Building the World

January 25, 2020
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ENERGY: Doomsday Clock

Back in the good old days, when doomsday was just three minutes away. Now, it’s 100 seconds. Time to reset. Image: wikimedia

We are in humanity’s moment of greatest peril,” warn those who keep time on the Doomsday Clock, moving us to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means catastrophic global annihilation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by those who worked on the Manhattan Project, when doomsday only meant blowing ourselves up with bombs, the Doomsday Clock now includes a second danger: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (Ban Ki-Moon et al 2020)

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, inventors of the Doomsday Clock. Image: wikimedia

The Doomsday Clock does not really tick but is set. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. Its best year to date was 1990, when it was fixed at 17 minutes to midnight, indicating the world was hopeful and relatively calm. The clock held at 2 minutes to midnight through 2017 – 2019, but now it is closer than it has ever been. It’s only been reset 24 times since 1947.

Regarding this week’s setting of the clock to 100 seconds before midnight, the keepers of the clock note two action areas. First, due to expire in 2021, the only remaining bilateral agreement between two nuclear super powers (Russia and USA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), must be extended. Regarding the other existential threat, climate change, over 60 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the United States has not committed, California and New York have. That’s encouraging, but it’s still not enough, just 11% of world emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is moving closer to midnight. Whether or not we suffer a nuclear war or an accident, certainly possible, climate change is not only possible but probable, and accelerating. We need to turn back the Doomsday Clock. What can you do to turn back the hands of time?

It is time to stop climate change, and reset the Doomsday Clock. Image: “Prague Astronomical Clock,” wikimedia.

ANIMATION: “Know the Time.” https://thebulletin.org/multimedia/know-the-time.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock

Sengupta, Somini and Nadja Popovich. “More than 60 countries say they’ll zero out carbon emissions. The catch? They’re not the big emitters.” 25 September 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/25/climate/un-net-zero-emissions.html.

“Why the world is closer than every to Doomsday,” by Jerry Brown, William J. Perry, Mary Robinson, and Ban Ki-Moon. 24 January 2020, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/opinions/doomsday-clock-emergency-moon-robinson-brown-perry/index.html/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

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December 28, 2019
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TRANSPORT: 7,000 mph (or maybe just 3,000 for now)

Boeing/Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic aircraft concept sketch. wikimedia. Image: NASA

The history of transport may be the history of speed. On a test flight, Avangard clocked velocity of 7,000 miles per hour (11,200 kilometers per hour). The hypersonic glide-vehicle entered combat duty on 27 December 2019. It’s also a nuclear missile. Is there hope for peace as well as war? Precedent: atomic energy, developed during World War II’s Manhattan Project, was initially a weapon, but later adapted to supply electricity. Recent European Union Green Deal includes nuclear energy as a renewable. Future forms of nuclear may advance atomic energy: Bill Gates favors Traveling Wave; ITER is working on Nuclear Fusion. Could Russia aim Avangard towards peace? China and the United States, also working on hypersonic systems, could develop commercial uses. Meanwhile, if you want to travel at a slightly slower speed of 3,000 miles per hour, soon-successor to the fabled Concorde is close to take-off. ZEHST (Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport), by JAXA, Japan’s Aerospace Agency, and EADS (Airbus), promises to carry 50 to 100 passengers from Tokyo to Paris in 2.5 hours; London to New York in 60 minutes. Boeing’s X-51A WaveRider, Lockheed Martin’s QueSST are also in the fast flight race. But maybe the best news in hypersonic transport could be environmental: ZEHST will run on seaweed biofuel with emissions: water vapor.

Baggaley, Kate. “These planes could jet you around the world at hypersonic speed: Aerospace firms aim to usher in a new era of travel.” 31 January 2018. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/these-planes-could-jet-you-around-world-hypersonic-speed-ncna843386

BBC.com. “Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missle system.” 27 December 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50927648

Burns, Matt. “The ZEHST is the 3,000 mph, zero emissions airplane of 2050.” 20 June 2011. TechCrunch.com. https://techcrunch.com/2011/06/20/zehst/

Cet avion va révolutionner le transport aérien.” Le Parisien, 18 June 2011.

“Ultra-rapid air vehicle and related method for aerial locomotion.” US Patent US9079661B2, granted in 2009 to inventors Marco Prampolini and Yohann Coraboeuf, Airbus Group SAS Ariane Group SAS. https://patents.google.com/patent/US9079661B2/en/

Van der Linden, R.F. “Au Revoir, Concorde.” February 2019, Air & Space Magazine. https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/au-revoir-concorde-180971223/

ZEHST. Video simulation, Youtube. https://youtu.be/8/h1PE7StoDE/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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December 2, 2019
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ENERGY: COP25 MADRID where promise meets contract

“Gran Via, Madrid,” will Spain lead the way with COP25? Image: wikimedia.

As the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP25, gathers in Madrid, Spain, there’s some bad news. Greenhouse gas emission concentrations hit a peak in 2018. While 70 countries plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, the world will need a five-fold increase in carbon-cutting actions to keep warming under 1.5C, the goal agreed at COP21 in Paris. Right now, we’re on target for 3.2 degree rise, a number portending disaster. And then there’s loss and damage: loss refers to unrecoverable destruction of species, habitat, lives; damage is repairable destruction like roads, bridges. Rising seas will cause both loss and damage. It is estimated sea rise might cost $14 trillion by 2100; worse, if seas rise 1.8m, it could cost lives, land, and $27 trillion per year – that’s almost 3% of global GDP.

Carbon contracts, key agenda for COP25. Image: “Certified emission reduction units by country.” wikimedia

Carbon contracts are also on Madrid’s agenda: some countries and businesses pay carbon offsets; for example, fund tree planting elsewhere, while still using carbon-emitting fuels. COP21, article 6, raised the issue of carbon markets, opening doors for business involvement. Now, promise must become contract. Historically, our world has found few occasions for large-scale financial agreements linked with values and outcomes. Could lessons learned at Bretton Woods be helpful in Madrid? Are there parallels with the Atomic Energy Act?

Madrid: where promise meets contract. Image: wikimedia.

Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition – CPLC. “Article 6 is the secret ingredient of the Paris Agreement.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pY1KVu537B4.

Climate Action Studio. “Article 6,” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=13YiF6Mt2dc.

Fridays for Future. Climate action movement founded by Greta Thunberg. @FridaysForFuture.

Fried, Charles. Contract as Promise. Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN: 0674169255

Harvey, Fiona. “COP25: youth ‘leadership’ contrasts with government inaction, says UN chief.” 2 December 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/01/island-states-want-decisive-action-to-prevent-inundation.

Jevrejeva, Svetlana et al.  “Rising sea levels could cost the world $14 trillion a year by 2100.” 3 July 2018. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703190745.htm.

Litwin, Evan T. “The Climate Diaspora.” University of Massachusetts Boston, 2011. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859.

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Critical year for climate change starts in Madrid.” 2 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50588128.

Mandelbaum, Michael. “The triumph of the market,” The Ideas That Conquered The World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century. pp 277-304. PublicAffairs, Perseus: 2002. ISBN: 1586482068.

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691162379.

United Nations. “UN Climate Change Conference – December 2019.” https://unfcc.int/cop25.

Youth4Nature. https://www.youth4nature.org/cop-25.

Thanks to colleagues who suggested Bretton Woods as precedent, and to Charles Fried for contract as promise.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

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October 1, 2019
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ENERGY: Traveling Wave of the Future

“Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer,” by Heinrich Fuger, 1817. Image: Wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus gave fire to humankind, energy has changed civilization. But energy has now become what some believe the critical challenge of the future, growing increasingly critical due to climate change. We must solve energy in this century; some say in the next decade. What if there were a form of energy that was cleaner, safer, with very low carbon emissions, and used – to power itself – some of the most toxic, undisposable waste on earth? Sounds good, but will it happen? Traveling Wave is the term given to this form of nuclear reactor, or TRW for short. It’s a fission reactor that, theoretically, could run decades, self-sustained by its own internal processes, because it uses spent fuel. Traveling wave reactors were once called “breed and burn” dating back to Saveli Feinberg in 1958, followed by advances by Michael Driscoll, Lev Feoktistov, Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, Hugo van Dam, and Hiroshi Sekimoto, among others. It was the world of Teller and Wood that attracted notice by Bill Gates, Intellectual Ventures, and TerraPower. TerraPower’s scientists applied for patent EP 2324480 A1, following WO201009199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” Plans for TerraPower to partner with CNNC, in a 2015 MoU, are perhaps in development after being on hold due to international trade issues recently in the news. While some may say nuclear energy is too dangerous to develop, others state that the world may not be able to make a climate-driven energy transition to renewables and non-carbon-emitting sources unless nuclear stays in the energy mix. ITER, in France, is working on fusion energy; TerraPower, in the USA, is working on better ways to do fission.

Alert Einstein, 1921. Image: wikimedia

Powerful enough to light and heat the world, yet yielding very few carbon emissions, a form of energy that is 70 years old this year may be due for a remake. It was in August of 1939 that physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the work of Fermi and Szilard proving “the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy.” What followed was the development of atomic power through the Manhattan Project, revealing the danger and destruction that led Los Alamos Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer to quote the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death,/ The destroyer of worlds.” While the Atomic Energy Act go 1946 reversed the purpose of developing nuclear power, turning the energy into productive and peaceful uses, there still remained dangers.

Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, Russia and Fukushima, Japan are among tragic occurrences that have plagued the use of fission energy.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Image, wikimedia.

Another problem has grown to considerable proportion: toxic radioactive waste. Presently, the United States has 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that needs disposal; the substance is often called “spent” fuel. Disposal is controversial, and unwanted: case in point: Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Worldwide, the picture is even more troubling. With nuclear waste building up, and old power plants breaking down, the nuclear energy question looms: where should we head in the future? Four problems are often cited: 1) danger of radioactivity from a reactor accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima; 2) limited supply of fuels U-235 and Pu-239, as presently obtained; nuclear energy is expensive; threat of misuse for military purposes. And then there is all that spent fuel.

Bill Gates. “Climate change solutions.” Image: wikimedia

But what if all that spent fuel could power future nuclear reactors capable of transforming and eliminating the world’s toxic nuclear waste, while providing enough clean energy to power the future AND stop climate change? Should we rethink nuclear energy? At 70 years of age, nuclear power may be ready for a makeover. Want to know more? Hear some ideas in Bill Gates’ TED Talk.

Ahlheld, Charles E, John Rogers Gilleland, Roderick A. Hyde, Muriel Y. Isikawa, David G. Mcalees, Nathan P. Myhrvold, Thomas Allan Weaver, Charles Whitmer, Lowell L. Wood Jr. “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2324480A4/en.

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. World Scientific Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686.

Gates, Bill. “Innovating to Zero.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates

Gates, Bill. “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Episode Three: “The Search for Climate Change Solutions.” Netflix.com, 2019.

Einstein, Albert. “Letter of August 2nd 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a64a01.html/ and Building the World (2006), pages 488-490.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Waste and Environment Safety Section, Vienna, Austria. “Estimation of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste and Other Radioactive Materials. June 2007. IAEA-TECDOC-1591. ISBN: 9789201056085.https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications?PDF/te_1591_web.pdf.

Oppenheimer, Robert. On the Manhattan Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb13ynu3Iac

Teller, Edward. “Nuclear energy for the third millennium.” Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Energy, United States of America, 1 October 1997.

Transatomic Power. http://www.transatomicpower.com

United States Congress. “Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheet/radwaste.html and https://www.congress.gov/bill/97th-congress/house-bill/3809.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

 

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July 14, 2019
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CITIES: Dangers in Deltas

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. “KatrinaNewOrleansFlooded” by Kyle Niemi, U.S. Coast Guard, 29 August 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA: it’s an unprecedented situation. New Orleans, a city on the Mississippi River Delta, is under threat. The river, normally about 7 feet high in the summertime, sits presently at 16 feet, the result of spring flooding along the waterway. Add to that a virulent storm barreling towards the city, driving a surge of 2 to 3 feet. If so, the river may crest at 17 feet. On land, there may be as much as 10-15 inches of rain from the storm, a dangerous followup to the 9 inch downpour that inundated the area the same week. Storm storage, high rivers, and rain – it’s a deadly combination. Delta cities, like New Orleans, may be in peril with climate change.

Cities, throughout history, have been built on coasts, offering access to trade through ports and waterways.  Singapore may be the quintessential city upon the waters, developed as one of the first Specialized Economic Zones. New York (and Brooklyn) became leading business centers when their place on the Atlantic Ocean became linked to inland towns, the the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal. But now, rising seas, threaten coastal cities. In 2019, the Northeast Atlantic will experience a 140% increase in coastal flooding, compared with two decades ago. Worse still, the Southeast will suffer a 190% flood increase, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And that’s just the USA.

Maeslantkering, floodgates in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Image: wikimedia.

Worldwide, cities are sinking and seas are rising; Jakarta, Indonesia may suffer some of the the worst effects of climate change; Indonesia’s capital might need to relocate. According to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2019, 90% of all coastal areas in the world will be affected by climate change; some cities will combat sea rise 1/3rd above mean level. The bigger the cities (more heavy buildings), deeper sinking.

Delta cities, like New Orleans, are in danger; the list includes:

DELTA CITES ENDANGERED BY SEA RISE:

Dhaka

Guangzhou

Ho Chi Minh City

Hong Kong

Manila

Melbourne

Miami

New Orleans

New York

Rotterdam

Tokyo

Venice.

Source: Muggah, 2019. World Economic Forum 2019 states “Even if we keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees centigrade by 2050, at least 570 cities will be damaged.” That means people, drinking water and sanitation, mass transit, power, roads, homes, businesses, hospitals, schools.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, a Delta City. Image: wikimedia.

It’s a sad business but a big one: coastal flooding could threaten 2 million homes in the United States, worth $882 billion. Worldwide, rebuilding or relocating coastal cities will take cause spending of $100, 000 Billion – per year. Is there any hope? Some historians observe that change and innovation  often are the result of crisis, citing examples as diverse as the Roman Aqueducts in response to a water crisis when the Tiber became not only polluted but endangered by terrorism (a threat of an enemy poisoning of the city’s water supply) to the intense research and development of the Manhattan Project resulting in the harnessing of Atomic Energy. Today, we face a similarly serious threat: will innovation save the day, or the century?

Rising seas, increasingly intense storms and hurricanes, are among forces eroding coastal cities, like New Orleans (or Jakarta). Saving sinking cities will demand significant innovations in urban harbors and cityscapes; cities with canals may lead the way to a better future. According to Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Netherlands and team leader of Rebuild by Design, “Worldwide, water is the connecting issue, the number one global risk and the opportunity for comprehensive cultural change.”

Andone, Dakin, Paul P. Murphy, Brandon Miller. “New Orleans faces a never-before-seen problem with Tropical Storm Barry. July 12, 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/11/weather/new-orleans-flooding-trnd/index.html

Brown, Justine. “Innovative Plans Help Cities Effectively Live With Water.” 9 September 2014. Recovery: Emergency Management. https://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Innovative-Plans-Help-Cities-Live-Water.html.

Kusnetz, Nicholas. “Sea Level Rise is Creeping into Coastal Cities. Saving Them Won’t Be Cheap.” 28 December 2017. Inside Climate News. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28122017/sea-level-rise-coastal-cities-flooding-2017-year-review-miami-norfolk-seawall-cost

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc Deroo. “Peut on éviter les inondations à Paris?” January 2018. Symposium du DCBR: comité français des barrages et réservoirs.

Lou, Michelle. “High-tide flooding is only going to get worse, NOAA says.” 10 July 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/10/weather/noaa-high-tide-flooding-increasing-report-trnd/index. html.

Muggah, Robert. “The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back.” 16 January 2019. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/the-world-s-coastal-cities-are-going-under-here-is-how-some-are-fighting-back/

NOAA, “2018 State of U.S. High Tide Flooding with a 2019 Outlook.” June 2019. https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/publications/Techrpt_090_2018_State_of_US_HighTideFlooding_with_a_2019_Outlook.Final.pdf

Radford, Tim. “Coastal flooding ‘may cost $100,000 BN a year by 2100.” 11 February 2014. Climate News Network. https://climatenewsnetwork.net/coastal-flooding-may-cost-100000-bn-a-year-by-2100/.

REBUILD BY DESIGN. http://www.rebuildbydesign.org.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

 

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November 3, 2018
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Migration and Innovation

Net Migration Rate, Map by Kamalthebest, 2017. Image: wikimedia

Human history is one of migration. We all came from Africa. Cyrene, ancient city-state where art and science flourished (the first map of the stars, the mathematics of doubling a cube), was founded by climate migrants escaping drought on Santorini. Atomic energy was the discovery of an immigrant: Albert Einstein advised President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the danger, and potential, that resulted in the Manhattan Project. Migrants shaped the future of Australia: two-thirds of the 100,000 builders of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric were recruited from displaced refugee camps after a war that had forced many from their homeland. Far from being seen as a threat, homeless were recruited by Sir William Hudson, first commissioner of the Snowy: You won’t be Balts or Slavs…you will be people of the Snowy!

Immigrants founded AT&T, Comcast, eBay, DuPont, Goldman Sachs, Google, Pfizer, and Tesla, among others. Immigrants are twice as likely to start a new business as those native born, perhaps because of the courage, hope, and vision it takes to walk to a new horizon. Everyone who is an American is either indigenous (0.8%), immigrant or refugee. Immigrants start 25% of engineering and technology companies in the United States, employing 560,000 people and producing sales of $63 billion.

Conca, James. “We Are All Immigrants, Refugees Or Their Descendants. ” Forbes, 4 July 2014. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/07/04/we-are-all-immigrants-refugees-or-their-descendants.

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke, Building the World, Volume 2, page 529. Greenwood:ABC-CLIO 2006. ISBN: 0313333742. www.buildingtheworld.com

Livi-Bacci, Massimo. In Cammino, 2010. Translated to English, A Short History of Migration, by Carl Ipsen (2012). ISBN: 9780745661865.

McKissen, Dustin “This Study: Immigrants are Far More Likely to Start New Businesses Than Native-Born Americans: Research shows that the economy benefits, in a big way, from immigration.” 1 February 2017. Inc. https://www.inc.com/dustin-mckissen/study-shows-immigrants-are-more-than-twice-as-likely-to-become-entrepreneurs.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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October 13, 2018
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating: When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax. Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem, hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

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December 15, 2017
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Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.08926eab4d6a

https://www.cdc.gov

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October 7, 2017
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Sign of Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was the nuclear threat that resulted in the design, by Gerald Holtom, of the peace symbol; in 1958, the artist was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), led by Bertrand Russell. Holtom recalled: “I was in despair. I drew myself, an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards. I formalized the drawing into a line, and put a circle round it.” The elements spelled out ND for nuclear disarmament.

Peace symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom. In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Image: wikimedia commons.

During World War II, science and technology had advanced to a level of power that threatened not just the present but the future. After the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 developed a safeguard for control of fissionable materials with international scope for “all forms of energy released in the course of or as a result of nuclear fission or nuclear transformation.” In 2017, the peace symbol drew 15,000 people together, at the Glastonbury music festival, to set the world record for the greatest number of participants forming the peace sign. The symbol was never copyrighted; instead the iconic symbol was offered to the world, in the spirit of peace.

ICAN:http://www.icanw.org

Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/

Atomic Energy Act: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/Atomic_Energy_Act_of_1946.pdf

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September 3, 2016
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The 38% Solution

Will 38 soon become 88? Image: wikimedia.

China and the United States have both ratified the Paris climate agreement. In Hangzhou, on the eve of the G20, China greeted arriving American President Obama with the announcement. Together, the two nations account for 38% of the world’s carbon emissions. The Paris agreement’s goal is to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Will Christiana Figueres, chief architect of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and her words delivered on 6 April 2016 to the University of Massachusetts Boston at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, inspire the world to build a better future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

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