Economic Models and the Real-World Social Costs of Carbon

Economic theory mandates that it is worth reducing CO2 emissions up to the point where the benefits are equal to the cost. The social cost of carbon is an estimate, in dollars, of the economic damages from emitting one additional ton of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This metric is inextricably tied to the Neoliberal Economics and used by the UN and most governments to … Continue reading Economic Models and the Real-World Social Costs of Carbon

The Long Game: Facing Reality in the Environmental Century

170907084916-01-golf-wildfire-trnd-super-teaseGolfing while the mountains burn. Photo from Beacon Rock Golf Course.

Personally, I would rate the likelihood of staying under two degrees of warming as under 10 percent. – Michael Oppenheimer 2017

Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.  – Thomas Merton

Under a concrete sky on 5 November 2014, Michele and I awoke to realize that Paul LePage had been re-elected as governor of Maine. Once again, Mainers had split their votes three ways and LePage was elected by a minority of the voters to another four-year term. We were deeply disappointed because during his first term LePage had made clear his disdain for environmental concerns. Little did we know that the next few years would make LePage’s first term look like the good old days. Continue reading “The Long Game: Facing Reality in the Environmental Century”

Ecology, Loss, and Triage

Rainforest-burning-NASA-2014Amazonia burning. NASA Earth Observatory 2014

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.”

–Anne Frank

On Sunday, 30 April 2017, the New York Times reported that global marine fisheries are being pushed to the brink. This and countless other imminent losses prompt me to once again point out that management of the global biosphere is necessary if we are to have any hope of controlling climate change and feeding ourselves. Human impacts on ecosystems are pushing the living planet into a new regime characterized by disrupted ecological relationships and accelerating extinctions on local, regional, and global scales. Ecological disruption causes ongoing positive feedbacks from widely-distributed natural sources of emissions, thus further disrupting the climate system. Globally, we are approaching a state of unmanageability on many fronts. Continue reading “Ecology, Loss, and Triage”

Divestment from fossil fuels: An ethical imperative for higher education


On Nov. 5, 2012, the Unity College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest our $15 million endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, making Unity the world’s first institution of higher learning to explicitly target – using Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank – companies that produce these carbon-based fuels. Since our action, hundreds of campuses have started divestment movements. An increasing number, including Pitzer, Stanford and Syracuse, have voted to divest billions from fossil fuels. Continue reading “Divestment from fossil fuels: An ethical imperative for higher education”

Generational impacts of climate change: What will it mean for you?

Increasingly dire projections of the impact of climate change within this century are often met with morbid acceptance or dismissed as alarmist.   Dr. Joe Romm argues that first stage of “climate grief” is acceptance, which is the reverse of the Kübler-Ross model of grief that we personally experience when, say, confronted with a conclusive diagnosis of a terminal disease (cf., physicist Saul Griffith).  While Joe notes that what we are accepting is the science, it is my experience that non-scientists often move immediately from acceptance of the science to hopelessness.  After all, the scientific reality is pretty stark.  Here I will argue this is wrong-headed at any stage of the progression of anthropogenic climate change, and I hope to provide a context in which to understand what the science is telling us about what the twenty-something generation will experience. Continue reading “Generational impacts of climate change: What will it mean for you?”

A time for courage and action

Stephen Mulkey

From Stephen Mulkey, PhD, president, Unity College

It seems to be unusual for a college president to step into what appears to be a political event such as the Tar Sands Action that will take place on 6 November.   Indeed, some of my colleagues at other institutions think that I must be quite mad to join the group that will circle the White House.  As president of Unity College, a liberal arts institution with an environmental mission and a history of activism, it is not only appropriate, but also quite necessary for me to make my voice heard. Continue reading “A time for courage and action”