Environmental Science & Policy

Published by Elsevier
Print ISSN: 1462-9011
Historical perspective on developments in national water policy documents in the Netherlands, key research studies on climate and water, climate scenario studies and the context in which these studies were made. PWM=National Policy Memorandum on Water Management; CM=Coastal Memorandum.
Values for precipitation change (w=winter; s=summer) in 2100 for different national climate scenarios. PWM=National Policy Memorandum on Water Management, NRP is National Research Programme, CT21=Committee Tielrooy, and DC=second Delta Committee.
Values for global and local sea level rise for the Netherlands (left) and global temperature change (right) in 2100 for national and global climate scenarios (reference year 1990). FAR, SAR, TAR and AR4 refer respectively to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th IPCC report, NRP is National Research Programme, CT21=Committee Tielrooy, DC=second Delta Committee, and PWM=National Policy Memorandum on Water Management. Scenarios for the Netherlands are in grey. In the DC study, the global temperature range included for the sea level rise was larger (dashed line) than for the climate parameters such as precipitation (solid line). In the AR4 report sea level rise values were presented for the scenarios (solid line), and additional uncertain sea level rise was described in the report (dashed line).
The future of human life in the world's river deltas depends on the success of water management. To deal with uncertainties about the future, policymakers in the Netherlands have used scenarios to develop water management strategies for the coastal zone of the Rhine-Meuse delta. In this paper we reflect on six decades of scenario use in the Netherlands, and provide recommendations for future studies. Based on two criteria, 'Decision robustness' and 'Learning success', we conclude that (1) the possibilities for robust decisionmaking increased through a paradigm shift from predicting to exploring futures, but the scenario method is not yet fully exploited for decisionmaking under uncertainty; and (2) the scenarios enabled learning about possible impacts of developments and effectiveness of policy options. New scenario approaches are emerging to deal with the deep uncertainties water managers are currently facing.
– Transport at time of death – all age categories. 
Number of fatalities per state 1900-2008.
Medical cause of death 1900-2008.
In many jurisdictions, including parts of the US, authorities often dictate mandatory evacuations of communities threatened by bushfire (wildfire). Prior to the 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ fires in Victoria, Australian fire authorities in all States advised residents to decide whether they would prepare to stay and defend homes or leave early. The clear intent of that policy was to avoid late evacuations and the risks to life that this could entail. This study re-examines evidence underpinning this policy using analyses of a database of bushfire fatalities. The database contains information on 552 civilian (non-fire fighter) fatalities obtained from print media archives at Risk Frontiers and forensic, witness and police statements contained within coronial inquest reports for all bushfire fatalities between 1901 and 2008. This data, compiled before the Black Saturday fires, clearly show the dangers of being caught outside during a bushfire and the gendered division of the circumstances of these deaths. While men have been most often killed outside while attempting to protect assets, most female and child fatalities occurred while sheltering in the house or attempting to flee. The database provides a benchmark against which the Black Saturday experience can be examined.
Why is it that sometimes small droughts trigger serious crop losses while in other cases even large droughts do not have such a major effect? In this paper, we identify socio-economic indicators associated with sensitivity and resilience to drought for each of China's main grain crops (rice, wheat and corn). Provincial harvest and rainfall data (1961–2001) are used to calculate an annual “crop-drought vulnerability index”. We separate “sensitive cases” (where significant harvest losses occurred in years with only minor droughts) and “resilient cases” (where harvest losses were minimal despite there being a major drought) and explore the socio-economic characteristics of these different situations. Results show that sensitive cases were particularly common in economically poor landlocked provinces and in wealthy coastal areas that have a limited land base. In such “sensitive cases”, the size of the rural population and the quantity of agricultural inputs were negatively correlated with drought vulnerability, while for resilient cases, vulnerability was negatively correlated with the abundance of land. This leads us to propose a series of drought-vulnerability typologies based on the extent to which land, labour, capital, agricultural technology, and infrastructure buffer or exacerbate the effect of a drought event.
Since 1967, the Insurance Council of Australia has maintained a database of significant insured losses. Apart from five geological events, all others (156) are the result of meteorological hazards—tropical cyclones, floods, thunderstorms, hailstorms and bushfires. In this study, we normalise the weather-related losses to estimate the insured loss that would be sustained if these events were to recur under year 2006 societal conditions. Conceptually equivalent to the population, inflation and wealth adjustments used in previous studies, we use two surrogate factors to normalise losses—changes in both the number and average nominal value of dwellings over time, where nominal dwelling values exclude land value. An additional factor is included for tropical cyclone losses: this factor adjusts for the influence of enhanced building standards in tropical cyclone-prone areas that have markedly reduced the vulnerability of construction since the early 1980s.Once the weather-related insured losses are normalised, they exhibit no obvious trend over time that might be attributed to other factors, including human-induced climate change. Given this result, we echo previous studies in suggesting that practical steps taken to reduce the vulnerability of communities to today's weather would alleviate the impact under any future climate; the success of improved building standards in reducing tropical cyclone wind-induced losses is evidence that important gains can be made through disaster risk reduction.
The role of science in environmental foreign policymaking has received little attention in the international environmental politics literature, and systematic, in-depth case studies of the influence of science on environmental foreign policy with respect to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are entirely missing. We present a case study of the influence of science on Canada's foreign policy on POPs from the discovery of the transboundary nature of the POPs problem around 1985 to the signing of the United Nations Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. Influence was analyzed in terms of a knowledge–action methodology that focused on the types of scientific knowledge and the actions taken by scientists that were influential. Data were collected through interviews and extensive document analysis. We conclude that, while individual knowledge types and actions were influential during various periods (single-factor explanations), it was an increasingly layered and integrated “package” of knowledge types and actions, with human health impacts as its touchstone and partnering between scientists and non-scientists as its watchword, that propelled and sustained Canada's foreign policy on the POPs issue.
A set of global greenhouse gas emission inventories has been compiled per source category for the 1990 annual emissions of the direct greenhouse gases CO2, CH4 and N2O, as well as of the indirect greenhouse gases (ozone precursors) CO, NOx and NMVOC, and of SO2. The inventories are available by sector, both on a per country/region basis and on a 1°×1° grid. Developed by TNO and RIVM for constructing the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) Version 2.0, in co-operation with the Global Emission Inventory Activity (GEIA) of IGAC/IGBP, the inventories meet the needs of both policy-makers and atmospheric modellers. The data sources for activity data, emission factors and grid maps are discussed with the focus on anthropogenic sources of primarily CO2, CH4 and N2O. The estimates of a standard group of anthropogenic sources are presented for each compound per world region.
Agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contribute significantly to global warming, and environmental protection strategies have thus to integrate emission reduction measures from this source. In Switzerland, legislation together with monetary incentives has forced primarily integrated, and to a lesser extend organic farming, both covering nowadays more than 95% of the agriculturally useful area. Though reducing greenhouse gas emissions was not a primary intention of this reorganisation, the measures were successful in reducing the overall emissions of nitrous oxide and methane by 10% relative to 1990. A reduction of the animal herd, namely of dairy cattle, non-dairy cattle and swine, and decreasing inputs of mineral N are the main contributors to the achieved emission reduction. Crop productivity was not negatively affected and milk productivity even increased, referring to the ecological potential of agricultural reorganisation that has been tapped. Total meat production declined proportional to the animal herd. Stabilised animal numbers and fertiliser use during the last 4 years refer to an exhaustion of future reduction potentials without further legislative action because this stabilisation is most likely due to the adaptation to the production guidelines. A comparison of emission trends and carbon sequestration potentials in the broader context of the EU15 reveals that nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) have been reduced more efficiently most probably due to the measures taken, but that sequestration potentials are smaller than in the EU15 mainly because of differences in the agricultural structure. The change from an intensified towards a more environmental sound integrated production has a significant reduction potential, but in any case, agriculture will remain a net GHG source in spite of emission mitigation and carbon sequestration.
The 188 air contaminants designated as hazardous air pollutants, or air toxics, under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are associated with a variety of adverse human health impacts. The US Environmental Protection Agency recently developed estimates of 1990 outdoor concentrations of 148 air toxics for every census tract in the continental United States. This paper compares the results for urban and rural areas, and evaluates the relative contributions of large stationary sources (point sources), small stationary sources (area sources), and mobile sources. The estimated air toxics concentrations in urban areas were typically twice as high as in rural areas. There were more air toxics with modeled ambient concentrations in excess of health benchmarks in urban census tracts than in rural census tracts. Ambient concentrations attributable to area sources alone exceeded health benchmarks in a majority of urban census tracts for several pollutants; similar results were found for mobile sources. For point sources, exceedances of benchmarks generally occurred in fewer census tracts. These results show that reductions in emissions of air toxics from all three types of sources will be necessary to reduce anthropogenic air toxics concentrations to levels below the health benchmark concentrations.
The importance of energy in economic development has been globally recognised. A considerable electricity consumption increase has taken place in Greece since the country's incorporation in the European Union. Unfortunately, the electricity generation up to now is mainly based on fossil fuels. As a direct result of this policy, electricity generation is one of the main contributors to the Greek air pollutant emissions. The present work is focused on investigating in detail the corresponding nitrogen oxides emissions for the period 1995–2002. One of the most negative observations resulting from the presented analysis is that the undesirable NOx emissions factors increase, mainly during the last 3 years of the period analysed. Moreover, annual NOx emissions continue to increase, as a result of the noteworthy electricity consumption amplification registered during the concerned period. Therefore, local data were compared with similar information from the literature regarding other territories and then used accordingly to evaluate the Greek compliance with the existing EU decisions (e.g. Directive 2001/80/EC). Finally, considering that more than 90% of national electricity production is based on carbon containing fuels, further emissions of noxious nitrogen oxides increase is expected for the next decade, unless the appropriate abatement technologies are promptly applied.
Using revised 1996 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gases and statistic data in China Agricultural Yearbook, we estimated the direct nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural fields in China for the following years: 1949, 1954, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995. Direct N2O emissions have been increasing continuously, from 26 Gg N in 1949 to 336 Gg N in 1995, at a rate of 7 Gg N y−1. The main reason for the rapid increase in N2O emissions was the increase in the use of synthetic fertilizer, which contributed 0.28% to the total emissions from soils in 1949, compared with 73.7% in 1990.Modifications to some equations and parameters were made according the local agricultural practices, such as the type of crops, the use of crop residue, cultivation of leguminous green manure and the application of animal manure as fertilizer in China. The trend of direct N2O emissions from agricultural fields in China is discussed in this paper.
The IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories provide default methodologies for estimating emissions of the most important greenhouse gases at a national scale. The methodology for estimating emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from agriculture was revised in 1996 by an international working group. Here we summarize this new methodology and apply it to the global data. The new method aims at assessing the full nitrogen cycle and takes into account N2O formation in agricultural fields (direct emissions), animal waste management systems (AWMSs) as well as indirect emissions taking place at remote places after nitrogen is lost from the agricultural fields. Using the IPCC method, we estimated that global agricultural N2O emissions almost doubled between 1960 (3.5 Tg N2O-N) and 1994 (6.2 Tg N2O-N). Direct emissions, animal waste management systems and indirect emissions make about equal contribution to total current emissions.
This paper describes some of the changes in the framework of terrestrial ecosystem research in the European Union. The major outcomes of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Initiative are presented, especially the lessons from the evaluation of the use of continental-scale transects in ecosystem research. The priority themes for future ecosystem research in view of the changing perception of scientific relevance for policy-making and society are presented. The barriers in the involvement of science end-users in the definition of research priorities and questions are also analysed.
New ‘critical levels’ (CLE) for assessing the effects of atmospheric ammonia on sensitive ecosystems have recently been adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) of 1 and 3 [2–4] μg NH3 m−3 of ambient air (including water vapour), for different species sensitivities and their associated habitats. Based on these values, we examined how indicator choice affects estimates of stock-at-risk in the European ‘Natura 2000’ network.We applied an atmospheric model, FRAME, to estimate surface air concentrations of ammonia at 5 km and 1 km resolution for the UK network of Natura sites, optionally including calibration with the National Ammonia Monitoring Network. As a base indicator, we estimated the overall percentage area of the UK Natura network that exceeded critical level thresholds (‘Area Weighted Indicator’, AWI). We compared this with an alternative approach, estimating the percentage number of Natura sites where the critical level was exceeded (‘Designation Weighted Indicator’, DWI), which we consider more relevant under the terms of the Habitats Directive.Using the AWI (with 1 km calibrated ammonia), we estimate that 11.2%, 1.3% and 0.2% area of the UK Natura network exceeds the critical level values of 1, 2 and 3 μg NH3 m−3, respectively. By contrast, using the DWI, the equivalent exceedances are 59.1%, 23.6% and 9.8%. The highest regional exceedance (DWI, critical level 1 μg NH3 m−3) was calculated for England (91.9% exceeded), and the lowest for Scotland (24.0% exceeded). High resolution maps show that the larger threat estimated by the DWI approach is explained by (i) an anti-correlation between NH3 concentration and Natura site area and (ii) the fact that exceedance over part of a Natura site is considered to represent a threat to the integrity of the whole site.
In European nature conservation law, Natura 2000 sites are protected towards ensuring biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitat types and of wild fauna and flora. Anyone planning a potentially harmful activity needs to assess significant effects on a site's conservation objectives. While EU case law currently demands certainty provided by science, we will show that science can never rule out uncertainty. We distinguish three sources of uncertainty: ignorance (inadequate understanding), unpredictability of ecological system behaviour and ambiguity in the science–policy interface. Only ignorance can be solved by science alone. We will specify sources of uncertainty encountered in the significance decision procedure as part of the assessment of article 6 Habitats Directive. We will explore how they affect the use of knowledge during the three steps of the assessment process, i.e. identification of site conservation objectives, predicting the impact of the planned activity and assessing the significance of any effects on the Natura 2000 site. The claim that certainty has to be provided by science is unrealistic, because policy causes a good deal of uncertainty affecting how science can operate. This is discussed in the light of a common learning process by science and society. The European precautionary principle should not be limited to ignorance alone. Within the precautionary principle risk reduction measures can be allowed and thus uncertainties could be accepted, including those uncertainties caused by unpredictability and ambiguity. Finally we propose strategies to manage uncertainty in nature conservation and law planning.
There is substantial uncertainty in the effectiveness of measures to reduce emissions of agricultural trace gases, including ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The only way to test whether emission abatement programmes are successful is through monitoring of air concentrations and deposition. However, where NH3 emissions have been reduced in Europe, either through abatement policies or reductions in agricultural activity, it was difficult to demonstrate the link with reduced concentrations and deposition.
The “South–North Dialogue” Proposal, developed by researchers from developing and industrialised countries, outlined equitable approaches to mitigation. These approaches were based on the criteria of responsibility, capability and potential to mitigate, and include deep cuts in industrialised (Annex I) countries and differentiated mitigation commitments for developing countries. This paper quantitatively analyses the implications of the proposal for countries’ emissions and costs. The analysis focuses on a “political willingness” scenario and four stabilisation scenarios. The analysis shows that stringent stabilisation targets imply that many developing countries would have to take on quantitative mitigation obligations by 2030, even when the Annex I countries take on ambitious mitigation commitments far beyond the Kyoto obligations. The “political willingness scenario” will probably not suffice to limit a warming of the Earth's atmosphere to below 2 °C.
At present there is no binding agreement (at a global level) to address the risk of anthropogenic climate change after 2012. Disagreements abound with respect to a post-2012 climate change agreement, on issues such as economic development, policy criteria, environmental effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, equity, dynamic flexibility, complementarity, enforceability and so on. One such disagreement is whether or not nuclear power should play a role in a post-2012 climate change agreement. This qualitative analysis explores the conditions under which nuclear power could contribute to addressing climate change in post-2012 architectures. It reveals that – given the right framework conditions – some architectures, like ‘cap and trade’ regimes or ‘policies and measures’ can improve the competitiveness of nuclear power plants, while others are unlikely to provide incentives for nuclear energy development in the short to medium term, such as adaptation and technology cooperation. Overall, the study concludes that post-2012 climate change policy should aim at providing policy flexibility without compromising technology flexibility. For example, the provision of long-term commitment periods has the potential to enable better investments in existing low-carbon technologies but stifle the policy flexibility that political decision makers are often keen to retain so that they can respond more quickly to new scientific evidence or advances in clean technology development.
Quantitative assessments help to highlight the main features of climate policies by better identifying their strengths and weaknesses. In this study, we develop a grading system for assessing thirteen proposals for post-2012 climate policy. We believe that these proposals contain appropriate policy instruments which will be considered for discussions about how to design the post-2012 climate agreement. Our grades are based on four criteria: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness, distributional considerations and institutional feasibility. We analyze the grades with two complementary methods: principal component and cluster analysis. Our results entail three policy implications. Firstly, the higher the number of policy instruments a proposal comprises, the more difficult might be its implementation. Secondly, proposals which include a meaningful effort by the U.S. tend to fail in environmental effectiveness and institutional feasibility. Thirdly, we identify that the “first best” and the “second best” approaches belong to a stable policy group, and both may be considered as suitable candidates for post-2012 climate policy.
Many pathways have been proposed for including land use in a post-2012 climate agreement. Several involve new accounting structures which are quite different from the rules established in the Marrakech Accords and related decisions. However, a mechanism based largely on the structure agreed for the first commitment period also has its benefits. This paper discusses the weaknesses of the current system of land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) accounting in the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period, and proposes a mechanism based on that existing structure, but with modifications to address the weaknesses.
The impacts of climate change are expected to be generally detrimental for agriculture in many parts of Africa. Overall, warming and drying may reduce crop yields by 10–20% to 2050, but there are places where losses are likely to be much more severe. Increasing frequencies of heat stress, drought and flooding events will result in yet further deleterious effects on crop and livestock productivity. There will be places in the coming decades where the livelihood strategies of rural people may need to change, to preserve food security and provide income-generating options. These are likely to include areas of Africa that are already marginal for crop production; as these become increasingly marginal, then livestock may provide an alternative to cropping. We carried out some analysis to identify areas in sub-Saharan Africa where such transitions might occur. For the currently cropped areas (which already include the highland areas where cropping intensity may increase in the future), we estimated probabilities of failed seasons for current climate conditions, and compared these with estimates obtained for future climate conditions in 2050, using downscaled climate model output for a higher and a lower greenhouse-gas emission scenario. Transition zones can be identified where the increased probabilities of failed seasons may induce shifts from cropping to increased dependence on livestock. These zones are characterised in terms of existing agricultural system, current livestock densities, and levels of poverty. The analysis provides further evidence that climate change impacts in the marginal cropping lands may be severe, where poverty rates are already high. Results also suggest that those likely to be more affected are already more poor, on average. We discuss the implications of these results in a research-for-development targeting context that is likely to see the poor disproportionately and negatively affected by climate change.
To reduce GHG emissions, the 27 European Union Member States committed themselves in 2007 to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 20% by 2020. In January 2008, the EU Commission gave the first country-specific proposals to reduce emissions in sectors outside the EU emission trading system (non-ETS). In this study, we looked at several ways of sharing emission reductions in the non-ETS sector. We considered population and economic growth as significant drivers of the development of emissions. In particular, we analyzed development in GHG intensity of economies. Reduction requirements vary greatly among countries depending on the principle of effort sharing. The results of our calculations can be perceived as examples of how effort sharing between the EU Member States could look like when certain assumptions are made. Generally they illustrate the sensitivity of the results to data used, assumptions made, and method applied. The main strength of simple top-down approaches is transparency. A major weakness is a very limited ability to consider national circumstances. Political negotiations are ultimately crucial; an analysis like this provides material for negotiations and makes a contribution to solving the effort-sharing problem. As future development is partly unpredictable, implementation of some kind of subsequent adjustment could be considered during the process.
Choosing the best 316(b) mitigation option is a daunting task. Decision analysis (DA) provides an objective framework that can be used to choose among several mitigation strategies where there are multiple objectives and numerous uncertainties. This paper has two objectives: (1) to illustrate the use of the DA framework for making a 316(b) decision (using the Chalk Point Power Station as a case study); and (2) to show that DA is also useful for quantifying the benefits of a previous decision. The Chalk Point case, resolved in 1990, centered around the mitigation of adverse environmental impacts of a cooling water intake structure (CWIS) as a result of fish and blue crab losses associated with impingement and entrainment. Barrier nets and fishery enhancement programs were used to mitigate the losses. We compare the costs and benefits of the mitigation options actually employed to those of other options. The costs and benefits were estimated numerically using standard DA methods. Valuations and probabilities were derived largely by professional judgment based upon the original Chalk Point 316(b) studies and ongoing monitoring. DA indicated that the optimal strategy and expected utility were functions of the weighting of environmental benefits relative to cost.
A recent publication extends previous findings on mortality associated with hot-weather episodes and reports estimates of average hot-weather-related mortality in 44 U.S. metropolitan areas. A geographic pattern emerges in the results: the highest hot-weather-related mortality rates are in northern metropolitan areas, even though average Summer temperatures are higher in southern metropolitan areas. This paper reports the results of regression analysis used to identify weather and socioeconomic characteristics of the 44 metropolitan areas that may explain the differences in hot-weather-related mortality. The results show that variability in minimum daily Summer temperatures may be one of the most important factors. This finding suggests that biological or behavioral adaptation occurs in areas that are consistently hot, but not where minimum daily temperature variability is greater. The results also suggest that differences in the availability of air conditioning, standards of living and housing quality contribute to differences in hot-weather-related mortality, but that these factors explain a much smaller share of the variation in hot-weather-related mortality than variability in minimum daily temperatures. The results suggest that whether climate change would result in higher hot-weather-related mortality may depend on the effect on the variability of minimum daily temperatures as well as on the change in absolute temperatures.
The aim of this study is to understand the ‘reconciliation process’ between model results and user needs in Participatory Integrated Assessments. This process is analyzed for the Delft Dialogue, a project in which scientists and UNFCCC delegates used the IMAGE model to assess the consequences of different climate policy proposals. The Delft Dialogue consisted of five iterations in which model results were presented and requests for new analyses were prioritized. These requests were diverse, changed over time and linked long-term model projections with short-term policy targets. We conclude that two factors played an essential role in the reconciliation process in the Delft Dialogue: (1) user requests were identified in iterative interactions and guided the selection of model analyses and (2) model analyses were co-produced by participants and modelers. This Dialogue shows that reconciliation processes can be facilitated through a transparent, interactive and iterative process where user needs are elicited to guide the choice for model analyses.
Following the signing of the Second Sulphur Protocol in 1994 under the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, preparations are now underway for a new multi-pollutant multi-effects protocol, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE). A number of scientific models have been used to provide policy makers involved in these preparations with sound scientific information. These include the Abatement Strategies Assessment Model (ASAM). ASAM has recently been extended to cover abatement strategies for NH3 and NOx as well as SO2, in order to address the amelioration of acidification and eutrophication in the ECE region. It is important to be able to demonstrate that the scientific information provided to policy makers is robust to uncertainties, and hence there is a need for a thorough sensitivity analysis. In this study ASAM is used to demonstrate a large degree of robustness of derived abatement strategies to uncertainties in critical loads, meteorological data and cost information. This is based on a comparison of strategies at the same overall abatement cost. Systematic changes in data are shown to influence model results more profoundly than random changes.
The power sector in Thailand is the largest contributor to CO2 emissions. There is high potential to mitigate CO2 emission via alternative power generating plants. Alternative plants considered in this study include nuclear plants, integrated gasification combined cycle plants, biomass-based plants and supercritical thermal power plants. The biomass-based plants considered here are fueled with four types of biomass; paddy husk, municipal solid waste (MSW), fuel wood and corncob. The methodology for the optimal expansion plan of the power generating system over the planning horizon is based on the least-cost approach. The results from the least-cost planning analyses show that the nuclear alternative has the highest potential to mitigate not only CO2 but also other airborne emissions. Moreover, the nuclear option is the most effective abatement strategy for CO2 reduction due to its negative incremental cost of CO2 reduction.
A critical examination is offered of the assumptions underlying Australian computer models of the economic impact of greenhouse abatement in the energy sector, notably ‘top–down’ models which estimate the impact on the whole economy instead of just the energy sector. Such an examination is needed because the Australian government and resource industries are using results obtained from these models as a basis for opposing international greenhouse targets. This examination aims to assist in demystifying the models for policy analysts, political scientists and environmental managers. It is argued that ‘top–down’ models used in Australia have fundamental flaws. For instance, most assume, contrary to much empirical evidence, that markets for energy services are competitive and that there are no costless energy efficiency options still to be implemented; they estimate costs but rarely benefits; they substitute dubiously derived parameters for specifications of technologies; and they often fail to perform sensitivity analyses.
In addition to causing domestic and regional environmental effects, many air pollutants contribute to radiative forcing (RF) of the climate system. However, climate effects are not considered when cost-effective abatement targets for these pollutants are established, nor are they included in current international climate agreements. We construct air pollution abatement scenarios in 2030 which target cost-effective reductions in RF in the EU, USA, and China and compare these to abatement scenarios which instead target regional ozone effects and particulate matter concentrations. Our analysis covers emissions of PM (fine, black carbon and organic carbon), SO2, NOx, CH4, VOCs, and CO. We find that the effect synergies are strong for PM/BC, VOC, CO and CH4. While an air quality strategy targeted at reducing ozone will also reduce RF, this will not be the case for a strategy targeting particulate matter. Abatement in China dominates RF reduction, but there are cheap abatement options also available in the EU and USA. The justification for international cooperation on air quality issues is underlined when the co-benefits of reduced RF are considered. Some species, most importantly SO2, contribute a negative forcing on climate. We suggest that given current knowledge, NOx and SO2 should be ignored in RF-targeted abatement policies.
In modern society, science is considered to have a pivotal role in defining environmental risks and problems as well as proposing relevant solutions to them. However, even political action is needed, which is not the least apparent when it comes to transboundary environmental problems. Today, there is an urgent need to create ways for science and policy to co-operate to find acceptable international solutions to transboundary environmental problems.This article focuses on the relationship between science and policy within the convention on long-range transboundary air pollution (CLRTAP). The LRTAP convention is seen as one of the most science-based regimes that exist, and is considered by researchers as well as politicians an exemplary form of co-operation between science and policy. Within this convention the concept of critical loads (CL) of ecosystem and the interactive computer model of the regional acidification information system (RAINS) have served as important tools for connecting scientific knowledge to policy-making. Through an empirical investigation, the article shows that CL and RAINS have different meanings for the involved actors, which include heterogeneous views on the boundary between science and policy. However, this has not constrained but rather enabled co-operation. Through a flexible understanding of CL and RAINS, actors from different fields have been able to find and agree upon successful solutions.
The ACCELERATES project aimed to assess the vulnerability of European agro-ecosystems to environmental change in support of the conventions of climate change and biological diversity. This was based on a study of the impact of environmental change on land use and biodiversity (for selected species and habitats) in agro-ecosystems. The approach integrated existing models of agricultural land use, species distribution and habitat fragmentation within a common scenario framework, so that impacts could be synthesised for different global change problems. The results suggest that policy and conservation strategies should not tackle the vulnerability of agriculture and biodiversity independently. Potential changes within one sector may have important opportunities for another sector that policy could fail to exploit, or positive outcomes in one sector could have adverse effects elsewhere. For example, there are potential benefits to conservation management that arise from agricultural land abandonment or extensification. However, agricultural land abandonment increases the vulnerability of farmers. Society, through policy, will need, therefore, to resolve the conflicts that are likely to arise between agriculture and the conservation of biodiversity in the future. The scientific community can contribute to this process by seeking to reduce the uncertainties that bedevil future environmental change assessments, through the development of better and more integrated methods (of modelling and scenario development) to analyse and interpret cross-sectoral vulnerability.
Taxes on chemical compounds still constitute a fairly small share of the total environmental tax base in Europe, but proposals for new chemical tax schemes have become common. The overall purposes of this paper are to analyze: (a) the economics and politics of taxing chemical compounds; and (b) the future potential for increased implementation of such taxation policies in Europe. While much of the discussion is general in scope, the empirical part focuses on the case of fertilizer taxation in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. There exists an inevitable trade-off between costly monitoring on the one hand and the achievement of a cost-effective allocation of nitrate leaching abatement measures on the other. This is true for many types of chemicals and our analysis of the fertilizer case provides a number of general lessons for future implementation of environmental taxes in the chemicals field. The choice of tax scheme design matters not only for the cost effectiveness of the policy, but can also be an important mean of reducing any political opposition towards environmental taxes. The European experience in fertilizer taxation indicates that some kind of earmarking of tax revenues can be effective in increasing the legitimacy of the tax policy, and taxes which achieve a close proportionality to damage done will often be perceived as fair. The latter implies that taxation close to environmental damages and the reduction of the associated transaction costs should be policy priorities. Finally, an important feature of many legal provisions – including the EC Nitrate Directive – is the weight given to goal fulfilment, and although taxes are in no way prohibited they may be abandoned since their impacts on environmental quality (and ultimately on goal fulfilment) can be hard to predict.
It is estimated that between 25 000 and 75 000 plant species are used for traditional medicine. Only 1% is known by scientists and accepted for commercial purposes. Part of the modern pharmaceutical industry is developed on the basis of plants discovered and use by indigenous peoples and local communities, even though the economic benefits are not equitably shared. The Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 (CBD) mandates that contracting Parties, to preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovation and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices. Traditional Knowledge in the fields of medicine, healing, and biodiversity conservation are well known and the need for protection of this traditional knowledge is a cross-cutting issue at the moment involved in discussions from different institutions, with different approaches. The Intellectual Property Rights mechanisms are not able at the moment to protect those forms of traditional knowledge and indigenous peoples and local communities believe that they are subject of biopiracy which is the unauthorized use of traditional knowledge or biological resources. It is neccesary to work with indigenous peoples and local communities to provide legal tools, and various forms of proteccion of traditional knowledge and to achieve international consensus on the solutions obtained.
Policies and management for the Wadden Sea, like for so many other nature areas, have to find a balance between important natural values on the one hand and economic functions on the other hand. Scientific experts play an important role in these processes. In the case of the Wadden Sea, scientific experts have been involved in the development of trilateral ecological targets for the Wadden Sea as well as in the implementation of these targets in the Netherlands as took place in the controversial decision making processes regarding cockle fisheries and gas mining. Drawing on concepts and insights from policy analysis and science and technology studies, this article analyses the different roles scientific experts play in these policy processes. We show how the role of science shifts from an accommodating role in policy development to a role as advocacy in controversial policy implementation processes. The article concludes with some implications for organising effective science–policy interactions in the field of nature conservation.
Behavioral responses to information about forecasted air quality may introduce systematic measurement error in pollution exposure, leading to biased estimates of the impact of pollution exposure on health. This paper estimates the statistical association between ambient ozone concentrations and asthma hospitalizations in Southern California while accounting for potential avoidance behavior in response to forecasted air quality. Data on asthma hospital admissions were merged with observed and forecasted air quality and meteorological data at the daily level for the years 1989–1997. A distributed lag Poisson generalized linear model allowing for overdispersion was estimated. Accounting for potential responses to information about pollution leads to significantly larger estimates of the relationship between ozone concentrations and asthma hospital admissions, particularly for susceptible populations. Individuals take substantial actions to reduce exposure to ozone; estimates of the concentration–response function for ozone that ignore these actions are biased towards the null and may significantly understate the costs to society from ozone concentrations.
The issue of the governance and accountability of environmental non-government organisations (ENGOs) is gaining in prominence in academic and public discourse. Ideally each sector of society should be characterised by a distinct accountability regime, but faced with calls for greater accountability there is a risk that ENGOs might apply accountability regimes uncritically from the business or private sector. This could undermine the independent change-agent role of ENGOs and therefore weaken aspects of the democratic system. The present paper argues that ENGOs, and the NGO sector in general, need to develop and debate a distinct and credible accountability regime that strengthens and defines their role in society. In support of this goal a framework for conceptualising a legitimacy-based approach to accountability is described. This is based on the observation that NGO capacity for impact is founded on different types of legitimacy that together establish and maintain public trust. One role of governance is to maintain and strengthen these legitimacy assets by establishing and over-seeing accountability streams that recognise that public trust is built on the cumulative evidence of legitimacy.
In its attempt to provide quantitative limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto protocol accepts the principle that sequestration of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere can be used to offset emissions of carbon from fossil-fuel combustion. Whether or not the Kyoto protocol ever comes into force, it is worthwhile to understand how carbon sequestration might be treated in any mitigation plan that provides a tax or ration on carbon emissions. Emission credits, as proposed for the energy sector, are based on the idea that a prevented emission is prevented forever, and emission credits might be traded among parties. In the event that sequestered carbon is subsequently released to the atmosphere, it would be advantageous to agree what the liability is and who assumes that liability. We describe a system whereby emissions credits could be rented, rather than sold, when carbon is sequestered but permanence of sequestration is either not certain or not desired. Our proposal is similar to that offered by the government of Colombia except that it casts these temporary emissions credits into the traditional concepts of rental agreements and it clarifies the opportunities for secondary transactions. A rental contract for emissions credits would establish continuous responsibility for sequestered carbon; credit would be assigned when carbon is sequestered and debits would accrue when carbon is emitted.
Today, forests in the northern hemisphere are a sink for carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, partly due to changes in forest management practice and intensity. Parties of the Kyoto Protocol had the option to elect to account for direct human-induced carbon (C) sources and sinks from land management activities since 1990. The effect of age–class structure of a forest landscape resulting from past practices and disturbances before the reference year 1990 should be excluded, but methods for “factoring out” the effects of this age–class legacy on carbon emissions and removals are lacking. The legacy effect can be strong and can even overwhelm effects of post-1990 management. It therefore needs to be “factored out”, i.e., removed from the direct human-induced post-1990 effects. In this study we examine how the contributions to forest biomass carbon stock changes of (1) past (pre-1990) disturbances and harvest and (2) recent (post-1990) changes in forest management can be differentiated in present and future observable carbon dynamics in managed forest ecosystems. We also calculate the consequences of different accounting rules for the magnitude and direction of accountable C stock changes in European countries in the period 2013–2017.
The current framework through which greenhouse gas emissions and removals in the land use sector are accounted under the Kyoto Protocol has several problems. They include a complex structure, onerous monitoring and reporting requirements, and potential for omission of some important fluxes. One solution that may overcome some of these problems is to include all lands and associated processes within a country's jurisdiction, rather than restrict accounting to specific nominated land categories or activities. Ideally, the accounting approach should cover all significant biospheric sources and sinks, avoid biased or unbalanced accounting, avoid leakage and require no arbitrary adjustments to remedy unintended consequences. Furthermore, accounting should focus on the direct human-induced component of biospheric emissions/removals so that debits/credits can be allocated equitably and provide appropriate incentives to adopt land-use management options with beneficial outcomes for the atmosphere.
The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by various measures including through management of the biosphere. However, the wording that has been adopted may be difficult and costly to implement, and may ultimately make it impossible to cost-effectively include biosphere management to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. An alternative scheme is proposed here, especially for the second and subsequent commitment periods, to more effectively deal with the anthropogenic component of carbon stock changes in the biosphere. It would categorise the terrestrial biosphere into different land-use types, with each one having a characteristic average carbon density determined by land-use and environmental factors. Each transition from one land-use type to another, or a change in average carbon density within a specified type due to changed management would be defined as anthropogenic and credited or debited to the responsible nation. To calculate annual credits and/or debits, the change in average carbon stocks must be divided by a time constant which would either be a characteristic of each possible land-use conversion, or applicable to the sum of changes to a nation's biospheric carbon stocks. We believe that this scheme would be simpler and less expensive to implement than one based on the measurement of actual carbon changes from all specified areas of land. It would also avoid undue credits or debits, because they would only accrue as a result of identified anthropogenic components of biospheric carbon changes whereas carbon fluxes that are due to natural variation would not be credited or debited.
The empirical literature reports conflicting findings on the relation between environmental policy and environmental innovation: environmental policy both encourages and impedes environmental innovation, resulting in competing theoretical explanations. To find a way out of this counterproductive debate requires new and complementary insights into the effects of different policy instruments. This research therefore advances an approach in which a set of specific policy instruments as well as firms’ behavior regarding CHP (cogeneration of heat and power) adoption are considered as two distinct factors explaining environmental innovation in the Dutch paper and board industry. Using a longitudinal research design, the focus was not on any single policy instrument but on the accumulation of policy instruments. In addition, we studied intra-organizational factors influencing the adoption decision.Overall, we can conclude that paper and board factories perceive governmental environmental policies to be relevant, but that this constitutes just one of the factors influencing adoption processes, next to intra-organizational factors. The relative importance of such policies varies over time and per adoption process. The role of top-down regulation appears to be limited, whereas interactive regulation turned out to be important for several factories in the latest period of adoption. Positive economic instruments were important in almost all adoption processes, but were not and will never be the most important reason for adoption. The most important reason for CHP adoption appears to be high energy prices in combination with cost price reduction or the threat of additional regulation. For future policies, we recommend the implementation of a specific mixture of policy instruments, attuned to the specific industry and reinforcing each other. Moreover, goals should be consistent over time to avoid risk-averse behavior.
A market has emerged for carbon sequestered through reforestation. The opportunity to restore ecosystems through this market rather than establish plantations is demonstrated by an Australian case study. In the state of Queensland there are vast areas that have been cleared relatively recently and could be restored to ecosystems with high resilience and important biodiversity values with appropriate management. In order to foster opportunities for carbon accumulation through ecosystem recovery spatially explicit information on sequestration rates, management recommendations, and clear definitions of ancillary biodiversity benefits need to be defined.
In the last few years, nearly all industrialized countries have submitted estimates of national inventories of methane and other greenhouse gases as required under the Framework Convention on Climate Change. National inventories of methane emissions in industrialized countries are fairly complete but give some suggestion of underestimation when inventory totals are compared with recent atmospheric measurements and global budgets. In this paper, possible discrepancies are assessed for fossil fuel sources and landfills based on comparisons between independent estimates and national communications. The Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention and the European Union make new provisions to develop procedures for technical review of national inventories and projections, and requirements for more thorough documentation from parties, which should improve accuracy. Limits to accuracy and the political implications of underestimation are discussed in this article, along with suggestions for improving inventories through better analysis, documentation and review procedures.
Ensuring environmental sustainability is the aim of the seventh Millennium Development Goal (MDG7). United Nations data shows insufficient progress, especially in developing countries. In order to generate new information about this progress and the main barriers that hinder it, we conducted a systematic review to describe the scientific evidence concerning MDG7, and to analyse the quality of the studies. In order to identify all empirical quantitative studies (ecological, descriptive study, cross-sectional, case-control, and cohort), we searched the following databases between 23 and 26 June 2009: PubMed, EMBASE, ISI WoK, SCOPUS, EBSCO-Greenfile, CAB Abstracts, and LILACS. We identified six empirical studies which reported serious difficulties in the progress of MDG7 and identified socioeconomic inequalities, lack of infrastructure and contamination of water sources as the main barriers hindering its achievement.Environmental issues do not seem to be a priority in research and political agendas, while the international organisations continue to insist that the objective is extremely important. It is necessary to generate scientific knowledge around MDG7, and identify weakness in the indicators in order to adapt policies to the new challenges and make decisions based in best evidence.
The focus of this paper is on energy efficiency of domestic equipment. It is contended that, in the UK and—by extension—elsewhere. Government has to take the lead in defining low-energy standards for products. In the absence of policy, manufacturers do not recognize the need for carbon reductions in the equipment they design and consumers are unaware of the variation in energy performance in the product range. At present, neither market pull nor technology push can be relied upon to deliver energy savings. The imposition of a weak minimum standard on domestic fridges and freezers in 1999 will, over the lifetime of the appliances already sold by December 2002, save 1 Mt C of carbon dioxide at nil cost to government or to the manufacturers, and a net benefit to consumers of £855 m: a highly cost-effective policy. The difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation is that it takes time for the cumulative benefits of an energy efficiency improvement to result in the maximum effect on energy demand reduction: the benefits of the 1999 energy efficiency standard will accumulate until at least 2020. This period is equivalent to the cycle of stock replacement for that particular object. The final level of energy conservation depends upon the offsetting effects of growth in ownership levels and the size of new equipment purchases.
International negotiations on the inclusion of land use activities into an emissions reduction system for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been partially hindered by the technical challenges of measuring, reporting, and verifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the policy issues of leakage, additionality, and permanence. This paper outlines a five-part plan for estimating forest carbon stocks and emissions with the accuracy and certainty needed to support a policy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (the REDD-plus framework considered at the UNFCCC COP-15) in developing countries. The plan is aimed at UNFCCC non-Annex 1 developing countries, but the principles outlined are also applicable to developed (Annex 1) countries. The parts of the plan are: (1) Expand the number of national forest carbon Measuring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) systems with a priority on tropical developing countries; (2) Implement continuous global forest carbon assessments through the network of national systems; (3) Achieve commitments from national space agencies for the necessary satellite data; (4) Establish agreed-on standards and independent verification processes to ensure robust reporting; and (5) Enhance coordination among international and multilateral organizations.
The goal of achieving “sustainable development” has been embraced by a wide range of stakeholders interested in protecting both the environment and the economy in the United States and globally. The Clean Water Act (“CWA” or the “Act”) includes important regulatory provisions that contemplate the application of sustainable development principles. Yet implementing those programs often raises substantial debate about what sustainable development means, what course of action it requires, and the availability and adequacy of tools to measure or predict whether a given level of use or development is sustainable. Failure to confront those questions can lead to imprudent or wasteful decisions. This paper first will briefly describe the ongoing evolution of sustainable development concepts in the United States, with particular focus on the recommendations of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Then, it will examine the applicability of those concepts to two important Clean Water Act regulatory programs — the §316(b) regulatory program for cooling water intake structures and the state water quality standards program — both of which are now under evaluation.
The Adirondack region of New York is characterized by a large number of lakes with low values of acid neutralizing capacity (ANC; ∼25% of lakes have summer ANC values <0 μeq/l), which are sensitive to atmospheric deposition of strong acids. Time-series analysis showed that concentrations of sulfate (SO42−), nitrate (NO3−), ammonium (NH4+) and basic cations have decreased in precipitation, resulting in increases in pH. A relatively uniform rate of decline in SO42− concentrations in lakes across the region (1.91±0.27 μeq/l yr) suggests that this change was due to decreases in atmospheric deposition. Despite the marked declines in concentrations of SO42− in Adirondack lakes, there has been no systematic increase in pH and ANC. The limited response of lake water ANC and pH to decreases in atmospheric deposition of SO42− may be attributed to a combination of factors, including: (1) depletion of exchangeable pools of basic cations in soil, (2) additional inputs of SO42− to watersheds in the form of unmeasured dry deposition and/or an internal supply of sulfur (S) from mineralization of soil organic S pools or weathering of S minerals, (3) elevated leaching losses of NO3−, and/or (4) pH buffering associated with elevated concentrations of aluminum (Al) and/or naturally organic acids.
This paper evaluates the uncertainties in integrated assessment modeling of acidification, relates the findings to European emission reduction strategies and draws conclusions about further research priorities. The paper presents a mathematical and literature analysis of the uncertainties in the ecosystem areas at risk of acidification in Finland inherent in the integrated assessment of air pollution used in the development of European emission abatement agreements. Owing to the need for relatively simple models, integrated assessment is uncertainty prone. Uncertainties in national inventories of acidifying emissions in European countries and their spatial locations, in the atmospheric transport of the pollutants and in the critical loads, characterizing the ecosystems’ sensitivity, were taken into account. The relative contributions of the uncertainties in the individual modules of the integrated assessment modeling to the overall uncertainty of ecosystem protection levels were calculated for 1990 and 2010, assuming the implementation of the recent UN/ECE Gothenburg Protocol curbing long-range transboundary air pollution. The robustness of the acidification risk estimates was shown to improve significantly from 1990 to 2010, which is due to the anticipated large overall decrease in deposition levels. For most parts of Finland uncertainties in the critical loads were found to dominate the total uncertainty of integrated assessment modeling of acidification. Thus further research efforts to reduce uncertainties should be mainly focused on a more precise description of ecosystem processes. In Southern Finland and in areas close to Russian emission sources also the uncertainties in emission inventories and in the atmospheric transport and deposition modeling were shown to be significant, which emphasizes the need for high-resolution modeling when developing protection strategies for natural areas in the vicinity of significant emissions. Using a 95% confidence level, a probabilistic impact assessment of emission reduction alternatives indicates a considerably more pessimistic ecosystem protection level than the deterministic approach used in European decision-making.
The uncertainties in the Norwegian emission inventory data for SO2, NOx, NH3 and non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOC) have been estimated based on expert judgements of uncertainties in input data and stochastic simulations. The SO2 inventory is uncertain by about 4%, the NOx inventory by about 12% and the NMVOC and NH3 inventories by about 20%. Several possible systematic errors were identified; the SO2 inventory is most likely overestimated, while the NH3 and NMVOC inventories can be underestimated. Domestic shipping (for SO2 and NOx), crude oil loading (for NMVOC) and manure (for NH3) are the sources that are most important for the overall uncertainty. These findings indicate that the inventory methodologies can be improved, leading to changes in the whole time series (recalculations). The robustness of emission obligations formulated as emission ceilings and percentage reductions have been compared with respect to uncertainties in input data. The formulation of obligations as emission ceilings is not very robust for any methodological improvements influencing the end year estimates. Relatively, small changes in the emission estimates can mean that obligations apparently are met without measures or that obligations hardly can be met at all. Obligations formulated as percentage reductions are on the other hand more robust, except when recalculations unequally affect the base and end year.
Critical loads and exceedances have been used as the basis for negotiation of the Gothenburg Protocol and the National Emissions Ceilings Directive to reduce emissions of sulphur and nitrogen across Europe. Since emissions have already been significantly reduced, the associated cost of further emission reductions is high. In order to define future abatement strategies, policy makers therefore need to understand uncertainties associated with critical load exceedances and interpret them accordingly.Deterministic methods of presenting critical load exceedance, which treat the critical load concept as a set criterion, are well established. Spatially explicit uncertainties in deposition estimates for Wales have recently become available and new ways of presenting information on critical load exceedance are now possible. We explore the utility of partial distributions and inverse cumulative distributions of exceedance data, probability of exceedance and cumulative distribution function by habitat, using Wales as a case study.
Top-cited authors
Claudia Pahl-Wostl
  • Universität Osnabrück
J. Poesen
  • KU Leuven
John S. I. Ingram
  • University of Oxford
Daniel Murdiyarso
  • Center for International Forestry Research Bogor Indonesia & Department of Geophysics and Meteorology IPB University Bogor
Joyeeta Gupta
  • University of Amsterdam