Authors: Sarah Jordaan, Lauren Patterson, Laura Diaz Anadon
In the Journal of Cleaner Production, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Lauren Patterson and her co-authors look at changes in water consumption related to transitions from coal to natural gas in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2012. The study provides the first comprehensive representation of changing water consumption patterns associated with the state’s coal-to-gas transition at a watershed level for both extraction of the resources to the generation of electricity with coal and natural gas.
Authors: Jiangxiao Qui, Edward T. Game, Heather Tallis, Lydia Olander, Louise Glew, James, S. Kagan, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Drew Michanowicz, Jennifer Phelan, Stephen Polasky, James Reed, Erin O. Sills, Dean Urban, and Sarah Kate Weaver
Sustainability challenges for nature and people are complex and interconnected, such that effective solutions require approaches and a common theory of change that bridge disparate disciplines and sectors. Causal chains offer promising approaches to achieving an integrated understanding of how actions affect ecosystems, the goods and services they provide, and ultimately, human well-being. Although causal chains and their variants are common tools across disciplines, their use remains highly inconsistent, limiting their ability to support and create a shared evidence base for joint actions. This BioScience article presents the foundational concepts and guidance of causal chains linking disciplines and sectors that do not often intersect to elucidate the effects of actions on ecosystems and society.
Authors: Christoper S. Galik and Lydia Olander
Early action refers to activities undertaken prior to a regulatory program or generation of services prior to mitigation of impacts elsewhere. In U.S. environmental markets, early action could reduce lags in environmental performance, improve outcomes, and encourage innovation in mitigation approaches. Multiple tools have emerged for encouraging early action in environmental markets. Several tools have also been deployed in markets, providing valuable insight into their function. This article in Land Use Policy presents a systematic review of early action tools and describes their use in wetland and stream mitigation, species and habitat banking, greenhouse gas mitigation, and water quality trading.
Authors: Kate Konschnik and Sarah Marie Jordaan
Atmospheric methane concentrations continue to increase globally, despite a pledge in 2016 from the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to reduce methane emissions from each country’s oil and gas sector. Additionally, the trilateral methane pledge faces more challenges as the Trump Administration seeks to reverse federal methane research and control efforts. Efforts to measure and control fugitive methane emissions do not presently proceed within a coherent framework that integrates science and policy. A new article in the journal Climate Policy suggests that collectively or individually, the countries, individual agencies, or private stakeholders could use the proposed North American Methane Reduction framework to direct research, enhance monitoring and evaluate mitigation efforts, and improve the chances that continental methane reduction targets will be achieved.
Authors: Martin Doyle
America has more than 250,000 rivers, coursing over more than 3 million miles and serving as integral trade routes, borders, passageways, sewers, and sinks. Over the years, based on our shifting needs and values, we have harnessed their power with waterwheels and dams, straightened them for ships, drained them with irrigation canals, set them on fire, and even attempted to restore them. This environmental history tells the story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west. Along the way, it explores how rivers have often been the source of arguments at the heart of the American experiment―over federalism, sovereignty and property rights, taxation, regulation, conservation, and development.
Author(s): Lydia P. Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, James Kagan, Lynn A. Maguire, Stephen Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer
There is a growing movement in government, environmental NGOs, and the private sector to include ecosystem services in decision making—that is, measuring how much a change in ecological conditions affects people, social benefit, or value to society. Despite consensus around the general merit of accounting for ecosystem services, systematic guidance on what to measure and how is lacking. Current ecosystem services assessments often resort to biophysical proxies (e.g., area of wetland in a floodplain) or even disregard services that seem difficult to measure. Valuation, an important tool for assessing trade-offs and comparing outcomes, is also frequently omitted. This article in Ecological Indicators proposes the use of a new type of indicator that explicitly reflects an ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society, ensuring that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably and directly relevant to human welfare.
Authors: Sally Entrekin , Anne Trainor, James Saiers, Lauren Patterson, Kelly Maloney, Joseph Fargione, Joseph Kiesecker, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Katherine Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Jean-Philippe Nicot, and Joseph N. Ryan
Demand for high-volume, short duration water withdrawals could create water stress to aquatic organisms in the Fayetteville Shale streams of Arkansas sourced for hydraulic fracturing fluids this article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests. Authors estimate potential water stress using permitted water withdrawal volumes and actual water withdrawals compared to monthly median, low, and high streamflows. Findings indicate that freshwater usage for hydraulic fracturing could potentially affect aquatic organisms in 7-51 percent of the catchments depending on the month. If 100 percent of wastewater was recycled, the potential impact drops. Authors suggest that improved monitoring and access to water withdrawal and streamflow data are needed to ensure protection of streams not only as sources of drinking water, but aquatic habitats.
Authors: Gokul Iyer, Katherine Calvin, Leon Clarke, James Edmonds, Nathan Hulman, Corinne Hartin, Haewon McJeon, Joseph Aldy, and William Pizer
An important component of the Paris Agreement is the assessment of comparability across nationally determined contributions. Links between mitigation and other societal priorities, including but not limited to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, raises the question of how such links might influence comparability assessments. Using a global integrated assessment model, this analysis in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that accounting for interactions between mitigation and other Sustainable Development Goals would alter comparability assessments. The analysis provides a foundation for assessing how comparability across nationally determined contributions could be better understood in the larger context of sustainability.
Authors: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Environmental Defense Fund
Many fisheries around the world are considered an economically underperforming asset—providing lower returns than they could be if more sustainably managed. This report, co-authored by researchers at the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, introduces the idea of a blended capital approach to fill the all-too-common finance gap that may hamper recovery of many fisheries. The report describes the categories of investment required to attain fisheries sustainability at each stage of the recovery process, identifies where within this framework there is likely to be the biggest funding gap, and suggests possible approaches for philanthropic and public capital to leverage private capital to help fill the gap.
Authors: William A. Pizer and Xiliang Zhang
On December 19, 2017, China announced the official start of its national emissions trading system (ETS) construction program. When fully implemented, this program could more than double the volume of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions covered by either tax or tradable permit policy. Many of program’s design features reflect those of China’s pilot programs but widely differ from those of emissions trading programs in the United States and Europe. For that reason, the workings of Chinese national carbon market are both intriguing and unfamiliar to those experienced with western markets. This paper explains the design of China’s new carbon market, contrasts it with western markets, and highlights possible implications. It also presents research questions raised by the design.