February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 8, NUMBER 8, AUGUST 1995
GENERAL AND POLICY
Two related items and a poll in The Futurist, Jan.-Feb. 1995:
"Seven Doomsday Myths About the Environment," R. Bailey, 14-18.
False predictions include those for an upcoming ice age, extreme effects from
the Antarctic ozone hole, an ozone hole over America, and global warming. Making
people afraid advances the careers of politicians, attracts funds for scientific
research and to interest groups, and sells newspapers. In addition, there is a
seduction in apocalyptic thinking. Scientists, policy makers, intellectuals and
businessmen must work to restore people's faith in themselves and in human
"Why Do We Hear Prophecies of Doom from Every Side?" J.L. Simon,
19-23. Compares environmental prophecy to religious prophecy and states that
many environmentalists shut their eyes to evidence that contradict their
prophecies. One reason is the propensity of many to wish to return to the "good
old days." Unfortunately false prophecy can cause long-run disasters.
The Futurist Poll, p. 24. A short questionnaire is included to survey
readers' beliefs about potential environmental disasters. A selection of
responses will be published in a future issue.
"Trust the Science," B. Bolin, Our Planet, 23-24, 1995.
(Published by UNEP, POB 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.)
The technical assessments of scientists working through the International
Panel on Climate Change are more reliable than other attempts to summarize
scientific research in a form that is useful in political decision making.
"Climate Policy: Showdown in Berlin," C. Flavin, World
Watch, 8-9, July-Aug. 1995.
As a result of the first Conference of the Parties (Berlin, Mar.-Apr. 1995)
to the Rio climate treaty, diplomats are charged with negotiating, during the
next two years, a protocol to the treaty that is aimed for the first time at
reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.
"Fighting Fire with Fire," L. O'Hanlon, New Scientist,
28-33, July 15, 1995.
Wildfires are becoming hotter, more devastating and more frequent because
controlled burning of undergrowth has decreased, allowing for infrequent and
unpredictable firestorms. There has been a change from burning to reduce surface
fuels to burning for land clearing. The former has a negligible net impact on
atmospheric CO2 because the vegetation regrows. The same is not true of the
latter, which permanently changes land use.
"Debt and the Environment," D. Pearce, N. Adger et al., Scientific
American, 52-56, June 1995.
Environmentalists have argued that the burden of debt in the developing
world forces nations to deplete their natural resources for cash.
However, the fiscal discipline imposed by debt may curb some environmentally
harmful spending. A wiser policy is to encourage better husbandry of resources
through private ownership and market-driven pollution control.
Special issue: "Desertification," E. Dowdeswell, Ed.,
Our Planet, 6(5), 1994 (UNEP, POB 30552, Nairobi, Kenya).
The 21 articles discuss the 1994 U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification,
natural and socio-economic causes and effects, and the necessity for community
involvement and commitment in actions to combat desertification.
"NASA Cultivating Basic Technology for Supersonic Passenger
Aircraft," P.S. Zurer, Chem. Eng. News, pp. 10-16, Apr. 24, 1995.
(Feature article.) By the year 2000, having spent nearly $2 billion, NASA, with
the U.S. aerospace industry, hopes to have solved the problems that derailed the
supersonic transport of the 1970s. Not the least of these problems is ozone
depletion, but far more is known about that than in the 1970s.
"Getting Warmer: Looking for a Way out of the Climate Impasse,"
C. Flavin, O. Tunali, World Watch, pp. 10-19, Mar.-Apr. 1995 (Worldwatch
Inst., 1776 Mass. Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036). Analyzes the current lack of
momentum on the climate convention, and important circumstances in different
parts of the world. Recommendations include financial penalties for countries
that fail to meet year-2000 commitments, an international auditing mechanism,
and a large venture fund for renewable energy projects.
"The Science of Policymaking: Responding to ENSO," M.
Golnaraghi (Div. Appl. Sci., Harvard Univ., Cambridge MA 02138), R. Kaul, Environment,
37(1), 16-20, 38-44, Jan.-Feb. 1995.
The growing scientific understanding of the El Niño Southern
Oscillation made possible an important turning point reached during the 1982-83
ENSO event, when countries began to use this knowledge as a guide to policy
planning. Effective policy making in Peru and Brazil is described. However,
other factors, such as unsustainable use of natural resources and the
globalization of economies, also make societies more vulnerable to interannual
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