Climate Change & Environment
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Ecological Economics

COWBOY or spaceman? A dilemma for a children’s party, perhaps. But also a question for economists, argued Kenneth Boulding, a British economist, in an essay published in 1966. We have run our economies, he warned, like cowboys on the open prairie: taking and using the world’s resources, confident that more lies over the horizon. But the Earth is less a prairie than a spaceship—a closed system, alone in space, carrying finite supplies. We need, said Boulding, an economics that takes seriously the idea of environmental limits. In the half century since his essay, a new movement has responded to his challenge. "Ecological economists", as they call themselves, do not want to fiddle at the margins of economics, but to revolutionize its aims and assumptions. What do they say—and will their ideas achieve lift-off?

To its practitioners, ecological economics is neither ecology nor economics, but a fusion of both. Their starting point is to recognize that the human economy is part of the natural world. Our environment, they note, is both a source of resources and a sink for wastes. But it is ignored in conventional textbooks, where neat diagrams trace the flows between firms, households and the government as though nature did not exist. That is a mistake, say ecological economists. The "natural capital" of the Earth provides important services, from water supply to pollination: in a landmark paper from 1997, researchers valued the annual supply of such "ecosystem services" at $33 trillion, or 1.8 times global GDP at the time.

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Requests to See Disappearing Mendenhall Glacier Up-close are Soaring

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded permits for thousands of guided tours at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor center, but had requests for three times as many trips as were available.

Visitors to the increasingly popular Mendenhall Glacier can watch climate change in action as icebergs calve from the face of the glacier and dot Mendenhall Lake.

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How Trees Try to Cope With Climate Change

Imagine that you’re lost in a desert, or some other inhospitable environment. You’ve got two choices. One is to stay in place and conserve supplies and water, in order to make them last. The other is to push on tenaciously and hope that you find a way out of your predicament.

As it turns out, trees are like that too, when it comes to coping with the hotter, drier environment created by climate change. In a new article in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Washington researchers studied two common tree species in southwestern Colorado, and found that each had developed a different survival strategy.

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Thousands of Plants Cut Production as Beijing Smog Persists

Beijing has ordered 2,100 factories to suspend or reduce production as part of its "red alert" measures to deal with smog, the government said Monday, as the city remained shrouded under toxic haze for the third consecutive day.

The Chinese capital imposed the highest tier of a four-color smog warning system for four days starting Saturday, the second time the red alert was applied since Beijing established the pollution precaution scheme in 2013.

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Beijing Chokes under Smog after Second Red Alert

Beijing choked under a thick layer of toxic smog Saturday, after the Chinese capital issued its second-ever red alert and put its emergency response plan into action.

The notice from the capital's environmental bureau ordered factories to close and pulled half of all private cars off the streets, among other measures, as extreme levels of pollution in the city's air were observed for the third time this month.

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Beijing Issues Second Red Alert ahead of Smog

Beijing issued its second-ever red alert for smog Friday ahead of severe pollution forecast to hit China's capital, weeks after putting its emergency response plan into action for the first time.

The notice from the capital's environmental bureau orders factories to close and pulls half of all private cars off the streets, among other measures, as bad air floods into the city for the third time this month.

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Save the Planet. Eat Ugly.

"Let’s eat ugly!”

Of the various calls to action at the United Nations climate conference this week, that one by Nicolas Chabanne might be among the catchiest catchphrases.

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China's Efforts on Climate Deal Partly Due to Its Pollution

China's push for a global climate pact was due in part to its own increasingly pressing need to solve serious environmental problems, observers said Sunday.

China, the world's biggest source of climate-changing gases, was blamed for obstructing the last high-level climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. This time around, it sent strong political signals it wanted a deal ahead of and during the Paris negotiations that ended Saturday with the agreement to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100.

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Ban Ki-Moon Calls Paris Climate Talks 'Most Complicated and Difficult' Ever

The U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon has said the international climate talks that are edging towards a conclusion in Paris have been the most complicated and difficult negotiations he has ever been involved in.

Ban said that differences still remain among the nearly 200 governments searching for a climate deal in Paris but he urged negotiators to set aside their national interests to reach a compromise.

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Following Through on U.S. Commitments in Historic Deal Will be the True Test

In today’s fractious world, getting 195 nations to agree on anything, even whether the sun rises in the east, isn’t easy. So, in many ways, the climate change deal that emerged from Paris over the weekend, a month after terrorist attacks traumatized the city, represents a remarkable achievement on behalf of humanity.

But the things that made the Paris agreement so broadly acceptable to so many countries — its voluntary nature, its lack of enforcement tools, and the many “requests” and “urges” throughout the 31-page text — are the same things that threaten its effectiveness.

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