Sustainability Reads: April 14- April 20

What does Rainforest Alliance certificatioeekn mean for palm oil?
In our recent post “Holding the Palm Oil Industry & Their Buyers Accountable“, we presented the issue of environmental degradation associated with palm oil production. But because palm oil cultivation does provide a way to alleviate poverty, it’s important not to completely boycott palm oil, but be aware of where the palm oil in your products is coming from to make sure it is a sustainable source. The Rainforest Alliance’s certification is practical and credible, and allows consumers to understand that products come from farms with no deforestation having occurred since 2005. Tree Hugger provides a good and concise piece on Rainforest Alliance’s standards. By Katherine Martinko

Keystone report can’t have it both ways
U.S. Senator Whitehouse and Rep. Waxman came together in this Op-Ed in CNN to address the State Department’s environmental report on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The policymakers emphasize that the State Department’s report actually does “recognize the dangers associated with the tar sands fuel that the pipeline would transport” and that over the lifetime of the project would cost up to $128 billion in climate costs based on President Obama’s estimates of the social cost of carbon. They also outline that the report’s conclusions are based on the flawed assumption that the tar sand fuels would go to market with or without the pipeline, to which Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Waxman argue that is is not completely certain that this is the case due to a fall in crude oil prices and decrease in demand for traditional fossil fuels. The report is also based on the business-as-usual trajectory for greenhouse gas emissions instead of using a 2 degree Celsius limit that scientists believe is required. They conclude by declaring that the Keystone XL Pipeline is not in the U.S. national interests because “tar sands that would get to market through Keystone XL could significantly worsen climate change” which is clearly not a risk Secretary of State John Kerry or President Obama are willing to take. 

 Salvation Gets Cheap
A recent Op-Ed in the New York Times by economist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics and known for his influential theories on international economics, has highlighted one especially optimistic part of the IPCC’s latest assessment: that of the economics of mitigation. The IPCC report claims that under the most ambitious goals for greenhouse gas emission reduction, the estimated reduction of economic growth would basically amount to around 0.06 percent per year, or as Krugman adds, surprisingly small, basically a rounding error. He attributes this to the decline in the cost of renewable energy, especially solar.

2 Charts That Put the Chinese Pollution Crisis in Perspective
We all know that the pollution levels in Chinese cities have reached ghastly levels, but the two graphs in this article are able to demonstrate just what that exactly means, in comparison to the U.S. and Europe. The first graph depicts what China, U.S. and Europe consider to be “good” air quality. The second graph acknowledges the World Health Organization (WHO)’s standards for hazardous pollution levels, and then compares the levels of pollution in the 10 worst Chinese cities  and the 10 U.S. cities with the highest pollution levels. Two informative graphs that really portray the Chinese pollution problem.  By James Fallows at The Atlantic.

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