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Environmental Science

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The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge

The most colossal environmental disturbance in human history is under way. Ever-rising levels of the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) are altering the cycles of matter and life and interfering with the Earth's natural cooling process. Melting Arctic ice and mountain glaciers are just the first relatively mild symptoms of what will result from this disruption of the planetary energy balance. In CO2 Rising, scientist Tyler Volk explains the process at the heart of global warming and climate change: the global carbon cycle. Vividly and concisely, Volk describes what happens when CO2 is released by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), letting loose carbon atoms once trapped deep underground into the interwoven web of air, water, and soil.

To demonstrate how the carbon cycle works, Volk traces the paths that carbon atoms take during their global circuits. Showing us the carbon cycle from a carbon atom's viewpoint, he follows one carbon atom into a leaf of barley, then into an alcohol molecule in a glass of beer, through the human bloodstream, and then back into the air. He also compares the fluxes of carbon brought into the biosphere naturally with those created by the combustion of fossil fuels and explains why the latter are responsible for rising temperatures.

Knowledge about the global carbon cycle and the huge disturbances that human activity produces in it will equip us to consider the hard questions that Volk raises in the second half of CO2 Rising: projections of future levels of CO2; which energy systems and processes (solar, wind, nuclear, carbon sequestration?) will power civilization in the future; the relationships among the wealth of nations, energy use, and CO2 emissions; and global equity in per capita emissions. Answering these questions will indeed be our greatest environmental challenge.

Global momentum is building to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So far, so good. The less happy news is that Earth’s temperatures will continue to rise for decades. And evidence shows that climbing temperatures are already having serious consequences for vulnerable people and regions through droughts, extreme weather, and melting glaciers. In this book, climate experts Michael Mastrandrea and Stephen Schneider argue that we need to start adapting to climate change, now. They write that these efforts should focus primarily on identifying the places and people most at risk and taking anticipatory action--from developing drought-resistant crops to building sea walls. The authors roundly reject the idea that reactive, unplanned adaptation will solve our problems--that species will migrate northward as climates warm, and farmers will shift to new crops and more hospitable locations. And they are highly critical of “geoengineering” schemes that are designed to cool the planet by such methods as injecting iron into oceans or exploding volcanoes. Mastrandrea and Schneider insist that smart adaptation will require a series of local and regional projects, many of them in the countries least able to pay for them and least responsible for the problem itself. Ensuring that we address the needs of these countries, while we work globally to reduce emissions over the long term, is our best chance to avert global disaster and to reduce the terrible, unfair burdens that are likely to accompany global warming.

Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis

Gaian theory, which holds that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably bound to form a self-regulating system, is more relevant than ever in light of increasing concerns about global climate change. The Gaian paradigm of Earth as a living system, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, has inspired a burgeoning body of researchers working across disciplines that range from physics and biology to philosophy and politics. Gaia in Turmoil reflects this disciplinary richness and intellectual diversity, with contributions (including essays by both Lovelock and Margulis) that approach the topic from a wide variety of perspectives, discussing not only Gaian science but also global environmental problems and Gaian ethics and education. Contributors focus first on the science of Gaia, considering such topics as the workings of the biosphere, the planet’s water supply, and evolution; then discuss Gaian perspectives on global environmental change, including biodiversity destruction and global warming; and finally explore the influence of Gaia on environmental policy, ethics, politics, technology, economics, and education. Gaia in Turmoil breaks new ground by focusing on global ecological problems from the perspectives of Gaian science and knowledge, focusing especially on the challenges of climate change and biodiversity destruction. ContributorsDavid Abram, Donald Aitken, Connie Barlow, J. Baird Callicott, Bruce Clarke, Eileen Crist, Tim Foresman, Stephan Harding, Barbara Harwood, Tim Lenton, Eugene Linden, Karen Litfin, James Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, Bill McKibben, Martin Ogle, H. Bruce Rinker, Mitchell Thomashow, Tyler Volk, Hywel Williams

Their Relationship to Energy Balance, Atmospheric Dynamics, and Precipitation

More than half the globe is covered by visible clouds. Clouds control major parts of the Earth’s energy balance, influencing both incoming shortwave solar radiation and outgoing longwave thermal radiation. Latent heating and cooling related to cloud processes modify atmospheric circulation, and, by modulating sea surface temperatures, clouds affect the oceanic circulation. Clouds are also an essential component of the global water cycle, on which all terrestrial life depends. Yet clouds constitute the most poorly quantified, least understood, and most puzzling aspect of atmospheric science, and thus the largest source of uncertainty in the prediction of climate change. Because clouds are influenced by climate change, and because complex, unidentified feedback systems are involved, science is faced with many unanswered questions. This volume begins by indentifying and describing the baffling nature of clouds. It explores the boundaries of current knowledge on the spatial/temporal variability of clouds and cloud-related aerosols as well as the factors that control clouds, and examines the extent and nature of anthropogenic perturbations. Particular emphasis is given to the connections of clouds to climate through radiation, dynamics, precipitation, and chemistry, and to the difficulties in understanding the obvious but elusive fact that clouds must be affected by climate change. Utilizing the insights of this unique gathering of experts, the book offers recommendations to improve the current state of knowledge and direct future research in fields ranging from chemistry and theoretical physics to climate modeling and remote satellite sensing.

An Integrated Assessment Modeling Approach

The impact of climate change is widespread, affecting rich and poor countries and economies both large and small. Similarly, the study of climate change spans many disciplines, in both natural and social sciences. In environmental economics, leading methodologies include integrated assessment (IA) and game-theoretic modeling, which, despite their common premises, seldom intersect. In Strategic Bargaining and Cooperation in Greenhouse Gas Mitigations, Zili Yang connects these two important approaches by incorporating various game-theoretic solution concepts into a well-known integrated assessment model of climate change. This framework allows a more comprehensive analysis of cooperation and strategic interaction that can inform policy choices in greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.

Yang draws on a wide range of findings from IA and game theory to offer an analysis that is accessible to scholars in both fields. Yang constructs a cooperative game of stock externality provision—the economic abstraction of climate change—within the IA framework of the influential RICE model (developed by William D. Nordhaus and Zili Yang in 1996). The game connects the solution of an optimal control problem of stock externality provision with the bargaining of GHG mitigation quotas among the regions in the RICE model. Yang then compares the results of both game-theoretic and conventional solutions of the RICE model from incentive and strategic perspectives and, through numerical analysis of the simulation results, demonstrates the superiority of game- theoretic solutions. Yang also applies the game-theoretic solutions of RICE to such policy-related concerns as unexpected shocks in economic/climate systems and redistribution and transfer issues in GHG mitigation policies. Yang's innovative approach sheds new light on the behavioral aspects of IA modeling and provides game-theoretic modeling of climate change with a richer economic substance.

This companion to Passive Cooling and Solar Building Architecture (volumes 8 and 9) describes developments in passive solar technology that will save time, energy, and resources in planning for the buildings of the future. It is filled with tips and useful research for architects and designers and includes three substantial chapters on general modeling.

"Passive solar heating works. Properly designed and constructed, it is cost-effective, practical, comfortable, and aesthetic." Balcomb's introductory remarks set the tone for the rest of the contributions, which describe the considerable record of achievements in passive solar heating. Balcomb summarizes and evaluates the era between 1976 and 1983 when most of the major developments took place and highlights the design features that have contributed to effective buildings.

Three chapters cover modeling passive systems (applicable to both heating and cooling), and six chapters focus on the application of passive solar heating, with emphasis on components, analytical results for specific systems, test modules, subsystem integration into buildings, performance monitoring and results, and design tools.

The Dynamics of Atlantic Fisheries Management

The rapid expansion of the fishing industry in the last century has raised major concerns over the long-term viability of many fish species. International fisheries organizations have failed to prevent the overfishing of many stocks, but succeeded in curtailing harvests for some key fisheries. In Adaptive Governance, D. G. Webster proposes a new perspective to improve our understanding of both success and failure in international resource regimes. She develops a theoretical approach, the vulnerability response framework, which can increase understanding of countries’ positions on the management of international fisheries based on linkages between domestic vulnerabilities and national policy positions. Vulnerability, mainly economic in this context, acts as an indicator for domestic susceptibility to the increasing competition associated with open access and related stock declines. Because of this relationship, vulnerability can also be used to trace the trajectory of nations’ positions on fisheries management as they seek political alternatives to economic problems. Webster tests this framework by using it to predict national positions for eight cases drawn from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). These studies reveal that there is considerable variance in the management measures ICCAT has adopted--both between different species and in dealing with the same species over time--and that much of this variance can be traced to vulnerability response behavior. Little attention has been paid to the ways in which international regimes change over time. Webster’s innovative approach illuminates the pressures for change that are generated by economic competition and overexploitation in Atlantic fisheries. Her work also identifies patterns of adaptive governance, as national responses to such pressures culminate in patterns of change in international management.

Birth of an Anti-Whaling Discourse

In the second half of the twentieth century, worldwide attitudes toward whaling shifted from widespread acceptance to moral censure. Why? Whaling, once as important to the global economy as oil is now, had long been uneconomical. Major species were long known to be endangered. Yet nations had continued to support whaling. In The Power of Words in International Relations, Charlotte Epstein argues that the change was brought about not by changing material interests but by a powerful anti-whaling discourse that successfully recast whales as extraordinary and intelligent endangered mammals that needed to be saved. Epstein views whaling both as an object of analysis in its own right and as a lens for examining discursive power, and how language, materiality, and action interact to shape international relations. By focusing on discourse, she develops an approach to the study of agency and the construction of interests that brings non-state actors and individuals into the analysis of international politics. Epstein analyzes the “society of whaling states” as a set of historical practices where the dominant discourse of the day legitimated the killing of whales rather than their protection. She then looks at this whaling world’s mirror image: the rise from the political margins of an anti-whaling discourse, which orchestrated one of the first successful global environmental campaigns, in which saving the whales ultimately became shorthand for saving the planet. Finally, she considers the continued dominance of a now taken-for-granted anti-whaling discourse, including its creation of identity categories that align with and sustain the existing international political order. Epstein’s synthesis of discourse, power, and identity politics brings the fields of international relations theory and global environmental politics into a fruitful dialogue that benefits both.

Science and Industrial Agriculture in California

Just south of San Francisco lies California's Salinas Valley, the heart of a multibillion dollar agricultural industry that dominates U. S. vegetable production. How did the sleepy valley described in the stories of John Steinbeck become the nation's "salad bowl"? In Cultivating Science, Harvesting Power, Christopher R. Henke explores the ways that science helped build the Salinas Valley and California's broader farm industry. Henke focuses on the case of University of California "farm advisors," scientists stationed in counties throughout the state who have stepped forward to help growers deal with crises ranging from labor shortages to plagues of insects. These disruptions in what Henke terms industrial agriculture's "ecology of power" provide a window onto how agricultural scientists and growers have collaborated—and struggled—in shaping this industry.

Through these interventions, Henke argues, science has served as a mechanism of repair for industrial agriculture. Basing his analysis on detailed ethnographic and historical research, Henke examines the history of state-sponsored farm advising—in particular, its roots in Progressive Era politics—and looks at both past and present practices by farm advisors in the Salinas Valley. He goes on to examine specific examples, including the resolution of a farm labor crisis during World War II at the Spreckels Sugar Company, the use of field trials for promoting new farming practices, and farm advisors' and growers' responses to environmental issues. Beyond this, Henke argues that the concept of repair is broadly applicable to other cases and that expertise can be deployed more generally to encourage change for the future of American agriculture.

Ecosystem-Based Management and the Environment

Scholars, scientists, and policymakers have hailed ecosystem-based management (EBM) as a remedy for the perceived shortcomings of the centralized, top-down, expert-driven environmental regulatory framework established in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. EBM entails collaborative, landscape-scale planning and flexible, adaptive implementation. But although scholars have analyzed aspects of EBM for more than a decade, until now there has been no systematic empirical study of the overall approach. In Natural Experiments, Judith Layzer provides a detailed assessment of whether EBM delivers in practice the environmental benefits it promises in theory. She does this by examining four nationally known EBM initiatives (the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Program in Austin, Texas, the San Diego Multiple Species Program, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and the California Bay-Delta Program) and three comparison cases that used more conventional regulatory approaches (Arizona’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and efforts to restore Florida’s Kissimmee River and California’s Mono Basin). Layzer concludes that projects that set goals based on stakeholder collaboration, rather than through conventional politics, are less likely to result in environmental improvement, largely because the pursuit of consensus drives planners to avoid controversy and minimize short-term costs. Layzer’s resolutely practical focus cuts through the ideological and theoretical arguments for and against EBM to identify strategies that hold genuine promise for restoring the ecological resilience of our landscapes.

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