March 11th, 2015
In Climate Shock, Gernot Wagner & Martin L. Weitzman discuss the consequences of a hotter planet. Learn more about this fascinating book in the new trailer below.
Check out the first chapter of Climate Shock for free, here.
The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet
Gernot Wagner & Martin L. Weitzman
March 3rd, 2015
The last time concentrations of carbon dioxide were as high as they are today, write Marty Weitzman and Gernot Wagner, authors of Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, camels lived in Canada. That was a bit over 3 million years ago, of course. But how certain does science have to be for the world to act? Wagner and Weitzman had a terrific op-ed appear today on The Atlantic.com where they argue that climate is best thought of as a global-scale risk management problem. Check it out here:
Will Camels Roam Canada Again?
What we know about climate change is bad enough. What we don’t could make it even worse.
Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman
You are cruising down the highway at 65 miles per hour, reading a book in your self-driving car. Your life is in the hands of a machine—an eminently benevolent one. Meanwhile, in the lane next to you, an 18-wheeler using decidedly last-century technology—relying on a fallible human driver—appears to be swerving your way.
Your car’s computer is on the case. Equipped with orders of magnitude more computing power than the Apollo moon lander, it determines with all the confidence it can muster that there’s a greater-than-50-percent chance—it’s “more likely than not”—that the truck is about to hit you.
You may want to look up from your book. More importantly, you want to know with certainty that your onboard computer will hit the brakes, even if there’s a 49-percent chance that doing so will be a false alarm.
If, instead of “more likely than not,” the danger were “likely,” “very likely,” or even “extremely likely,” the answer would be clearer still. Even if there’s a 95-percent probability of a crash, there’s still a 1-in-20 chance that nothing will happen—but no one would gamble their life on those odds. Your car’s computer hopefully will have engaged the anti-lock braking systems already.
A perfect self-driving car doesn’t exist yet, nor has the world solved global warming. But it’s surprising that, by the standards that we’d expect in a car to keep its occupants safe, the governments of the world haven’t stepped on the brakes to avoid planetary-scale global warming disaster—a 100-year-storm hitting New York every other year, frequent and massive droughts, inundated coastal cities. In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that it was “more likely than not” the case that global warming was caused by human activity. By 2001, it had progressed to “likely.” By 2007, it was “very likely.” By 2013, it was “extremely likely.” There’s only one step left in official IPCC lingo: “virtually certain.”
Read the rest at The Atlantic.com here.
September 5th, 2014
Our heartfelt congratulations go out to David Vogel, author of The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States. The book was named winner of the 2014 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize given by the Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.
The Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize recognizes the best book on environmental politics and policy published in the past three years. The award was given last week at the annual APSA conference. You can learn more about the award and view a list of previous winners here.
July 18th, 2013
DAVID VOGEL – The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States
Winner of the 2013 Levine Prize, Research Committee on the Structure of Government (SOG) of the International Political Science Association
The Prize is awarded to a book that makes a contribution of considerable theoretical or practical significance in the field of public policy and administration, takes an explicitly comparative perspective, and is written in an accessible style.
Committee statement about the award:
“In recent decades, the politics of risk regulation has played a growing role all round the world. In his carefully crafted and compelling book The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States (Princeton University Press, 2012), David Vogel explores the changing transatlantic policy divergence in risk regulation. Dealing with an impressive number of issues, ranging from food safety and agriculture to air pollution, consumer safety and chemicals and hazardous substances, this well-written and policy-relevant book formulates an original framework to explain the regulatory and perception gap between Europe and United States.
“This historically-minded book also covers more than a half century of policy development, from the late 1950s to the present, a period during which the United States lost its status of regulatory leader at the expense of the European Union, where the precautionary principle has become prevalent. This is a convincing and illuminating book on a broad topic that students of risk regulation, environmental policy, and comparative public policy should find most helpful. The Award Committee is pleased to select this excellent book as the 2013 recipient of the Levine Award.”
View the Levine Award information on the GOVERNANCE Blog: http://governancejournal.net/levine-book-prize/
The Politics of Precaution examines the politics of consumer and environmental risk regulation in the United States and Europe over the last five decades, explaining why America and Europe have often regulated a wide range of similar risks differently. It finds that between 1960 and 1990, American health, safety, and environmental regulations were more stringent, risk averse, comprehensive, and innovative than those adopted in Europe. But since around 1990, the book shows, global regulatory leadership has shifted to Europe. What explains this striking reversal?
David Vogel takes an in-depth, comparative look at European and American policies toward a range of consumer and environmental risks, including vehicle air pollution, ozone depletion, climate change, beef and milk hormones, genetically modified agriculture, antibiotics in animal feed, pesticides, cosmetic safety, and hazardous substances in electronic products. He traces how concerns over such risks–and pressure on political leaders to do something about them–have risen among the European public but declined among Americans. Vogel explores how policymakers in Europe have grown supportive of more stringent regulations while those in the United States have become sharply polarized along partisan lines. And as European policymakers have grown more willing to regulate risks on precautionary grounds, increasingly skeptical American policymakers have called for higher levels of scientific certainty before imposing additional regulatory controls on business.
David Vogel is professor at the Haas School of Business and in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
July 8th, 2013
We interviewed Toby Tyrrell about his new book “On Gaia” last week. This week, we’re proud to link to this article in which he details some of the research that led him to view the Gaia Hypothesis with a critical eye:
Nitrogen is exceptionally abundant in the environment, it makes up 78 per cent of air, as dinitrogen (N2). N2 is also much more plentiful in seawater than other dissolved forms of nitrogen. The problem is that only organisms possessing the enzyme nitrogenase (organisms known as nitrogen-fixers) can actually use N2, and there aren’t very many of them. This is obviously a less than ideal arrangement for most living things. It is also unnecessary. Nitrogen starvation wouldn’t happen if just a small fraction of the nitrogen locked up in N2 was available in other forms that can be used by all organisms; yet biological processes taking place in the sea keep nearly all that nitrogen as N2. If you think about what is best for life on Earth and what that life can theoretically accomplish, nitrogen starvation is wholly preventable.
This realisation led me to wonder what other aspects of the Earth environment might be less than perfect for life. What about temperature? We know that ice forming inside cells causes them to burst and that icy landscapes, although exquisite to the eye, are relatively devoid of life. We can also see that ice ages – the predominant climate state of the last few million years – are rather unfortunate for life as a whole. Much more land was covered by ice sheets, permafrost and tundra, all biologically impoverished habitats, during the ice ages, while the area of productive shelf seas was only about a quarter of what it is today. Global surveys of fossil pollen, leaves and other plant remains clearly show that vegetation and soil carbon more than doubled when the last ice age came to an end, primarily due to a great increase in the area covered by forests.
Although the cycle of ice ages and interglacials is beyond life’s control, the average temperature of our planet – and hence the coldness of the ice ages – is primarily determined by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. As this is potentially under biological control it looks like another example of a less than perfect outcome of the interactions between life on Earth and its environment.
Look further and you find still more examples. The scarcity of light at ground level in rainforests inhibits growth of all but the most shade-tolerant plants. There’s only really enough light for most plants at canopy height, often 20 to 40 metres up, or below temporary gaps in the canopy. The intensity of direct sunlight does not increase the higher you go, so having the bulk of photosynthesis taking place at such heights brings no great advantage to the forest as a whole. Rather the contrary, trees are forced to invest large amounts of resources in building tall enough trunks to have the chance of a place in the sun. This arrangement is hard to understand if you expect the environment to be arranged for biological convenience, but is easily understood as an outcome of plants competing for resources.
Source: “Not Quite Perfect”, Planet Earth Online: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/features/story.aspx?id=1492&cookieConsent=A
Read a sample chapter from On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth [PDF].
October 26th, 2011
Yale university sociologist and three-time Princeton University Press author Charles Perrow published a thought-provoking op-ed in the Bloomberg View. Check out some of his popular books ORGANIZING AMERICA: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism, THE NEXT CATASTROPHE: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters, and his classic work NORMAL ACCIDENTS: Living with High Risk Technologies.
From the Bloomberg View:
Reducing carbon-dioxide emissions is primarily a political problem, rather than a technological one. This fact was well illustrated by the fate of the 2009 climate bill that barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives and never came up for a vote in the Senate.
The House bill was already quite weak, containing many exceptions for agriculture and other industries, subsidies for nuclear power and increasingly long deadlines for action. In the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats from coal-dependent states sealed its fate. Getting past these senators is the key to achieving a major reduction in our emissions.
Technological challenges to reducing emissions exist, too. Most pressing is the need to develop the know-how to capture carbon dioxide on a large scale and store it underground. Such technology could reduce by 90 percent the emissions from coal- fired power stations. Some 500 of these facilities in the U.S. produce 36 percent of our CO2 emissions….(continued at Bloomberg View)
October 11th, 2011
According to Library Journal’s most recent Best Sellers list, Diane Coyle’s new book The Economics of Enough was the third best-selling book in environmental science. Not too shabby for an economist!
June 16th, 2010
The impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will be felt in the region and around the world for a long time. The Association of American University Presses has compiled a list of books from 23 AAUP members to offer insight and understanding about the role of oil–in economic, technological, and political development, in international relations, and in global environments.
From the AAUP Press Release: Books for Understanding is a free public service of AAUP to help librarians,
journalists, educators, and interested readers find the best books on current events. The program highlights one of the highest values of university presses: to publish top research and scholarship in all fields regardless of immediate commercial potential. Often the most complete and illuminating background research and knowledge for a breaking news story is only available in scholarly books from presses committed to the public interest.
A complete list of Books for Understanding can be found at:
We invite you to check out the complete list along with these Princeton University Press titles:
Oil and the Environment: General Environmental Effects of Oil Drilling and Refining
The Long Thaw:
How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate
Oil in Economic and Political Development and Social Change: Around the World
The Central Asian Economies Since Independence
Oil and Energy Crises
The Impending World Oil Shortage (New Edition)
Kenneth S. Deffeyes
Drilling Methods and Technologies
Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century
David P. Billington, David P. Billington Jr.
May 28th, 2010
I hope you will check out this neat debate taking place at Science magazine. In a first for them, they are offering a preview of a print review on their web site and hosting a debate with the author and the authors of the books reviewed (unfortunately none of Princeton’s titles are included, but I’ll post a list of “also of interest” books below). The subject is climate change and will no doubt attract impassioned voices from both sides, so read up on the article and the issue, and then head over to Science’s site to voice your own opinion.
Here is the official announcement of the debate from Science:
“The Climate Change Debates”
Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University Science 328, 1230 (2010).
published online on Science Express 27 May 2010.
Having expanded far beyond atmospheric science, the contentious debate over the prospects of disruptive changes in Earth’s climate now also encompasses important political, economic, and social issues. The eight books considered in Kitcher’s essay review discuss some of the causes and consequences of the present controversy and how we might best move forward from it. The still-raging clashes on the reality of anthropogenic climate change and the actions we should take to mitigate its effects also raise fundamental questions about how science should work in democratic societies.
The review is available as a PDF at: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpdf/science.1189312v1
Readers are invited to join a moderated discussion of the issues raised in the review and the eight books at: http://tiny.cc/clichng
Key books on the subject from Princeton University Press:
The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate
The Great Ocean Conveyor: Discovering the Trigger for Abrupt Climate Change
Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate
William F. Ruddiman
Climate Change Justice
Eric A. Posner & David Weisbach