The Globe and Mail has a report today on a new study [.pdf] by the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto looking at patterns of new immigrant settlement. In a reversal of trends in the immediate post-War era, new immigrants are heading to the suburbs rather than to central Toronto.
While Canada has a vastly different set of challenges related to immigration than the US, two of the explanations for the reversal struck me as interesting within the context of Chicago’s metropolitan development. The report cited both gentrification in central Toronto as well as the proliferation of low-barrier employment opportunities in the suburbs as possible reasons for the shift. Higher housing costs in Toronto’s trendy downtown neighborhoods and the lack of entry-level jobs make suburbs the “logical” choice for new immigrants to Toronto.
I would suspect that similar patterns might be evident in Chicago–although the vast size of the city provides more housing options inside Chicago’s boundaries. However, the bulk of the region’s service sector jobs are situated in the suburban regions and we are seeing many suburban communities ill-equipped to accomodate new residents from the standpoint of social service provisions.
(Image from Centre for Urban and Community Studies)
UK Environment Minister Hilary Benn reported late last week that the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped 2% to keep the country on track with its Kyoto commitment. There is some dispute, however, as to whether government policy should be credited for the reduction or the fact that energy producers shifted to natural gas from coal due to rising coal prices. There are also suggestions that the way in which the figures are calculated miss many sources of emissions.
The independent National Audit Office has recently released a report [.pdf] suggesting that the country’s emissions are actually 12% higher than official government estimates presented to the UN. Those figures do not account for emissions generated by aviation and shipping. Whether or not you expect government shenanigans are involved in which number Labour ministers choose to report, the NAO study is an important testament to the need for clear methods of calculating emissions and carbon footprints.
According to the Washington Post, former US Vice President & Nobel Laureate Al Gore, is launching a seemingly well-funded public relations campaign in the United States to raise awareness about climate change.
The article implies that the campaign is being launched during the election season to encourage US Presidential candidates to address the issue as central parts of their campaigns. The article quotes presumptive Republican nominee John McCain as trying to distinguish himself from Democratic front-runner Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the issue, pointing out that he has worked on the issue since before Obama or Clinton were elected to the Senate. Of course the article also mentions that Obama’s target of an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050 surpasses McCain’s more modest 60 percent reduction.
It will be interesting to see what effect Gore’s campaign has on the general election campaign–particularly since climate change policy will be one of the few issues on which Obama and McCain share relatively similar views (at least, when put in contrast with Bush).
It’s a typical story for the Bush Administration in its approach to environmental policy: ignore an agency’s own scientific conclusions, block the publication of agency reports recommending regulatory action, limit the amount of public input by environmentalists into decision making processes, fail to properly enforce long-standing laws.
The Washington Post reports on the latest chapter of the Bush environmental legacy as it relates to the Endangered Species Act. According to their analysis, the number of threatened species being listed for protection has diminished to a trickle over the course of the Bush Administration. This trend has occurred not as a result of improvements to threatened habitats, but rather due to willful inaction. Now the Department of Interior is facing expensive lawsuits from concerned citizens seeking that the law actually be enforced. Defending irresponsible management seems to be a pretty poor use of taxpayer resources.
(image source: Washington Post)
The Financial Times is reporting that the new environment minister of South Korea announced that the country is going to cap its greenhouse gas emissions at 2005 levels. This is significant because it represents the first “developing” country to voluntarily commit to emissions reductions.
South Korea is the 13th largest economy in the world and the 9th largest emitter of GHGs. While a detailed plan for reductions was not released, it appears that the South Koreans are relying heavily on encouraging gains in energy efficiency and not engaging in heavy regulation or caps on emissions.
It will interesting to see how Korea’s actions figure into post-Kyoto climate change negotiations as they progress over the next several months since developing country reductions are a sticking point with the current US administration. An AP report on an initiative proposed by the new Korean president, Lee Myung Bak, to engage in a re-forestation partnership with North Korea suggested that the partnership could be a precursor to the South getting carbon offset credits under a post-Kyoto agreement.
Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now had an insightful interview this morning with James Hansen, the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the most prominent climate scientists in the United States.
Hansen has been subject to censorship by NASA political appointees who are unwilling to accept the science behind anthropocentric climate change.
He was joined in his appearance on Democracy Now by author, Mark Bowen, who has a new book out about Hansen’s travails with Bush Administration officials responsible for environmental policy who largely come from oil and coal industry backgrounds.
I have not read the book (Censoring Science), but it appears to have some interesting revelations, most notably that Dick Cheney’s office has taken an active role in suppressing reports of scientific evidence related to climate change. It sounds like it should be an important documentation of the general politicization of science that has affected many areas of environmental policy under the Bush Administration.
The New York Times has an interesting article today on the various battles going on in US states related to the patchwork of climate change policies developed in recent years throughout the country.
In the absence of a national policy, states have taken the lead in mandating limits on greenhouse gas emissions and requiring power companies to increase the percentage of power generation coming from renewable resources.
The varied political reactions are interesting and speak to one issue that is not often highlighted in US energy policy debates: the geographic divergence of energy sources throughout the country. A map accompanying the article shows how the central part of the country is dependent upon coal while the coasts utilize nuclear, hydroelectric (in the Pacific Northwest), and natural gas.
Given the fact that these various forms of electricity generation have differing levels of GHG emissions, it is not surprising to learn that the political battles are often more contentious in states with high percentages of coal use.
The article recounts how coal companies in Kansas are laying on a heavy public relations campaign to resist regulations on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, going to great lengths to suggest that a failure to approve new plants is tantamount to supporting Hugo Chavez and Mahmood Ahmadinejad.
The article mentions an interesting blog, DeSmogBlog, which is dedicated to exposing some of the questionable tactics and industry ties of climate change “skeptics.”
Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, has been using the big coal companies’ advertisement as a prop in campaign stops. This is significant given McCain’s apparent support for a mandatory cap-and-trade GHG emissions policy.
As mentioned on Wednesday, the US EPA was facing a deadline this week mandated by law to update the regulations governing ozone emissions. The agency is charged with evaluating current regulations every few years to make sure that they are reflective of scientific consensus regarding the risks involved with exposure to harmful pollutants.
EPA’s board of independent scientists recommended that the standards for ozone particulates be strengthened from the current level of 84 parts per billion to no more than 70 parts per billion. Environmentalists and public health advocates were pushing for a level of no more than 60 parts per billion. The standards released on Wednesday were more modest at 75 parts per billion.
The Los Angeles Times reported today that Bush himself intervened to make sure that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson did not follow the scientific consensus and establish a more stringent standard. According to the Washington Post, there is a suggestion that the EPA’s legal obligations of protecting public welfare have been compromised and that the direct intervention of the White House in pushing for a specific regulation is a violation of the legal framework governing regulatory decision making, although other legal experts see nothing out of the ordinary.
Later this afternoon the US Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to announce new limits on ozone emissions. According to the Washington Post, the administration will push the allowable limit from 80 parts of smog-forming ozone per billion to 75 parts per billion.
While this represents an improvement, it is not as strict as the levels advocated for by public health groups–nor as strict as limits argued for by the agency’s own advisory committee of independent scientists [.pdf].
The EPA committee wanted a limit between 60 and 70 parts per million while the American Lung Association is arguing for the 60 parts per million figure. In choosing to adopt the higher allowance of 75 parts per million, the Bush Administration is risking thousands of more premature deaths and cases of respiratory ailments.
It is still in its preliminary stages, but Japan’s environment minister, Ichiro Kamoshita, announced today that the country may develop a cap and trade scheme to minimize its carbon emissions. Japan is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, but have relied largely on voluntary pledges from industry to meet their obligation of a 6% decrease from 1990 levels by 2012.
The fact that Japan is on the road to embracing a mandatory emissions scheme suggests that the US will be more isolated in its resistance to new mandatory caps that will likely be a part of a post-Kyoto agreement. This also increases pressure on the United States since Japan is the host country for a series of G-8 meetings this year and they could potentially ally with European leaders in more forceful efforts to the the US to change its position.
This weekend marks the second meeting this year where the major economies will discuss climate change strategies. Nothing too substantive is expected to come out of these meetings, to be held in Chiba, Japan. However, with this announcement from Kamoshita and the revelation that Tony Blair is expected to attend the proceedings, it will be useful to watch closely for signs that the US may be loosening its resistance to the idea of mandatory emissions.