities, is a particular flashpoint. State interest in cross-border trade has been increasing across many regions in recent years, and more gradual gains in power trade around the world that can aid the renewable transition and bolster regional solidarity are possible. China can contribute greatly to this process: as an investor and contractor in grid projects abroad, as a member state of integration initiatives in Asia, and as an advocate of grid integration in international fora. GEI’s ultimate impact will depend in part on how advocates within China reconcile tensions between strengthening cross-border power trade and promoting domestic priorities, such as advancing the country’s own industrial policy objectives.
  • Topic: Climate Change, United Nations, Infrastructure, Green Technology, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Neta C. Crawford
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: If climate change is a “threat multiplier,” as some national security experts and members of the military argue, how does the US military reduce climate change caused threats? Or does war and the preparation for it increase those risks?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Climate Change, War, International Security, Military Spending, Fossil Fuels
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Deborah Gordon, Frances Reuland
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Earth's temperature is rising to dangerous levels. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is increasingly urgent. Although carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas, short-lived climate pollutants like methane are rapidly accelerating global warming in the near term. Methane emissions are on the rise. The global growth in oil and gas production and consumption is a prime driver. A new report released today by researchers at the Watson Institute identifies a multi-pronged approach for mapping and measuring methane and provides new tools to more effectively manage this super pollutant. Under a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, authors Deborah Gordon, Watson Institute Senior Fellow, and Frances Reuland, former Brown University Researcher, assess the many ways that methane escapes from the oil and gas sector, both unintentionally and purposefully. Using a first-of-its-kind model under development, the Oil Climate Index + Gas, they estimate that oil operations are at greater risk for intentional venting and flaring of methane while gas operations pose a higher risk of inadvertent fugitive methane and accidental releases. The ability to focus detection and policymaking on the operators who bear direct emissions responsibility holds out the best prospects for methane reductions worldwide. While governments, NGOs, and companies continue to improve their methods to pinpoint and measure methane, difficulties remain. Overcoming these barriers requires: increased transparency and data collection; improved oversight through monitoring, reporting, and verification; regulations and binding agreements; research and development (R&D) and technology transfer; and financial incentives and penalties. In order to offer durable climate solutions, efforts to mitigate methane must be designed to withstand future political pressures.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Science and Technology, Pollution, Fossil Fuels, Methane
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Géraud de Lassus Saint-Genliês
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: The Global Pact for the Environment (GPE) is a draft treaty prepared in 2017 by a French think tank, Le Club des Juristes, which aims at strengthening the effectiveness of international environmental law (IEL) by combining its most fundamental principles into a single overarching, legally binding instrument. In May 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Towards a Global Pact for the Environment, a resolution that established an intergovernmental working group to discuss the necessity and feasibility of adopting an instrument such as the GPE, with a view to making recommendations to the UNGA. As the working group nears its final session, scheduled for May 20–22, 2019, this paper discusses the extent to which codifying the fundamental principles of IEL into a treaty could increase the problem-solving effectiveness of environmental governance. The analysis suggests that the added value of the proposed GPE (or any such instrument) may not be as evident as what its proponents argue. The paper also highlights the fact that the adoption of such an instrument could generate unintended consequences that would hinder the development of more effective environmental standards in the future.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Environment, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: James Bacchus
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: Trade has become a taboo topic in climate negotiations on the implementation of the Paris climate agreement. This must change. The nexus between trade and climate change must be addressed in the climate regime. In particular, a definition is needed that will clarify the meaning of a climate “response measure.” Without a definition provided by climate negotiators, the task of defining which national climate measures are permissible and which are not when they restrict trade while pursuing climate mitigation and adaptation will be left to the judges of the World Trade Organization. To avoid a collision between the climate and trade regimes that will potentially be harmful to both, the ongoing deliberation on response measures in the climate regime must be reframed by ending the climate taboo on trade.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, International Trade and Finance, World Trade Organization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Cameron S. G. Jefferies
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: The high seas are a critical biodiversity reservoir and carbon sink. Unfortunately, the oceans, generally, and the high seas, in particular, do not feature prominently in international climate mitigation or climate adaptation efforts. There are, however, signals that ocean conservation is poised to occupy a more significant role in international climate law and policy going forward. This paper argues that improved conservation and sustainable use of high-seas living marine resources are essential developments at the convergence of climate action and ocean governance that should manifest, at least in part, as climate-informed high-seas marine protected areas.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Water, Maritime, Conservation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, North America, Global Focus