Geoengineering: workshop and some recent posts

I’ve posted a bit about geoengineering before (here) and have mentioned Clive Hamilton’s new book Earthmasters here. Clive had an interesting post on his website recently about how geoengineering requires conceptualizing the earth as a whole and what Heidegger may have to say about that.

In response, Tim Morton tweeted that this geoengineering is “A desperate attempt to stop earth from jutting through world.”

And this got me thinking about how geoengineering is not a Plan B just in case global climate negotiations fail. Rather, geoengineering is more of Plan A – a way to keep us from challenging the basic ways of living that have led us to the (perceived) need for geoenginnering itself. As Tim points out, it keeps our understanding of the “world” safe by continuing to subdue the earth.

If you are interested, there is an upcoming workshop on geoengineering that will be streamed live on October 17th. Details below:





  • Johns Hopkins Washington, DC Center
  • 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW
  • Room 204


  • Lee Lane, Visiting Scholar, Hudson Institute
  • Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute, Washington, DC
  • Simon Nicholson, Assistant Professor of International Relations, School of International Service, American University

About the Roundtable

Up until recently, climate change geoengineering, defined by the UK’s Royal Society as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change,” was viewed as outside the mainstream, or as Professor David Victor has put it less charitably, “a freak show in otherwise serious discussions of climate science and policy.” However, the feckless response of the global community to climate change ensures that temperatures are likely to rise to levels during this century that could have potentially catastrophic implications for human institutions and ecosystems. This had led to increasingly serious consideration of the potential role of geoengineering as a potential means to avert a “climate emergency,” such as rapid melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, or as a stopgap measure to buy time for effective emissions mitigation responses. This roundtable will examine the ethical, legal and political issues associated with climate change geoengineering research and development and potential deployment.

Dr. Wil Burns, Associate Director
Master of Science, Energy Policy & Climate Program
Johns Hopkins University

Alberta’s new wetland policy + updates

Alberta released its new wetland policy yesterday. You can download it here (PDF). It has been a long time in the making, and for those who are interested in comparative exercises, you can crosscheck the actual policy above with the recommendations made by the Alberta Water Council in 2008.

In other news, the on-going oil spill in Northern Alberta has now triggered an investigation by Environment Canada. It will likely be some time before we know what the full impacts will be. But in the meantime, the federal government disbanded the regional land and water boards in the Northwest Territories. On its face, this move seems to fly in the face of the NWT Water Strategy adopted for 2011-2015. And it is not just on the face. It is difficult, if you are familiar with the aims and agendas of the current mining push in the North, not to see this as a step away from partnerships with those affected by new projects.

On this front, there was a fairly decent article in Oilweek, an industry magazine, on the impacts of oil sands mining on the Ft. McKay First Nations and the cumulative impacts accruing there.

Finally, Nic Rivers at the University of Ottawa put out a new study on water and economics in Canada. It’s based on a model that, like any, has some limitations. But Nic is a particularly astute researcher, so well worth the read.

Water Histories Portal Online

This is a great online resource for folks interested in water and history in Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean.

The broader Environment and Society Portal has additional resources worth exploring too.

The self-description:

“The Environment & Society Portal invites you to discover openly accessible resources on the human-environment relationship. Explore interpretive exhibitions, illustrated Arcadia articles, Places & Events, and the Multimedia Library’s journals, images, and recordings. We hope you’ll find unexpected inspiration.”


h/t dmfant

New report from Stanford on water & energy

All of the details are here or go straight to the full report (pdf) on this literature review on the water-energy nexus. Below is the press release:

Report Reveals Missed Opportunities to Save Water and Energy

Comprehensive survey shows connections between water and energy in academic, government and nonprofit publications between 1990 and 2013

Water and wastewater managers are missing substantial opportunities to save energy and money, according to a report published Wednesday (Sept. 4) by Water in the West, a research center at Stanford University. The report, “Water and Energy Nexus: A Literature Review,” also identifies the amount of water used to extract resources such as natural gas, oil and coal, and to generate electricity.

The report finds “robust opportunities for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for the conservation of scarce water resources, coupled with the potential for generating significant new renewable energy resources,” according to co-author Cynthia Truelove, a visiting scholar with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The report is a comprehensive survey of publications by the academic, government and nonprofit sectors between 1990 and 2013 that analyzes policy, along with scientific and technical research, on the connections between water and energy.

“This report summarizes the tremendous breadth and depth of research and analysis that have explored the interrelationship between water and energy,” said Andrew Fahlund, executive director of Water in the West. “Nevertheless, it also points out a number of significant gaps in our understanding of the nexus of water and energy and points to important needs for future study.”

The report is organized in two sections: “Energy for Water,” which explores energy used by the water and wastewater sectors, and “Water for Energy,” which documents water used to generate different forms of energy. It adopts a full life-cycle approach to show the integral relationship between water and energy.

Some key findings of the report:

  • Current state, regional and local regulations for managing water and energy make it difficult to measure the significant supplies of electricity and natural gas employed in the extraction, conveyance, treatment and distribution of the nation’s water supplies. Even California, the only state calling for water managers to mitigate energy use, is still wrestling with regulatory roadblocks. At present, 19 percent of California’s electricity and more than 30 percent of the state’s natural gas supplies are used in the extraction, conveyance and treatment of water, representing a huge opportunity for energy savings.
  • Assumptions about less carbon-intensive fuels may be invalid. For example, natural gas is often heralded as a better choice than fossil fuels. But little data have been collected to assess the water expended in natural gas extraction methods, nor is there much information on the impact of these methods on water quality.
  • Water and wastewater managers could generate significant renewable energy supplies and bring enhanced grid reliability to states like California. Tools such as energy tariffs and transmission regulations, as well as widespread deployment of innovative treatment processes, could prompt the water sector to dramatically increase its renewable energy capacity with solar, wind, in-conduit hydro and biomass or biogas sources.

Among the areas ripe for further research detailed in the report are the water demands of new energy technologies such as fracking, energy savings opportunities from distributed water treatment systems, innovative technologies for extracting energy from wastewater, and market mechanisms for more efficient water trading and transactions.

About Water in the West

Water in the West is a partnership of the faculty, staff and students of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, both based at Stanford University. The mission of Water in the West is to design, articulate and advance sustainable water management for the people and environment of the American West. It links ideas to action through cutting-edge research, creative problem solving, active collaboration with decision makers and opinion leaders, effective public communications and hands-on education of students.

New Book on Water Ethics by David Groenfeldt

David Groenfeldt, Director of the Water-Culture Institute, has a new book out from Routledge. All the details are here.

Water Ethics: A Values Approach to Solving the Water Crisis

This book introduces the idea that ethics are an intrinsic dimension of any water policy, program, or practice, and that understanding what ethics are being acted out in water policies is fundamental to an understanding of water resource management. Thus in controversies or conflicts over water resource allocation and use, an examination of ethics can help clarify the positions of conflicting parties as preparation for constructive negotiations.


The author shows the benefits of exposing tacit values and motivations and subjecting these to explicit public scrutiny where the values themselves can be debated. The aim of such a process is to create the proverbial ‘level playing field’, where values favoring environmental sustainability are considered in relation to values favoring short-term exploitation for quick economic stimulus (the current problem) or quick protection from water disasters (through infrastructure which science suggests is not sustainable).

The book shows how new technologies, such as drip irrigation, or governance structures, such as river basin organizations are neither “good” nor “bad” in their own right, but can serve a range of interests which are guided by ethics. A new ethic of coexistence and synergies with nature is possible, but ultimately depends not on science, law, or finances but on the values we choose to adopt. The book includes a wide range of case studies from countries including Australia, India, Philippines, South Africa and USA. These cover various contexts including water for agriculture, urban, domestic and industrial use, the rights of indigenous people and river, watershed and ecosystem management.

Mapping the Anthropocene

A new article up over at the Breakthrough Institute on Mapping the Anthropocene. It is by Erle Ellis, Navin Ramankutty and Chad Monfreda. It is certainly worth a read, and don’t be misled by the subtitle “Visualizing How Humans Are Embedded in Nature” – especially if you don’t think there is a “Nature” for humans to be embedded into.


Here’s the intro and some quick samples: India_grain

“Any ecology student could tell you what biomes are: vegetation types, such as grasslands and tropical rainforests, that ecologists use to map the planet. But there’s a problem. Biomes exist only at the discretion of nearly 7 billion people trying to live their lives on a crowded planet.

Invert that ancient image of invasive humans chopping away at the edges of a pristine nature. The era has long since moved from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. Nature is now embedded within a matrix of human-altered croplands, pastures, towns and cities. These anthropogenic biomes — “anthromes” for short — offer a fresh way of seeing our planetary pastiche.”


New Journal: The Anthropocene Review

A new journal is now being published with Sage titled The Anthropocene Review.ANR

Here is the “aims and scope” of the new publication that I snagged from the blog where you can also find information on submissions, the editorial board, and this link to the first editorial (opens to PDF).

“The overall aim of the new journal is to communicate clearly and across a wide range of disciplines and interests, the causes, history, nature and implications of a world in which human activities are integral to the functioning of the Earth System. The concept of the Anthropocene has, since its initial promulgation, provoked a great deal of debate, raising challenging questions of focus and definition. My aim in this short introduction is to be indicative rather than prescriptive and thereby, both to encourage high quality, stimulating contributions to the new journal and to foster further debate on the concept of the Anthropocene within its pages and via this blog.

As Bill Ruddiman has shown, many of the problems that have been exacerbated by human activities over the last 2 – 3 centuries have a long history that cannot be ignored. That said, human impacts in the wake of the Industrial Revolution go far beyond increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations and their consequences. They include resource depletion and innumerable forms of environmental pollution, as well as the myriad of other consequences, social, economic and political linked to the rapid growth of human populations and the spread of globalization. Towards the end of his recent review Ruddiman suggests a two stage Anthropocene, pre-industrial and post AD 1850. This, as he notes, leads us away from a formal definition of the Anthropocene to a more informal one. In reality, we see a three stage Anthropocene, with a third stage postdating what Steffen et al. call the Great Acceleration from AD 1950 onwards.

We now living at a time over six decades on from the start of the Great Acceleration. During that time, not only has the pace of change accelerated, but so has the range of impacts, the awareness of their implications among both environmental and social scientists and the general public, the development of research tools to explore present conditions and likely future trends and the engagement with global change themes across an wide range of disciplines, spanning the whole spectrum from engineering to the humanities. This therefore must be the core timeframe for the wide-ranging concerns of the new journal, though it is important that wherever possible, studies should be put in the context of the longer-term evolution of the human-environment relationship. The drivers and legacy of human-environmental interactions during the pre-industrial and industrial periods cannot be ignored. Irrespective of the timeframe within which contributions are placed, or indeed the lack, or transgression of time frames, there are important criteria and priorities to be considered in framing the aims and scope of the new journal: (i) global, or at least major continental/ocean basin significance in any environmental processes, human activities or human-environment interactions under consideration (we aim to emphasize ‘macroscale’ perspectives on processes potentially affecting earth and global systems); (ii) significant contributions to the understanding of present day problems of human-environmental relations and their perception, assimilation and transformation into effective action (this implies engagement with the analytical and modelling methods that are needed to underpin decision-making in response to complex human-environment interactions or social-ecological systems) ; (iii) relevance to our appraisal of future trends, threats and alternative responses; (iv) the development of conceptual frameworks for defining and communicating the challenges of the Anthropocene beyond the specialist scientific community; (v) the portrayal and evaluation of key political responses among the major economies; (vi) the articulation of cultural, behavioural, ethical and aesthetic responses to current and future global change in different societies (vii) evaluation of new technologies appropriate to the emerging problems posed by human activities and climate change (viii) engagement with issues of governance, sustainability and human health under changing environmental and demographic conditions.”

Christiana Peppard on where our freshwater comes from

A while back I linked to Christiana Peppard’s Ted-x talk on water scarcity. This video, also by Peppard is complimentary to it:

Saskia Sassen on re-nationalizing membership

An interesting argument on the loss of membership under new forms of ‘nationalism’ for citizens, and the gains for others (i.e. corporations) – from Brodt fur die Welt:

Live Video Feed from World Water Week

If you aren’t in Stockholm for World Water Week, you may be interested in watching some of the sessions live through this video hub. You can also watch previous lectures if you scroll down the page.