The word “manifesto” rarely conjures up positive connotations. That word brings to my mind Karl Marx’s famous tome, at best, and, at worst, images of a bearded man in a remote cabin. Regardless, it’s a word most often associated with people or groups with strongly held convictions trying to shake up the status quo. It is odd then that a group of major palm oil producers and traders should use that term for a recent effort to redefine “sustainable” palm oil. Read More
July 17th, 2014
June 30th, 2014
From time to time we take a look at things we published several years ago, to see whether they’re still up to date. We often need to decide whether to reprint them as is, revise them first, or simply decide to stop using them. This requires figuring out whether the information they contain is still valid, or has become somewhat obsolete in light of new science and recent political developments. Read More
June 9th, 2014
I’m now in Bonn at the United Nations climate negotiations, where the big news is that in the last week the world’s two biggest emitters – China and the United States – have announced important actions to cut their carbon pollution, especially from the coal that they burn. These steps are welcome, but they are plans, not accomplishments, and they come late compared to other countries that have already acted to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
Ironically, most of these successes are in tropical developing countries, where countries’ reductions in rates of deforestation and in some cases their reforestation of cleared land have cut their net emissions of global warming pollution. Their actions have already accomplished more for the climate than the actions of many developed nations have.
May 9th, 2014
At first glance, tropical peat soils might not seem all that exciting. Dead branches and leaves that have not fully decomposed because of waterlogged conditions? Once upon a time, even I might have found this, well, boring. Read More
April 30th, 2014
For quite a while, agriculture was dismissed as a possible way to mitigate climate change, because it’s where our food comes from, and we can’t live without food. From this obvious fact came the misinterpretation that we couldn’t cut agricultural greenhouse gas emissions without threatening food security. Read More
April 15th, 2014
One small but important breakthrough in the new IPCC report on climate mitigation, released Sunday in Berlin, is that the chapter on agriculture, forest, and other land use (AFOLU) looks at the demand side, not just supply. In other words, it not only asks how we can create less global warming pollution in producing food and wood products, but also what kinds of food and wood products we ought to be producing and consuming if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. Read More
April 11th, 2014
March 21st, 2014
I’m in Berlin at the Global Land Project conference, a biennial gathering of about 1000 scientists who study how we Earthlings use our world. I gave a talk on beef compared to other meats in the informal “Pecha Kucha” format, which requires you to use only 20 slides, each displayed for only 20 seconds. It was fun, but the big excitement has been hearing new ideas presented by researchers from all over the world.
March 7th, 2014
History is happening all the time, but usually without us realizing it. Only rarely do we experience a change so dramatic that we know that what’s happening today will be remembered fifty or a hundred years in the future. The kind of thing that you’ll tell your grandchildren about. This is especially the case for so-called “tipping points,” celebrated in both scientific and popular writing. Usually, you only realize that something was a tipping point after you’re well past it. But sometimes…