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The following claims have attained quasi-canonical status in Washington: The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances US influence; the Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies; the interests of the United States and Israel align; and, terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. Subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.
A loose system of individual commitments, in which each country unilaterally sets emissions targets, can help build trust and momentum for a more inclusive successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But if such a system is to work, general agreement would need to exist about what constitutes a fair target for each country. Fortunately, a study of the emissions targets to which countries have already agreed allows us to describe, and even quantify, what has historically been considered fair and reasonable.
For all the pronouncements about the United States and China reaching a historic climate pact, the agreement they announced Wednesday does not signal a seismic shift in policies by either nation, experts said. The deal is important for what it shows the rest of the world, particularly other large carbon emitters like India and Russia, in advance of a meeting in Paris next year to negotiate a new climate treaty.
We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws. Tax legislation has not kept pace with these developments. The resulting tensions between national fiscal sovereignty and the borderless scope of today’s business activities can be resolved only through international dialogue and uniform global standards.
Federal regulators and members of Congress have been pressing private lenders to adopt flexible payment plans like those available through the federal loan system to no avail, according to an alarming report released last month by the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Congress may have to step in and require them to do so.
The crisis in our political system is less about party than about horizon. Somehow, we seem to have lost the capacity for long-range planning and execution—at a time when, arguably, foresight and patience are more essential than ever before. Iit is hard to imagine how our system can possibly implement policies that would be effective in the long run—or how, if we managed to take the right course, we could possibly stick to it.
To prevent dangerous deflation, the ECB is discussing a massive program to purchase government bonds. Monetary watchdogs are divided over the measure, with some alleging that central bankers are being held hostage by politicians. Is it important that the ECB adhere to tried-and-true principles in the crisis, as Weidmann argues? Or can it resort to unusual measures in an emergency situation, as Draghi is demanding?
So, there’s this widely used class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids that have emerged as a prime suspect in honeybee collapse, and may also be harming birds and water-borne critters. But at least they provide benefits to farmers, right? Well, not soybean farmers, according to a blunt economic assessment released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
At a windy mountain pass on the edge of the Mojave Desert, North America’s most potent collection of batteries used for storing unused power is humming its way toward an electricity revolution. Southern California Edison, a utility that serves about 14 million people, has amassed more than 600,000 lithium-ion battery cells at a substation in Tehachapi, California. The $54 million, two-year test project aims to collect power generated from the area’s 5,000 wind turbines and store it for future use.
In August 2007, then–presidential candidate Barack Obama vowed that, if elected, he would “immediately” amend NAFTA. Six years later, with NAFTA still untouched, Obama faced the decision to appoint the chief U.S. negotiators for the two largest trade agreements in history. And he picked Wall Street bankers for the job. While labor organizations worry about losing leverage, the financial industry seems poised to entrench its influence.
Of the 13,000-plus days since Jan. 1, 1978, both chambers of Congress have been in session at the same time for about 4,700 of them — about a third of the total time and a little fewer than half of all weekdays. The Senate has worked more than the House, having been in session about 42 percent of the time to the House’s 39 percent. A look at the the past 37 years of Congressional activity reveals that your likely stereotypes about the amount of time Congress spends doing the people’s work is probably about right.
The Energiewende will go on despite its obvious setbacks. There are countries in Europe that already generate more than half of their electricity from renewable sources, such as Sweden, and others that are getting there, such as Austria, and the continent’s biggest economy is trying hard to catch up. The German government’s determination to experiment, and citizens’ continued willingness to pay for these experiments if they lead to a cleaner future, carry important lessons for the U.S. and other countries where politicians are afraid of the kind of upheavals that Germany has faced.
Economic predictions depend on figuring out what generates economic activity. Since the turn of the 20th century, economists have struggled to grasp what drives various parts of the economy, from consumer goods to commodities to housing. Recent research suggests financial markets and economic growth are supported mainly by animal spirits, not rational calculation
Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point. Energy-saving is working. Green growth makes sense, and is happening. There is a future that preserves the gains of industrialisation without its polluting losses.
Every piece of garbage can be turned into raw material that can be used in future products. With his influential Cradle to Cradle movement, Germany’s Michael Braungart espouses a form of eco-hedonism that puts smart production before conservation. In Braungart’s universe, every product is basically designed to either decompose without causing any harm or to be recycled without loss of quality. His vision is of a planet on which no garbage accumulates, because all waste becomes food.
Bryan Jeffries, the chief of Arizona’s firefighters’ association, has been arguing to anyone who will listen that his members — and the state’s police officers, too — should volunteer to cut their own pension benefits. Cutting pensions for firefighters and police officers would help save their woefully underfunded retirement plan and bail out towns and cities that are struggling to keep up with their mandated contributions, he says.
A few months ago, the international food manufacturing giant General Mills was branded a “clear laggard” by climate activists for not doing enough to cut its carbon footprint. Today, Oxfam International is claiming big victory: General Mills has released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions.”
Most Americans don’t think of their government as particularly successful. Some of this mistrust reflects a healthy skepticism that Americans have always had toward centralized authority. But much of the mistrust really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures. And yet there is some good news in this area, too – a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?
The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.
The benefits of the Pentagon’s drive for energy efficiency go well beyond improving the U.S military’s energy security and lowering its costs. Through coordination and technology transfers with the private sector, the effort to create a more energy-efficient and secure fighting force could also stimulate innovation beyond the military and help reduce the carbon footprint of many businesses.
Noncompete clauses are now appearing in far-ranging fields beyond the worlds of technology, sales and corporations with tightly held secrets. From event planners to chefs to investment fund managers to yoga instructors, employees are increasingly required to sign agreements that prohibit them from working for a company’s rivals.
Artificial intelligence is guided by the far-off goal of having software match humans at important tasks. After seeing results from a new field called deep learning, which involves processing large quantities of data using simulated networks of millions of interconnected neurons, some experts have come to believe that this goal isn’t so distant after all.
A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking – just for its own sake – and thinking. Wordsworth was a walker. Charles Dickens was a walker. Henry David Thoreau walked and walked and walked. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk? This is the era of the “smartphone map zombie” – people who only take occasional glances away from an electronic routefinder to avoid stepping in anything or being hit by a car. But you don’t have to be an author to see the value of walking. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking.
The underground economy is a shadowy zone where businesses, both legitimate and less so, transact in the currency of opportunity, away from traditional institutions and their watchful eyes. A recent University of Wisconsin report estimates the value of the underground economy in the United States at about $2 trillion, about 15% of the total U.S. GDP.
Wind was responsible for 4.8 percent of America’s electricity used in January. That’s the highest January total ever, breaking the record from last January. In many areas of the country wind has reached an important tipping point: becoming cheaper than coal and natural gas.
When Adam Smith was 22, he proclaimed “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five global systemic risks directly connected to energy which together threaten capital markets and hence the global economy in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.
The grieving mother accomplished what would have been inconceivable a few short years ago, much less back when the nation launched its war on drugs: She helped pass a bill, signed by a Republican governor, that lets people get away with using drugs for the sake of saving lives.
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication presents their report on Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming. The report provides insight into public interest as regards governmental process and political action, and business activities and consumer action. It also sheds light on efforts to achieve greater domestic energy efficiency.
REmap 2030 is a roadmap to double the share of renewable energy by 2030. It is the first global study to provide renewable energy options based on a bottom-up analysis of official national sources. The study not only focuses on technologies, but also on the availability of financing, political will, skills, and the role of planning.
We face an urgent need to provide innovative responses to natural resource use. Bamboo could play an important role in forest and landscape restoration. With adequate attention, investment, and the right standards in place, it could become a major renewable and sustainable crop—if we can update our outmoded view of it.
State and local governments have awarded $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business, with 3 of every 4 dollars going to fewer than 1,000 big corporations. The largest five subsidies went to Boeing, ALCOA, Intel, General Motors and Ford. Dow Chemical received 410 separate subsidies worth $1.4 billion. Federal, state and local governments publish exhaustively detailed statistical reports on welfare to the poor, disabled, sick, elderly and other individuals who cannot support themselves. But corporate welfare is not the subject of any comprehensive reporting at the federal level. Disclosures by state and local governments vary greatly, from substantial to nearly nonexistent. Taxpayers who want to understand their burdens should demand that Congress require and pay for detailed annual reports showing every federal, state and local subsidy received by corporations.
The economics of international banking are straightforward enough: raise funds in countries where they are cheap, lend where they are dear. Done right, this is both lucrative for bankers and good for the world, by channelling savings to their most productive use. Those economics have begun to come apart over the past five years.
Americans will look back and marvel at what became of our old welfare state–that tangle of inequity and dysfunction once known as federal entitlements. Why did the public tolerate a system that wound up distributing most of its benefits to the well-off? And how did the economy survive its costs? With the vaunted post-Cold War Peace dividend evaporating, the United States found itself unable to invest adequately in either its infrastructure or its children. Eventually people began to talk of another Great Depression, before the coming of the next New Deal. This Atlantic magazine article from 1992 almost could have been written today.
MIT Technology Review explores a big question: how are data and the analytical tools to manipulate it changing decision making today? The number of variables and the speed and volume of transactions are just too much for human decision makers. Todays smart systems, and their impact, are prosaic next to what’s planned.
Clean coal is an essential component of the President’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy, but on the heels of the West Virginia coal-cleaning chemical disaster, amid record climate disruptions and drought and flooding, Obama’s billion dollar bonus to Big Coal might signal “game over” for clean energy and climate initiatives in Illinois.
Utility-sized solar plants are beginning to appear across the US, with 232 under construction, in testing or granted permits, many in the south-west and California. In the west, ample sun, wide-open spaces, financial incentives, falling costs and state mandates have made big solar plants possible.
The future will see not the renovation or the construction of a glistening new international architecture but the continued spread of an unattractive but adaptable multilateral sprawl that delivers a partial measure of international cooperation through a welter of informal arrangements and piecemeal approaches. The furious pace of technological change risks leaving global governance in the dust.
Astronomers have measured the distances between galaxies in the universe to an accuracy of just 1%. This staggeringly precise survey – across six billion light-years – is key to mapping the cosmos and determining the nature of dark energy. While we can’t say with certainty, it’s likely the universe extends forever in space and will go on forever in time.
US President Barack Obama recently declared that growing income inequality and the inequality of opportunity that it creates are the defining challenges now facing America. These problems have risen to the top of the political agenda in the United States, but they are not uniquely American problems.
The greatest danger is one that will not be faced for decades but that is lurking out there. If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated.
U.S. scientists believe they may have cracked one of the great biofuel conundrums. They have turned a thick soup of algae into a mix of crude oil, gas, water and plant nutrients in less than an hour. That is, they have taken 60 minutes to do what Nature does—at great pressures and temperatures—over millions of years.
An American president’s most important power is not the veto pen or the ability to launch missiles. It is the bully pulpit. When a president speaks, the world listens. That is why Barack Obama’s credibility matters. If people do not believe what he says, his power to shape events withers. And recent events have seriously shaken people’s belief in Mr Obama.
Since the 2008 financial crash, our country has been reeling without getting its economic policy right. What we needed then, and need now, is a new kind of macroeconomics; one that aims for investment-led growth, not consumption-led growth. But investment-led growth can’t be achieved by a temporary stimulus. It requires a very different kind of strategy and policy.
It might seem like a marriage made in heaven. Infrastructure projects take a long time to build but then deliver cashflows over an extended period. Pension funds have liabilities that stretch over several decades. Why not get the latter to finance the former? But the couple have barely survived the first date, let alone made it to the altar. A new report from the OECD estimates that global pension funds have just 0.9% of their portfolios in pure infrastructure plays.
A new solar cell material has properties that might lead to cells more than twice as efficient as the best on the market today. The researchers haven’t yet demonstrated a high-efficiency solar cell based on the material. But their work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that perovskite materials could change the face of solar power.
Unconditional Cash Transfers work better than almost anyone would have expected. They dent the stereotype of poor people as inherently feckless and ignorant. But Conditional Cash Transfers are usually better still, especially when dealing with the root causes of poverty and, rather than just alleviating it, helping families escape it altogether.
Germany slaughters 58 million pigs a year and has built an efficient meat industry second only to the US in pork exports. Its optimized breeding, feeding and killing system churns out wondrously cheap cutlets — but at a hidden cost to the environment and our health.
There are those who scorn the idea that the American government is dysfunctional. Despite the fact that it left the world teetering on the edge of an economic catastrophe, they say everything is working just fine. American government’s purpose is to allow a fractious minority to stop the will of the majority. We shouldn’t be surprised when it succeeds.
The federal government spends more than $3.7 trillion annually, with more than $1 trillion awarded through contracts, grants, and loans. Improving transparency of this spending is essential to improve accountability. GAO recommends the development of a long-term plan to implement comprehensive transparency reform, and increased efforts for obtaining stakeholder input to ensure reporting challenges are addressed.
As they go about their business of producing most of the world’s wealth, novelty and human interaction, cities also produce a vast amount of data. The people who run cities are ever more keen on putting those data to work. Hardly a week passes without a mayor somewhere in the world unveiling a “smart-city” project—often at one of the many conferences hailing the concept.
It’s easy to be depressed about America these days. We’ve got messes aplenty abroad and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is totally paralyzed. Fortunately, there is another, still “exceptional,” American reality out there. It’s best found at the research centers of any global American company.
The state has played a central role in producing game-changing breakthroughs, its contribution to the success of technology-based businesses should not be underestimated. There are many reasons why policymakers must modernise the state and bring entitlements under control. But one of the most important is that a well-run state is a vital part of a successful innovation system.
Corporations are authoritative organizations that can channel extraordinary levels of human, technical, and fiscal resources toward specific problems and missions. Multinational corporations dominate markets, trade, investment, research and development, and the spread of technology. To fight climate change, the international community needs to harness this power
There is a never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must, do more. Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but altogether too much busy-ness. All this “leaning in” is producing an epidemic of overwork, and has been producing negative returns for some time now. It is time to try the far more radical strategy of leaning back.
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed an ultra-efficient new engine that runs on a combination of natural gas and diesel. When combined with a battery and electric motor to make a hybrid vehicle, it could allow a car to get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon, the researchers say.
A new research paper shows in detail how significant the surveillance effect on behavior can be. The researchers measured the impact of software that monitors employee-level theft and sales transactions, before and after the technology was installed, at 392 restaurants in 39 states. The research suggests that the surveillance effect on employee behavior is striking.
What Bezos saw that others didn’t was that his business was about distribution, not inventory or product categories. With the right system in place, Amazon will be able to deliver anything to customers the same day it’s purchased online. It marks the beginning of the end of shopping as the whole world knows it.
David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology and public policy for twenty years. He took first prize in Canada’s national physics prize exam, won MIT’s prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was listed as one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment 2009. David’s serves as the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
I worry that because of the excess hype, 3D printing will soon suffer the same backlash as solar energy and electric cars. We are only in the early stages of 3D printing. The curve is flat for the foreseeable future. We are about to see a renaissance in design. So let’s be excited, but adjust our expectations – the large-scale manufacturing revolution will happen only after we become bitterly disappointed.
Capitalism rests on a foundation of myths. First, capitalism somehow “invented” entrepreneurship; second, capitalism provides the only “market” economy; third, only capitalism is compatible with “self-reliance” and individual responsibility; fourth, capitalism is the model of “efficiency,” when in truth it generates enormous waste of all kinds; finally, there Is No Alternative. All of this is nonsense. The economy of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and its largest city, Bologna, is living proof.
As Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, George Shultz helped negotiate the most successful global environmental treaty to date: the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Few modern Republican politicians favor such environmental effort, or even believe climate change is happening or that humanity could be primarily responsible for it.
From stadiums in Brazil to a bank headquarters in Britain, architects led by Norman Foster are integrating solar cells into the skin of buildings, helping the market for the technology triple within two years. Foster and his customers are seeking to produce eye-catching works while meeting a European Union directive that new buildings should produce next to zero emissions after 2020.
As a subjective metric, quality can mean different things to different stakeholders, while of donor countries, recipients and institutional actors may place quality across a broad spectrum of objectives. This subjectivity makes the assessment of the quality of climate finance contributions a useful and necessary exercise, but one that has many challenges.
The idea of animating the inanimate, of compelling the physical world to do our bidding, has been a staple of science fiction for half a century or more. But someday soon we’ll have houses that can act with genuine intelligence that will enrich our lives far more than any missile launcher ever could.
Pricing carbon to reduce emissions and tackle global warming is moribund in Congress for now, but not elsewhere. A new World Bank report finds that more than 40 national governments and 20 sub-national governments have either put in place carbon-pricing schemes or are planning one for the years ahead.
Food waste in America is a problem that has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s. Today, as much as 40 percent of food produced in America is thrown away. Decomposing food releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as effective at trapping atmospheric heat than carbon.
GAO’s 2013 annual report identifies 31 new areas where agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness – many areas involve fragmentation, overlap, or duplication – the Department of Defense could realize up to $82 million in cost savings and ensure equivalent performance by taking addressing its fragmented approach to developing and acquiring combat uniforms.
Some carmakers try harder than others to be green. Besides making their models cleaner to run, many carmakers are also trying to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing them. Having been depicted as environmental villains since the 1950s, cars and their makers may soon be able to move out of the spotlight.
Over decades California’s green rules have inspired other states and the federal government to follow. Older rules focused on conservation, newer ones focus on investment, new technologies and development projects.
Without nitrogen, the machinery of photosynthesis cannot function. Corn, wheat, and rice, the crops on which humanity depends for survival, are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants. Yet, runaway nitrogen is suffocating wildlife in lakes and estuaries, contaminating groundwater, and even warming the globe’s climate.
A line of Mini Coopers, each attached to the regional power grid by a thick cable plugged in where a gasoline filler pipe used to be, no longer just draws energy. The power now flows two ways between the cars and the electric grid, as the cars inject and suck power in tiny jolts, and get paid for it.
Silicon Valley is obsessed with serendipity. Armed with social network maps, managers can spot isolated teams and structural holes, tweaking the organizational structure in real time. Rather than wait for their employees to cross paths, they could simply make the necessary introductions.
Many of the scaffolds that have already been commercialised for wound repair, bone grafts and surgical aids are comparatively simple. Moving to the next generation of scaffolds for the delivery of drugs, cells and eventually genes will require extensive safety testing and lengthy clinical trials.
Although America has accounted for a sizable share of all technological innovations that have shaped our modern world, the wider historical evidence is disappointing for anyone who thinks political freedom is a fundamental precondition for innovation. Even the evidence of America’s own history undercuts the “all you need is freedom” story.
Sixteen years ago a book by Clayton Christensen changed business thinking forever. The Innovator’s Dilemma looked at industries and exposed a surprising phenomenon: When big companies fail, it’s often not because they do something wrong but because they do everything right.
Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time, and a healthy planet is necessary for a healthy business. We want to leave behind not only a habitable planet, but an Earth whose beauty and biodiversity is protected for those who come after us. We think that business can inspire solutions to the environmental crisis.
William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable development. Trained as an architect, McDonough’s interests and influence range widely, and he works at scales from the global to the molecular. McDonough received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, and the first U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.
President Barack Obama’s promise to attack climate change is likely to light a fire under federal agencies slow to comply with a mandate to cut energy use – which could be very good news for companies that specialize in systems that save power. Major efficiency companies have been working to develop project proposals.
The International Renewable Energy Agency is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.
TYRES are remarkable pieces of engineering. They contain rubber-like polymers, layers of steel braiding and textile reinforcements, all of which improve performance and cut fuel consumption. Now Pirelli is manufacturing fuel-saving tyres that are greener still by extracting one of their ingredients from rice husks.