Best practices for social change and environmental action

Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

Public opinion gets erratic on climate change

In Climate, Communication, Policy, Politics, Public Opinion on April 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

There’s good news and bad news for anyone trying to convince the public that we need meaningful action on climate change.

The good news: a new poll conducted by my former colleagues at MassINC shows that a significant majority of people in my home state of Massachusetts consider global warming a serious problem. Then, of course, there’s the bad news: the same poll shows that many of those people aren’t much alarmed by it.  Spin that any way you like  – and we can be sure that the pundits will do so –  but it just goes to show how contradictory public opinion can be.

MassINC parses out the details in a report issued today: The 80 Percent Challenge: A Survey of Climate Change Opinion and Action in Massachusetts.

The report underscores the poll’s findings with the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, which mandates an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions statewide by the year 2050. Widely regarded as “aggressive yet attainable,” the law puts the Bay State at the leading edge of US global warming policy.

Not surprisingly, the poll reveals differences between demographic groups when it comes to climate change.  Democrats, minority groups, young people, and the less affluent show far greater awareness and concern than Republicans, older people, and the wealthy.  The gap is especially wide when it comes to the question of human-caused global warming. Yet, respondents across the spectrum believe that working to address global warming will either help the state economy or have no effect on it; only a handful think that adaptation and carbon reduction initiatives will have negative economic impacts.

“In order to meet the goals of the new law, there will need to be a far greater sense of concern on the part of Massachusetts residents,” says Ben Forman, research director at MassINC. “What is needed in Massachusetts is a real culture of climate protection that fosters action cross all sectors of our Commonwealth.”


In that regard, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seems, once again, to be a bellwether for the entire US.

# # #

WEAP for freshwater

In Climate, Energy, Environment, Government, Growth and Development, Health, Mapping, Sustainability, Tools, Water, Weather on April 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Anyone who works in the fields of natural resources, environmental sustainability, or climate adaptation is likely to be familiar with the acronym IWRM — meaning Integrated Water Resource Management.   If that acronym actually describes their work, they are probably getting to know a newer one: WEAP the name of a software tool  for Water Evaluation And Planning.  This tool is especially useful for NGOs, agencies, and planners in the developing world where IWRM has become a cornerstone for healthy economic growth and community well being.

The creator of WEAP – the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) – recently introduced version 3.0 of the software, which was developed by its US center based at Tufts University near Boston.  The great virtue of the software is that it encompasses much of the current practice and know-how of IWRM practitioners around the globe.

SEI describes WEAP as “a laboratory for examining alternative water development and management strategies.”   As such, it is a functional and versatile addition to the toolbox of models, databases, spreadsheets and even other software systems currently in use worldwide.

The software now has three operational modes:

  • A water balance database for maintaining water demand and supply information.
  • A scenario generation tool for simulating water demand, supply, runoff, streamflows, storage, pollution generation, treatment and discharge and instream water quality.
  • A policy analysis tool that evaluates water development and management options, and takes account of multiple and competing uses of water systems.

SEI has a licensing arrangement by which organizations in developing countries can obtain and use the software at no cost, supported by a progressive fee structure for individuals, institutions, and companies in higher-income nations. That certainly seems fair to this writer.

The WEAP site includes excellent tutorials and educational materials.  A trial version is also available.  To access all of this, you do need to sign up for the site’s WEAP Forum, but that shouldn’t be an issue for any professional involved in the conservation and management of the planet’s vital freshwater resources.

Water wisdom

In Best practice, Climate, Environment, Sustainability, Water, Weather on March 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Today is World Water Day, the annual international celebration of the Earth’s most precious life element and the key to virtually all measures of human well-being and prosperity.  As the UN wraps up its main events in Cape Town, South Africa,  it’s worth noting that this is a traditional occasion for recognizing achievements in the field – particularly those that help humanity better manage its precious H2O resources.

Perhaps the most significant (and venerable) honor is The Stockholm Water Prize, announced earlier today in Sweden.  A newer program is theUN “Water for Life” Best Practices Awards, handed out this morning in Zaragoza, Spain.

Stephen Carpenter / Credit: Jeff Miller

American environmentalist Stephen R. Carpenter, a Professor of Zoology and Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA,  will receive the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize for his research on managing lake ecosystems.

The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by my former colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-related activities.  H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who is the patron of the Prize, will formally present Professor Carpenter with the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize at a Royal Award Ceremony in Stockholm City Hall on August 25 during the 2011 World Water Week in Stockholm.

The UN 2011 ‘Water for Life’ Best Practices Awards’ have gone to:

Even though much of North America still takes its freshwater for granted, it’s clear that the rest of the world knows better.  There’s only so much to go around for daily life, agriculture, energy, industry, recreation, and especially the delicate ecological balance we hold with other species on our planet. Whether you believe in “anthropogenic” climate change or not, it’s clear that the planetary climate is changing…and that the effects manifest most dramatically through water.

These awards highlight working solutions to an ever complex matrix of problems…and they raise awareness for an urgent global challenge.