FERN’s Friday Feed: Climate reparations

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Who should pay for the growing toll of climate disasters?


“Climate change worsened the flooding in Pakistan … yet the people of Pakistan created little of the atmospheric pollution that’s warming the planet. In fact, the countries propelled to wealth through two centuries of burning fossil fuels typically aren’t anywhere near as vulnerable as developing nations like Pakistan,” writes Eric Roston. “But someone has to pay for floods and storms, droughts and heat waves. Without political intervention, the steepest costs of today’s climate — ‘loss’ of lives, cultures or species that can never return, and ‘damage’ to vital infrastructure that needs to be repaired after climate-driven disasters — will continue to be borne by populations that emitted the least.

Inside one of the first human composting facilities

The Verge

“Sharon [Gerberding], who died from complications of multiple sclerosis, was laid to rest in an industrial park 30 minutes south of Seattle. On a chilly spring day, her family gathered in a nondescript, hangar-style building tucked between a belt rubber warehouse, recycling facilities, and an air quality testing company,” writes Eleanor Cummins. “Staff had placed Sharon’s body in a vessel filled with alfalfa, straw, sawdust, and notes written in biodegradable ink. Hymns played over the speaker system, a tribute to Sharon’s membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By early summer, all that would be left of their matriarch was a few hundred pounds of rich, dark soil.”

How green are biofuels?

Knowable Magazine

Earlier this year, researchers created a furor by concluding that the conversion of grassland to cropland to grow corn for biofuel was “mak[ing] ethanol fuel every bit as bad for the climate as the gasoline it’s intended to replace,” writes Dan Charles. Now, “a more technical debate among scientists and economists is simmering: How reliable are the economic models used to evaluate biofuels anyway? ‘The results coming out of these models are driven more by assumptions than by actual information,’ says Stephanie Searle, an ecologist specializing in biofuel sustainability at the International Council on Clean Transportation.”

How Big Meat spins climate change


“A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to an event that was part of New York’s Climate Week. The panel’s title was ‘Choosing a climatarian diet: the case for including beef’; the description promised a discussion of the “role beef production plays in a climate-smart food system … Beef is, arguably, the least climate-friendly food out there,” writes Molly Taft. “I was very curious as to how the industry might attempt to spin its way out of these inconvenient facts, so I signed up for the talk. The panel was a perfect example of the ways a powerful, polluting lobby is working to twist scientific facts to suit their own PR goals.”

As Europe dries out, the Dutch change their tune on water

The New York Times

“The story of the Netherlands’ centuries of struggle against water is written all over its boggy, low-lying landscape. Windmills pumped water out of sodden farmland and canals whisked it away. Dikes stopped more from flooding in,” writes Raymond Zhong. “Now, climate change is drying out great stretches of Europe, and, once again, the Dutch are hoping to engineer their way to safety — only this time, by figuring out how to hold onto more water instead of flushing it out.”