The world’s governments have called for sustainable development goals and they are being negotiated in the United Nation’s general assembly. But does it really make a difference? Will a new set of goals somehow help the world to do what it hasn’t yet been able to do? To shift from a business as usual and increasingly dangerous path of economic development to a path of true, sustainable development. Well here, we can look at some evidence, and I think it is pretty powerful evidence. And that is to ask, what have the Millennium Development Goals meant for the world? The UN adopted, in September 2000 in the General Assembly, the Millennium Declaration including the Millennium Development Goals. And as we have talked about it at some length, those eight goals became the centerpiece of the development effort for poor countries around the world. Did they really make a difference? The answer seems to be yes. That there has been a marked acceleration of poverty reduction, disease control and increased access to schooling and infrastructure in the poorest countries of the world, and especially in Africa, as a result of the Millennium Development goals. They helped to organize a global effort. Why do goals matter? I think that the answer has many different aspects to it. First, goals really are critical for social mobilization. The world needs to be oriented in a direction, to fight poverty or to help achieve sustainable development. But if we don’t enunciate for ourselves that that’s important, it’s very hard in our very noisy, desperate, crowded, congested, overwhelmed world to mobilize a direction and a consistency of effort to achieve any of our common purposes. And so, stating the goals helps all over the world, for individuals and for organizations and for governments to say, yes we’ve agreed, that’s a good direction. There’s a second aspect that the MDG showed and that is peer pressure. When the MDGs were adopted by all governments, governments had to show we’re doing something. And even if they were not necessarily so inclined innately or deeply, to take on this effort, by being international goals they knew that progress was going to be reported, or the failure of progress, even worse, was going to be reported. And peer pressures came in where leaders at summit meetings, for example, or at the UN General Assembly, would say, how, how are you doing on the millennium development goals? What steps have you taken, what progress? I saw you didn’t make so much progress these past years. That kind of dynamic has been absolutely real. A third way that goals have mattered is in mobilizing what I’d like to call epistemic communities, or knowledge communities, to be little bit more prosaic about it. Epistemic communities are networks of expertise, knowledge and practice around challenges like growing food or fighting diseases or designing and implementing city plans. And when goals are set, those communities of knowledge and practice come together. I’ve watched how the goal to fight Malaria, for example, has helped to organize the world’s malariologists, that is, the scientists and practitioners who, as a career, and as a life calling, in many cases, have taken on the challenge of fighting malaria. By virtue of having that goal, that community rose up, said, we as a community of expertise and practice, need to do something about it. That’s extremely important because governments by themselves polit, politicians, elected officials certainly do not have the expertise that exists in these epistemic communities to guide action. And these knowledge communities can make critical recommendations of what actually to do. The MDGs mobilized epistemic communities in malaria control, in HIV AIDS, in safe health, in primary education, in access to water, in access to energy. How do I know? I watched it happen and I participated in some of it. When I was a director for, then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, we had the Millennium Projects under his auspices, which mobilized about 250 experts from around the world, of these various epistemic communities, to think through much, in much more detail, how the various millennium development goals could actually be achieved. And finally, goals not only mobilize knowledge networks, but they mobilize stakeholder networks as well. What’s a stakeholder network? By that I mean that if you’re fighting malaria in Ghana or in Tanzania or in Uganda, you need to get around the table community leaders, politicians, Ministry of Health, the scientific community, leading non-governmental organizations. Perhaps church groups that have a major presence and participation in the Public health sector, International organizations, Donor organizations, Foundations. It is a roundtable of constituents that needs to be pooled together. And that kind of multi-stakeholder process is essential for the complex challenges of sustainable development and of the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease, more specifically. That has happened by conscious design in area after area of the millennium development goals. And it is one of the clearest ways that the merest statement of goals, leads to improved outcomes. By bringing together these multi-stakeholder processes. I believe that to summarize all of this no one has ever put it better than President John F Kennedy. 50 years ago, in one of the greatest speeches of the modern presidency, which I will refer to shortly at somewhat greater length, because I think it is a, a, a model, also, for us. But in his famous Peace Speech in June 1963, President Kennedy had a word to say about setting goals, because he was interested, in that speech, in setting a goal of peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Kennedy said, by defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it. That’s the essence of the importance of goal setting; helping people to see the goals. And by making them more manageable and less remote. By spelling out how they can be achieved, people can be led to move towards it and as President Kennedy said on that occasion, to move irresistibly towards the goals. So, what have been the accomplishments of the Millennium Development goals and what have their, been their major weaknesses. Probably the biggest accomplishments have been in the area of public health. Remember that three out of the eight millennium development goals are about health: reducing child mortality, maternal mortality, and the control of the epidemic, communicable diseases. And in all of those cases, the MDGs have made a very big difference. Why were they so effective in those areas? First, MDGs four, five and six could be stated in terms of specific, quantifiable targets. Reduce under five mortality by two thirds. Reduce maternal mortality by three fourths. You can measure. You can count. You can assess. You can compare outcomes with targeted pathways. And so, the ability to state goals clearly is very, very important. Second, you could make those goals seem more manageable and less remote by saying, here’s how malaria can be fought. Not just out of good will but out of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. Under the deployment of community health workers. The use of rapid diagnostic tests. The use of Artemis and in combination therapies. In other words. That panoply of technical innovations that underpin a practical path to success. Third, there were specific funding mechanisms attached. Most importantly was the arrival of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which was agreed in 2001, one year after the MDGs were adopted and put into motion in 2002. Pretty quick turnaround time. No doubt in my mind, my experience, I was there helping in that process, the MDGs made a very big difference to the birth of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. And many individual countries, and I’m happy to say the United States the leader among them, also took on national efforts motivated by this new will to solve these problems. The U.S. adopted in 2003 the PEPFAR Program, which was the emergency program of response to AIDS, where the U.S. has put in billions and billions of dollars to the fight against AIDS in Africa. And in 2005, the United States adopted PMI, the President’s Malaria Initiative. Also, motivated by this new public health will to achieve the millennium development goals, and PMI has played a major role alongside the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, in reducing the malaria burden. Finally, the MDG succeeded in those areas because of monitoring, measurement, evaluation and feedback to program design. Now, the MDGs did not work as well in certain other areas. In areas like sanitation the MDGs are lagging behind. There hasn’t been a global fund for clean water and sanitation the same way as there emerged the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. And where the international funding was not elaborated and increased, where the goals were not made to seem more manageable and less remote, through specific detailed plans of action. Where the epistemic communities did not organize quite as well or where the political leaders were more neglectful, the MDGs tended to lag. Public health, that came very high on the agenda. Education, surprisingly, not quite as high and not as well financed and with not the same dramatic progress as in public health. Agriculture, even a bit further behind, despite some nice words about fighting hunger while progress has been real, the mobilization of global efforts have not been as effective and the real change of, of policies and politics have not been as dramatic as public health. What this shows is that there’s nothing inevitability, nothing inevitable I should say, about stating a goal and having the good results achieved. Stating a goal, helping to make it seem more manageable and less remote, is the first step implementing a plan of action. Taking the feedback is the real, long-term, importance, of what goals can achieve. And that kind of feedback mechanism is shown here in this very, very simple flow chat. The point that I want to make in this flow chart is that one starts with a set of goals and then with a way to address those goals. Next is to design policies that can implement that program of action. Next is that when the outcomes occur, to measure the feedback, and from the feedback to rethink, adapt the strategies in a continuing loop of policy, feedback, all under the, pressures and the motivation of a set of goals and a set of time tables. Now, when we turn to sustainable development, our agenda is even harder than the millennium development goals. And I can tell you the millennium development goals of fighting extreme poverty is pretty tough and very hard to get results in certain areas. But sustainable development goals will include not only the continuation of the fight against extreme poverty, but also the integration of that goal with several others, including environmental sustainability and social inclusion. So, we’ve got an even more complex set of challenges. And there are at least two aspects of sustainable development that make the problems yet more complicated. First, the natural time horizon for results is longer term. Decarbonizing the energy system is going to be a 30 to 40 year effort, even if we’re moving as fast as we can. Making our cities more resilient is a decade or more. Remember that our roads, our buildings, our power plants have a lifetime of of many decades. We’re often talking about power generation facilities that have a lifespan of 40 or 50 years. And therefore, there’s tremendous inertia in this system and there’s also, therefore, a tremendous need to be able to look forward, not to two years or five years but to 20 years or to 30 years. In setting the kinds of frameworks to actually achieve those ten sustainable development goals or their equivalent. There are two specific tools that will be important for translating SDGs into reality. The first of those tools is called back casting. I’d mentioned it before. Rather than forecasting what’s going to happen in 2040 or 2050, one backcasts to say, in 2050 we need to be in such and such location. We need to have such and such level of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, instead of trying to predict or forecast, we’ll start at our target and then move backwards to say how are we going to get to that target? How are we going to cut emissions by half by 2050? Back casting is quite different from prediction. If you look in the news papers, listen to a stock analyst. They’re, they’re guessing about the future. There not designing the future. Backcasting, even though it sounds backward, is about designing the future. Because it is starting at a future date and then working backward from the future date to the present to say, how can we get from here to there? It is setting that path. The second tool, closely related, is road mapping. Road mapping says, okay, we know where we want to be, we know where we start today. We can see the kind of trajectory. What does that terrain really look like? What are our big challenges? What are our technological barriers to overcome? If we are on a hike, we may have to cross a mountain range. If we are on a pathway of sustainable development, we may have to cross a technological mountain range. We have to get over the hump of intermittency of power. We have to get to power storage, we have to overcome the high costs of certain alternative energy possibilities. We have to pass the mountain range of a grid that connects North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, or connects the Dakotas and the Eastern seaboard of the United States, or the Mojave Desert and the population centers of California. In other words, we also need a road map for passing through difficult terrain. Now, this may seem to some people, especially to those steeped in free market economics, as a kind of planning that is impossible and is contrary to the market process. That is not correct. Why? Because in high technology industries, there is, as a norm of behavior in sophisticated industries, exactly that kind of road mapping taking place. And the most successful of all should be kept clearly in mind, it’s a great example and a great motivator for us. And that is the road mapping of Moore’s law. Remember Moore’s law because Moore’s law has created our world today. It is the information technology principle that the capacity of integrated circuits is doubling roughly every 18 to 24 months. Gordon Moore, who back in the 1960s when he enunciated Moore’s Law, was the CEO of Intel, the leading company in integrated circuits. And he noted at the time that for the past ten years or so, the number of transistors that could be packed into an integrated circuit was doubling roughly every eighteen months to two years. And that was doubling the capacity of, processing, the ability to store and, and, soon to transmit data. And cutting by half the cost of doing that because of the doubling of the capacity, in essence. And Moore, back in 1965 when he enunciated Moore’s Law said, there’s some headway ahead. This could go on another decade or two decades, more doubling, doubling, doubling. And of course that means a tremendous increase of the information capacity of central processing units or storage, or ability to transmit enormous volumes of information. All of that has transformed our world. The powerful point is that Moore’s law has continued roughly for half a century since Gordon Moore first enunciated it, and we’ve had roughly a billion fold improvement in the capacity to process, store and transmit information. And therefore, we live in a world of inter connectedness of information that was unimaginable at the time that Gordon Moore first enunciated this principle. But how was it suc, achieved? How did the industry succeed? Well, part of it was individual brilliance and genius of engineers and scientists. Part of it was the competition in the industry, but part of it was industry-wide road mapping. That’s the conclusion that I wanted to emphasize. And one of the aspects of that road mapping is a formal process called the international technology road map for semiconductors, where leaders in the industry got together and said, what are our mountain ranges to cross in the future in getting the continuation of Moore’s law. How do we push ahead another two decades of this doubling of capacity of the integrated circuitry every two years? They road mapped the steps that were needed. They did it brilliantly and we know that they did it successfully. And that has transformed our world, but it also should tell the skeptics about looking ahead. It is possible to look ahead, not to know the future, but to plan on how to overcome certain obstacles to think ahead. To be prepared for the problems that will come and to take measures so that one can pass through the mountain passes and get to the next range, the next difficulty, because we know where we want to go in 20, 30 or 40 years. The final point of sustainable development that will be absolutely crucial is that like the millennium development goals, the SDGs will be a multi-stakeholder process. We need engagement across the public sector, the private sector, civil society, individuals and their own motivation, scientists and engineers in academia. In research centers, foundations, this is all a hands on, this is an all hands on effort this is the kind of challenge where humanity from every part of society is going to have to get involved. It may seem fanciful. We don’t want those planetary boundaries staring us in the face. We don’t want these risks coming so intensively and so rapidly, but that’s where we are. And that’s why the speed of action is so important. And why the multi-stakeholder approach, that mobilizes all parts of society, will be so vital. That’s a big round table. It’s a lot of discussion, it’s a lot of harmonization of different approaches. Some for profit, some not for profit. Some basic science, some very applied decision making. Some on the ground in communities all over the world, some training and educating the leaders of the future. But all of these interconnected parts of the global social network will need to be brought together in effective problem solving, decision making and implementation of the sustainable development goals.
What to do. The world has a major problem and that is that we are way off course in our goal in achieving sustainable development. We have had a 40 year run so far. Dating back to the first global conference on the environment and development in Stockholm in 1972, and the simultaneous pubication of limits to growth which correctly pointed out for the world that the challenge of combining economic development and environmental sustainability was still an unmet challenge and in unmet conundrum how can this be done. 20 years later, the world met at the Rio World Summit and adopted 3 major treaties that we have discussed on climate change and biological diversity and on combating desertification.
20 years later in June 2012, the world met for a third time on these great issues. Leaders came together from all over the world and took stock and what they realized was a very unsettling and powerful set of truths. On the one side, all of the evidence pointed out that the diagnosis first made back in 1972 was fundamentally correct that the problem of combining economic growth with social inclusion, and especially environmental sustainability, was a challenge that was so far, unaddressed and getting worse. Second, they concluded that the major actions which were hailed at the time as historic breakthroughs, at the Earth Summit in 1992, had not succeeded.
I’ve already noted on several occasions the Three Fs on the report card given by Nature Magazine to the Earth Summit. The F for climate change, the F on biological diversity, the F given on the treaty on combating desertification, not one of them delivered as promised. So with that in mind, world leaders at the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 resolved once again to join this battle and that’s where we are today. What are we to do with the world that is going in one direction with very strong momentum. Some good, of economic growth spreading to many places of poverty being reduced in many parts of the world, but a lot that is seriously awry, and getting more and more dangerous. High inequality, some parts of the world still trapped in extreme poverty and cycles of violence and poverty and hunger and disease. And with the growing crisis, of the global environment, whether it is climate change, the sixth major extinction of species on the planet, the dangers to our cities of pollution, overcrowding, lack of infrastructure, we now need as the leaders realized at Rio Plus 20, a new and dramatic approach. Well what did they put on offer, how should the world respond? The first thing the world leaders said is we absolutely must not give up and quoting from the final outcome document of the conference called The Future We Want, the world leaders said, and I quote, we commit ourselves to re-invigorating the global partnership for sustainable development that we launched in Rio In 1992. We recognize the need to impart new momentum to our cooperative pursuit of sustainable development, and commit to work together with major groups, and other stake holders such as business, NGO’s, Universities in addressing the implementation gaps. They also noted something very important and that is that the most urgent task of all in all of the interconnected challenges of sustainable development, of economic development, of social inclusion, of environmental sustainability is the task that the world did take on in the year 2000. When world leaders adopted the millenium development goals, and that is the fight against extreme poverty. We’ve talked a lot about extreme poverty. We should recall, why it is the highest priority, and the most urgent priority and that’s because it is a matter of life and death in the absolute present conditions. One could even define extreme poverty as a condition in which survival is a daily struggle. Remember the people living in extreme poverty, are wondering when their next meal will come from, whether the next drink of water will carry pathogens that could threaten their lives, whether the next bite of a mosquito might transmit malaria to them. In other words, the challenges of extreme poverty are here and now and life and death. And since 7 million children are dying every year before their fifth birthday of conditions that are completely preventable or if not completely preventable essentially fully treatable. We have this crisis, the opportunity, the moral challenge in front of us. And so when the world leaders met at Rio Plus 20, they also noted right at the beginning of the future we want, something that I regard as completely correct. They said, and I quote, Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Unless we tackle the end of extreme poverty, we are not going to complete the challenges on the other aspects of sustainable development either. Quote, In this regard, we are committed to free humanity from poverty, hunger as a matter of urgency. We reaffirm our commitment to make every effort to accelerate the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals including millennium development goals by 2015. So in 2012, the world leaders said we have 3 years left of the 15 year period on the millennium development goals. Let’s use those to accelerate progress. Let’s remember that the millennium development goals called for cutting extreme poverty by half, something already accomplished if we take the developing countries as a group, but not accomplished country by country or region by region. And so a lot of work left to do to 2015. But then continuing on after 2015 to complete the job, now here’s where I think the leaders made the single most important step at Rio Plus 20. They said, and I quote, we recognize that the development of goals could also be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development. In other words, they looked at the Millennium Development Goals and said, that was pretty good. That helped to mobilize world efforts on fighting poverty. We need a similar approach on mobilizing world efforts on sustainable development in all of its complexity. And I quote, we further recognize the importance and utility of a set of sustainable development goals, or SDGs. These goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way, all 3 dimensions of sustainable development and their inner linkages. I would summarizeit as saying that the world leaders agreed to make the transition from MDGs to SDGs, from millenium development goals, to sustainable development goals. Taking a leaf from the millenium development goals, the world leaders also made some points about what these new SDG’s should be. And I quote again from the future we want, we also underscore that SDG’s should be action oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national politics and priorities. We also recognize that the goals should address and be focused on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development, being guided by this outcome document, The Future We Want. Governments should drive implementation with the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders as appropriate. Well here you have it, what I think is a potentially historic decision to move to a new global agenda with a set of universally applicable, sustainable development goals and to have those goals help guide the world, rich and poor countries alike in a new era, giving new impetus, new power, new social mobilization, new resources, new political will to a challenge that’s been more than 40 years somehow in our awareness, 20 years under international law, but to date not successfully causing a change of direction for the world. Now, in the outcome of Rio Plus 20 and the call for putting sustainable development at the very core of the international development agenda U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon honoured me and gave me a, a good challenge also which was to help create a global network of problem solving. And I’d mentioned before this new sustainable development solutions network, the idea that we need not only new goals, new political motivation and will, but we need an era of intensive problem solving, of the kind that we’ve been discussing in each of the areas of health and education and sustainable agriculture, sustainable cities, sustainable energy systems, conservation of biological diversity, and all the rest. The SDSN guided by its leadership counsel took on a challenge to advise the United Nations and the Secretary General in particular on what the new sustainable development goals might be, because these will be negotiated to the year 2015, and then be operational beyond. And so the Sustainable Development Solutions Network proposed a concise set of 10 goals that could be a framework of action. These are an illustration of course, because the governments’ meeting in the United Nations, in the general assembly, will ultimately be the ones to choose the goals. But I want to discuss what the STSN proposed, because I think that it shows the power, the range, and the kind of orientation that the SDGs should have and can have to guide us after the year 2015. So the SDSN group said, 10 goals maximum and I think that that’s a reasonable number. It’s pretty hard to get all of the objectives of economical development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and good governance within a list of 10 goals, but to have more than that would take away the concise power of a limited clear easily understandable set of universal goals. So here are the 10 proposed by the sustainable development solutions network.
Goal number 1 – End extreme poverty including hunger and the more specific definition is End Extreme Poverty in all its forms, in other words, complete the Millennium Development Goals including hunger, child stunting, malnutrition and food and security and give special support to highly vulnerable countries. The basic idea of goal number 1, and it’s goal number 1 not by accident, but because it is the highest priority, is to complete the task started by the Millennium Development Goals of ending extreme poverty. Now, one thing to keep in mind: the World Bank, in its leadership group voted in 2013 to take on this specific objective for the bank, to contribute to ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. So the idea that completing the millennium development goals in the sense of ending extreme poverty in all its forms – income, hunger, disease, lack of access to basic infrastructure can be accomplished by our generation is becoming official policy.
SDG number 2 – Achieve development within planetary boundaries. Now, this ought to make sense by now. It says in the subtitle: All countries have a right to development that respects planetary boundaries, ensures sustainable production in consumption patterns, and helps to stabilize the global population by mid-century. So, the idea is to give support to continued economic growth, especially in the developing countries, to give support to convergence, that developing countries and developed countries should converge in living standards by the developing countries being able to raise their living standards, but for this to happen within the planetary boundaries. And we know through all of our discussions that that means changes in the way that we use energy, produce energy, changes in the way that food is grown, changes in the way that cities are designed and built and so forth.
SDG number 3 – Ensure effective learning for all children and for youth for their lives and their livelihoods. So this is the education goal. It is not stated simply as children in school, though that’s important. It’s stated as effective learning, so that children are imparted with the skills that they need to be productive, to be fulfilled in their lives to be good citizens, and to be able to find decent jobs. We know that as technology is changing, the pathways to decent work also require decent skills and good education. And SDG3, as recommended by the sustainable development solutions network, puts a focus on that.
SDG 4 – Achieve gender equality, social inclusion, and human rights for all. The point is clear. We know that sustainable development rests on one core dimension of justice, fairness, social inclusion, and social mobility and we’ve seen that gender discrimination, discrimination against minority groups, discrimination against indigenous populations are huge barriers to full participation in economic life and to a life satisfaction that is attainable if we honor human rights, if we live up to the universal declaration of human rights.
SDG Number 5 – Again as recommended by this sustainable development solutions network achieve health and wellbeing at all ages. So the subtitle of this is to achieve universal health coverage at every stage of life with particular emphasis on primary health services including reproductive health to ensure that all people receive quality health services without suffering financial hardship. All countries will also promote policies to help individuals to make healthy and sustainable decisions regarding diet, physical activity, and other individual or social dimensions of health. We saw that it is possible to reduce child mortality dramatically, to reduce maternal mortality dramatically, to raise life expectancy, to control many diseases at very, very low cost.
SDG Number 6 – Improve agricultural systems and raise rural productivity and in the more elaborate statement, it says improve farming practices, rural infrastructure, and access to resources for food production to increase the productivity of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, raise small holder income, reduce environmental impacts, promote rural prosperity, and ensure resilience to climate change. We saw the challenges facing small holder farmers, we’ve seen the problems of depletion of fresh water, depletion of fisheries, the impact of climate change. The need to create new technology based, and information based systems for small holder farmers to help raise the most impoverished of these families out of poverty, and to ensure that farm systems are resilient to the changes that are coming, and more productive. So SDG 6 recognizes the centrality of sustainable agriculture and as part of that, the sustainable, sustainability of the food supplies.
SDG 7 – Empower inclusive, productive, and resilient cities.With the longer statement to make all cities socially inclusive, economically productive, environmentally sustainable, secure and resilient to climate change and other risks. Develop participatory accountable and effective city governance to support rapid and equitable urban transformation. We’ve talked a lot about the urban challenge and we have seen using the illustration of New York City how cities can plan in detail for their sustainability on many dimensions and be recommended as SDG 7 calls on cities all over the world to take on this challenge.
SDG 8 – Curb human-induced climate change and ensure sustainable energy. Clear. And the longer statement of this goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions from energy industry agriculture, the built environment, and land use change to ensure a peak of global CO2 emissions by 2020 and to head off the rapidly growing dangers of climate change to promote sustainable energy for all. We know that we need to cut approximately by half, world emissions by 2050 even as the world economy grows perhaps threefold between now and then. This means the decarbonization of the energy system while at the same time, ensuring that electricity and modern energy services are available for all. A huge challenge, it can be done, but it will require much faster action than we have been taking to date.
Goal Number 9 – Secure ecosystem services and biodiversity and ensure good management of water and other natural resources with the text saying that biodiversity, marine and terrestrial ecosystems of local, regional, and global significance should be inventoried, in other words, measured, managed, and monitored to ensure the continuation of resilient and adaptive life support systems and to support sustainable development. Water and other natural resources are managed sustainably and transparently to support inclusive economic and human development, in other words biodiversity. Maintaining ecosystem services, maintaining the biodiversity that is vital for the functioning of eco systems.
And Goal Number 10 – Transform Governance for Sustainable Development. The public sector, business and other stake holders should commit to good governance including transparency, accountability, access to information, participation, an end to tax and secrecy havens and efforts to stamp out corruption. The international rules governing international finance, trade, corporate reporting, technology, and intellectual property should be made consistent with achieving the sustainable development goals. The financing of poverty reduction and global public goods including efforts to head off climate change should be strengthened based on a graduated sets of global rights and responsibilities. Bottom line, 10 goals to orient the world in clear, specific ways, measurable ways, concise and understandable ways, so that the world can make the shift from our business as usual and increasingly dangerous course, to a trajectory of sustainably development for all. These are the recommendations of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It’s up to the world’s gov?ernments, following the mandate given at the Rio Plus20 Summit, to choose the sustainable development goals and set a sustainable development agenda for the post 2015 period, to make the transition from MDGs to SDGs. Can these SDGs be achieved? Can this huge effort succeed? Let’s take a look.
Some are indirect, for example, riding on the climate control effort, as feeble as it is, through red plus the initiative to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. There have been treaties of course limiting some kinds of trans-boundary pollutants that, that threaten the oceans. There have been agreements of some sort, though often quite weak, on global fisheries. In addition to those, there have been at, at least two direct important attempts to focus on biodiversity through direct international treaties. The most important of these is the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Whose core purpose is to slow, to stop, to reverse the loss of biodiversity. The second is CITES, a treaty that predates the CBD, or the convention of biological diversity by a couple of decades to try to restrict trade in endangered species.
Both have experienced ups and downs. It’s important for us to have a look at what’s being accomplished, what isn’t to understand what we’re going to have to do. think the most important point to emphasize time and again, is that the pressures of the global economy are so strong that even when treaties or regulations are put in place, vested interest often give a powerful counter force to these measures.
And control mechanisms are often at the mercy of illegal activities, at bribery, at corruption of other limits of enforcement. So the weight and the force, and the momentum of the world economy is often so powerful that it just runs roughshod over attempts at regulation. Well CBD, the Convention on Biological Diversity, is at least a valiant attempt to try to get under control, the human threat to biological diversity. It is one of the three great multi-lateral, environmental agreements MEA has reached at the Real Earth Summit in 1992. You’ll recall that the other two are the UN Framework Convention on climate change, and the UN Convention to combat the desertification. CBD is the third of the three. And I would say that it has had a rather unhappy history. It’s accomplished a bit, but it has not accomplished at all its core purpose of heading off the massive loss of biodiversity.
So what is the CBD, the Convention on Biological Diversity? It, it says, and I’m quoting from the preamble, that affirming that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind. It put, as the core of the convention. And I quote, the objectives of this convention to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions are the conservation of biological diversity. The sustainable use of its components and the fair, and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Nothing wrong with fair and equitable sharing. But what was thought about at the time in 1992 was an incredible bonanza that was expected at that point in what was called bioprospecting.
That scientists would enter the world’s forest regions and one after another would identify new blockbuster drugs that would not only be of profound value in the, in and of themselves but a profound income stream. And the question was how to make sure that the host countries rather than say the pharmaceutical companies would, would get that. It’s not completely fanciful by any means, that idea. Nature does have in its store houses still to be discovered chemical compounds of profound benefit. One of the greatest that I see in my everyday work is a, an herbal ancient remedy for fever in China. The wormwood plant called in Chinese [Xing-kuah-Soo] which became the source of the modern molecule artemisinin used to fight malaria. So nature offers wonderful products, but a lot of the driver in 1992 and a lot of the mishaps with the convention on biological diversity. Since then came from the notion that we should be focusing our efforts on who’s going to get rich out of bioprospecting rather than how we should control human activity in order to prevent a collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity for our much deeper, longer term well-being.
The treaty has accomplished a certain bit but it fell far short of what it should be doing. And one of the main reasons for that is the disgraceful behavior of the government of the United States. I of my own country. Already during the negotiations of the treaty, even though US scientists and some politicians were leading movers of the treaty negotiation itself. The right wing in the United States started to lobby against the treaty. And by the time the treaty was finalized for the Rio Earth summit, President George Bush Sr. in 1992 decided on the basis of members of his own party, not to sign the treaty. The next year President Bill Clinton came to office, signed the treaty, and submitted it for senate ratification which in the United States system requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The senate committee looking at this treaty gave it its approval. But the senate never ratified the treaty then, and up until today. What happened is that, so called free marketeers said, why should we our activities?
Why should we agree to equitable and fair sharing of biological products our, its our drug companies, let them go make a profit. Isn’t this going to call into risk, they said, intellectual property of the pharmaceutical industry? One suspects that powerful industrial lobbies were having their say at the time. And then more and more senators, especially from Western states in the US where there are a lot of federal lands that private developers crave. Give us those lands so we can mine on them, so we can create ranches and so we can drill for oil or hydrofrack for Shell gas and so forth, said this treaty is going to be a menace to our property rights. It was a startling the kind of free market sentiment that arose that is so misguided because markets are to serve human purposes. But when markets, don’t take into account the profound externalities of individual behavior, such as the loss of biological diversity, or driving species to extinction, free markets are not our friend.
They become the enemy of human well-being, the antagonist of human well-being. And an ideology that says, leave me alone, I have perfect right to destroy species is obviously an ideology that can create havoc. And it is as odd as it sounds, an ideology of tremendous political and economic force in the United States and in other parts of the world. Here’s what senator at the time from Montana said about the treaty. US environmental laws are currently encroaching on our property rights. Provisions like the endangered species act and wetlands laws are dictating what private landowners can and can not do with their own land. This treaty, in other words, the Convention on Biological Diversity could give a panel outside the United States the right to dictate what our environmental laws should say. That is wrong. He and his colleagues prevailed. The treaty was never ratified and the US while an observer to the treaty has been conspicuous by its absence of responsibility. Of providing required and adequate financing under the treaty, and of taking the steps as a signatory in enforcing the treaty. CBD is hardly known to the United States a, as a result. I, I don’t think people of the street have the slightest idea of what the convention on biological diversity is. And when the convention signatories signed back in 2002, a commitment. A pledge to reverse the loss of bio-diversity to slow it and reverse it by the year 2010. Making a global goal to get the loss of biological diversity under control. It’s fair to say that that global goal had, I don’t know if it’s fair to say, no impact at all. I, but I think it’s probably right to say no discernible impact in actually slowing the loss of biodiversity. Well, those three multilateral environmental agreements were reviewed 20 years later at the Rio+20 Summit. And when the world went off to Rio in June, 2012, to review progress that had been made, or the lack of progress.
Nature Magazine, one of the two great English language scientific journals weeklies in, in the world, gave an in-depth analysis of what had happened under the various treaties. And they gave a report card, and you’re looking at the report card, that nature magazine gave on the convention on biological diversity. And you see main assignment. Reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. Grade an F, total failure. This treaty has not slowed the loss of biodiversity. Other assignments. Develop targets, a D. Protect ecosystems a C. We’ll look at why at least there was a passing grade for that though not a very high one. On and on, recognize indigenous rights, provide funding. A D, for recognizing indigenous rights, something we’ve already seen, indigenous communities the world over continue to face massive discrimination. And lack of recognition of their rights. Financing to offset the loss of biodiversity a solid F. The one high grade that was given was creating a regulatory framework around genetically ma, modified organisms. Whether that serves the human purpose, or chokes off the benefits that advance to genetics might give for seed breeding, for example, remains to be seen. The only other passing grade, decent grade of, it’s not even decent, but of, of a C given on that report card was of protecting areas. One of the provisions in the convention on biological diversity was to set aside protected zones and this graph shows you the cumulative protected areas in the world. National parks and national reserves, protected wildlife refuges, marine protected zones and so forth have been on the increase for decades. We see the rise in protected areas and the rise in particular of marine protected areas. [This is a contribution we, we can say of the convention on biological diversity. It has some effect, but overall that verdict of F as the overall grade on the main goal of the treaty stands and gives us a fair warning. Now, another very important treaty preceded the convention on biological diversity by a couple of decades. That is, the convention on international trade in endangered species which was signed in 1973 and went into effect soon thereafter. The idea of CITES is to reduce the pressures and dangers of species’ extinction by regulating trade specifically in endangered species. And the way that the treaty works is that the treaty takes a classification of endangered species. Species that are not yet endangered with extinction but could become so unless trade is reduced, and a third category of species whose trade indirectly imperils the species in endangerment of extinction. And with those three categories, CITES covers around 34,000 plant and animal species right now. The main idea is to stop or to ban, trade in endangered species to, and to regulate trade more generally. To head off the endangerment of species and, and of course to prevent their extinction. This treaty has an effect, but again like all international law, the real forces of the world economy can sweep aside what’s on paper and often lead to consequences that are absolutely devastating even if illegal. An example of this is the recent surge in trade, illegal trade in rhinoceros horns, and the massive kill off of rhinoceroses because of this world soaring demand. Most of this demand, virtually all of it, comes from china where rhinoceros horn is a treasured part of the pharmacopoeia of traditional Chinese medicine. It’s sometimes said that the rhinoceros horn is coveted as an aphrodisiac. Apparently that’s not the case. the, rhinoceros horn is ground into powder, and used to fight varies, diseases, in traditional Chinese medicine. And it as a extraordinarily valued commodity. But the black rhinoceros is an extraordinarily endangered species, and the numbers have fallen precipitously. One can say that the populations of the black rhino have plummeted in recent years as demand has soared for the rhinoceros horn. It’s not surprising why when you take into account that the market price for a rhinoceros horn estimated to be around $50,000 per kilo is just about the same as the price of a kilo of gold. This is a commodity worth it’s weight in gold, literally and such a commodity is bound to give rise to tremendous pressures at every part of the supply chain. Bribing local game park officials. Bribing people at port facilities that are supposed to be monitoring trade. Bribery and corruption all the way along the supply chain until the final market. Thanks to a very important recent study by Professor Lenzen at the University of Sydney and his colleagues. We find that trade in rhinoceros horns or in elephant tusks and the dangers that they pose are a pervasive problem not specific to a couple of headline areas, but involving thousands and thousands of endangered plant and animal species. Professor Lenzen and colleagues looked at thousands of threatened species. And millions of bilateral trading patterns between countries, both source countries of these products and destination countries demanding products that are using these endangered plants and animals as inputs in the production process. And their results are stunning. A very significant proportion a third or so of the endangered species that they looked at are part of important global trading chains. Meaning that it’s not good enough to stop local pressures say small holder farmers entering into a forest area. Or to think about the endangerment of an ecosystem based on local economic forces and local economic incentives. We’re talking about essentially the full weight of the $80 or $90 trillion world economy, which is providing the fuel for this massive loss of biodiversity. In this graph from the Lenzen study, you see a differentiation of species threatened by net importers, and by net suppliers of the species. So, net importers are rich countries. Like the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, U.K., and so forth. And the net suppliers are countries typically poor or middle income tropical countries that are supplying the, the tropical hard woods, or the forest products, or the other plants and animals coming from the tropical ecosystems. Cameroon, Cambodia, Russia, Thailand, Sir Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Indonesia All places that are net exporters of this endangered of these endangered species in large numbers. One of the useful graphics from the Lenzen study is the ability to trace the world wide supply chains. This is shown by this illustration from the study of two parts of this worldwide supply chain. One are trades in species where Malaysia is the supplier, and that’s shown in orange in this global map. And then our, the trade in species where Germany is the net importer, the demander. So you can look at these supply chains of endangered species, both from the suppliers side and the demanders side. And the, the main point of this graph without having to go into detail is that we’re talking not only about pervasive trade influences on the loss of biodiversity, but we are talking about global supply chains. And not simply one point to the next, but multiple countries engaged in multiple threats as consumers. And of course many, many countries engaged in threats to biodiversity as suppliers to those consuming countries. What’s our conclusion? Our conclusion is that global efforts stretching over many decades have not yet come to grips with the sixth extinction wave on the planet. Humanity is the power of influence over ecosystem functions, and its endangerment of biodiversity is so vast and coming from so many different directions. That we still lack the comprehensiveness and the weight of our politics, and our public awareness as well as our economic incentives, to get this right. When the world met at Rio plus 20, 20 years after the Rio world summit. And they had that report card of an F on implementing the convention on biological diversity, an F on implementing the UN framework convention on climate change, an F on implementing the UN convention to combat desertification. They knew that something, something different needs to be done. And we’re going to look at what the prospects are for the breakthrough of policy to a true age of sustainable development under a set of sustainable development goals. That at least have the potential to energize our actions and raise our awareness, our understanding and our motivation to take hold of these forces and make sure that we move from the very threatening business as usual path, to a true path of sustainable development.
Forests remain one of the major parts of terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. e know that forests cover something around 30% of the total land area.
And we also know that forest cover used to be a far higher proportion of, the earth’s land area, before humanity got to it.
Humanity’s been in the business for thousands and thousands of years of clearing forests. And we read accounts of the massive deforestation in ancient Greece, or in the Roman Empire, or in ancient China and India thousands of years ago. This is an ancient story, but we continue to lose a lot of rainforest, and a lot of other forest areas today, because of the increasing populations and pressures on the planet and the forces of international trade. So what has been going on from ancient times, continues and in some ways, intensifies, till today. When we lose forests, we degrade ecosystems. We also lose a tremendous amount of biodiversity. Our rainforest areas, the three great rainforest areas of the Amazon basin, the Congo basin, and the Indonesian archipelago, are home to countless species and much of the greatest biodiversity on the planet. And as those rainforests are being depleted right now, or are at threat of massive deforestation and degradation, we are also losing huge amounts of biodiversity as well. This map gives us suggestion of the extent of past deforestation, and some of the challenges of current deforestation. Every area shaded in this map, is an area that originally had forest cover.
The very light shaded areas, let’s say in western Europe or across China, or across Russia and, the Eurasian land mass. The light shaded areas in the eastern half of the United States, are areas that were original forest cover that have been deforested. So western Europe, much of the eastern half of the United States, essentially all of China, lost its original forest cover to human activity. In the case of China, hundreds of years ago that process was already complete. India as well having lost a huge amount of its original forest cover. Europe having lost a huge amount of its original forest cover hundreds and in some cases thousands of years ago. Today, most deforestation is taking place in the fast growing tropical and subtropical regions. And notably in the rainforests where population densities were low traditionally.
But had been rising and where these rainforest regions are increasingly being encroached for human provisioning, for tropical log woods, or for clearing, for farm land, and for pasture land. Or for provisioning of peasant small holders who go into the forests for fuel wood, or for bushmeat or for other needs of people living on the margins, of the forest. And the result is that while temperate zone areas were deforested in historical time, it’s now the tropical areas that are under the most direct force of deforestation today. Not because there’s something intrinsic about tropical deforestation, but rather, in a way, from a historical point of view, because it’s coming last in line. It’s a, set of ecosystems that were relatively less disturbed previously, but now are facing major disturbances in human impacts. Some of that human impact is internally driven by growing populations within countries, within Brazil or within Central Africa for example, or in Southeast Asia. But, a huge amount I’m going to want to draw our attention to, is coming from international trade.
From demands halfway around the world for these forest products and this is very, very difficult to control because it means high levels of demand, often from rich countries or rapidly growing economies like China. Even overwhelmed local protective services. It’s easy to bribe. It’s easy to engage in illegal activities even when they are on the books under legal control. This map that you’re looking at now shows us the current patterns of deforestation. It emphasizes that in areas that were traditionally deforested, say, the eastern part of the United States or western Europe, or northern Europe, there is some reforestation taking place in those areas. That’s a very healthy point. But the red areas shown on this map are areas that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified as being areas under a current intensive process of deforestation. And that includes parts of the tropical rainforests I’ve mentioned. Large regions in Southeast Asia. Of course the Andean region as well. Many parts of the world where there are remaining forests find those forests under threat. Forests are major providers and regulators of ecosystem services, and this means that the threats to these forests are threats to human well being. And it’s worth listening to the words of one of the great scientists of our age, James Lovelock who is the creator of the Gaia theory which is basically the theory of the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems and the interconnected regulatory processes of those ecosystems. Lovelock more than, most earth scientists, 30, 40, 50 years ago, emphasize the interconnectedness of the climate regulatory functions. that, and other natural flux functions of energy heat dissipation nutrient flows, and so forth, played by ecosystems. Emphasizing that when we degrade one ecosystem, we impede or undermine the functioning of ecosystems in other parts of the planet. So here’s what Lovelock says for example about the deforestation of the tropical rainforests. He says, and I’m quoting, no longer do we have to justify the existence of humid tropical forests on the feeble grounds that they might carry plants with drugs that cure human disease. Because he’s saying that was one argument that conservationists were emphasizing. Maybe the main one. Don’t cut down the rainforest, there maybe a lifesaving medicine there. There’s proof to that, but what Lovelock is saying is that’s not the only proof. Gaia theory forces us to see that they offer much more than this. Through their capacity to evapotranspirate vast volumes of water vapor, they serve to keep the planet cool by wearing a sunshade of white reflecting cloud.
So the rainforests have cloud cover above it. A lot of that cloud cover reflects the incoming ultraviolet radiation, sending it out into space, rather than having it hit the earth, warm the earth, reradiate as infrared. And so, the changing reflectance of the planet, caused by the existence of the rainforests is a regulatory feature of climate. Not intuitive, not of our everyday nature, but recognized by an interconnected earth systems science. So, Lovelock concludes their replacement by crop land could precipitate a disaster that is global in scale. The point, the point is that when we degrade large ecosystems such as tropical ecosystems, the impacts can be far more then we would recognize in the absolute direct impact of the loss of the local ecosystem services. Earth systems science teaches us that the interaction of the ecosystems in their global regulation of climate, water cycle, other nutrient cycle, nitrogen fluxes, are also of huge significance for planetary balances and for human well being. Well, the extent of degradation is enormous. The pressures are vast, and the pressures are coming from many different directions. Have a look at the island of Borneo, which is shared in the present day, by Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia, with its two states of Sabah and Sarawak. And Indonesia with the state of Kalimantan. This island is absolutely under the most incredibly rapid and deep transformation, because one of the most diverse, wondrous ecosystems of forest area is essentially being cut down and replaced by monoculture, for palm oil production. Palm oil is in huge demand, since palm oil is a very versatile product. It commands a good market price. It’s used in many home products. It’s used in cooking and for for home use. And it’s soared, in demand in recent decades.
And the maps that you’re looking at produced by UNAP, both show the actual decline of forest cover on the Island of Borneo. Up through the year 2005 and then projections that were made under a business as usual trajectory for 2010 and 2020. What you’re observing here essentially is deforestation to replace a highly biodiverse rainforest area with a monoculture of of palm oil. Now palm oil in limited production is okay and when it’s carefully monitored and measured and kept within certain boundaries, it can make sense. But if it sweeps the island of Borneo and as is similarly taking place in Sumatra and Indonesia, if you get a massive replacement of a diverse ecosystem with a monoculture, the losses will be phenomenal. The losses to regulatory functions of these ecosystems. The losses to biodiversity in the specific context of Indonesia, Malaysia.
Huge threats to the loss of, again, one of our closest Great Ape relatives, the orangutan whose habitat is precisely in these rainforest areas, whose numbers have declined, and whose habitat is under tremendous threat. And unless we take into account what is a sustainable harvesting of tropical forests. What is in the same way that we need to take into account the sustainable harvesting of fisheries, and other ecosystems. We will, before we know it, have lost these ecosystems. They will have fallen into an irreversible collapse. There’s an attempt to do something about it of course. In fact there are several attempts. One that is notable, is to link the conservation of the rainforests, and forests in general, with the climate change agenda. Because remember that perhaps 15% of the total carbon dioxide emissions each year are coming from land use change especially from deforestation. And so, the idea was taken several years ago that as part of the mitigation effort, not only should we be reducing our carbon footprint in the energy sphere, but also the carbon emissions coming from deforestation. And the project that has grown up from that is called REDD Plus, R-E-D-D Plus. Which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. And so, it’s both the thinning of forests and the clearing of forests that are the target of the REDD Plus Initiative. The idea, and it’s a good one, is to give financial incentives to farmers and to communities and to forest communities in general, often including indigenous populations. To protect the forests and to replace part of the income that in the short term they would lose from their over exploitation of the forest products, with a sustainable flow of income of other kinds including a top-up of income being provided by donor countries. Norway for example, has offered a billion dollars to Brazil. In a REDD Plus Initiative to slow or stop the deforestation of the Amazon, [COUGH] and to use this funding to create financial incentives for forest communities in the Amazon to play the role of protecting the Amazon rather than facilitating its loss. The map that you’re seeing here are the participating countries. The countries in red are countries that are actively receiving from the United Nations, support for developing REDD Plus programs. Other partner countries are shown in blue. It is a, an important effort. The funding by some countries like Norway has been extremely generous. But, it’s still a small counter pressure to an overwhelming force coming from the global marketplace for the products, either directly off the forests themselves, or for the products that are grown. The meat products or the soy beans or others that are grown, when the for, and palm oil, when the forest are cleared and replaced by other kinds of economic activity. Let’s look in more depth at programs like REDD Plus to see what the international response is to the loss of bio diversity. To see how that response is functioning to date, and to make a kind of assessment of how we might and need to strengthen that response, if we are to reverse the very powerful wave of species extinction and ecosystem loss that now is engulfing so much of the planet.
 http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest, http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C56/forests_2012.
As we’re putting pressure on ecosystems of all kinds, polar, alpine, tropical rain forests, dry-land areas. We’re of course, also putting tremendous pressures on our marine eco systems and the oceans.
We know that we’re changing basic ocean chemistry. We know that we are poisoning the oceans with the pollution of coming from huge oil spills and other disasters and we are also degrading the biodiversity in the oceans through human activities, especially through the over fishing and over harvesting of marine life.
The oceans cover three fourths of the Earth’s surface area. And we know, of course, as we discussed many times that, our huge cities around the world hug the oceans, depend on the oceans for trade, for economic activity, for our food supplies, for our proteins, and, Invaluable, nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids from, our fish intake. Back in 1950, the estimate is that the total ocean catch measured, in total metric tons was somewhere, around, 20 to 30 million metric tons of fish catch. By 1990, that had become around 90 million metric tons that perhaps a factor of three or four increase globally in how much we were taking from the oceans.
And that is even an under estimate of the true effect, because those numbers, as conventionally reported, don’t measure what we discard and throw back in the oceans. When fishermen catch fish in the nets, they also bring in a lot of bi-catch, or unintended catch, of marine life that they don’t want. And that’s not counted in the, harvesting of the fish, but it is an absolutely core part of the actual, over harvesting of marine ecosystems. You’re looking here at a fascinating graph which has a very important message and reality to it. The blue area shown here is the capture from the oceans, it’s the amount of fish taken, and marine life taken, in metric tons year by year. And it rose sharply, as I said, up to the 1990s. And then more or less leveled off. You might say that’s a good thing. But in a way it was force majeure in the sense that, that leveling of reflects the collapse of many fisheries around the world that had increased the takes so much that they had driven the fisheries to depletion, to crisis.
So that the amount that could be taken out was, was limited, increases were no longer possible and in many cases such as the, near, my former home when I was a professor at Harvard university up in New England. A complete closure of the cod fisheries because of the collapse of the cod fisheries after so much heavy fishing for so many decades. So that leveling off is a reality that came from the enormous pressures being put on ocean fisheries. It doesn’t mean that we’ve reached an equilibrium because many fisheries around the world continue to be driven towards depletion. And our, in a situation of crisis. Now on top of that is another green area of rising production of aqua-culture. This is going to managed fisheries, not in the open sea catch, as in a traditional fitching, fishing, but in raising fish industrially either on the coasts in many cases or in inland areas that are suitable for growing fish. China is the world champion of aquaculture. And as the limits to the marine catch have intensified, the markets for aquaculture have expanded. And that has permitted a continuing overall rise in the metric tonnage of fish that are consumed. That’s a good thing overall, because, of course, this is, a reflection of the fact that, fish are highly desired in our diets, and highly nutritious as well. But it also poses a whole new chapter of risks, for us, because aquaculture itself has huge impacts on ecosystems. The cultivation of fish in managed locales at the coastline or in fish farms in in the interior Can lead to spread of disease, can lead to excessive nutrient flows of many kinds, can threaten the biodiversity of wild fish through escaped varieties from managed fisheries in aquaculture and so forth.
But what the diagram shows is that we are hitting limits of the open sea catch, and compensating in part and on the whole, in a desirable way, through aquaculture. But only if that aquaculture itself is operated in a responsible matter, and that is a complex challenge given all the things that can go wrong with aquaculture. Now, how did this massive increase of catch occur? It came from a massive increase of fishing activity. Shown here, comparing the intensity of fish fleets in different fisheries around the world in 1950 and in the early years of this new century. And what you see is a massive expansion in the magnitude of the fleet coverage in this period. There were huge technical advances in the use of massive long line nets, which allowed for much greater capture, in the use of all kinds of remote sensing, satellite imagery and other kinds of sensing to identify where the fish are located in the use of ocean bottom trolling. to, that just scrapes up the fish on the ocean floor and other marine life, often completely devastating those highly complex, highly bio diverse marine ecologies as a result of all of this. And so, the consequence is that technological advances, as is often the case, has not been the friend of biodiversity and of ecosystem sustainability.
It has led to a huge depletion of fisheries, a huge loss of biodiversity, and a huge threat to the productivity of these marine ecosystems. One measure of how big the catch is, is an innovative measure that has been developed, that looks at the amount of photosynthesis needed to produce primary food products for the amount of fish take that is being and marine catch that is being harvested from the oceans. And so, one looks at the amount of primary production implied by the fish take as a fraction of the primary production in that fishery area as an indicator of risk. In other words, how much photosynthesis is being appropriated for the fish catch. Just as we looked when Professor Vetusak asked how much of the terrestrial photosynthesis is being appropriated for the human species. And we found the shocking number that it’s 40 to 50% of the net primary production. Well, the same thing is true for the amount of fish that we’re taking, so this is, again, human appropriation. Of net primary production, but indirectly, in the form of the fish take, and what you can see in these red areas, shown on this map are fisheries where the amount of net primary production associated with that amount of fish capture is already an endangered zone. 30% or higher in many cases of the total net primary production being, taken, in fish catch each year, implying that we are harvesting at a rate that is completely unsustainable for these fisheries.
Now, one implication of this is not only are we driving the abundance of fish down to levels that threaten their very survival, but we’re also changing the structure of the ecosystems as well. It’s called fishing down the the trophic chain or fishing down the food chain. Because the first fish to go are the high trophic fish, the large blue fin tuna, and others that are the big prized carnivorous or pacivorous fish that eat other fish, that eat other fish, that eat the plankton. And the net primary producers weigh down the trophic level and what, the fish ecologists, have done is to measure the average trophic level of the fish that are caught. Meaning, are we mostly harvesting fish that are the first, on, on the first line of eating, the photosynthetic output or are we catching fish up the food chain that are the, predators of the fish lower down. And what we find in, from the evidence provided by, the ecologists, is that over time more and more of the catch is lower and lowered down the trophic chain. And the reason is that humanity is very good at eating those prized fish, way up the food chain.
The predators of the predators of the predators and we value those fish, we catch them, we deplete them, they’re smaller in number and they’re highly valued and then, later on, we go to smaller fish and lower down on the food chain. And this is shown by these two downward sloping lines which measure, over the years, the average trophic level of the catch that is brought from the fisheries. The top blue line in this chart is for the marine fisheries and the red line lower down is for fresh water fisheries. And what’s superimposed on this is aquaculture where we’re growing fish that are higher up the trophic level. Now that is also complicated.
When we grow, in agriculture, fish that are high up the fish chain. It means those fish have to be fed smaller fish. Or fish meal and that means that that kind of aquaculture requires massive open sea fishing to provide the fish meal. To feed the, the growing aquaculture, and so, in this way, aquaculture maybe doesn’t substitute for the open, open sea excessive harvesting, but actually can exacerbate it if we are feeding piscivorous fish in the aquaculture. To the extent that the aquaculture is for fish that are that, that eat photosynthetic output rather than other fish, herbivorous fish. Then we don’t have that phenomenon. And, those kinds of aquaculture. For instance, tilapia, us, is a substitute rather than, a, an amplifier, of the, the, pressures on the open sea fishing. Now, the, the basic framework that fisheries ecologists use is a framework that asks how much can be taken sustainably. And they calculate or try to calculate a complicated concept of maximum sustainable yield of a fish type. And the question that they’re asking is, how much tuna can be taken from this fishery or how much anchoveta can be taken from this fishery or how much cod can be taken from this fishery without depleting the fish stock? And the basic question is, at what natural rate is that particular species, for example growing, within this ecosystem?
So that if that amount is harvested, it’s leaving that amount of species, unchanged year to year, and therefore in a stable population. The basic idea of calculating the maximum sustainable yield is to try to determine what is a safe level of fishing. That concept has become more complicated necessarily in recent years, because ecologists came to understand it’s not good enough to ask, for an individual species, how much can be sustained.
We have to take an ecosystem-wide perspective, so now the ecologists are calculating a maximum sustainable yield, based not on a single species framework, but on an ecosystem wide sustainability concept. Now, the most essential point is that humanity continues to fish more than the maximum sustainable yield. And thereby drive more and more of the fisheries into danger of depletion, ultimate collapse, even extinction of, certain, fishes, that are, depleted, and, and then driven to extinction. What can be done about it? Well, the key point is clear. One has to put a limit on how much fish can be taken. And this has led to many kinds of policy innovations, none of which is foolproof by any means, because these market pressures are relentless. But to try to identify the maximum sustainable yield and then assign permits for that amount of fish catch. And in some cases, to allow those permits to be traded, among individual fishermen, in which case their individual fish quotas. Or among groups or companies. But a kind of tradeable permit system, where the total number of permits given is in correspondence with what the ecology tells us is a sustainable amount of fishing is the main policy direction that has been taken. But, with all of the lobbying pressures, more quotas, don’t tell us there are limits, with all of the illegality of unmonitored, and undocumented, and illegal fishing these systems have in some cases shown results. But in other cases have essentially been brushed aside by legal and illegal forces, political and economic that have meant that the depletion has continued despite the attempt to put on these kinds of limits. Well, if the oceans were troubled only by the extent of harvesting of marine life, we’d have trouble enough. But it’s important for us to remember that the kinds of assaults of humanity on marine ecosystems is coming from many, many different directions. This map is showing the corals at risk along the coasts of the world and emphasizing that the reasons for this risk are multiple, as usual. Tourism over fishing, over exploitation of the coral reefs. Harvesting of the corals themselves using dynamite for fishing, pollution sedimentation, human activities driving corals also to depletion to threat of extinction for many coral species because of climate change and direct impacts on the coral reefs all over the world. This map is showing what we’ve mentioned many, many times, and that is, the run-off of nitrogen and phosphorus, leading to eutrophication and to hypoxia, to dead zones. Depleted of oxygen along the coasts of the rivers. Look at the entire eastern coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico coast of the southern United States, especially where the Mississippi river enters the Gulf of Mexico, the massive amount of dead zones there. Similarly, we see that in the North Sea. We see it around China and Korea and Japan. We’re there’s a tremendous amount of eutrophication taking place. And this map, we’ve seen before, is the step by step acidification of the oceans as the high concentrations of CO2 dissolve in the oceans. Create H2C03, carbonic acid, that acid attacks the shellfish, the calcareous species in the ocean, threatening whole classes of marine life. We’ve got huge problems we have some tools to address these. But I think the fair summary is that our oceans are at profound and still growing threat because of the pressures of human activity. We depend on the oceans in countless ways for our well being, for our survival. If we don’t take care and face up to these multiple assaults. We will face a growing crisis in, the not so distant future.
Ecosystems provide vital services for human well being, provisioning and regulation among them. Biodiversity, the variation of life within species, across species, and across ecosystems.
Determines to an important extent, how well ecosystems perform. And therefore, how well they provide vital services for humanity. There was a long standing hunch that a greater degree of biodiversity. More genetic variation within species a richer web of species in a food chain or in a given ecosystem, would raise the performance of ecosystems. And over the last 20 years, ecologists have been making valiant efforts to understand the linkage of biodiversity to ecosystem functioning. Their conclusion is a very strong one. And that is that biodiversity, biological diversity, raises the performance of ecosystems in valuable ways. And when biodiversity is under threat, at any level of organization, less genetic variation within a species, less variation of the range of species, less favorable interaction across ecosystems. When biodiversity is a threat, ecosystem functions are degraded.
Let me give just a few examples of what has been found as reported recently in some overviews of this linkage, from biodiversity to ecosystem functions. Consider provisioning, for example. The way that ecosystems provide food or fiber for human needs. One thing that’s found is that crop yields are higher in farm systems that have a higher biodiversity. This is a very big deal, because a lot of the industrial food production is monoculture. One kind of crop grown massively on a farm, rather than a high biodiverse farming system. And even within, that one crop, whether it’s rice, or wheat, or maize or, some other crop, it’s one seed variety perhaps, industrially manufactured.
And so what’s happening is that the biodiversity of our farm systems is shrinking. And one of the findings is that this is making our farm systems less productive. Yields actually go down. And maybe farmers don’t know this individually, or they haven’t had the experience, or they’ve become part of an industrial food chain that has discouraged a highly biodiverse farm system, but the results are farms in threat. And farms that are monoculture are also far more vulnerable to the invasion of pests and pathogens. One of the things that biodiversity does is protect an ecosystem from an invasion. In invasive species like a weed variety, or in invasion of a pest that attacks a certain kind of plant. If there are multiple kinds of plants in the ecosystem, maybe there’s some loss, but the parasite or the pest is controlled. But if there’s one monocle through it can tear through the entire area without limit essentially. So the resistance to invasions, to parasites, to pests is also reduced. Another finding quite similar is in marine ecosystems.
If there is a reduction of biodiversity of the fish species. And that’s happening all over the world as fishermen clear a particular fisheries area of the most favorite species, or particular easy to catch species, or the fewer numbers at the higher trophic levels of the ecosystem, meaning the kinds of fish that it, that eat other fish, that are piscivorous that are fish eating fish and higher up on the food chain. In other words, the phenomenon has now been verified by ecologists across many different kinds of ecosystems and many different kinds of reductions of biodiversity. also, when it comes to implications for climate regulation, reducing ecosystem performance by lo, a loss of biodiversity also can reduce storage of carbon in cycles, or in plant life.And therefore, essentially, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because there’s less biological sequestration of the carbon within the ecosystem. So the regulatory functions of ecosystems in climate as well, are degraded when biodiversity is lost. Now, that’s all pretty bad news, and the reason it’s bad news is that in ecosystem after ecosystem, biodiversity is at massive threat. It’s already being reduced, degraded, hugely threatened. Why? For so many reasons that it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to bring under control. A summary perhaps that’s useful is to look at a map of the world that was prepared by my colleagues at the Earth Institute a number of years ago, called the Human Footprint Map. What my colleagues did was to take a number of indicators. For example, population density, land use change, infrastructure coverage railroads, roads, other human changes. Aggregate them, weight them in an index, and then for each small part of the world, the kilometer by kilometer ask, how big is the human influence, the human footprint in this part of the world. And they came up with a map that looks like this. The darker the red, the stronger is the human footprint. If an area is all green, that’s a part of the world very little touched by human influence.
Well, what you see in this map is the sweep of humanity. Humanity is basically everywhere where it’s habitable. And so you look at the United States there’s no dark green area essentially in the continental United States. The eastern half of the U.S. is much darker red than the western half because it’s much more densely settled. In part because it’s it is more humid, there is more food production and the western part of the United States by and large is arid and more mountainous, with much less population density. But even there, the human activity, land use change, pasture land, farm land, urban settlements, roads, rail, are pervasive. So where are the dark green areas? well, in Africa, the desert, the Sahara desert. Yes, very, very low human impact, but very, very few people living in the Sahara. For the boreal regions of the Eurasian landmass. Up in the tundra. where there are still forests and very little population because it’s frozen much of the year or year round. And there’s not agriculture in these very high latitudes. And so there’s relatively low human impact. But look at India. Look at China other than the Tibetan Plateau at 20,000 feet or more above sea level. Look at South America aside from still parts of the Amazon rainforest.
What you see is the pervasive human footprint. Humanity is everywhere. And just like the underlying index that is the basis of this map, humanity is everywhere in many, many different ways. It’s there in infrastructure, it’s in farming. It’s in changes to basic chemical cycling, as we’ve talked about so much in water use, or nitrogen cycling, or phosphorus cycling, as a result of agricultural activities. Now, a related idea was led by a great ecologist, Peter Vitousek. now, more than 15 years ago, when he and his colleagues asked the question about human domination of the ecosystems. How much are we taking in that provisioning. We need food. We need pasture land. We need areas to to, to put our asphalt down for our cities and our roads, and our parking lots. How much of the global ecosystems is humanity appropriating? What is the human domination? Their conceptual framework for that is shown here in this complicated flow chart. They start at the top with human population both its size and the resource use. Then, the human enterprises, they called it, what humanity does in agriculture and industry and recreation in international trade. Then they talked about the several ways that human activity appropriates or dominates ecosystems. Land transformation, for example, farming or land clearing for pasture land and for use of forests could be the change of the cycling of key nutrients and chemicals and the ecosystem as we talked about like nitrogen or the water cycle or the carbon cycle with its enormous effects on climate. Or changes directly in the biosphere. As we harvest crops, as we hunt species, as we fish for fish. Or as we rearrange the biogeography of species by saying, why don’t we take that species from Australia and put it here, without having a deep understanding of what happens when one species invades another ecosystem where its predator or control mechanisms might not apply. And all of this, if you go down the flow chart, changes the climate system, for example, through the greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. And leads to a loss of biological diversity, which is our main focus right now. So what Professor Vitousek and his colleagues did was to try to assess how big is the human domination of ecosystems by several fascinating metrics. How much land has humanity transformed? How much have we changed the carbon cycle? What have we done to water use and so forth? Their conclusion revealed the massive extent of human impacts across all of these dimensions. Land area, 40, 50 percent of the total net primary production through photosynthesis on the planet is for us. That’s a pretty voracious species. We are grabbing and have grabbed land area. Whether it’s the pastures, the forests, the arable land. And said okay to the other species, we’ll take that, thank you. That will be our pasture, that will be our farmland, and the extent of the human reach on land transformation is perhaps half of the total net primary productivity on the planet. CO2, we know we’ve changed the carbon cycle fundamentally, and already raised the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million, pre-industrial revolution, to 400 parts per million and rising. Now, water use. Tens of thousands of dams put on the world’s rivers. Massive taking of groundwater for irrigation especially. Harvesting the the flow that comes from glacier melt. And that very dangerously for us is going to come to an end as those glaciers retreat and then finally disappear under the force of global warming. Water use in crisis in many, many parts of the world because we have appropriated so much. Of the the, the available fresh water cycling. Nitrogen, we know we have come to dominate the nitrogen cycle. Turning N2 in the atmosphere into so called reactive nitrogen like ammonia or nitrates and nitrates that can be taken up by living organisms, is, both a natural process as we’ve discussed but also an industrial process, the Haber-Bosch process. That famous process that enabled humanity to grow so much more food that it made it possible for the population of the planet, to rise from not quite two billion people at the start of the twentieth century, to six billion people by the end, and now 7.2 billion people. We have threatened species so much that we realize that we need to classify and measure the species, that are endangered. We need to understand the extent of these dangers. and, the International Union for the Conversation of Nature, the IUCN, is the global score keeper of endangered species. It’s extremely important to understand what they’re measuring, and how they’re measuring it. And that is shown first on this diagram which helps us to understand the classification system used by the IUCN. Now the first thing to say is that there are an unknown number of total species on the planet and theories vary roughly between ten million species of all kinds. Plants, animals, microbial life. To possibly up to a 100 million species. We’ve not classified, large proportions of those species. So IUCN, still is in the process of classification, as is the world scientific community. Of those that are classified, then there are categorizations of species that are not threatened by human activity, they’re so in, in so many places and in such large numbers that humanity does not pose threats. To those that have already been driven to extinction. And you can see here the classification that are of, of the various gradations of threat. Species that are extinct because of human activity. Species that are extinct in the wild but perhaps still live in small numbers in captivity. Critically endangered species, endangered species, vulnerable species, near threatened species, and those of least concern. So, the IUCN keeps its so-called Red List which gives the numbers of species in these very threatened categories. And you’re looking at the tables for critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable species. And when one looks at the numbers, it’s of course, very, very frightening because even in a very short period of time, the numbers classified as critically endangered, for example are soaring. Partly this is through new classifications and adding species that have not been classified before. But it’s also very much that human activity is driving species to the state of being critically endangered and to extinction. The IUCN Red List is invaluable and of course, it is profoundly troubling. We know that major classifications of animals and plants are being pushed to the extreme, the critical danger levels and some to extinction. And just to mention, a few that are most dramatic amphibious species the world over are declining hugely in numbers. And this is taking place ac, across the range of amphibians and it’s taking place all over the world. Recent studies for the United States have shown an enormous drop-off. And one of the frightening things for the loss of amphibians in the United States is those that had the highest proportionate drop-off in frequency of sightings are the ones that were classified by IUCN as the most endangered. And so the declines of amphibious species are not taking place in the most abundant and safest but in the most endangered. Another major collapse, of of species are pollinator species which are so vital for our plants and our fruits and our food provisioning. The honey bee, in the United States, has been experiencing a dramatic, troubling and still poorly understood decline in numbers. And in some cases, a collapse of bee colonies that has come to be called the colony collapse disorder. And it is so striking with the fall of numbers. But even more striking perhaps, that we don’t quite understand why, where, what’s happening to this radical die off of bees across the United States. There are many potential culprits, Could be a parasite, a parasitic mite has been implicated, but then again multiple viruses have been implicated. Bacterial diseases. A drop of, nutrition, of, the honey bees, coming from changes of landscape and crop varieties. And many, many scientists think that it’s the increased use of pesticides that is a major cause of this. Another absolutely shocking, and dramatic, and troubling loss of species abundance and threat of extinction are the great apes. Our closest relatives on earth where humanity shares the genetic code and the evolutionary history just as close as can be. 95% or more of the genetic code shared with great apes, with the gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans bonobos and the dramatic decline of numbers of these great apes and of their habitat in the last 25 years is absolutely shocking. I had the occasion recently to visit one group of eastern mountain gorillas in Rwanda in Volcano National Park, which is doing a valiant effort to preserve the habitat of the mountain gorillas. It’s of course an incredible experience to be together with the gorilla group and to see them in the wild. And it was absolutely rather shocking to see how fragile is the remaining habitat for these endangered gorilla groups. Because the farm land, under tremendous population pressure is pushing right up against the the cloud forests, the bamboo forests, that are the habitat of the mountain gorillas. There is a stone wall which separates the farm land from the the bamboo forest. One doesn’t go far inside the bamboo forest to meet with the groups of the gorillas. You see how close humanity and the gorillas are living together and by the way, that means that humanity can pass pathogens, diseases, human diseases to gorillas. We share so much of our biology, of our genetics of our immune systems, that the diseases easily flow in both directions and disease itself can be transmitted to these gorilla groups. Well, it was breathtaking to be together with the mountain gorilla family and and a mountain group in the wild. But it was absolutely shocking to see how humanity has pressed against the remaining habitat for this species. The, the one of the closest relatives that we have and how fragile is that distance now that that is their margin of survival on the planet. These pressures are coming in all directions. They are causing huge risks to biodiversity. The risks to biodiversity are causing huge losses of ecosystem functions, and we have to understand now what we can do about it.
We’ve been examining what happens, when a growing world economy collides against planetary boundaries. We have a world output now, of 80 to $90 trillion, 7.2 billion people. We know that the numbers are continuing to rise. We know that the world economy is continuing to grow at three to 4% per year, meaning a doubling, every 20 years or so. We know, that there are already huge pressures on the world’s ecosystems, on the climate, on the oceans. And we have not yet found a way of course, to reconcile that continuing growth, with environmental sustainability.
We’ve studied a few ways that this, collision or this trespass of planetary boundaries is occurring, climate change being the most dramatic. Pollution of the air and water and the dangers to our cities being another. I want to go into greater depth now, on the question of the viability of other species, the biodiversity on the planet. I’ve mentioned several times, that humanity is putting so much pressure on the Earth, that we’re actually causing a dramatic increase in the rate of species extinction. Maybe 100 to a 1000 times, greater rate of species extinction, than was occurring before the the industrial revolution. That loss of species and many other phenomena associated with it, such as the decline of genetic diversity within species. The decline of abundance of species, even when they’re not being pushed to extinction, but just to smaller and smaller numbers. That combined effect is so large, that it is causing what could be the sixth great extinction on the planet, as I’ve discussed, and it is causing huge threats to humanity. As always, whether it’s with climate change, or dangers to our cities, or challenges of health and education, first we need to understand, what’s happening? Why is it happening? What are the mechanisms? We have to do a differential diagnosis of the losses to biodiversity, and to the rising rates of species extinction. Then we have to analyze, what we can do about it, what’s the prescription, what are the possible approaches? Now, there’s one overriding truth to this sixth wave of extinctions and to the threats to biodiversity. And that is, that the threats are coming from many, many different angles, as is true in almost everything we’re studying. We’re dealing with a complex system, where there’s not a linear effect from a single cause to a single outcome, and then onto another effect. There are multiple stressors, multiple drivers of environmental change, multiple causes of species extinction or decline of abundance and genetic diversity. We need to understand the complexity of this system because no single approach is going to be sufficient to reversing the trends that are underway. Heading off this sixth great extinction that is a threat, to not only millions of other species, but to one that we also have a especially strong vested interest in, and that’s Homo sapiens, that’s us. And so we need to get into the very complex nature of this threat. You’re looking at an example of biodiversity, the incredible diversity of species and interactions in this marine environment that you’re viewing right now. And of course, what you see are multiple species of animals and plant life. Many species are microscopic, and you don’t see them. You see the interactions of the fish, corals, and we know the microscopic plankton for example in the oceans, with the non-living part of the system in front of you, the fluxes of energy, of sunlight of nutrients that are arriving in this ecosystem from a variety of sources. What is an ecosystem? It is exactly that collection, of plants and animals and microbial life, interacting with the abiotic or nonliving part of the local system, with the energy and nutrient fluxes.
The key is that this is a set of living organisms together with the non-living environment. Interacting in a system and of course, what ecologists do in studying ecosystems, is study the fluxes and dynamics of the system. How does nutrient flow take place within a food web and within the processes of metabolism. Of, oxidation, respiration, photosynthesis, and other basic processes of, the metabolism of the living organisms, within the system. How does the diversity of the, species and the diversity of the individual organisms within a species, affect the behavior of that whole ecosystem? So when we have an ecosystem, we’re also interested in another core concept. And that is the biological diversity or biodiversity of that ecosystem. And of the biodiversity across ecosystems, as ecosystems, marine, and terrestrial, interact with each other, to produce outcomes, at an even higher level, of aggregation and organization. So what is bio-diversity? Bio-diversity is the variability of life, and it is variability that occurs at all different levels of organization. We care about the variability of life within a species, each of us is different from from other people. We have different genetic codes. We carry different effects of our our environment. We know that the relationship of environment and genetics, is extremely complicated. We found out that it’s even more complicated than we thought, through the emerging field of epi-genetics, which tells us that the environment affects, how our genes code or don’t code, in ways that actually can transmit across generations. Even not in the DNA itself, but in the way that that DNA is expressed in cells from a parental generation to offspring. So, we care about the variation, within a species. We care about the interaction across species. All of the various relationships of predator and prey, and mutualism, and parasitism, and the ways that species interact, and live together and are part of, larger food chains and nutrient fluxes. And a part of the way that, the disease is pathogens, transmit within an ecosystem. And we care about the biological diversity across ecosystems. Because the interaction of ecosystems, of dry land ecosystems, or desert ecosystems, interacting with the humid ecosystems, with alpine or marine ecosystems, is also absolutely crucial for understanding, how any of those individual ecosystems functions, but also understanding the global functioning of the, the earth as a whole. What happens in the oceans or what happens in the polar regions or what happens in the rain forests, affects global dynamics of heat dissipation, of the water cycle, and through multiple processes, affects ecosystems all over the world. So there are distant relationships between changes in the pole-ward regions, for example. And what happens even in the tropics or, or places that are thousands and thousands of kilometers, distant. So, biological diversity or biodiversity, requires us to understand the variation of life, at all different levels of organization, and to understand how that variability affects the performance of ecosystems, in ways that matter.
One of the most important studies that was done, in recent decades in fact, on the functioning of ecosystems, was a major global effort which reported in the year 2005, called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It took a global view of the major ecosystems in the world, and tried to give a conceptual framing, of how they’re functioning, how they’re interacting and what they mean for humanity. And one of the important schematic ideas that came out of the millennium ecosystem assessment is, this chart that you’re looking at right now.
The idea of this chart is to define, how ecosystems affect human well-being. That’s not the only thing we care about ecosystems, but it’s a pretty important part. And you see on the left, various categories of ecosystem services, so-called. Ecosystem services are the benefits, that ecosystems give to humanity, and to other species, I would like to add. And those benefits come in a variety of forms. Partly, ecosystems directly provide for human needs. Provisioning services, growing food, providing fresh water. providing, wood and fiber for building structures, for our clothing. Providing biomass for our fuels. So, provisioning is one direct and obvious category. A bit less, direct, but absolutely profound, is the idea of regulatory ecosystem services. Ecosystems control basic climate patterns, disease patterns cycling of crucial nutrients, in ways that are of fundamental importance to humanity. Even if they’re not directly the provisions of things, that we eat or directly consume. So for example, ecosystems in their functioning, have huge effects on climate regulation. If, the pole-ward Nordic and Arctic ecosystems are heavily changed by climate warming, then we’re also going to get powerful feedbacks that could be of tremendous adverse consequence. For example, the melting of the great ice sheets. Or the decline of ice covering the seas, changing the reflectance of the planet and providing a massive feedback, amplifying climate change, coming from greenhouse gasses. Or, the melting of ice in the Tundra, releasing massive amounts potentially, of methane or carbon dioxide, in a feedback mechanism. So, ecosystems provide regulatory services, either helping to sustain a climate in a safe zone, or if these ecosystems get perturbed, amplifying adverse changes that are coming from other factors, such as greenhouse gas concentrations. Flood regulation is the second kind of ecosystem service. Coastal areas are often protected by the mangrove swamps just off the coast or by other topographical features of ecosystems, and if those get perturbed, if those are lost by human-induced changes, that can lead to great dangers. The coastal areas around New Orleans, for example, were degraded by the ways that human activity led to changes of the dynamics of the Mississippi River, as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. And the loss of those coastal barriers meant, that when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf of Mexico, this added tremendous force and damage, to New Orleans and to the rest of the coastline. And so, the loss of coastal regulatory protection because of human activity, clearing mangrove swamps or changing river flow dynamics, had a hugely consequential and adverse effect for humanity. Ecosystems regulate disease and pests, and when ecosystems are degraded, pests or invasive species,that is species that have been brought in by accident or even inadvertently, from outside a particular place and maybe don’t have natural predators within that new environment, can spread, can take over, can be essentially like wild weeds or spreading parasites, with devastating consequences to food production, for example, or to human health. The ecosystems for instance, the wetlands which are a major part of the water cycle help to provide fresh water help to replenish ground water. Vital for household use or for crop production. When ecosystems are deranged, we can lose water services needed to grow food and needed for human health. Ecosystems have a third category called supportive ecosystem services you see here. Nutrient cycling or the way that soils are formed, through the interaction of biotic and abiotic processes. And soil formation then, is a crucial underpinning of course, of our agricultural productivity. And finally, the millennium ecosystem assessment identified cultural features, which are our values, our aesthetics. One of the, greatest scientists, of our age, E.O. Wilson, the great biologist at Harvard University, one of the leaders in understanding biodiversity and one of the leaders in understanding human nature, in, in our world, has given the idea that, humanity has a deeply ingrained love of bio-diversity. That we even inherited as part of our, our, our mental baggage during human evolution. A trait that he calls biofelia or love of of a diverse of a biology and the, the bioda, and our biodiversity. And Professor Wilson has given extensive compelling evidence from the range of anthropological studies for example, of how humanity feels at home, in certain natural environments. And how the degradation or derangement of those natural environments can deeply upset our cultures, our mental well being our sense of aesthetics, our overall quality of life. Well, those ecosystem services, translate into many dimensions of human well-being, our physical security, the materials that we need for life, our human, physical and mental health. Our ability to interact fruitfully in society, in other words, there are contributors to our social capital, and to the preservation of social relations and as the millennium ecosystem assessment emphasized, they contribute to our freedom, our capability to accomplish our life’s tasks. So, ecosystem services are central, they are a threat because they are such core, dimensions to our human well being, we now have to turn to the question of, how biodiversity contributes to the functioning of ecosystems, and what happens when biodiversity is put at great threat, by human activity. That’s our next subject
We’ve seen that it’s possible to reduce human emissions of green house gases substantially. The technologies are within reach. We need energy efficiency. We need low carbon electricity. And we need electrification of parts of the economy, like automobiles, like home heating, and some industrial processes, to use that clean energy from clean electricity rather than the dirty energy coming from burning fossil fuels. How do we get there? What do we do? Now, one thing must be stressed from the start. Energy is so deeply embedded in our economy, in how we do everything, in industry and transport, in our living, the organization of our cities. We can’t make that transition to low carbon energy overnight. Even if we wanted to, the only way to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term would be pretty catastrophic. We’d have to close down large parts of our economy. What we’re really looking for, therefore, is a transition over the course of 30 to 40 years. Not a sudden, abrupt end of emissions. But we need to move quickly, because what science tells us is that we have to cut by half or more our total emissions by the mid-century, even as the world economy is expanding dramatically. So, we’ve gotten the hints of what to do. What kinds of policies can be used to get there? Well, let’s consider, once again, the main pillars. Energy efficiency, for example. What kinds of policies can be applied to raise the efficiency of our energy use? One standard kind of policy, which has been quite successful around the world, is to put appliance standards into effect through regulation. And places that put basic standards on automobile, mileage, per gallon, for example, or the energy use in refrigerators and air conditioners, or a shift from a heavy energy using traditional light bulb, the incandescent light bulb, to LEDs and to compact fluorescent light bulbs, can be managed by appliance standards. And quite a lot of energy saving can be accomplished at very, very low cost, or even at net economic savings. Building codes can make a big difference. And building codes are part of the normal policy, framework of any normally run city. And we know that the quality which buildings are built, the insulation materials, the ventilation properties, the placement of the cities, the use of roofs, the internal energy systems whether it’s furnaces and boilers or, or whether it’s electric power sources make a huge difference in the energy efficiency of buildings. New York City, we already have noted it as experienced a major improvement of air quality, as well a major reduction of heavy oil use through regulation of and encouragement eh, through other means and other incentives. Of a shift to much more efficient energy use. Introducing smarter grids and new metering and smart ways that the utility company meters household and then applies pricing systems to encourage households to economize on electricity use, and helps customers to be aware of options on energy efficiency can make a very, very big difference. An even bigger part of the package for in many places will come by shifting from fossil fuels entirely to zero or very low carbon energy sources. The problem so far has been that using coal to produce electricity is often the lowest cost choice. If we don’t take into account the costs of coal to society in the form of air pollution and in the form of climate change. In other words, there’s a basic economic problem that coal has high costs, not reflected in the price of coal in the marketplace. If you buy coal and burn it as a utility, you don’t pay the cost of the carbon dioxide emissions that are going to wreck the planet for everybody else. You’re imposing a cost on others not reflected in the price that you, yourself, bear in using that coal. That’s called an externality, a utility that is using coal to produce electricity is imposing an externality on the rest of the planet. And, by the way, because that carbon dioxide sits in the atmosphere for centuries, it’s imposing an externality even on generations that are not yet born. And they can’t fight back. Can’t sue the, the, the power company. Can’t protest. Can’t call on legislators to tell that power company use a clean energy sources rather than the dirty CO2. And so, we need to correct the market signals if a utility is going to choose a clean energy source like solar power or wind power. Or if it’s going to use a technology that allows it to capture the carbon dioxide that it would otherwise emit, and store that carbon dioxide safely in some geologic reservoir, a technology called carbon capture and storage. No utility is going to chose the higher price variety unless it is forced to bear the true costs of using coal, the cost to health and the cost to climate change. So, economists rightly emphasize the need for corrective pricing. For market signals to tell the truth, to say to the utility, uh-uh, coal is too expensive if you take into account its true social costs. Well, how can market prices be corrected? They can be corrected in a variety of ways. One way is simple, you put a tax on the use of coal, reflecting the CO2 emissions and the health burdens that using that coal will cost. Only companies that capture the CO2 and safely store it wouldn’t have to pay the tax on the coal. And companies that use a non-carbon source of energy, like solar power or wind power, would avoid that tax as well. So, the market signal would say, you can not get away with it any longer, using a socially costly form of energy. Because of that tax, there will be a natural incentive of companies and households and builders everywhere to economize or substitute a way from coal, oil, and gas, and move towards the alternative energy sources that are now less expensive because they don’t bear that tax. There’s another system that can be used, which is that you’re required to have a permit to emit carbon dioxide, and only a few and shrinking number of permits are given out each year. Those permits can trade, a company that has no alternative might buy permits from others. But it’s expensive to buy that permit. It’s like paying a tax, but instead of paying the tax to the government, you may effectively pay that extra cost to whoever is selling you that permit. Could be the government, by the way. So, tradable permits for emissions or taxes on carbon are two ways to correct market prices. Another way to correct market prices is what’s called feed in tariffs. The government says to a utility company or a power generator, we’ll buy electricity from you, but we’ll pay an extra high price if the electricity that you’re bringing into the system is clean. So rather than taxing the dirty stuff, you give an added incentive for power generation coming from wind power or from solar power. These are all ways to tilt the market in the right direction. They’re not the end of the story, unfortunately, because we still need to improve the technologies for using the low carbon energy. The main problem with wind power is that the wind sometimes doesn’t blow. This is an intermittent power supply. The main problem with solar power is too, nighttime and clouds, and so the reliability and predictability of solar power, and the fact that it’s only available certain hours of the day. Mean that solar and wind power and many other kinds of renewable energy need to be stored somehow, stored in batteries, stored in other solutions that are being developed right now. If the problem of storage of intermittent energy sources, like wind and solar power, can be solved at low cost, because the existing solutions are fairly expensive. Then there would be a dramatic, dramatic breakthrough in reducing the overall costs of a low carbon electricity system. All of this means that another part of the policy of decarbonizing the primary energy system is research and development. Government should be investing heavily in new technologies, for instance, in the storage of energy from inter, intermittent power sources. Or in understanding the safety and feasibility of very large scale capture and geologic storage of carbon dioxide. Again, that idea that you continue to use fossil fuels, but you capture the CO2 before it goes into the air, and you put it safely underground. One of my very brilliant colleagues Professor Klaus Lackner, is trying yet another idea which needs a lot of research and development. And that is to capture the CO2 directly, already in the air, through chemical means, and through, then to take the captured CO2 and to store it geologically. It’s another possibility. Can that be done at a low enough cost to be economically feasible? In order to tap these low carbon energy sources, though, there’s one more point that is crucial. Very often we have massive potential for renewable energy, but it’s just not where people live. And then, we need a transmission system to bring that low carbon energy to population centers. And that means that government needs to be involved with long distance transmission of low carbon electricity. That raises many technological issues and many financial issues as well. Here is one very important, I think, a potential breakthrough system that would link the great sunshine of North Africa and the Sahara desert with the energy needs of Europe. This is called DESERTEC. It’s a proposal that engineers put on the table a number of years ago to connect solar power coming mainly from North Africa and the Middle East with the very high energy use in Europe. And the solar power would be taken by long distance electricity transmission lines to Europe. Also shown here in the blue are the wind turbines. And so, this is a system that would integrate wind turbines along the coast, in general, with solar power in the desert and very sunny regions, and enable Europe to shift from a fossil fuel based electricity system to a, nearly zero carbon energy system. It’s a great plan. It requires a lot of research and development. It requires a lot of investment. But it illustrates how to make a big move to decarbonization. Here’s a map of the United States and the main message of this map shows how much potential we have for offshore wind. The northeast coast of the United States from irginia to Maine, for example, is extraordinarily windy. And if wind turbines were put up and down the northeast sea coast, just a bit offshore, there would be enough energy, roughly speaking, to provide all the power needed in the northeast of the United States. How many wind turbines do we have right now off the northeast coast? That would be zero. The permitting hasn’t been given the transmission lines, the decision, which is a public decision that that’s the way we should go, has not been taken. And this is why corrective pricing plays a role, research and development plays a role, but also political leadership. To help say to the American people or to other countries, look, we can go this way, this way, this way, we just can’t stay business as usual. We could use the great wind power on our off-shore coasts. We could use what you’re looking at here, which is a wind field in, South Dakota, where there’s a lot of wind but not too many people. So, we would need long distance transmission lines to bring that wind power from the Dakotas to the big population centers of the United States. We could decide for a massive deployment of solar technologies in the Mojave Desert in the American southwest. Again, we’d have to have transmission lines to bring the power to the big population centers. But we have enough solar energy to provide a very significant fraction of the electricity needs of the United States. Political decision. Not only market forces, but how our land and our coasts are going to be used. What’s the least risk way? What is the safest direction? How are these costs going to be shared? What is the future of nuclear power? People are afraid of it, but they should be also afraid of cold fire power plants. Nuclear power offers one way to a very low carbon economy. Cold fire power plants don’t scare people but should. Because they, more silently, out of the headlines, kill a lot of people and threaten the planet through greenhouse gas buildup. So, what are we to make of these choices of nuclear energy? Of course, this divides scientists, it divides engineers, and it divides the public in a very strong way. My guess is that we will have nuclear power, because many countries, like China and India, and I believe the United States, will continue to deploy nuclear energy into the future. The question is how to make it safe and secure. So for all of these areas of decarbonization or electrification of the energy systems of automobiles, we require lots of public investment, R&D, political decisions, building of infrastructure. In other words, choices that by 2050, we must move to a low carbon energy system. Lest we continue as we’re going and face the calamities that would be implied by that. Now there’s one more problem. I’ve indicated that we have technologies within reach, and they are getting better and better in wind power and solar power, lower costs. But technology is also not standing still for fossil fuels as well. The ability to drill for fossil fuels has also improved markedly over the last 10 years. Some people say that’s great, I say that’s very dangerous. Because it continues to feed an addiction that threatens the planet. If we improve our capacity to tap into these hydrocarbon deposits, we’re also improving our capacity, in quotation marks, to wreck the planet. And there’s a lot of this kind of technological innovation taking place in the hydrocarbon sector. The mining of the Canadian oil sands, a massive deposit of fossil fuels that were really not very accessible technologically, but now are deployable through various advances in the ability to use this kind of heavy oil. And this, again, is being deployed because it’s financially profitable. In large part because the oil companies like the utilities, like the other coal-using industries don’t pay the true social cost of the fossil fuels. Or what is now one of the most contentious technological advances in recent years. The picture shown here of so called horizontal drilling, and hydrofracking or fracking or hydro fracturing of natural gas caught in shale rock. So with this way to put drills down and then turn them every which way, and to blast rock through a high pressured solution, that fractures the rock and releases carbon dioxide. I’m sorry, releases the methane, I should say, and releases, therefore, natural gas that, that can be burned for electricity generation. We’ve expanded, again, the capacity to tap the fossil fuel reserves on the planet. But we have to ask ourselves, are we doing ourselves a favor if we’re slowing down the transition that is increasingly, urgently needed to mitigate climate change. To head off the worst disasters that will be in store if we continue on a business as usual path. We have to make choices. The world has not yet made those choices. Let’s understand that process of decision making better. What will it take for the world to agree?
We’re on a dangerous path. Humanity is emitting greenhouse gases, changing the climate, and threatening ourselves and other species and future generations in many, many very dangerous ways. We need to respond to this challenge. We use two terms to reflect two different ways of responding. Both of which are important. One term, mitigation, means to reduce what we’re doing that’s causing the climate to change. So we want to mitigate climate change by reducing the anthropogenic or human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. The other term that we use is adaptation. That means learning to live with climate change as best as possible. To protect our cities from storms surges to protect our crops from high temperatures or flooding or droughts by helping to improve the quality of the seeds to have traits like drought resistance or heat tolerance or submergence tolerance in the seeds by advanced breeding of, of seed varieties. There’s a limit to how much we can adapt, because if the changes are so dramatic that sea levels rise several meters that the food supply is profoundly threatened by high temperatures and mega droughts and loss of soil moisture. We’re not going to be able to keep up with that under any circumstance. At the same time, it’s important that we do adapt, because climate change is happening, and it’s going to continue to happen even if we are very successful at mitigation. There is inertia in the warming as I’ve noted. So we are going to experience more warming in the years and decades ahead, simply as the oceans catch up with the warming already implied by the greenhouse gases we’ve put into the air. But we should expect that if we continue on business as usual, we will never be able to keep up with the extent and the dangers that we will be causing ourselves. Mitigation, therefore, is an enormous priority. How to mitigate? Well, for that, we need a careful diagnosis. What is it that we’re doing? And since we understand that we have several specific ways that were con, contributing to greenhouse gas concentrations, we have to take measures to head off those increases. Since about three-fourths of the radiative forcing is carbon dioxide, our highest priority is to reduce the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And since most of the CO2 increase comes from our use of fossil fuels, that’s the number one item on the mitigation agenda. The second way that greenhouse gases are increasing through carbon dioxide is land use change. And so, a second item on our carbon dioxide list of actions is to head off the deforestation that’s causing the emission of CO2 by land use change. Then, next on our list comes methane. Methane is admitted in a variety of ways. We have to address each of those. Then comes nitrous oxide. For each of these human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, we have to have a look what’s feasible, how much would it cost, what are our alternatives? What is the most cost effective way to reduce substantially the human impact on the climate system? Now, the right place to start is the with the, the carbon dioxide. And the way that scientists have usefully posed the question is, what would we have to do to carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from fossil fuels, but also from land use, in order to keep the total increase of the Earth’s temperature at two degrees centigrade or below? The answer is, that since we’ve already increased the temperature by almost one degree, we would need to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions in the coming decades. So, one recent scientific study of what this would require is shown in the graph that you’re looking at now. What you see here is a very busy picture because there are lots of possible trajectories of emissions. On the horizontal axis are the years to 2050. On the vertical axis are the tons of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere, measured actually as tons of carbon rather than tons of carbon dioxide. Now in all of this mix of pathways, take a look at two that are most important. First, look at the red path. This is the business as usual trajectory. It says that if we continue as we’re going, emissions of carbon dioxide will be higher and higher every year. Why? Because the world economy is growing. As it grows, it’s using more energy on business as usual, that energy’s going to be fossil fuel, and the CO2 emissions will rise. What trajectory of CO2 is needed to avoid two degrees centigrade increase? That’s shown in the blue trajectory. It says while CO2 emissions per year have been rising, now they have to start falling and falling sharply. We want the world economy to grow because we want poor countries to be catching up with the richer countries in living standards. But at the same time, we want the total emissions of carbon dioxide to be falling sharply. And to put it in very general terms, what’s shown here is that, while the world economy might increase threefold by the middle of the century, the total emissions should probably fall by at least half, if not more. That means that emissions per dollar of output need to decline by a factor of six or even more. We use the term decarbonization to mean reducing the amount of carbon dioxide per unit of output, per dollar of gross world product. We need a deep decarbonization of the world economy. But since most of the carbon dioxide comes from fossil fuel, we need a sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuel, at least in the way that we use fossil fuel now. One fascinating, quite wonderful study, recently done, asked the question, so how could California, a major part of the U.S. economy reduce its emissions by 80% by the year 2050. How could California, in effect, decarbonize the California state economy? And the answer is really important for us because it’s the general principles of mitigation. Three categories of action. First, energy efficiency, get more output per unit of energy input. How can we do that? Through more efficient appliances, for example.Through light bulbs whether it’s compact fluorescent light bulbs or light emitting diode light bulbs, as opposed to our more than century old incandescent bulbs.These are examples of new technologies that allow us to get more for less. More output per unit of energy. The second thing we need to do is to shift our energy supply, our primary source of energy. Instead of using coal, oil, and gas, all of which emit CO2, we need to use wind, or solar power, or other low carbon technologies. The third category of action is to take parts of the economy where we now use fossil fuels, other than the electricity sector, convert those other sectors to electricity, and then run those new electrified sectors of the economy on electricity produced by low-carbon energy sources. So what do I mean? Well, take the case of automobiles with internal combustion engines. We know that those automobiles, instead of running on internal combustion of petroleum, can run on electricity. In fact, they can do a lot of really clever and smart things for a very safe and comfortable ride as electric vehicles. And those electric vehicles need to be charged. You plug them into a power source. And if the power source itself is a low-carbon energy producing the electricity, for instance, wind farms that are used to charge the automobiles, then we have a dramatic reduction of carbon emissions coming from automobile use. And so, by electrifying the fleet of automobiles and charging that electric fleet on a clean energy grid, we could have a dramatic reduction as well. So the point is a three part process: energy efficiency, low-carbon energy sources running our electricity grid, and electrification of parts of our economy. Automobiles or home heating or industrial processes, shifting from local uses of fossil fuels in the gas tank or in the factory or in the boiler at home, and shifting that to electricity that is on a grid of clean electricity. Well, what’s an example of clean electricity? It’s electricity that comes from fo, photovoltaics, for example. Or so called concentrated solar thermal. Both are technologies that take solar energy and convert the solar energy to electricity. Photovoltaics does it directly by the solar energy hitting certain kinds of materials that then release electrons and create an electron flow, the photovoltaic effect. First escribed by the way it, it’s basic science by Albert Einstein in 1905. Or, by taking the solar energy reflecting it in mirrors, and heating water to a boiling point, and then using the steam to turn a steam turbine, and thereby producing electricity. Either way, you get electricity without fossil fuel and without carbon dioxide. And of course, we have many potential ways to produce large amounts of electricity. It could be solar power. It could be wind turbines, which have come down so much in cost that in many parts of the world, the windy places, they’re already cost competitive with fossil fuel generation. It could be geothermal energy where along tectonic zones where you can tap into the heat within the Earth, within the mantel. It’s possible to generate a lot of heat, which is used to boil water, turn steam turbine, and produce electricity. As is done, for instance in Iceland or now, increasingly in the Rift Valley of East Africa. Or more controversially, you can produce electricity with nuclear power. Electricity produced in a nuclear power plant does not create carbon dioxide emissions. It creates other risks fissile material that could potentially be used for weapons, or the risks of terror, or the risks of, of meltdowns. Or disaster such as hit Fukushima in Japan during their recent earthquake. Or Chernobyl, because of a mis-management of the power plant in Ukraine, back in the mid 1980s. But nuclear power already supplies a significant part of the electricity in many parts of the world, and it is a, essentially, a zero carbon electricity supply. And so, if we can move to a clean electricity grid, not dependent on fossil fuels, then we can also move to what you see here, an electric vehicle. There are many, many new models coming. Batteries are being improved. Technology is being improved. Electric vehicles happily can be a lot smarter than internal combustion engines, because a car running on electricity can also run on a lot of smart systems as well. Rather than the mechanical power, it’s electric motors linked to sensors, and even to self driving vehicles as of we know are being very actively explored and, and pursued by companies such as Google. And so, the chances of better transport and cleaner transport better home heating and ventilation through smart buildings and through smarter electrification, rather than using furnaces and boilers, make it possible to envision a very, very steep decline of CO2 emissions. When the California study added it all up, they found the way to reach that bold 80% target is, as illustrated in this figure. The baseline emissions are the line at the top, showing that CO2 emissions are on the rise in California because of growth of the economy. The preferred mitigation trajectory is the downward sloping line at the bottom of the curve. And the gap is explained by all of these ways of reducing CO2 emissions. The light blue zone shows the reductions of emissions coming from energy efficiency. The dark blue zone shows the reduction of emissions coming from de-carbonizing the energy sources used to produce electricity. Then you see that electrification in the yellow zone is moving to electric vehicles. There are also other smaller categories of turning to biofuels, for example. What is a biofuel? It’s of course using somehow a natural biologic process to produce a fuel that’s a substitute for fossil fuel. And so, there are many, many ways to mitigate, but the broad categories through energy efficiency, a clean electricity grid, and electrification have been shown by many studies to be the pillars of any successful strategy. Here’s the good news, all of these technologies are within reach. All of them have potential ability for a large scale. There are solutions, in other words, that are within reach. And we’re going to look at some of those solutions shortly, at what can be done in different parts of the world to make a very large correction in this dangerous path that we’ve been on. Now, there’s one more idea around. I’m not an advocate at all. Many people are very worried about it. Though, a few scientists are very excited. It is the Band-Aid approach shown here with the planet, with the, the Band-Aid on top of it. It’s called geo-engineering. The idea is, well, maybe we won’t really stop the carbon emissions. But we can find other things to do to compensate for the effect. One idea, it’s an actual idea, though I find it very frightening, is that while the carbon dioxide’s warming the planet, we would put up particles into the air. Sulfate aerosol particles that would dim the sunshine and actually cool the planet to offset what we’re doing with the carbon dioxide. Feed the air with one poison and the idea would be, well, let’s add another poison to kind of compensate. The problem is it doesn’t really compensate. It most likely adds some significant dangers. It doesn’t stop the increase of CO2. It doesn’t stop the acidification of the oceans. It doesn’t stop the changing patterns of precipitation. Indeed, it would have highly, highly uncertain and potentially very, very dangerous effects. But I think that the Band-Aid approach is what it is. If the bleed is so dangerous that it threatens life itself and well being on the planet, a band-aid is probably not an adequate response. And in this case, I think we should look for what’s within reach, what our technologies are telling us. We could deeply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by taking similar steps on methane and nitrous oxide and fertilizer use and landfills, and in other areas, turn that curve of greenhouse gas emissions sharply lower. Help keep the planet below the two degree centigrade rise. It’s possible, but time is running out. So let’s look at how we can accelerate progress.
Why should we care about human-induced climate change? The fact of the matter is, we should be scared, truly scared. Not so frightened that we’re paralyzed, but rather scared into action because the consequences on a business-as-usual trajectory for this planet could absolutely be dire. We are on a path of putting so much carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide into the atmosphere that the temperature increase on average on the planet could be several degrees centigrade by the end of this century. Four, five, six, eight, nine degrees centigrade, there’s no absolute precision on how big the increase could be because we can’t really say, first of all, how much greenhouse gas we will be putting in, even in a growing world economy on a business-as-usual path. And there are also undoubted uncertainties about the Earth’s processes. And our climate models do not have the precision to be able to get down to the decimal point of the likely increases of temperature. But, because we have so much evidence coming from so many different directions, the Paleoclimate, the statistical models used by climate scientists, the evidence of what’s already happening around the world, we can be pretty sure that the consequences could be very, very dire indeed unless we change course. One very useful way to view this was presented in an important report on climate change produced by Lord Stern in the United Kingdom a few years ago. And the Stern review of climate change included the picture that you’re looking at now. Now, you see across the horizontal axis, zero degrees centigrade, one degree, two degrees, three degrees, four degrees, five degrees centigrade. This is showing all of the possibilities for the increase of temperatures during the twenty-first century depending on how much greenhouse gas we end up emitting and how the Earth’s systems respond to that. Down the side axis, we have the kinds of consequences that we should expect for different temperatures. There will be consequences for the food supply. There will be consequences for water. There will be consequences for the functioning of ecosystems and the survival of other species. There will be consequences for extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, mega heat waves, mega storms, big cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes. There will be consequences and risks of very rapid, dramatic changes to key Earth systems that could cause the climate, not only to change as markedly as shown here, but even more markedly through sudden alterations of the Earth’s climate system. What this graph shows is that for any of these categories, sey food, as you look at the consequences at one degree centigrade, compare them with the consequences at two degrees centigrade. Compare them at, for the consequences that would occur at an increase of five degrees centigrade. The more change there is in the average temperature caused by bigger increases of greenhouse gasses, the bigger risks we face. If we can head off a, a lot of the greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to other kinds of energy, for example, then the consequences will be smaller because the temperature increases will be smaller. If, instead, we continue just going right along our merry way with increasing oil, gas, coal, and other greenhouse gases, and so we have a big increase of temperature, the consequences could be completely disastrous. Consider food, for example. At one degree centigrade, one of the consequences is severe impacts in the Sahel region. The Sahel, remember, is the part of West Africa just below the Sahara Desert. Mali, Niger, Chad, it’s a dry region, could get dryer. The consequences for the Sahel, even at a one degree increase, which we basically already had, are quite serious. What would happen at five degrees centigrade increase? Well, according to the evidence, entire regions would experience major declines in crop yields, up to one third decline of crop yields in Africa, for example. That would be tantamount to mass hunger, even starvation in parts of the world. If we just let things rip, and the temperatures, therefore, rise by four or five degrees centigrade so that we’re at the extreme danger end of this graph, then the consequences are absolutely terrifying. With water at one degree centigrade you see that small mountain glaciers are disappearing. And this will cause threats to the water supply in places that depend on glacier melt for their water in the rivers. But go over to five degrees centigrade, and you see that sea level rise would threaten major world cities including London, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Calamitous events possible with a mega rise in sea levels even of several meters, possibly, if the big ice sheets in West Antarctica and in Greenland melt sufficiently or break up in ways that cause a mega rise in sea level. And the Earth’s history tells us absolutely possible because in earlier episodes of high CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s paleohistory, the old climate, the sea level was often many, many meters higher than it is on the planet today because much less ice was trapped in the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland and, instead, was filling the ocean basin and raising the sea level. Well, as we’ve talked about many, many times, we’ve built our big cities right on the coast. That’s where the economy is best, where trade is best, where productivity is high. And yet, those are the cities under incredible peril. Well, in case after case, if we just let her rip, the dangers for our ability to feed the planet, our ability for our cities to remain safe from extreme hazards, our abilities to maintain public health, our abilities to avoid other calamitous dramatic change of earth’s processes, for instance changes in, in the ocean circulation or irreversible disintegration of parts of the ice sheets is called into real threat. We know that certain regions of the world are extraordinarily vulnerable like the Sahel that you’re looking at here where it is already prone to massive, droughts and where the populations are already very poor. We’re seeing those dangers, not as potential threats of the future, but as already clear and present dangers, because the Sahel has lived through serious droughts in recent years with very serious consequences for loss of life and for the onset of conflict. The Mediterranean Basin, which includes the countries of southern Europe Spain Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the countries of North Africa Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, this is a region where the climate science tells us that a relatively dry region that produces some of the, the world’s most beloved products, whether it’s the olive oils or the great wines of this region, could be devastated by drying. And so, these are three of many regions that have been identified as facing profound threats. Mm, and this is not simply in the imagination of the climatologists or, or even in the traces of their mathematical models. This is what we’re already observing even with the limited human-induced climate change that we’ve experienced now, which could be a small fraction of what’s to come. Have a look at the changes of of, of rainfall experienced in the Mediterranean Basin over the last century. The whole Mediterranean Basin has experienced a significant trend of drying. And the record shows if we continue with business as usual, that it could experience further dramatic drying with quite devastating consequences to the economies, to the nature, to the ecosystems, to food security even in this region. The evidence from the mathematical models is that the trends that we’ve been experiencing till now, for example, the drying in the Sahel or the drying in the Mediterranean, foreshadow what would happen if we continue as we’re going, but with consequences far more severe than what we’ve seen to date. You’re looking now at a map recently produced by a climate science group that studies the propensity to drought on the planet. And the map that you’re looking at shows you in the red areas, places likely to experience significant declines of rainfall and significant increases of drought intensity and frequency. It’s an ugly picture because you see red everywhere. A tremendous amount of the world’s areas would likely experience significant declines of soil moisture that they need to grow food and would experience a significant increase of intensity of drought at the same time. Now we know that another consequence that could be devastating is the rise of sea levels as ice sheets melt or just break apart pushing ice or water into the open ocean and raising sea levels. In the northeast of the United States where I live, the estimate is that, over the last century, the sea level has already increased by about one foot or one third of a meter. I, you might think that we’d get a uniform rise of sea level in all parts of the world, but topography and other geologic features mean that the rise of sea levels will differ in differ, different parts of the world. A one foot increase, what has already been experienced, played a major role in the havoc of the massive floods that hit New York City, that we’ve already looked at, and the whole Eastern Seaboard during superstorm Sandy. Storm surges eh, coastal erosion are already occurring as sea levels are rising. But the new evidence suggests that by the end of the century on a business-as-usual path, sea levels could be a meter higher than they are right now, three or four feet higher. And if the worst case happened, which is a catastrophic loss of part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for example, the rise of sea level could even be several meters. You put this together. The consequences for urban areas, hugging the oceans, for our food supplies around the world are, are absolutely extraordinary, potentially devastating. The map that you’re looking at now attempts to ask what would happen to food production if this combination of warmer temperatures and more drying were to take place. And what you see here is South Asia and tropical Africa in the absolute red zones, or red and pink zones meaning major loss of agricultural production, so too the Southern part of the United States and much of Latin America, much of Australia. What are we doing? We’re putting the world’s food supplies at great risk. And again, it’s not hypothetical because we’ve already had a serious derangement of production in many places in the world as droughts have hit in recent years and as higher temperatures have undermined crop yield, sometimes killing crops or dramatically reducing the crop yields. A final point that I would like to stress is that, even if one put aside all of the climate-induced changes coming from this human-induced rise of carbon dioxide concentrations, all of the major storm events, the rising sea levels, the rising temperatures the increased floods and droughts, the loss of soil moisture needed to grow food, it’s a big, long, very threatening list. Put all of that aside. The basic physical fact that a higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will lead to more carbon dioxide dissolving in the oceans causing acidity in the ocean, by itself is frightening enough because, as I’ve discussed, as the oceans become more acidic, and there’s a lot more acidification on the way, major parts of the marine ecosystems, the shellfish, the animals with exoskeletons, the plankton with the calcareous exteriors, but part of the major food chains in the world, the Coral Reefs, which are so vital for the marine ecosystems, could experience, and are likely to experience, a massive dying. We’re playing with threats beyond our easy imagination. We’re in a kind of denial that is added to by, unfortunately, propaganda by major vested interest groups, like big oil companies. We are playing with the survival of millions of other species, adding to this tremendous risk of the sixth great extinction on the planet that we’ve looked at before; the other five caused by nature itself, this one by humanity in it’s thoughtlessness if we continue on this course. We can see that we have every reason to change the game, every reason to play for a control of these forces, every reason to mitigate the human-induced climate change for our own safety, for the safety of the planet, and for future generations. How can these forces be reduced? How can we mitigate human-induced climate change? That’s our next topic.
Climate change is the biggest of all the environmental threats that we face, and the magnitude of this threat is only gradually dawning on humanity. It is, in my view, the very toughest of public policy problems that humanity on a whole has ever faced. Let me mention why. First it’s global, many problems are local, local communities can solve them. So problems are national, this one involves the entire world. The problem goes to the core of the economy. Our economy runs on energy. And energy in the form of fossil fuels is both the driver of the world economy, and the essence of the climate change problem. Because when we burn fossil fuels, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that is the major reason why humanity is changing the climate. Not the only one, but the major one. Third, this is a dire problem. The consequences and the stakes are absolutely huge. Sometimes problems are difficult, but they don’t matter all that much. This one matters a lot. Next it’s slow moving. We’re just not good enough to see it day by day, year by year, what’s really happening to the planet. The scientists are telling us, watch out, you’re getting to the cliff, you’re hitting the thresholds, you’re crossing the boundaries of safety, but life goes on. And because this is a problem that stretches out over decades the politicians, the businesses and all of us don’t necessarily feel lit and know it and realize the dangers of it. Because it’s slowly, slowly creeping up on us. Not slow by the chronology of the planet because events are changing very fast by that standard but a little bit slow by news events and that’s part of what confuses us. It’s a complicated problem because it involves many parts of the world economy and involves every part of the world both in the impacts of climate change on humanity, but also on the causes of climate change. Because every part of the world is contributing to the problem, though some places, like the United States, on a per person basis are contributing hugely relative to other places, which are mainly victims, especially the poorest parts of the world that still don’t use very much fossil fuel energy. This is a multi-generational problem. A lot of the impact will be felt by people not even born yet, they’re obviously not voting. They’re not able to raise their voice, and yet the impacts on them will be absolutely huge. And finally, this is an issue on which there are very powerful lobbies. None more powerful than big oil. The oil industry is a rich industry. Massive flows of revenues and profits.And that that can be used for media, that can be used to confuse the public to defend the status quo, to fund politicians that are going to continue to look after the interests of the fossil fuel industry even when that interest may be so dangerous for the planet. So we have a lot of vested politics in this issue as well. Well in order to see really what needs to be done and how it might be done, we have to start with the science. And the science I think it’s important to state it’s not some new fangled, invention of, of the latest, scientific publication. The basics of how greenhouse gases warm the planet and what humanity might do, therefore, to the Earth’s average temperature as a result of the increase of greenhouse gases has been known for more than 100 years. You’d never know that from climate skeptics and the climate change deniers, but the fact of the matter is that the first serious, absolutely brilliant scientific study of what would happen if the amount of carbon dioxide, CO2, in the atmosphere were to double, how temperature would, would change was published in 1896 by Gustavus Arrhenius, an absolutely brilliant Nobel Laureate chemist in Sweden who worked out by paper and pencil, and did it just right. What would happen if CO2 were to double? He got the answer right, that the temperature on the planet would rise by a few degrees centigrade. He didn’t get the timescale right, because he said that while human use of coal and oil and other fossil fuels would eventually double carbon dioxide, he thought that would take hundreds and hundreds of years, maybe 700 or 800 years. But in fact, because of the geometric growth of the world economy, a process that looked like it might take hundreds and hundreds of years could happen within roughly 150 years from the time that Eranius wrote, by the middle of the 21st century, by 2050 or so. That’s a very frightening prospect. Why is it frightening? Well, the basic reason is shown in this schematic diagram of the greenhouse gas effect. What it shows is that sunshine coming from the sun reaches the planet as ultraviolet radiation. A little bit of it is reflected by the clouds. Most of it reaches the earth. A little bit of that is reflected by the ice and other land surfaces on the planet but most of it is absorbed by the earth. The Earth warms and as a result of it’s warming, the Earth radiates infrared radiation back into space. The Earth warms enough so that the outgoing infrared radiation equals the incoming ultraviolet radiation. That’s a thermal balance, or thermal equilibrium. Now you put a level of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others. Those molecules have a particular property that they absorb some of the infrared radiation and trap it and warm the planet more than the planet would be warmed if those greenhouse gases didn’t exist. Indeed, if we had no greenhouse gasses the temperature of Earth would be something like the temperature of the moon. A lot colder and unable to support life as we know it. It’s because of this envelope of greenhouse gasses that Earth is indeed warmer. So far, so good. But now if humanity increases the amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then we create problems. Because life on the planet, and humanity, and our civilization, have evolved in a certain kind of climate, but now we’re changing the climate by adding more molecules of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, warming the climate and pushing the thermal equilibrium to higher temperatures that threaten us in a variety of ways. There are several chemical compounds or molecules that have this property that they trap infrared radiation. Carbon Dioxide is the most important of these; nitrous oxide, methane, and some industrial chemicals. The total warming effect sometimes called the total radiative forcing of the greenhouse gases, is the sum of the effects of each of these greenhouse gases. The total radiative forcing caused by human activity that is caused by the emissions of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and these industrial chemicals leads to the overall warming effect and of that, carbon dioxide accounts for about 77% or about three quarters of the total effect. Methane is the second most important of the human induced greenhouse gases. And nitrous oxide is the third and the sum of the radiative forcings of those three types of greenhouse gases account for about 99% of the total greenhouse effect. In magnitude, we’ve been emitting more and more of those gases over time. The measurement of the total emissions is in what’s called giga-tons, meaning billions of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. We ask how much warming is caused by the sum of all of these greenhouse gases, and we ask what would be the equivalent amount of just carbon dioxide be. And that’s called CO2 e, or carbon dioxide equivalent tons of emission each year. And to give you the round numbers we’re emitting right now on the order of about 55 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. The carbon dioxide part of that total is about 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Most of that is coming from burning coal, oil and gas a much smaller part of that, around 10% is coming from cutting down trees. Cutting down the rainforest and there by releasing carbon dioxide from the trees back into the atmosphere. Well, how big is this effect? It’s big enough to cause us really huge dangers. About 50 years ago, a very far-sighted scientist put some monitors a, on a mountaintop in Hawaii, and he started measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And thanks to those measurements from 1958 till now, we have annual and actually even within the year fluctuations of carbon dioxide levels from then until now. And this is known among earth scientists as the Keeling Curve because it was Dr. Keeling who put up the monitor, and what the Keeling Curve shows is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising significantly. Measured as parts per million of carbon dioxide, the number of CO2 molecules per million of total molecules in the air, most of which is nitrogen part of which is oxygen, and then just a bit of carbon dioxide. But that little bit is enough to change the whole climate. Starting back in 1958 when that machine first went to, up on the top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, the carbon dioxide was 320 molecules for every one million molecules in the air, or we say 320 parts per million. By now, CO2 has reached 400 parts per million. Before James Watt came with his brilliant steam engine, the atmosphere contained about 280 parts per million. In the geologic history of the last three million years, the CO2 varied roughly between 150 and 300 parts per million. Then came humanity, and we’ve been burning so much oil, gas, and coal, that we’ve now sent the CO2 levels absolutely soaring. And reaching the 400 parts per million level in the spring of 2013. A concentration of carbon dioxide not seen on the planet for three million years. In other words, human activity is pushing the planet into a climate zone completely unknown in human history, and unknown in the Earth’s recent history. Some of the great scientists, many of, of my colleagues I’m honored to say, like Professor James Hanson, are able to use various techniques to look at the long history of carbon dioxide and temperatures on the planet Earth. And the picture you’re looking at now is a, a, a kind of manuscript of the Earth’s history showing a long record over the past 400,000 years of fluctuations in carbon dioxide and in temperature on the planet. Now these fluctuations in carbon dioxide were not caused by humanity using a steam engine obviously, this is hundreds of thousands of years ago. These were natural fluctuations of carbon dioxide driven by natural processes. By volcanoes, by the re-absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans. And by changes of the Earth’s orbital cycle on a periodicity of tens of thousands of years. But what the paleoclimate record shows is that when CO2 is high, temperatures are high. And this is the basic greenhouse effect. Raise the CO2 in the atmosphere, expect a warmer planet. This has been true throughout history. And it is true now. We have been in a process of raising the carbon dioxide level and the other greenhouse gases. Nitrous oxide, methane and the industrial chemicals that the, floor carbons and so forth, the HFCs and the others. And by doing so we have led to a warming of the planet within modern history. If you look to the temperature at the start of the industrial revolution until now. The Earth has warmed by about 8 10ths of one degree centigrade. Because there’s more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And the Earth hasn’t yet finished its warming in response to the greenhouse gas increases that humanity has caused. Even if we were to put no more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but just to stay with what’s there right now, Earth would continue to warm by perhaps another 0.6 of one degree centigrade. Because the oceans large bath tubs take a long time to warm up in response to the greenhouse gases. So we’ve seen perhaps half or a little bit more than half of the warming that will come from the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already put in the air. But we’re not done, we’ve been accelerating the amount of greenhouse gases that we’re putting into the air, we’re increasing the amount of methane, increasing the amount of nitrous oxide. The fact of the matter is, that even though in more than 20 years since the world’s governments said, we have an urgent challenge of heading off the human induced greenhouse gases in order to prevent a huge dangerous change of the Earth’s climate. 20 years on, we’ve still not turned the needle of slowing down our emissions, much less stopping them. The rate of emissions has been going up year to year as the world economy has been increasing in scale. And with the growth of China, we’ve seen an enormous increase of greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Because China by itself by virtue of its huge size and by virtue of its use of coal as its primary energy source has become the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. We’re on a dangerous path. Let’s now understand, what are the dangers of this rise of temperature. And of other changes of the climate system. What does it mean for us? Why should we worry?
Sustainable cities are green and resilient. They’re green in that they have a low ecological impact, low greenhouse gas admissions per capita a pleasantnenvironment for people to live and to work, safe, clean air,parks ways for people to remain active and healthy. They’re also resilient in that they know that increased shocks are on the way. That in the age of the anthropocene, storm surges, heat waves, massive floods, droughts, food insecurity, unfortunately will be real and growing threats in the future that must be anticipated. Smart cities plan in smart ways with transport infrastructure, power systems, water and sewerage, in smart grids, in smart zoning that enables them to be green and resilient. And
I’d like to just speak for a few minutes about one example of such planning in my own city, in New York City, because I think that New York has been doing a good job of planning for sustainable development, thinking ahead understanding the risks and the challenges. Now, it got a major kick in the pants with, and worse than that with the super storm, super storm Sandy, in November 2012. The massive flooding that ensued, the power blackouts, loss of life and property were shocking the estimates are perhaps $50 billion or $60 billion lost as a result of that super storm at the same time in looking at what might be done to reduce the risks of flooding. It’s clearer that the costs are also going to be high. So choosing properly new infrastructure zoning, location, policies preparedness is absolutely crucial and core to a city that, that looks ahead.
The price tags look to be Even tens of billions of dollars of preparation against future floods. So what can we learn from New York City’s planning and what does it imply for how other cities around the world can take up the challenge of sustainable development. As you see here a, timeline of cities that are adopting sustainability plans. New York was not the first in the United States. A pride of, of, of being first goes to our two cities in the north west of the United States. Two very green cities, Portland and Seattle, with a wonderful and rightly deserved reputation for great environmental sensitivity. Back in 1994, already they looked to sustainability, how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how they could be resilient to climate change.
Other cities began this kind of serious planning and New York City was relatively early in adopting what is called Plan YC in 2007. Many, many cities around the world are now doing this kind of planning, Copenhagen with a major program in 2009, Rotterdam in 2010. And cities around the world now adopting sustainable development plans. As the UN itself adopts sustainable development goals, this I hope and anticipate will be a major spur to hundreds more cities around the world, thousands more cities that should be taking on this challenge of looking ahead to how best to be green and resilient. What does plan YC call for? It has ten goals that are important to note. First is housing and neighborhoods. Anticipating changes of population New York anticipates a continuing rise of population. Perhaps another million people within the next couple of decades. And making sure that housing is affordable and sustainable is part of any forward looking plan.
Parks and public spaces, vital for quality of life and for public health. Cleaning up polluted areas, so-called brown fields, is a third goal. Waste fills dumping sites that are dangerous for local communities, for the water supply and that deprive New York of valuable land that could best be used for other purposes. Improving the quality of water ways for transport, for recreation, for safety, for coastal ecosystems is a fourth goal. Ensuring the safety and adequacy of New York City’s water supply is obviously an absolutely central objective for sustainability. Sixth is transportation. A robust, resilient, efficient, low-cost Ecologically sound public transportation system for, used for the community and for the enormous business sector of the New York City region. Energy, energy efficiency, energy reliability, avoiding the kinds of massive blackouts and shutdowns that occurred during Super Storm Sandy. Being much more energy efficient as part of the overall Greenhouse gas mitigation strategy. Improved air quality, to keep particulate pollution low, to keep air quality as high as possible. Solid waste management, to get away from the traditional landfill model with all its high costs and loss opportunities, and to look for new strategies, for instance, waste to energy, and much more recycling. And finally, mitigation of climate change. New York already has a per capita CO2 emission that is less than a third of the national average. But at six tons per capita that’s still going to be far higher than what the worlds standards will need to be. Something closer to between one and two tons per capita, as of mid century. So New York, like the rest of the United States, is going to have to become a lot more efficient and a lot less carbon intensive in its energy system to reduce sharply the green house gas emissions.
These are 10 major goals of Plan YC. They have been, been scrutinized by experts both outside city government itself and by the city government and by various regional bodies to determine best approaches. As we’ve seen, cities need to innovate, they need to be clever to secure their water supplies, to secure their safety from coastal storm surges. They need to be specific. There is nothing that can be taken straight off the shelf when it comes to a city because of the unique conditions geographic conditions, risk conditions, cultural conditions, economic conditions that have to help shape a sustainable development plan.Let’s look at a few of the kinds of innovations that New York City is adapting.First, our smart roofs and local adaptations in the thousands and thousands of buildings across the city.To reduce the urban heat island. To help keep New York cooler in the summers. To be more efficient in the management of of water to stop Over flows of sewerage and storm surges. And one way to do that is smart roofs including green roofs. This is a picture of farming taking place on one of New York’s roof tops. Which allows for better water management. Less water run off and sewerage problems and of course a commercial farming activity that successfully is developed from this. This is a picture of another step of New York City transport. Public transportation dominates the New York scene. Personal automobile ownership per household is among the lowest in the United States for an urban area. In one important way that New Yorkers and the large numbers of tourists get around of course is through the taxi fleet. And New York is moving now towards electrification of the taxi fleet. This is an experimental vehicle starting with a few electric vehicles to adapt and fine tune a, an electric fleet for the city. On top of New York’s buildings also when it isn’t growing food it can be solar powered. There is a huge expansion of using solar arrays in open spaces in New York. As the grid becomes smarter these solar arrays will not only feed the local structures on which they’re located, but can become part of a smart grid feeding power to the overall, to the overall grid. A lot of buildings are converting from dirtier energy sources to cleaner energy sources. This is one of the keys to avoid that kind of massive smog that hit Beijing in January 2013, and used to hit cities like New York and London. New York and London moved away from coal burning within the city many years ago, cleaned up smoke sca, smoke stacks with smoke stack scrubbers. Try that one on for size. And reduce particulates. Now there is a strong move on to reduce particulates further by moving away from heating oil, for example used in furnaces and boilers in many parts of the city moving towards electrification of heating or to cleaner energy sources, such as, natural gas. The line shown here is showing the number of buildings that have already converted from heavy fuel use and there’s already been a significant decline of particulate emissions in New York City as a result of this conscious policy.
As part of Plan YC, New York has adopted a goal of reducing New York’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by the year 2030. This is quite notable for a lot of reasons. One is that the federal government has no such policy. What’s happening in the United States is that while the federal government is gridlocked, many cities and states are taking actions on their own, because they know that that gridlock has to be broken sooner or later. And that all over the world we’re going to need to de-carbonize energy systems. And it makes no sense, even if it’s not required right now, simply to put ones head in the sand and say, I’m not going to worry about carbon emissions until it is required. Because no city wants to wake up with a high carbon intensity energy system that then requires very high cost retrofitting. So, New York is rightly thinking ahead even if the U.S. Federal Government is not yet thinking ahead. And from the business as usual scenario to reduce by roughly 30% will require action in several areas. First is efficient buildings. Buildings that use their energy far more effectively that depend on natural heating and cooling by internal ventilation systems that are greener and less energy intensive than in the past. By cogeneration systems and recycling systems within buildings. By better insulation and materials that are chosen to allow for a much lower use of power for heating and cooling. Second is a cleaner energy supply. One that moves away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, like the solar arrays on New York’s roofs or by bringing in renewable energy from a greater distance. New York has plans to bring in more hydroelectric power, from Canada, through long distance transmission lines as part of it’s strategy for reducing CO2 emissions. Moving to sustainable transportation is obviously a third component reducing the emissions from internal combustion engines. Moving the fleets to electrification, moving to more mass transit, to more walking, to more bicycling is part of an overall strategy for reducing CO2 emissions. And then finally a fourth category is managing solid wastes.
We know that waste fills are a loss in two ways. They’re a loss directly in the methane that they emit from the from the landfills a major greenhouse gas. And they’re also a loss in the lost opportunity. The opportunity cost that comes when that methane just goes into the air rather than being collected. In bio-digesters, digesting the cities organic wastes, converting it to electricity and the co-generation. If Ankara, Turkey can do it, other cities around the world can and should do it, as well. Take an example. If Denmark and, other places in Scandinavia are using waste gas for electricity generation and for co-generation of heat, then certainly New York city and other cities can do the same. So, this is what planning ahead means. Very detailed. In this case there is engineering insight, there is public policy insight, and there are economic incentives or disincentives put on in the form of taxes, regulation, penalties, and so forth, in order to encourage all aspects, of, energy and transport systems to move in the desired direction. One of the final aspects of Plan YC that is extremely important is its set of metrics. Here, you see a dashboard. The dashboard describes for each category of goal, specific quantification of what the goals are supposed to accomplish, the most recent figures, and then in the right-hand column an arrow up or an arrow down. Is the city making progress, or is it falling further behind the goals? The fact that you see a lot of progress a lot of greens in the dashboard is a good sign. The fact that there are problems areas still is an indication of where increase public policy focus is needed. This kind of metric based on quantified goals, real time or fairly continuous and updated monitoring, a dashboard of progress or regress, and then a feedback loop to change and improve public policies lies at the essence of successful implementation of a sustainable development plan. It is at the core of what all countries will need to do when sustainable development goals are the worlds shared objectives. For the post 2015 development agenda. And when all governments will need to construct dashboards like this on water supplies, on transport, on CO2 emissions, on energy, on the other dimensions of sustainable development. To track progress, to monitor, to hold governments and ourselves accountable. And to help create the feedbacks of information so that we can accelerate progress and succeed in shifting the world economy and our cities onto a path of sustainable development.
Cities can choose to be efficient and to have a low carbon emissions per capita as well as other low ecological impacts by choosing the right kind of infrastructure.
Cities also have to plan for the future, a future of rising ecological shocks. Coming from human induced climate change and other trends that are underway. We have to be aware, it’s straightforward, but bears emphasizing that even if humanity does everything it ought to do to head off the worst of climate change. We are still going to be living through decades where average temperatures will be rising and where the number of extreme climate-related events, whether it’s storms, or floods, or droughts, or heatwaves, is going to increase in frequency. This is partly simply a result of inertia of the earth’s climate system. Temperatures have increased on average, worldwide, by about 0.8 of one degree centigrade on the planet since the start of the industrial revolution until today, because of human induced climate change. But even if there were no more increase of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The planet would continue to warm, just based on what’s happened til now. And that’s because while land has warmed up in response to the greenhouse gas effect, the oceans are still adjusting. The oceans, they’re big bath tubs that take a long time to warm up. So, they have, what the scientists call, thermal inertia. They have not yet caught up with the warming potential coming from the higher greenhouse gas concentrations. As the oceans continue to warm, average temperatures on Earth will continue to rise, even at today’s greenhouse gas concentrations. We could have another 0.6 degrees Centigrade, for example, simply through this catching up effect, as the oceans continue their rise. Of course, we are nowhere near stopping the rise of greenhouse gas concentrations as well, so we’re going to have continuing impacts through more human induced climate change, even as we struggle now to slow down the human impacts and eventually curb them all together. The point is that climate change is with us. It’s going to get worse in the future. And cities have to raise their resiliency in the face of a higher frequency of shocks on the way. What are some of those shocks? Well, heat waves, of course, will be among them. We know that the frequency of intense heat waves is on the rise, and it’s going to get worse.
This is life threatening, especially for elderly people. It needs to be planned for. Water supplies will be under threat in many places in the world. As climate change means changing patterns of precipitation, lower river flow, receding and eventually disappearing glaciers, meaning that what are now a city’s water supply sources could come under serious threat. The rise of ocean levels is another concern of profound significance since the world’s major urban agglomerations are at the coast and as the sea level rises, the kind of devastation that New York City experienced in Hurricane Sandy will become more commons. Major storm surges, major flooding will hit urban areas. Droughts will become more frequent in certain parts of the world, such as the Mediterranean Basin. We know that human induced climate change will cause some places to dry, other places to become wetter. The general principle is, dry places will tend to become drier, wetter places today will tend to become wetter. There are a lot of exceptions to that. More instability and unpredictability ahead, but there certainly are some relatively dry regions, such as southern Europe and north Africa, that are going to become drier and the major cities along the Mediterranean Basin. Some of the world’s great, most historic cities will be under threat of more prolonged droughts. This will contribute, as well, to food insecurity in many cities. And we know that political upheaval often follows food insecurity. Whether it was the high food prices that were one of the triggers of the French Revolution, or whether it was the rising food prices in 2008 and 2009 that were one of the instigators of the massive unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. Food insecurity is part of the scene that cities have to plan for. The reliability of infrastructure is crucial, because infrastructure will come under greater stress. When New Orleans levees broke in 2005, flooding parts of new Orleans and causing massive loss of life and horrendous damage. This was a failure of infrastructure. The engineers, by the way, had warned for years and years that New Orleans’ levees were under threat. They needed to be reinforced. But because of budget constraints, because of putting off for the future what should be done today, one of humanity’s most consistent traits, this wasn’t done. The flev, the levees burst, New Orleans flooded, disaster ensued. Many cities around the world face this kind of risk. They’re being warned of it. They’re not yet taking the risks seriously or adequately seriously. Pollution is likely to worsen as well through combinations of changing weather patterns and in many places, higher proportions of automobiles per household, and other smog-related sources. And so, there are many areas where we know that climate change and other trends that are underway, interacting with rising populations, a more, crowded cities, larger agglomerations, are likely to create, tremendous, tremendous risks. It’s important, of course, for every city to assess those risks in a detailed way. There is no one blueprint, this is for sure. And each city, because of its distinctive topography, location, these would be the ocean location, these would be cyclonic activity, whether it’s the so-called typhoons as the name is given in uhh, in Asia or the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Southern and East coasts of the United States. Cities need to know, in particular, what the challenges are for them. The United Nations Population Division has done an important classification of the major hazards faced by major cities, identifying cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and volcanoes as major hazards that need to be modeled, understood, and to the extent possible, anticipated by the major cities. Many cities along the coast are threatened by cyclones, some of the larger agglomerations threatened by massive cyclones include Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Osaka, Guangzhou, China, Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, Seoul and so forth. So many of Asia’s largest cities, many cities are in dry land areas threatened by extreme droughts. Calcutta, Karachi, Pakistan, Los Angeles with its water supply problems, even crisis, one could say. Chennai or Madras in Tamil Nadu state on the east, southeast coast of, of India.Lahore, Pakistan, Ahmad, Ahmadabad, India. Santiago de Chile.
All cities that have a major challenge of water supply and a major risk of drought. Earthquakes, we know. Our cities that sit along the seismic zones, especially, where the tectonic plates meet. And as you can see in this map of seismicity places, where earthquakes have hit, between 1977 and 1992, shown on this map, the heavy concentrations are along the tectonic plates. And many, many cities sit along these areas, of course, California with Los Angeles and San Francisco. the, East Asia, with the, the cities of Japan, of the Philippines, of Indonesia, vulnerable to earthquakes. The cities in the Andean region. The cities in Turkey in the Anatolian Peninsula. Are all highly vulnerable to earthquake, and in the U.N. population division ranking of major cities at top risks of, of earthquakes in the eighth, ninth and tenth, deciles, the highest risks are Los Angeles, Manila, Istanbul, Lima,Tehran, Santiago de Chile, San Francisco, Kunming, China, Nagoya, Japan and Izmir, Turkey. Floods, of course, affect cities along the coasts, that is, most of our large cities, Tokyo, Delhi along the Jamuna River, Mexico City New York, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Dhaka, in the delta, that is Bangladesh, Calcutta, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro. All cities because of their topography often mountains and hills around them, risks of flash flooding, coastal proximity in, in most cases are highly vulnerable to massive floods as my own city New York experienced in November 2012. Cities in mountain areas of course, highly vulnerable to landslides. And a few cities are vulnerable to volcano, volcanic action such as Akito, Equador. We know that these hazards are on the rise. The frequency of cities being hit by these hazards, the amount of payouts from insurance are all showing a sharp increase, consistent with the idea that we have entered a new era on the planet. The age of the Anthropocene is an era of hydrometeorological threat. As you see in these images of cities in massive flooding in Szechuan Province. New York City in super storm Sandy. In Beijing inundated by massive floods in the middle of 2012.
In Bangkok, a devastation of flood so severe it closed down the economy for weeks. And, because Bangkok is so essential to the global supply chain in industry, closed down a lot of the electronics and automobile sector or at least limited the production seriously for many months after the Bangkok disasters. Cities are not necessarily very well prepared for that, even very sophisticated cities. Here you’re looking at downtown Manhattan. The base of Manhattan in New York City. One of the richest places on the planet. It prides itself in its complete sophistication.It’s all dark. Why? Of course, because the power went out. The grid was not resilient to the flooding in lower Manhattan, many backup generators, even in the hospitals, were in the wrong place, where were they? Unbelievably, they were in the basements, the first places to be flooded and so, major hospitals had to be evacuated as well, all of this is a sign of the lack of forward thinking. Many scientists and urban engineers had been more or less saying for years, New York will be flooded. Of course, the storm that ensued in November 2012 truly was a mega storm, but the warnings had been there about the risks and very, very little preparation had been made. We’re also seeing, because of the confluence of changing weather patterns, often heatwaves. More automobiles more urban pollution because of the lack of clean energy systems, the advent of mega smog episodes and massively dangerous air. China, unfortunately, is now heading the list. China was shocked in early 2013 when a major smog descended on Beijing. That was so heavy, it exceeded by 20 or 30 times the guidelines for particulate pollution in the urban air. It caused the city to come to a screeching halt. It was a terrible shocking wake up call for China in its need to take on the challenge of its massive air pollution. The good news is, it’s possible to do it. Other cities had been there. Other cities that, like China, rely heavily on coal, or relied heavily on coal, and without the precautions of smokestack scrubbers, and other, alternatives to keep the air clean. New York City had its own smog attack, but it was quite a long time ago, more than 40 years ago and since then pollution regulations and especially a shift from coal and a, a move to much cleaner energy sources has enabled the air to be cleaned. London, it’s, as well, was a coal burning city. Like so many of China’s cities are today, that moved away from coal to lower particulate energy sources. Not only does that lower the CO2 emissions, but it cleans the air as well. We know that we have to move also to reduce CO2 emissions, even with clean air We need to move away from fossils fuels to head off the the climate change. But the kind of massive air pollution that is being experienced in China’s cities today is remediable and it’s increasingly urgent, of course, that it is remediated. Cities that are in earthquake zones, we now know, can take preparations. Buildings can be reinforced at very, very low cost. When this is not done, the tragedies that hit Haiti, for example, in January 2010 ensue. In Haiti, hundreds of thousands of people died suddenly in a terrible earthquake. Whose epicenter was just at the city of Port Au Prince. When a similar magnitude earthquake had hit Kobe, Japan a few years earlier, the death toll was high at about 5,000 but nothing like the devastation in Haiti. Haiti is a poor country, had not taken precautions. The buildings were rock or brick buildings without being fortified against earthquake risk. This kind of devastation also can be predicted, can be modeled, and can be avoided through safer zoning, fortified structures, preparation for this kind of, this kind of risk. Finally, with sea levels rising around the world. Cities are finding that they have to think the unthinkable to protect themselves from a sea level that they thought was securely behind ocean walls or fortifications or dykes in the past. But now are surging past these protections and threatening the cities with inundation. The Netherlands is probably the world’s most experienced place in the whole planet of battling the sea level. It is a country that is substantially below sea level, so throughout its history it’s had to create special fortifications, the dykes and other barriers, to protect the Netherlands from sea level flooding. As the seas continue to rise, as Netherlands experienced the horrible episodes of flooding and loss of life in the 1950s. The Netherlands engineers had become world leaders in creative solutions. What to do to protect its great heritage, culture, and major cities from a rising sea level. What you’re looking at here is one of the great acts of foresight and engineering creativity on the planet. What the Netherlands sought to do was to raise the barriers to a rising ocean and to major storms on the ocean that threaten the coasts of the Netherlands and the interior of the country because of its eh, oh, eh, it’s low elevations. And as they thought about this protection, they realized the cost that would attend to a standard engineering design simply to block the ocean from the coastal areas. In estuary areas, where the flow of tides is essential for a healthy ecology. For the shellfish that are among the Dutch pride and joy of their cuisine. And of course, of the more general protection of these ecosystems. The engineers sought solutions that would allow for normal ecosystem functioning, but a preparation in the case of major storms or major storm surges. And what you see here is called the Eastern Shelt Barrier, an ingenious multi-billion dollar creation of Dutch engineering that allows for a protection against sea level through gates that close off during storm surges and during threats of major flooding. But that in normal times remain open to allow for the normal ecology of ocean flow and tidal fluctuations to hold. And this is an example of thinking ahead, of problem solving. Of combining engineering, ecology, and public policy in an absolutely splendid and dazzling way. The Dutch thought ahead. It took more than a decade of planning and thinking to bring this into realization. It has required billions of dollars to do so. But it offers an ecologically smart way for the Netherlands to continue its age old vocation of protecting itself against the sea, but at the same time, loving the coastal ecology and the ecosystems that support the Netherlands and by extension, support all of us around the world. We need that kind of smart engineering, in order to ensure resilience, we need forward looking behavior. We need to combine ecology, engineering, and public policy to keep our cities resilient and desirable places to live. In the 21st Century.
Cities need to make choices about infrastructure. How energy, transport, water, sewerage, waste will be handled. Cities are complex organisms, often with millions of people interacting with industrial processes and the complex, transportation and communications needs as well.
How to make the best of this type, densely settled region. How to get the most productivity and the highest quality of life, is a matter of choice. And cities that plan well, design infrastructure well, are able to maximize economic opportunities, improve quality of life, promote public health, and minimize the impact of the population on the natural environment. Including, a relatively low carbon economy. Some aspects of that core infrastructure include transportation. In densely settled areas, relying on the automobile is a recipe for massive congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. And there are much better options of public transport and when properly designed, walking and, and bicycling for a large number of one’s needs in urban areas. Water management, a huge challenge. Water has to be provided safely. Sewerage has to be handled safely every day, day in and day out. And with rising populations, cities of course have to anticipate their growing water needs. This requires foresight, and I’ll explain how New York City has faced this challenge. Cities generate massive amounts of waste. Organic waste from food that is disposed of, sewerage industrial waste, packaging materials, newspaper and other paper to be recycled. And how those millions and millions of tons of waste handled each year are disposed of or recycled is a major factor in the city’s impact on the environment, and on its own quality of life and, and the, the greening of its own environment. How the building codes determine the kinds of buildings that are built, where they’re built, what their zoning is, is another aspect of the choices and I will give some indication about that as well. Well some cities had managed their transport well, and in other places it’s chaotic beyond imagining. Look at the commuters in Indonesia. Packed to a life-threatening extent. Compare that with one of the world’s most sparkling, efficient, dynamic metro systems in Seoul, South Korea, which is a huge system of hundreds of kilometers of line. Beijing and countless Chinese cities the large ones, have all been building metro systems in recent years as well. Serving them very well and wisely making the investments in mass public transportation, because the alternative for China will be, and is threatened to be, a massive explosion of automobile use with all of the ecological and economic ills that could attend to that. Bogota became famous as the exemplar of another kind of public transportation. That’s bus rapid transit. It followed another city, Curitiba, Brazil, which pioneered bus rapid transit in the 1970s. The idea was to encourage people to move away from automobiles to buses, by giving buses favorable conditions of access on dedicated lanes, very frequent service, and comfortable ways for people to get in and out of buses waiting in stations, and with stations located in convenient areas. Here you see, in Bogota, the famous red bus of their bus rapid transit system, entering one of the covered stations, a comfortable and safe area, for people to get on and off of the buses. And Bogota gets rave reviews from its own citizens and from around the world it gets people trying to learn the lessons of Bogota’s rapid transit system. And it therefore has won many, many, emulators around the world. Recently, cities have started to make a full arc to their earlier traditions. And that is also to make sure that there are safe, open areas for bicycling. Europe has taken the lead in this with the bus with the bicycle lanes in many of Europe’s wonderful cities. And with innovative ways now with smart cards of, and with the shared bicycles system such as this one in Paris that are leading to a renewal of what was once discarded in favor of the car. But because of congestion, because of the expenses of managing automobiles, because of the difficulties of parking, of traffic jams, because of individuals’ concerns with their own C O2 emissions and contributions to climate change. People and, I should add, with the people seeking a healthier way to get to work and to spend their days, there’s been a return to bike lanes and bicycle use. And I’m happy to say, in New York City this is also taking hold with great popularity. And it, it is an important step forward, not only for all of the ecological reasons, but for the public health reasons as well. Urbanites have come to understand in the last 20 years, the hard way. That if they take sedentarism to the extreme, they’re not out working the fields. They’re in office jobs in the service economy. The risks to their own health showing up in obesity, in heart disease, in other costs of sedentarism are very, very high. So people are eager to find ways to get back out onto the streets. Pedestrian areas in city centers encouraging people to walk. Often the streets are being closed to cars. The congestion has just gotten out of hand. Quality of life has diminished. And people by the thousands and by the millions added up over a year, are encouraged to get out and walk as they are in the Ramblas in the center of Barcelona. And this too is becoming a strategy of choice of urban zoning, especially for the core urban areas. And it is being supported, not only by access to pedestrian walkways, to bicycle lanes, to improved mass transit. But also through policies such as congestion taxation, in which people are charged a steep price for entering the center of cities in their automobiles, giving a strong economic push to get out of the car, leave the car behind. For moving between cities, there are also big choices. In the United States in the 1950s, a breakthrough was made to connect America’s cities by the interstate highway system. It had a very large economic impact, of course. It was an efficiency enhancer from the point of view of moving goods and moving people. It also facilitated the spread of suburbanization in the United States because highways linked suburbs with center cities. Having people move farther out from the densely populated center cities, and also, thereby contributing to America’s remarkably high ecological footprint. Its extraordinarily high level of CO2 emissions per capita. China, fortunately, has gone in a different direction rather than encouraging people to move between China’s cities. And China has the world’s largest network of large cities of more than a million people. It has built and continues to build tens of thousands of kilometers of fast rail to connect China’s cities. This electrified transport, if the electricity grid turns green very important step that China will need to take in future years, will enable a low emission transport system. And also one that will allow people to move very quickly with much less congestion, and with the much less investment in automobiles than was true in the United States. In the U.S., there are roughly 250 million personal vehicles for a 310 million population. Roughly five personal vehicles for every six people in, in the population. In China, the equivalent would be more than 1 billion cars. China currently has on the order of probably 120 million vehicles or so. The number’s rising now quite quickly. Because China’s become the world’s largest automobile market. But if China were to go all the way to the U.S. automobile density, not only would it become the world’s largest traffic jam, but China’s energy needs and its carbon emissions would be completely out of sight. So China needs to continue to take smart choices like an electrified, intercity fast rail system. Let me turn to another aspect of infrastructure, water supply. Every big city has to provision for drinking water for its population. As well as water for other uses for that part of urban agriculture, and for industrial uses of water. And how to do that effectively is a major challenge. In New York City, this has been addressed for more than a century by tapping into water reservoirs outside of the city, and carried to the city by huge pipes that bring water from two big watersheds. One you see on the map called the Catskills in the, in in hill and mountain area near the Hudson River. And another in what’s called the Croton watershed. Both of which are connected by huge, underground pipes to provision New York. The reason that this is quite interesting is that, about 15 years ago, New York faced the problem that the water coming from both of these areas was becoming more turbid more polluted, more containing chemical products and, and the outflow of industrial and farm activities in the areas nearby these two watersheds. And the proposal at the time was to build multi-billion dollar water treatment sites to keep New York City water safe, and that would be the intuitive step. The water’s getting dirtier, you have to treat the water and giant waste treatment sites for a city of eight million plus people seemed to be inevitable. But the city planners at the time, had a clever realization. And that is that it would be safer and smarter to encourage these out of state or, or out of city areas, I should say, near the watersheds, to engage in fewer activities that endangered the water supply. To keep the water clean and safe, so that these multi-billion dollar investments of water treatment would not have to be made. Of course, those areas had their own economic interests. And so New York City realized that it would have to provide a financial incentive.
To both the Catskills and the Croton watershed areas to desist from the kinds of farm activities, use of fertilizers, pesticides and so forth, that would endanger New York City’s drinking water. And sure enough the city arranged for a financial transfer to these outlying areas, to compensate for cutting back on some of the more dangerous processes. It’s a rather ingenious idea, not easily organized by a market, but by a political agreement that satisfied the interests of both the New York City residents who thereby avoided billions and billions of dollars of water treatment. And the residents of these outlying areas who did desist from certain profitable economic activities, but where their cities received compensating benefits. Now it’s still true 15 years later that there’s going to have to be a bit more waste and water treatment to keep the water standards at the high quality levels. But still this idea even taking into account the further needs for water treatment has made it possible for New York City to find a lower cost safer, and ultimately high quality way to preserve its water supply.
That’s very specific for New York. Every city, every major urban agglomeration has to solve a problem like this. I think that not only is New York’s solution a very interesting one. Because it’s a very unusual one and it had to be put together with a lot of creativity, insight and good political management. But it also highlights something that’s very important, in my view. And that is sustainable development is inherently an exercise in problem solving. Thinking out of the box, thinking out of the watershed, thinking out of the city, finding better ways to do things that can’t be found necessarily in the textbooks alone. It’s being creative, and creating new models. Yet another aspect of urban infrastructure, absolutely essential, and that is what to do with all of that waste. Some of it, paper and plastics, may be recyclable. Other parts of the waste, maybe some of the scrap metal, can also be reprocessed. A lot of the waste is organic waste. Food, into the garbage bags for example. Rotted food, or food that’s thrown out from the restaurants, and, and and homes. How to handle, all of this waste. Again, the usual way in the past was truly to regard it as waste and stick it some place, especially in landfills. And many large cities around the world built massive, massive human waste dumps that were fetid eye sores, nose sores. Actually carriers of pollution and sites of massive greenhouse gas emissions because these landfills admit methane among other gases and methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Engineers came to understand much better that simply filling the land with this kind of waste was terribly unwise. Dangerous for the land, dangerous for the water supply, dangerous for the air around it, dangerous for the residents living nearby, dangerous for greenhouse gas emissions. And a huge waste, because a lot of what was going into the landfills could be inputs for recycling, for industrial processes, even for the generation of energy. So, in the last 20 years, cities have experimented with many different kinds of recycling programs and with various kinds of innovative waste to energy facilities. In Western Europe, Denmark among other places, has been a leader, also in waste energy, in using various kinds of waste gas for power generation. And not only for power but for this idea that the electricity goes out into the grid and the heat exhaust from combustion, rather than simply going into the atmosphere is itself collected. And in the case of Denmark pumped to urban settlement areas to heat water for homes as well as to heat the homes themselves during the winter time. In general we’re going to see a lot of smartening up of structures, buildings, recycling, and of the power grid itself.
The concept that many cities around the world are now adopting, in a general term that will be gaining more and more specificity, and examples in the coming years, is an urban smart grid. That urban smart grid may mean a smart interconnection of mobility, of public transportation, individual electric vehicles, the power grid, the household electricity use, the interconnections with the waste processing of the cities through cogeneration or use of waste gas for electricity generation. One of the characteristics of the smart grid is the use of information technologies as a breakthrough in a way to be far more efficient, also in the energy use. Sensors, microsensors in housing, in appliances, in automobiles, will allow an interconnected power grid directly communicating with households and with businesses to economize on energy use. To send signals of when an extra power load is going to be needed. And to allow off-grid decentralized power sources to smartly connect with the grid. Whether it’s solar panels or other kinds of distributed power generation that right now stands alone. But it will be connected in a smart way through a metered system to an integrated smart grid for the city. Finally, let me mention, that as part of this smart infrastructure, is smarter and smarter building codes. Buildings can be built to be efficient. If they are properly engineered for proper insulation, proper location with regard to sunshine, with natural ventilation rather than rather than ventilation driven by heating and air conditioning. With recycling of water within the facilities themselves. Even with cogeneration facilities dedicated to a smart building like the Bank of America tower in my own city of New York.
A skyscraper that meets the ultimate platinum LEED standard which is the standard for evaluating the ecological impact of buildings. One of these smart things that this very smart Bank of America tower does, is that it has a cogeneration facility for its own power needs and using the heat from that for the hot water and for the ventilation in the building itself. All of this shows technological innovation at play. Information systems, smarter transport, smarter ways to recycle materials to close the loop, so that cities can achieve what is within their potential. Very high quality of life. An interconnected grid for transport, for power, for water, for sewerage. And in a way with a very low and falling ecological footprint.
If most of us are going to live in cities, then we better ask the question, what is it that makes a city sustainable? And the answer that I want to give is two-fold. One is that it is a green city.
Green in the literal sense that there are parks and places of people and open areas combined. But also green in the sense that its economic impact on the environment, the ecological footprint of the city, is also limited. The other dimension of a sustainable city is that it is resilient. Why resilient? Because we, in the age of the Anthropocene, in the era of planetary boundaries, in a period where, whether we like it or not, we are going to be experiencing more jolts of human-induced climate change. Know that the cities are going to be buffeted. If the cities are on the coasts, and sea levels are rising, what that means in terms of vulnerability to storm surges, more intense cyclones, and other storms, other dislocations, is very great. And so cities need to prepare for those shocks. Not as disasters that seemingly come out of the blue, but rather as known, even if unpredictable specific events that need to be prepared for with care. So what is it that makes a city sustainable? Let me mention a few of the crucial points that we need to explore.
One is the energy system. Is the city a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions? Especially through its energy use, but also through land fills that may emit methane, or through problematic industrial processes that are emitting nitrous oxide. Or, is the city efficient both energy efficient, and based on a low carbon, clean energy system. What about transport? Cities can be places of incredible congestion, smog, huge waiting times, traffic jams, and of course, large amounts of CO2 emissions coming from all those internal combustion engines burning all of that petroleum and diesel. Or cities can be places of highly efficient transport through very clever integration of walking areas, bicycling areas, as well various kinds of public transportation, taking the pressure and the demand off of the automobile. And so the nature of the city’s transport is a crucial determinant of its sustainability. A city’s infrastructure, its water, its sanitation, its waste management, its ability to recycle industrial waste, and to control industrial pollution, are clearly fundamental determinants of a city’s sustainability. How effectively the city plans and prepares for the future is obviously decisive. Not one of these issues, energy systems, transport systems, waste management, recycling, open green areas, resiliency to shock, is something that takes care of itself or something that is solved by a market economy. Certainly not a market economy, just left to run on its own. Urban resilience and urban efficiency and low ecological footprint, low impact on the natural environment are aspects of city life that must be planned. What does it mean for a city to be unsustainable? Well first, it means that the city is highly vulnerable to shocks. Shocks again may seem like they’re coming out of the blue, but they can be predicted if not in exact timing, at least with the probabilities of their visitations. Cyclones, droughts, earthquakes in many places, floods, and storm surges, landslides, in a few cities volcanoes are threats to lives, to livelihoods, to the economy. And mitigating those threats, anticipating the risks, making cities resilient, able to withstand shocks such as hese, is absolutely a fundamental part of sustainability and a fundamental signal of unsustainability when those preparations are not made. Pollution of the air and the water, the kind that afflicts unfortunately dozens and dozens of China’s cities today after 30 years of rapid industrial growth, but insufficient attention to the pollution consequences, cause many cities to be hazards for their populations.
The air that people breathe, the water they drink, can take years of life away. Cities are unsustainable when they haven’t prepared properly for their water supplies. Just about every city in the world has a huge job to do in anticipating water needs, and insuring that water and sewerage, or waste treatment are properly managed. And there are many, many choices as to how to do that, and I will want to show you a bit about that in New York City, because New York has managed very cleverly to provide a city of more than 8 million people, and a urban agglomeration far larger than that, with safe water at relatively low cost, by thinking ahead. Cities are unsustainable when they are unproductive because people are sitting in traffic jams for hours every day, breathing polluted air, losing productivity. Poor health. Social inequalities that make it impossible for large parts of the population to participate in a productive way in the economy of the city. And cities are unsustainable when populations are suffering from massive and growing disabilities of health. When an obesity epidemic coming from unsafe food combined with sedentary behavior of city life, with an absence of places for walking, bicycling, exercise, for a healthy lifestyle, mean that people are ill. They are often disabled. Absent from work, and, of course, suffering a serious setback in their sense of well being. So these are choices that cities have to make, and a lot is known about what it is that determines whether the ecological impact is high or low. Whether the city has a large greenhouse gas emission factor per person or a low one. Whether the city is functioning in a way that is providing for the productivity of the population. Let me focus for a few minutes on one key determinant of this and that’s density. Highly dense cities, if properly prepared for, tend to be both highly productive and lower emitting of greenhouse gases, than lower density settlements.
This may seem surprising. High density seems a lot of people are jammed together, but in high density it’s also possible to have more efficient transportation, to have more opportunities to walk, to reach places close by. And so places of high population density tend to be places with lower ecological impacts, notably lower carbon emissions per person of the population. Let me give an example of my own city, New York City. It is when you look at the overall urban area, the urban agglomeration, the highest density in the United States of any urban area, with the a, urban density of about 33,000 people per square mile. Compare that with Los Angeles, for example, at about 12,000 people per square mile. So obviously of big difference, a factor of roughly three. And it’s not surprising that Los Angeles is an automobile city whereas New York is not. Density makes a huge difference. Other cities in the United States, Atlanta for example, a real automobile city, is just one fifteenth of the density of New York, at about 2,000 people per square mile. Of course, where one draws the circles around these urban agglomerations makes a difference in these comparisons. I wouldn’t want to overstate the precision of the comparison, but I would emphasize that differences of density make enormous differences in how people move about the urban area, and therefore, how they also affect the environment. If you look at New York, at the number of commutes between two points by walking for example. It’s estimated that in New York, about 36% of all commutes or transit are by public transit or by walking. People either are taking buses, the metro service or walking. Compare that with an automobile-type city, say Atlanta or L.A.. In L.A., instead of it being 36%, the estimate is just 8%. People are going by by car to most places. In Atlanta, about 5% are by public transit and by walking. When you look specifically, as this pie chart shows, how New Yorkers get to work. Quite interesting. More than 40% are getting to work by subway, or by rail. Another 12% by bus. Only 28% of the population is getting to work by automobile. 23% driving alone, and another 5% by carpool. This is quite extraordinary, in fact, one could say that it is unique or nearly the case in among American cities. It’s a joy for me living in Manhattan in this highly dense area. I, I have the great pleasure of being able to walk to work, walk to the United Nations, walk to the university. And to satisfy amenities of all the shops right in the area never having to get in a car. And my great joy is not owning a car. When I lived in suburban Boston we would get in a car everywhere. In New York City because of the much higher density, it’s a great pleasure, believe me, being able to, to walk. Not everybody has that particular pleasure. But not having a car is an experience of higher proportion of New Yorkers than any other urbanites in the United States. And the result of all of this is that New York is exceedingly favorable compared to the rest of the United States in carbon emissions. In other words, New York’s impact on human induced climate change is something that New York can be proud of in relative terms. In the United States, on average Americans are emitting about 20 tons of CO2 per person, per year. But in New York City it’s roughly about a third of that, roughly six tons of CO2 per capita. You see on this chart that of America’s cities, New York City is at the very low end of CO2 emissions. People are taking energy efficient subway, or the energy efficient buses, or are walking. These days, increasingly also cycling. And as a result of this, the emissions in the transport sector are very, very low. Because of high density, emissions in the building sector are also rather low. With houses packed one next to the other in row houses or townhouses as, as they’re called in New York, as opposed to self-standing houses. There’s less surface area for heat to dissipate. It’s easier to keep the housing warm in the winter time. And better insulated, just by virtue of the tight packing of the of the townhouses and row houses that characterize New York City. Another reason for the very, very low emissions per capita. Why urbanization, as it’s taking place right now, gives us the possibility, if cities are smart in the kinds of energy systems and transport systems that they build. And in the kinds of zoning that encourages high-density settlements, with proximity of people to the shops and to the amenities that they’re looking for in the urban areas, offers a real chance for a lower ecological footprint, and for carbon emission levels per capita that are far more consistent fith the global needs, if we are to head off the worst of climate change. To get the best of what cities can offer in terms of low ecological footprint combined with high productivity with an ease of movement with low congestion. With the low level of time wasted in traffic jams and other disamenities, we have to look at how cities invest in the infrastructure and the choices they make. That is our next topic.