Environmental Performance Index 2010

One among the many critical factors impeding progress at the climate treaty talks in Copenhagen was substantial disagreement about how to quantify, measure, report, track and verify environmental performance. Many countries do not even collect minimal statistics, while others (Cuba and North Korea for instance) are notorious recidivists at faking data or exaggerating progress for political reasons.

One attempt to develop useful measurements, despite daunting odds, is the effort by research specialists at Yale and Columbia Universities to create a viable Environmental Performance Index to be released every two years.

The preliminary version of the Environmental Performance Index 2010 is now available in a variety of forms. As the index authors suggest, “the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality.” Their hope is that these indicators may serve as a “gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI’s proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.”

For a quick two-page take on the Index, see the initial press release which accompanied the report, or review the four page summary for policymakers. You’ll also find a few relevant comments in “Iceland Leads Environmental Index as US Falls” in the New York Times.

For more substantive and detailed analysis, consult the 37 pages of country ranking charts, 327 pages of individual country profiles, or the 73-page report on the preliminary results. (Final results will be issued February 12th)

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Feedback Effects of Carbon Dioxide Less than Anticipated

Science Daily summarizes a new study appearing in this week’s journal Nature:

“A new estimate of the feedback between temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has been derived from a comprehensive comparison of temperature and CO2 records spanning the past millennium.

“The result, which is based on more than 200,000 individual comparisons, implies that the amplification of current global warming by carbon-cycle feedback will be significantly less than recent work has suggested.”

More specifically, they report, “recent attempts to quantify the feedback by examining the co-variation of pre-industrial climate and CO2 records yielded estimates of about 40 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) CO2 per degree Celsius, which would imply significant amplification of current warming trends.

“In this week’s Nature, David Frank and colleagues extend this empirical approach by comparing nine global-scale temperature reconstructions with CO2 data from three Antarctic ice cores over the period ad 1050-1800. The authors derive a likely range for the feedback strength of 1.7-21.4 p.p.m.v. CO2 per degree Celsius, with a median value of 7.7.

“The researchers conclude that the recent estimates of 40 p.p.m.v. CO2 per degree Celsius can be excluded with 95% confidence, suggesting significantly less amplification of current warming.”

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unintended Consequences

One of the great environmental success stories of the past few decades has been the concerted international effort to ban the use of chemicals harmful to the ozone shield, an effort which has begun to bear fruit as the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic continent has begun to close steadily over the past few years. This is a very positive development – and yet . . . .

It now appears that damage to the ozone layer had
served to mask global warming in the southern hemisphere. The very necessary act of ameliorating damage to the ozone layer has, as a direct result, most likely exacerbated the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases.

Life is complex.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

All Hoy, No Polloi

Last night’s celebration of the contributions of the cowboy to Kansas lore was a delight for all who attended.

Jim Hoy was a fount of stories, facts, legends and songs. From the origin of the cowboy boot and the Stetson, through the nature of Kansas cowtowns, to lawmen and outlaws (sometimes one and the same) and the cowboys themselves, Dr. Hoy entertained and informed, and a very good time indeed was had by all.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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