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MacroScope

Avoiding a Bridge to Nowhere

Avoiding a Bridge to Nowhere

Is natural gas really the “bridge fuel” that many environmentalists hoped would provide cleaner energy than coal as renewables scale up? This question is particularly salient, as the recent boom in shale gas is leading 2016 to be the first year since 1972 that carbon emissions from natural gas exceeded those of coal. Although the associated decline of coal is certainly welcome, the place “this bridge” actually leads to may not be so salutary....
A New Name for a New Earth

A New Name for a New Earth

Has the human transformation of nature become significant enough to constitute a new geological epoch? Scientists think so. The “Anthropocene,” the term for this new era, has gained increasing scientific purchase over the past fifteen years. On Monday, the 35-member Working Group of the International Geological Congress recommended the formal adoption of a new epoch....
The Dimming Prospects of Nuclear Power

The Dimming Prospects of Nuclear Power

Nuclear power may have its ardent boosters, including some environmentalists, but its future is dimming. A case in point is Hinkley Point C, whose construction the UK government agreed to license—and subsidize—in 2012. At that time, cost projections for 2025, the project’s estimated completion date, showed that nuclear would be the cheapest source of electricity generation. What a difference four years can make....
Navigating Toward a Global Commons

Navigating Toward a Global Commons

A recent ruling by the International Criminal Court in The Hague has clarified the murky lines of sovereignty on the high seas. The case was prompted by China’s recent expansion into the South China Sea, one of the most heavily traveled waterways in the world, through steps like the construction of artificial islands. China...
Neither Brexit nor BAU: Transformation

Neither Brexit nor BAU: Transformation

Brexit sent shockwaves throughout Western capitals as UK voters opted to withdraw from the European Union, putting the larger European project into question. Advocates of global governance have often seen the EU (and kindred experiments at regional integration) as a stepping stone. It has brought to the continent stronger environmental, health, and human rights regulations, and, perhaps most significantly given its origins from the ashes of World War Two, it has kept the peace....
Sustainability Science: A New Discipline Awakens

Sustainability Science: A New Discipline Awakens

The year 2015 ended with international calls to action on sustainable development, with the new UN Sustainable Development Goals and the COP21 climate agreement. Academia will have a vital role to play in translating such rhetoric into results, as new global challenges require new thinking and new knowledge. Fortunately, trends augur well for the rise of sustainability science....
Wanted: A Breath of Fresh Air

Wanted: A Breath of Fresh Air

Two trends—urbanization and environmental degradation—are on a collision course. Already, over half of the world’s people live in cities, and more are added every day. At the same time, many cities are at risk of becoming uninhabitable, with air pollution the primary culprit. Substandard air quality levels affect more than 80 percent of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)....
Citizens of the World Awake?

Citizens of the World Awake?

The supranational risks and opportunities of the interdependent twenty-first century urge us toward supranational cooperation and a shared identity as global citizens. And the good news is that such an identity is on the rise: half the people surveyed in a new poll of eighteen countries now identify more as global citizens than as citizens of their own country. The trend augurs positively for the future, but masks an underlying divergence...
Fading Factories: Curse or Blessing?

Fading Factories: Curse or Blessing?

The Industrial Revolution fueled the modernization of affluent societies, but industrial-driven development may soon become a relic of history. Robotics and advanced technology have spurred such huge gains in productivity that manufacturing employment may be peaking worldwide—before developing countries have had the time to fully benefit....
Climate Disempowerment in Africa

Climate Disempowerment in Africa

The countries most at risk from climate change are often those who bear little responsibility for creating the problem in the first place. The economic downturn in Zambia offers an excellent example. Cheap, plentiful hydroelectricity from the vast Kariba Dam helped make the country an economic success story. Until now....