Special Report: “Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace”

Tipson, F.S. (2013). Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace. United States Institute of Peace. Special Report 324. 1-17.


  • Natural disasters and extreme environmental events are expected to increase in number and severity on a global scale, elevating levels of economic, social, and political stress that could provoke both civil and international conflicts.
  • Population growth, urbanization, economic fragility, and climate change are major factors in an interactive pattern of growing global vulnerabilities, compounded by widespread political inaction to address them.
  • Enlarged urban and coastal populations in strategically important locations are at heightened risk of massive casualties, political strife, and increased regional tensions from major earthquakes, floods, and disease.
  • Large natural disasters could also degrade key dimensions of the global economy—food, water, energy, medicine, supply chains, livelihoods—arousing widespread popular anxieties that could provoke preemptive protective measures.
  • Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and academic specialists should increase their focus on the potential for major disasters in various parts of the world to cause economic, social, and political “ripple effects” that lead to deadly conflicts.
  • Reducing the direct harm of such disasters will require initiatives in three areas: increasing local resilience, improving relief capabilities, and, where unavoidable, facilitating relocation from the most vulnerable areas.
  • Avoiding adverse secondary consequences to political stability and human security will require both national and international collaboration to elevate the priority of preventing violent conflicts that could arise from these “natural assaults.”

For more information click here.

New Article: “The Relationship between Personal Experience and Belief in the Reality of Global Warming”

Myers, T.A. et al.(2013). The Relationship between Personal Experience and Belief in the Reality of Global Warming. Nature Climate Change. 3: 343-347.

Abstract: In this paper, we address the chicken-or-egg question posed by two alternative explanations for the relationship between perceived personal experience of global warming and belief certainty that global warming is happening: Do observable climate impacts create opportunities for people to become more certain of the reality of global warming, or does prior belief certainty shape people’s perceptions of impacts through a process of motivated reasoning? We use data from a nationally representative sample of Americans surveyed first in 2008 and again in 2011; these longitudinal data allow us to evaluate the causal relationships between belief certainty and perceived experience, assessing the impact of each on the other over time. Among the full survey sample, we found that both processes occurred: ‘experiential learning’, where perceived personal experience of global warming led to increased belief certainty, and ‘motivated reasoning’, where high belief certainty influenced perceptions of personal experience. We then tested and confirmed the hypothesis that motivated reasoning occurs primarily among people who are already highly engaged in the issue whereas experiential learning occurs primarily among people who are less engaged in the issue, which is particularly important given that approximately 75% of American adults currently have low levels of engagement.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: ‘Deceitful Tongue: Is Climate Change Denial a Crime?’

Tucker, W.C. (2012). Deceitful Tongues: Is Climate Change Denial a Crime? Ecology Law Quarterley. 39: 831-892.  

Abstract: The consequences of global warming and associated climate changes are now apparent. No longer can there be any doubt that anthropogenic (human-caused) warming of the Earth is happening, caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide, from burning fossil fuels. Climate change poses a grave threat to humankind. The world is already experiencing the consequences of global warming: more frequent and prolonged droughts, increasingly severe and more frequent storms, rising sea levels worldwide threatening coastal and vulnerable island populations, the melting of mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets, increased intensity of tropical cyclones and hurricanes, and more frequent and widespread fires. Without immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, climate change can only get worse. In the period since the issue of global warming was brought to the attention of the general public in the late 1980s, both the legislative and the executive branches of the United States government have launched a number of initiatives to assess the threat and formulate policies to address it. Nevertheless, two decades later the United States government has failed to take effective measures to address climate change domestically or to assert international leadership on achieving meaningful carbon emission reductions. It is now well-documented that a shift in public opinion and failure of political will on climate change took place at the turn of the millennium, a change which can be largely attributed to a sophisticated, nationwide public relations campaign designed to conceal the dangers of burning fossil fuels from the American public by deceiving it as to the true state of climate science. Yet this deception is arguably punishable as criminal fraud under several United States statutes: first, as defrauding the public under the generic mail/wire fraud statute; and second, as defrauding the United States government under the “conspiracy to defraud the United States” statute. This Article examines whether it can be regarded as a crime based not just upon the unethical motives of its perpetrators, but on its effects: the catastrophic, global devastation which is the likely outcome of its success.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: ‘The Paradox of “Acting Globally While Thinking Locally”: Discordance in Climate Change Adaption Policy’

Mazmanian, D.A. et al. (2013). The Paradox of “Acting Globally While Thinking Locally”: Discordance in Climate Change Adaption Policy. Journal of Environment & Development. DOI: 10.1177/1070496512471947

Abstract: The paradox motivating this article is why California has acted globally by enacting a comprehensive mitigation policy to reduce the emissions of Greenhouse gases, a true public good since the benefits will be shared across the planet, but has not mustered the will to act locally through the adoption of an equally comprehensive adaptation policy for the state to protect its own public and private assets and interests. We attempt to explain the paradox by identifying what it is that differentiates climate change adaptation from mitigation, both substantively and politically. The paradox notwithstanding, we identify several imaginable adaptation policies and strategies that would be commensurate with individual and collective self-interested behavior.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Report – ‘Green Jobs: An Estimate of the Direct Employment Potential of a Greening South African Economy’

The greening of the South African economy has the potential to create more than 460 000 new direct jobs by 2025, according to the Green Jobs report released earlier today by the IDC, DBSA and TIPS.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, emphasised the green economy’s importance as a lever to grow local industrial capacity and create sustainable jobs. The greening of an economy can present substantial opportunities for the creation of sustainable employment through the introduction of new activities in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. “The experience of several advanced and emerging countries that have been adopting green initiatives point toward an extraordinary opportunity for South Africa as it pursues a job-rich new growth path.”

“As a considerable emitter of greenhouse gases, South Africa faces the challenge of transitioning to a less carbon-intensive growth trajectory without delay. In short, our challenge is to use less carbons and more people in our economic growth. This is what we mean by a new growth path,” remarked Patel.

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‘US researchers find high levels of methane contamination in wells near fracking sites, but think-tank doubts accuracy of study’

Engineering News, 27 May 2011 

Astudy by Duke University researchers has found high levels of leaked methane in well water collected near shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking sites, reports ScienceDaily.

The scientists collected and analysed water samples from 68 private groundwater wells across five counties in north-eastern Pennsylvania and New York, in the US. Hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking or fracking) involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground into horizontal gas wells, at high pressure, to crack open hydrocarbon-rich shale and extract natural gas.

The peer-reviewed study found no evidence of contamination from chemical-laden fracking fluids (injected into gas wells to help break up shale deposits) or from ‘produced water’ (wastewater extracted back out of the wells after the shale had been fractured).  Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environ- ment postdoctoral research associate Stephen Osborn says measurable amounts of methane were found in 85% of the samples, but levels were 17 times higher on average in wells located within a kilometre of active hydro- fracking sites. The contamination was observed primarily in the Bradford and Susquehanna counties, in Pennsylvania.

Water wells farther from the gas wells contained lower levels of methane and had a different isotopic fingerprint.

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‘US seeks trust, not caps, in Cancun climate talks’

Reuters, 19 November 2010

WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – The Obama administration, weakened by political setbacks, will likely limit its role in global climate talks this month to building trust with other big polluters rather than blazing an ambitious path on binding carbon emissions cuts.

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a climate bill this summer and Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November elections, putting out of reach any big moves by President Barack Obama to tackle global warming until at least 2013.

That means U.S. climate negotiators at the talks, being held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 in Cancun, Mexico, lack the bargaining chips to demand that rapidly developing countries like China and India agree to binding emissions cuts.

The United States could concentrate on trying to loosen its deadlock with China on how to share the economic burden of cutting carbon emissions by teaming up with growing U.S. ally India to put pressure on Beijing.

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