Sustainability Reads: October 5- October 11

Draft Agreement
A scaled-down version of the international climate change agreement to be negotiated in Paris this December was just released. Although the twenty-page document still leaves many details to be decided, the basic structure for climate change mitigation and adaptation are defined. For example, the text outlines a commitment to mitigating climate change, but the options for what the commitment may entail vary widely. Nations may agree to “peak” global greenhouse emissions, reduce them by a percentage, have zero net emissions by a certain year, or commit to a number of vague, qualitative goals such as “climate neutrality” or “global low-emission transformation.”

New USDA Guidelines Won’t Include Sustainability
The final version of the dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, won’t consider environmental factors associated with diet. A previous draft of the updated guidelines included commentary on how eating plant-based foods is associated with “less environmental impact than the current U.S. diet.” Furthermore, the previous version said that “the average U.S. diet has a large environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use…” The decision to not address these issues came after extensive lobbying from the meat industry. By Katie Valentine on Think Progress.

A National Food Policy for the 21st Century: A Memo to the Next President
This forward-looking piece outlines a hypothetical national food policy, which would be the first of its kind. If implemented, the policy would help make progress on key environmental and social issues (e.g., economic inequality, hunger, climate change mitigation and adaptation, conservation, etc.). From the piece, the policy’s main objective would be to promote health, ” of our citizens and of the environment — at each link in the food chain, from the farm to the supermarket, to our schools, home tables, and even restaurants.” The memo also delves into the negative externalities that are caused by the current system such as obesity, soil degradation, and rising economic inequality, and how these could be addressed through a national food policy. By Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, and Olivier De Schutter on Medium.

Paris’ ‘Day Without Cars’: The radical experiment to cut smog appears to have worked
On Sunday September 27th, 30% of the city of light’s roads were deemed off-limits to cars in a single-day initiative to help clean the city’s air quality. As the city that will host COP21, the next UN climate negotiations in December, Paris has seen high levels of smog this year, leading Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who also wants to eliminate diesel use in the city, take action to try and reduce Paris’ air pollution. With just the single-day car ban, the city saw a decrease in nitrogen dioxide (the smog producing pollutant) of 40%. Moreover, even urban noise was halved in Paris’ city center. Mayor Hidalgo plans to incorporate more of the city’s roads in the next car-free day, and eventually monthly car-free days. By Svati Kirsten Narula at City Lab.

Why ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Flooding Keeps Happening
In wake of the severe flooding seen in South Carolina earlier this week, it is impartial to examine why we are seeing more and more “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events. Scientists acknowledge that although this scale of flooding occurring in South Carolina was indeed unlikely, a 1 in 1000 chance of occurring, because of climate change, it should not come as a surprise anymore, as these types of events will actually become more periodic occurrences in the future. Climate scientists point out that policymakers should make the necessary changes to adapt to these changes, not only in South Carolina, but everywhere, as increased flooding with more severe storms and a rising sea will be an occurrence throughout the world. By Justin Worland at Time.

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