Earth Policy Institute

As Sea Ice Shrinks, Arctic Shipping Options Expand

by Janet Larsen and Emily E. Adams, Earth Policy Institute Photo: Rosatomflot On October 7, 2013, the Nordic Orion bulk carrier ship completed its journey from Vancouver, Canada, to Pori, Finland, having traveled northward around Alaska and through the Northwest Passage. It was the first large commercial freighter ever to make the voyage through these typically ice-covered Arctic waters. Avoiding the longer journey, through the Panama Canal, reportedly saved $80,000 […]

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2013 Marked the Thirty-seventh Consecutive Year of Above-Average Temperature

by Janet Larson, Earth Policy Institute Last year was the thirty-seventh consecutive year of above-normal global temperature. According to data from NASA, the global temperature in 2013 averaged 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit (14.6 degrees Celsius), roughly a degree warmer than the twentieth-century average. Since the dawn of agriculture 11,000 years ago, civilization has enjoyed a relatively stable climate. That is now changing as the growing human population rivals long-range geological processes […]

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Arctic Sea Ice Freefall is Mirror Image of Carbon Dioxide Ascent

by Emily E. Adams, Earth Policy Institute The amount of Arctic sea ice has plummeted in recent decades — a bold manifestation of the rise in temperature resulting from the rapid increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. After staying below 300 parts per million (ppm) for some 800,000 years, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere skyrocketed as humans started burning more and more fossil fuels. In 2013, […]

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Less Than 3 Percent of Oceans in Marine Parks Despite Recent Growth

by J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute Photo credit: Dr. James P. McVey, NOAA Sea Grant Program In May 1975, rising concerns about overfishing and deteriorating ocean health prompted scientists and officials from 33 countries to meet in Tokyo for the first global conference on marine parks and reserves. Noting the need for swift action to safeguard more of the sea, the delegates were unanimous in calling for the creation […]

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India’s Dangerous ‘Food Bubble’

Editor’s Note: As is often the case with the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), crucial solutions are largely missing from the article below. I personally believe India’s population is not the problem, but land mismanagement and the prioritising of extractive short-term economic policies. The author, Lester Brown, only touches on solutions (a surface-level mention of water harvesting), instead of bringing it, and a wholesale restoration of the hydrological cycle, to front […]

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Moving Up the Food Chain

by Lester R. Brown For most of the time that human beings have walked the earth, we lived as hunter-gatherers. The share of the human diet that came from hunting versus gathering varied with geographic location, hunting skills, and the season of the year. During the northern hemisphere winter, for instance, when there was little food to gather, people there depended heavily on hunting for survival. Our long history as […]

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Climate Change Driving Weather off the Charts

by Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute Super typhoon Haiyan Meteorologists are calling the typhoon that slammed into the Philippines with 195-mile-an-hour winds on November 8, 2013, the most powerful tropical storm to make landfall on record. Super Typhoon Haiyan had gusts reaching 235 miles per hour and a storm surge swelling as high as 20 feet, so the destruction it left behind matched that of a tornado combined with a […]

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China and the Soybean Challenge

by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute Some 3,000 years ago, farmers in eastern China domesticated the soybean. In 1765, the first soybeans arrived in North America, but they did not soon catch on as a crop. For 150 years or so the soybean languished as a curiosity in gardens. 1 Then in the late 1920s, a market for soybean oil began to develop, moving the soybean from the garden […]

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2013 To Be Record Year for Offshore Wind

by J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute Offshore wind power installations are on track to hit a seventh consecutive annual record in 2013. Developers added 1,080 megawatts of generating capacity in the first half of the year, expanding the world total by 20 percent in just six months. Fifteen countries host some 6,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. Before the year is out, the world total should exceed 7,100 megawatts. […]

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U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Down 11 Percent Since 2007

by Emily E. Adams, Earth Policy Institute The U.S. Annual Carbon Footprint (Chandler 2008) Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels in the United States peaked at more than 1.6 billion tons of carbon in 2007. Since then they have fallen 11 percent, dropping to over 1.4 billion tons in 2013, according to estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Emissions shrank rapidly during the recession, then bounced back slightly […]

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The Global Land Rush

by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute Between 2007 and mid-2008, world grain and soybean prices more than doubled. As food prices climbed everywhere, some exporting countries began to restrict grain shipments in an effort to limit food price inflation at home. Importing countries panicked. Some tried to negotiate long-term grain supply agreements with exporting countries, but in a seller’s market, few were successful. Seemingly overnight, importing countries realized that […]

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U.S. Nuclear Power in Decline

by J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute Nuclear power generation in the United States is falling. After increasing rapidly since the 1970s, electricity generation at U.S. nuclear plants began to grow more slowly in the early 2000s. It then plateaued between 2007 and 2010 — before falling more than 4 percent over the last two years. Projections for 2013 show a further 1 percent drop. With reactors retiring early and […]

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