News - Oceans and Climate Change

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University has awarded funding to six research projects for Fiscal Year 2019–20 through the institute's Catalyst Program.

Now in its third year, the Catalyst Program aims to build on the Nicholas Institute’s mission by increasing engagement with Duke faculty to incubate and advance new partnerships, enhance policy-relevant knowledge, and create innovative policy solutions based on new creative synergies.

The waters of the South China Sea face environmental peril that is "inseparable from the territorial disputes that plague it." Scientific cooperation is an action without legitimate substitute in the region and can offer a chart for protecting marine environments while enjoying their bounty sustainably, write the Nicholas Institute's Jackson Ewing and the University of South Carolina's James Borton in East Asia Forum.

James Borton and the Nicholas Institute's Jackson Ewing say the devastation wrought by island building in the waters, mainly by China, is having a big impact on an already fragile ecosystem. Cooperation on scientific research and environmental management must be encouraged to limit the damage, and as a way to build trust.

Blended finance takes advantage of different types of capital, and their varied structures, risk preferences and desired investment outcomes, to grow the overall size of the pie dedicated towards critical conservation challenges.

In a New York Times op-ed, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head (and Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Advisory Board chairman) William Reilly noted that President Trump's proposed expansion of offshore drilling in environmentally sensitive areas could come at an economic cost. “A spill in any of those waters could threaten multibillion-dollar regional economies that depend on clean oceans and coastlines,” said Reilly, who pointed out that Trump has also called for reconsideration of the well control rule, which tightened controls on blowout preventers, which are designed to stop undersea oil and gas well explosions. Reilly said that rule was based in part on findings of the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which he co-chaired.

On Earth Magazine reports on a new study from Duke University researchers finding that conservation measures in Indonesia—home to the world’s largest area of mangrove forests—prevented the loss of around 35,000 acres of mangrove habitat between 2000 and 2010. By leaving these forests alone, about 13 million metric tons of stored carbon didn’t get released into the atmosphere. 

Climate scientists know with impressive accuracy how fast carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. A decade ago, there were about 370 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas floating around; today, the number is up to 393 or so. Much of that increase comes from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil – but not all, and putting numbers on other sources is crucial to figuring out how to keep carbon emissions under control. This Business Spectator article discusses work by researchers at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions in the journal PLOS ONE.

The United States has some of the largest blue carbon systems in the world, but their rapid conversion for agriculture and real estate development is a major source of emissions.A recent study from Duke University, USGS and NOAA outlines a half-dozen existing federal policies that could be adapted to include blue carbon management.

Mangroves are degrading faster worldwide than tropical rainforests, and the corresponding carbon emissions are on the scale of those of countries like Venezuela and Japan. An international team of researchers is now working to quantify the carbon stocks of mangroves around the world in the hopes that the information will help policymakers at the United Nations craft incentives for their protection. Nicholas Institute researchers comment in this ClimateWire article.