Norway’s Deforestation Ban

Forests play a vital role not only in their own ecosystems but in the well-being of the entire planet largely through the process of photosynthesis whereby plants and trees in a forest take in a great deal of carbon dioxide during the process, thus reducing atmospheric CO2 levels and releasing oxygen in return. Even though we are well aware of the importance of plants and trees to our existence, that hasn’t stopped deforestation from occurring and being a major contributor to climate change.

Norway is looking to help address that problem, reports Forbes, by effectively “banning” deforestation. Obviously, they aren’t trying to prosecute culprits outside of their jurisdiction. Instead, they are putting in place regulations to ensure that goods coming into their country are not products of deforestation-related activities. Norway’s Standing Committee on Energy and Environment proposed the initiative.A forest that has been affect by deforestation

Crops and products that will be most impacted by the decision include soy, timber, palm oil, and, beef, as they are some of the most common crops associated with widespread deforestation. It is estimated that such crops and products from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, accounted for 40% of tropical deforestation and 44% of CO2 emissions during the period of 2000 to 2011. However, under Norway’s new regulations, none of  these crops will be able to be imported, unless the provider can produce evidence of sustainable sourcing methods.

This new commitment is a result of the 2014 UN Climate Change Summit. There, the governments of Norway, Germany, and the UK jointly agreed to take actionable steps to encourage the sustainable production of “commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber”. Two years later, Norway has become the first country to introduce legislation designed to put their words into action.

Norway’s efforts may soon have some global financial implications. Biodiversity is expected to become a factor in investment decisions for Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

These efforts are not new in Norway as this Scandinavian country has promoted biodiversity in the past and it even went so far as giving the Brazilian government $1 billion to aid in the cessation of deforestation. The results were admirable— Brazil has saved over 30,000 square miles of rainforest and reduced deforestation rates by 75%.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Clean Energy

When we talk about “clean energy”, and depending on who we’re talking to, two sources will almost always crop up: natural gas and nuclear energy. These two have been included in clean energy lists before, but in many arenas today you’ll see them excluded from the roster—despite the fact that  some voices will insist that these two sources should still make the cut.

In a piece for Fast Company Exist, Michael Shank of NYU’s Center For Global Affairs and Environmental Activist Leilani Münter, argued that there was no way that natural gas and nuclear could be counted among the ranks of clean energy because to include them in the discussion, we would have to fundamentally change what “clean energy” actually means.  In particular, he noted that  “clean energy” means  “zero waste” and that by that measure alone both nuclear and gas don’t make the grade.

Notably, the same is true about other “clean energy”.  Methane for example has it’s own emissions to worry about.  Although it is a different beast than CO2, is still a beast nonetheless. In particular, “methane is 86 times more potent than CO2—per unit mass—as a global warming agent over a 20 year period.” Hardly “clean” by any measure

Methane emissions aside, natural gas is prone to leaks and carries the risk of explosions. It can also have devastating effects on the water we breathe, and the air we drink— effects that include congenital birth defects, respiratory ailments, and cancers.

There is a persistent narrative that claims natural gas is a “bridge fuel”, that is, one that allows us to move away from coal in search of a more permanent clean solution. But if the technology for truly clean and renewable energy already exists (hello solar, wind, geothermal, etc), then what’s the point of creating “dirty” infrastructure, just to tear it down? Resources would be better spent developing what we already know to be clean.

The problem with nuclear on the other hand, isn’t the effects it can have on the environment, or even the looming prospect of another Chernobyl- or Three Mile Island-type disaster. It’s the sheer amount of waste that’s the problem. That waste is the cost of nuclear energy, and right now we really have no plan for where this type of waste should actually go. The best answer we’ve got at the moment is to stash it away in a mountain, put far underground, or jettison it off into the ether of outer space. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that putting the problem elsewhere and solving the problem altogether are entirely different courses of action.

So what do you think? Do you think natural gas or nuclear energy can really be considered clean?