While public opinion is fairly skewed against the fracking process, policy actors in New York State can best be described as polarized. Predictably, the pro-fracking group generally disagrees with environmental groups while the anti-fracking group generally disagrees with the oil industry. Policy actors in New York had stark differences in answers on a wide variety of questions.
As Professor Ruth DeFries aptly stated in her opening remarks at yesterday’s book launch for “The Big Ratchet,” if you look at satellite pictures of the earth, you see the imprint of the human species everywhere. Humans have come to dominate the planet. But how did this come to be? This question, among others, is what DeFries hopes to answer in her new book, “The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis.” How did humans acquire the capability to spread out over the entire earth and control other species?
In my early years I didn’t talk about the politics of global warming much. I didn’t bring it up with friends or family, let alone engage in any public way. It seemed to me unseemly for a scientist to be vocal on a political issue related, even indirectly, to his own research. Wouldn’t that be an indication of bias, of a lack of scientific impartiality? But I have changed my mind.
The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment will be addressing the challenges of sustainable agricultural investment in its inaugural Executive Training Program on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture, which will be held at Columbia University from March 8-13, 2015.
With support from the Earth Institute, writers Caswell Holloway, Carter Strickland, Michael Gerrard, and Daniel Firger recently published “Solving the CSO Conundrum: Green Infrastructure and the Unfulfilled Promise of Federal-Municipal Cooperation” in Harvard Environmental Law Review. The authors propose regulatory and policy reform to develop comprehensive, locally led infrastructure and sustainability initiatives that improve public health and the environment. They look specifically at the case of water management as an opportunity for federal and local governments to work cooperatively, specifically through the implementation of green infrastructure systems.
In her new book, Ruth DeFries argues that we have continually created new technologies that allow our numbers to grow. But each new invention creates a new problem—which we solve with yet another innovation that creates the next problem. Will we be able to sustain this so-far successful cycle past the great leap in technology and population of the last century?
Ten years ago, hydraulic fracturing barely existed. Today 45,000 fracked wells produce natural gas, providing energy for millions of homes and businesses, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s electricity. But scientists are far behind in understanding how this boom affects people near wells. Geochemists Beizhan Yan and James Ross of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are trying to fill in this gap.
Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law will be newly expanded with a major gift from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation. The center, an affiliate of the Earth Institute, has been renamed the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
A new study by Earth Institute researchers suggests that talking about the human health impacts of air pollution related to burning fossil fuels might make a more convincing argument for action among conservatives, who are generally more skeptical of the scientific evidence for climate change.
The most important lessons drawn from geology are that the earth’s climate can change radically, and rapidly. We can’t say precisely at what CO2 level we’re in danger of melting Antarctica, but that threshold could be reached in 150-300 years, if CO2 levels keep rising at the current rate.