Welcome to the latest semi-random pickings from recent journals. We hope that something below is of use to either academics or “activists”, or both. Journals are listed alphabetically. If we’ve missed something written by a Manchester-based academic, or about Manchester, please let us know.
Special Issue on: The Impacts of Climate Change in Europe. The impacts of climate change in Europe (the PESETA research project)
Intensification of seasonal extremes given a 2°C global warming target
Current international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit human-induced global-mean near-surface temperature increases to 2°C, relative to the pre-industrial era, are intended to avoid possibly significant and dangerous impacts to physical, biological, and socio-economic systems.
However, it is unknown how these various systems will respond to such a temperature increase because their relevant spatial scales are much different than those represented by numerical global climate models—the standard tool for climate change studies. This deficiency can be addressed by using higher-resolution regional climate models, but at great computational expense. The research presented here seeks to determine how a 2°C global-mean temperature increase might change the frequency of seasonal temperature extremes, both in the United States and around the globe, without necessarily resorting to these computationally-intensive model experiments. Results indicate that in many locations the regional temperature increases that accompany a 2°C increase in global mean temperatures are significantly larger than the interannual to-decadal variations in seasonal-mean temperatures; in these locations a 2°C global mean temperature increase results in seasonal-mean temperatures that consistently exceed the most extreme values experienced during the second half of the 20th Century. Further, results indicate that many tropical regions, despite having relatively modest overall temperature increases, will have the most substantial increase in number of hot extremes. These results highlight that extremes very well could become the norm, even given the 2°C temperature increase target.
Vol 55, Issue 1, 17-24
Economic and Ecological Crises: Green new deals and no-growth economies
Bob Jessop applies cultural political economy to the global economic and ecological crisis. He presents theoretical preliminaries concerning economic and ecological imaginaries, and then goes on to highlight the multidimensional nature of the current crisis and struggles over its interpretation.
Vol 55, Issue 1, 54–62
Beyond the ‘Green Economy’: System change, not climate change?
Nicola Bullard and Tadzio Müller
The ‘green economy’ project claims to address the social, economic and ecological crises afflicting the world today, yet there appears to be too little elite consensus for it to be viable in the near future. Nicola Bullard and Tadzio Müller suggest that this absence of elite consensus renders the counter-hegemonic ‘climate justice’ project similarly weak, leading to a retreat from the global sphere of the (emerging) global climate justice movement. Yet on the ground there are strong and dynamic climate justice movements whose main challenge is to broaden their struggle beyond their current base and to create their own ‘globality’.
Vol 55, Issue 1, 93-106
Incentives to Promote Green Citizenship in UK Transition Towns
Amy Merritt and Tristan Stubbs
Amy Merritt and Tristan Stubbs examine the challenges of promoting environmental citizenship in the UK. Citizen participation in policymaking is receiving greater attention from politicians, academics, and citizens. However, due to political and institutional barriers and a lack of resources, citizens face real challenges in their engagement. They explore the legislative parameters of localism in the UK by charting the Transition Town movement’s contribution to locally driven sustainability.
Environment and Planning C
Volume 30, Issue 2, 2012 pages 282 – 296
From a fossil-fuel to a biobased economy: the politics of industrial biotechnology
Industrial biotechnology involves the replacement of petrochemical processes and inputs with more energy-efficient and renewable biological ones. It is already being used in the production of biofuels and bioplastics and has been touted as a means by which modern economies can be shifted toward a more competitive, low-carbon growth model. This paper does two things. First, it outlines the policy framework established in the European Union and the narrative of a knowledge-based bioeconomy (KBBE) underpinning this. Second, it argues that the ‘win – win’ rhetoric contained within the KBBE narrative is misleading. Among the different groups commenting on the use of industrial biotechnology, the paper locates cleavages between farmers and agribusiness, between those convinced and those sceptical of environmental technofixes, and between procorporate and anticorporate NGOs. Taken together, they show the purported transition from a fossil-fuel to a bio-based economy to be a resolutely political one.
Volume 21, Issue 3, 2012, pages 349-368
Planned economic contraction: the emerging case for degrowth
The sociological, ecological, and economic foundations of a macroeconomics ‘beyond growth’ are outlined, focusing on the idea of degrowth. Degrowth opposes conventional growth economics on the grounds that growth in the highly developed nations has become socially counter-productive, ecologically unsustainable, and uneconomic. Stagnating energy supplies also suggest an imminent ‘end of growth’. In response to growth economics, degrowth scholars call for a politico-economic policy of planned economic contraction, an approach which has been broadly defined as ‘an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions’. After defining growth economics and outlining the emerging case for degrowth, the feasibility of a macroeconomics beyond growth is considered and an outline of what such a macroeconomics might look like as a politico-economic programme is sketched.
Debating the proper pace of life: sustainable consumption policy processes at national and municipal levels
Green householders, stakeholder citizenship and sustainability
European Planning Studies
Volume 20, Issue 5, 2012, pages 791-816
Renewable Energy Technology and Path Creation: A Multi-scalar Approach to Energy Transition in the UK
This paper examines the potential contribution of UK regions for developing and deploying renewable energy technologies to achieve the government target of obtaining 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The paper argues for a multi-scalar approach to energy transition theory and policy. National-scale processes and policies need to be complemented by regional and local policies in order to discover and incorporate meso-level sources of renewable energy, recognize that niche or path creation is a geographically localized process and mobilize heterogeneous, local actors around common “regional energy visions” to improve implementation of renewable energy projects. After critically reviewing the main theoretical approach to energy transitions, the multi-level perspective, the paper employs patent data to describe the comparative position of UK regions in the renewable energy sector and examines the success of Danish, German and Spanish regions resulting from strong government intervention at the national level supplemented by region-specific strategies. A number of policy strengths and shortcomings are identified in the evolutionary trajectory of the UK energy system including weak technology push and policy pull factors. Finally, the paper reviews existing regional renewable energy policy and speculates on the potential impact of recent changes in spatial and energy policies on the ability to deploy and develop renewable energy sources in the UK.
Global Environmental Politics
May 2012, Vol. 12, No. 2, Pages 1-8
Lost in Translation: Climate Denial and the Return of the Political
In this deliberately provocative commentary, I interrogate the relationship between two critical perspectives on the one-sided scientific framing of the climate issue: a constructivist interpretation of climate modeling on the one hand and the debate in political theory on the depoliticization of the public sphere on the other. I argue how they could be tied together in order to provide an enriched understanding of climate denial as a symptom rather than a cause of dysfunctional climate politics.
It is my claim that in attempting to translate the universal validity of scientific knowledge into the contours of an inclusive, consensual negotiation model, the constitutive role of exclusion in the emergence of scientific objectivity is overlooked.
May 2012, Vol. 12, No. 2, Pages 67-86
EU Climate and Energy Policy: A Hesitant Supranational Turn?
Jørgen Wettestad, Per Ove Eikeland, Måns Nilsson
This article examines the recent changes of three central EU climate and energy policies: the revised Emissions Trading Directive (ETS); the Renewables Directive (RES); and internal energy market
(IEM) policy. An increasing transference of competence to EU level institutions, and hence “vertical integration,” has taken place, most clearly in the case of the ETS. The main reasons for the differing increase in vertical integration are, first, that more member states were dissatisfied with the pre-existing system in the case of the ETS than in the two other cases. Second, the European Commission and Parliament were comparatively more united in pushing for changes in the case of the ETS. And, third, although RES and IEM policies were influenced by regional energy security concerns, they were less structurally linked to and influenced by the global climate regime than the ETS.
Journal of Industrial Ecology
Volume 16, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 203-211
Uncertainty and Variability in Product Carbon Footprinting
Christopher L. Weber
Recent years have seen increasing interest in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions accounting, also known as carbon footprinting, due to drivers such as transportation fuels policy and climate-related eco-labels, sometimes called carbon labels. However, it remains unclear whether applications of greenhouse gas accounting, such as carbon labels, are supportable given the level of precision that is possible with current methodology and data. The goal of this work is to further the understanding of quantitative uncertainty assessment in carbon footprinting through a case study of a rackmount electronic server. Production phase uncertainty was found to be moderate (±15%), though with a high likelihood of being significantly underestimated given the limitations in available data for assessing uncertainty associated with temporal variability and technological specificity. Individual components or subassemblies showed varying levels of uncertainty due to differences in parameter uncertainty (i.e., agreement between data sets) and variability between production or use regions. The use phase displayed a considerably higher uncertainty (±50%) than production due to uncertainty in the useful lifetime of the server, variability in electricity mixes in different market regions, and use profile uncertainty. Overall model uncertainty was found to be ±35% for the whole life cycle, a substantial amount given that the method is already being used to set policy and make comparative environmental product declarations. Future work should continue to combine the increasing volume of available data to ensure consistency and maximize the credibility of the methods of life cycle assessment (LCA) and carbon footprinting. However, for some energy-using products it may make more sense to increase focus on energy efficiency and use phase emissions reductions rather than attempting to quantify and reduce the uncertainty of the relatively small production phase.
Nature Climate Change
Vol 2, Issue 5, May 2012
Offsetting under pressure
Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK Tyndall Centre and an expert on greenhouse-gas emissions trajectories explains to Nature Climate Change why he believes that carbon offsetting can
be worse than useless.