Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Gregg Macey, Brooklyn Law School

David Hess delves into the politics and economics of the transition towards green energy and the development of a green workforce in the U.S.

Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy: Making and Keeping New Industries in the United States, by David Hess, The MIT Press, 2012, 304 pp.

In Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy (MIT Press, 2012), David Hess moves beyond the stale dichotomies of climate change response, such as mitigation vs. adaptation and market- vs. standards-based policies. The 111th Congress was our most dramatic attempt to enact a market-based solution to climate change. In the wake of H.R. 2454, S. 1733, and other dead bills, the Obama administration marshaled its existing executive authority, such as section 111 of the Clean Air Act, to adopt performance standards for stationary sources of carbon emissions. Hess offers a more nuanced approach to the congressional term and its crisis of leadership. He views it as a moment along a broader transition from a carbon-based economy. Good Green Jobs examines the unevenness of this “green transition,” how it leads to weaknesses in our industrial policy, and the prospects for bending the direction that the transition will take.

As a sociologist, Hess explores the transition with tools that are familiar to students of social movement theory: cultural frames, resource mobilization, and political opportunities. His past works share a concern for political opportunity structures used by locally owned organizations (Localist Movements in a Global Economy) and civil society groups aligned against harmful or risky technologies (Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry).  Good Green Jobs continues this focus, and at a particular level of analysis: social fields, and the definitional and object conflicts that happen within them. With qualitative data (interviews, observation of conference meetings, and surveys of industry reports) and statistical modeling (to explain variation in green transition policies), Hess locates the battle against climate change in cultural shifts at different levels of governance. These changes underlie the birth of a “developmentalist” ideology, which defends domestic industry through a mix of industrial policy and the remedy of unfair trade practices. This is the landscape in which our response to climate change takes shape.

Approaching climate change as a social movement challenge rather than a generic collective action problem yields substantial insights. Hess’s distinct form of field analysis isolates the “political ideologies associated with different types of policy interventions.” Change occurs at different scales (“organizational and urban scale to national or international”) in a social field, and by focusing on institutional change, Hess pivots from sociology’s preoccupation with how fields are reproduced. Hess uses these innovations to offer a roadmap for reform. He explains the green energy transition as an uneven selection of “demand” (e.g., cap-and-trade, renewable electricity standards) and “supply” (e.g., research and development, tax credits and subsidies, regional cluster development) policies. He surveys the role of coalitions in framing green development in each policy field, robust descriptive work that reveals constituencies that promote supply and regional demand policies, such as those found in California’s AB 32. He finds important variation across policy fields and scales of governance. The result is an account of the green transition’s political opportunity structures, and our slow, yet surprisingly robust transition from a carbon-based economy. Hess also suggests that we have entered a new generation of environmental policy, where sustainability and developmentalist design tools will predominate instead of market, command, or informational approaches. His multilevel study of policy fields, their shaping by localist and regional efforts, and the impact of systemic shocks such as funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, explodes the usual boundaries of environmental federalism. Stale fights over the benefits of state versus federal regulation, at times waged with little analytic backing, would benefit from Hess’s urgent and more complete analysis.

Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Sharmila L. Murthy, Suffolk University Law School

Christina Leb stresses the need for international cooperation when it comes to transboundary water systems, particularly in respect to international water law and resource management.

Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, by Christina Leb, Cambridge University Press, 2012, 363 pp.

In her book on the Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, Christina Leb makes a strong case for the heightened importance of the duty to cooperate within international water law.  She methodically and carefully illustrates how the duties and obligations associated with cooperation on transboundary water resources have become more robust over time, which reflects broader trends within the fields of public international law and international relations.  The duty to cooperate was not explicitly recognized by early texts that sought to codify international water law, but, for example, by the time the UN Watercourses Convention was drafted, it was described as a “general principle.”  Leb further builds her case by explaining how it is misleading to conceive of the general duty to cooperate as merely a “procedural” obligation, rather than also considering the interrelated “substantive” aspects. (p.114)  Drawing on real-world examples, she links the substantive and procedural content together to consider specific cooperation obligations, such as the regular exchange of data and information.

In an understated way characteristic of her style, Leb argues that the duty of cooperation is now on par with the two seminal principles of international water law, namely “equitable utilization” and “the obligation not to cause significant harm,” which Leb describes as “the principle of good neighborliness.”  She illustrates how these principles, along with the duty to cooperate, “interact, overlap and mutually support on another as general principles of international water law” and thus, should be understood as a “triangle of cornerstone principles.” (p.105)  Drawing on a textual analysis of over 200 bilateral and multi-lateral treaties concerning transboundary water resources as well as key judicial decisions, she supports this argument through examples of state cooperation, such as via negotiations, consultations, planning and joint management (see Chapters 4 and 5).

The book also delves into another fascinating area of the law, namely the intersection of transboundary water law and human rights law.  In Chapter 6, Leb considers the relationship between the obligation of “vital human needs” as set forth in the UN Watercourses Convention with recent recognition of a human right to water by the United Nations, which derives from existing treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Leb tackles one of the more controversial aspects of this newly recognized human right by considering the degree to which there are associated extraterritorial obligations.  Under the existing human rights framework, states have obligations to individuals within their boundaries, but not to individuals living in other states.  Leb suggests that a provision in the UN Watercourses Convention relating to non-discrimination with regard to access to justice could be complementary to human rights law and provide a way of expanding transboundary water obligations with respect to vital human needs.

Leb’s book offers a thorough analysis of the increasingly important role the duty to cooperate plays in international water law.  While the topics she addresses will be relevant to anyone interested in questions of transboundary water governance, the style of writing and approach will make it most interesting and accessible to legal scholars.

Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Nicholas A. Ashford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this book, eleven prominent climate change authorities discuss the moral, legal and political implications of imposed climate-modifying geoengineering projects.

Climate Change Geoengineering: Philosophical Perspectives, Legal Issues, Governance Frameworks, edited by Wil C. G. Burns and Andrew L. Strauss, Cambridge University Press, 2013, 328 pp.

This book is an apology for addressing global climate change through the application of geo-engineering (GE) which encompasses injection of reflective sulfate particles into the air and seeding the ocean with iron.  The ethical implications of CE are addressed but most of the book is relegated to examining the technical, economic, legal, and political implications of its adoption – including challenges posed by nations taking unilateral action. Many of the essays in this multi-authored book argue that we have made little progress on reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) – because of the large economic costs and lack of a collective world agreement – and that the imperative of a worsening global climate leaves us little choice but to undertake the R&D necessary to develop CE, which some of the authors of the chapters consider inevitable.  While the need to clarify and assess the side effects of CE is acknowledged, perhaps too much optimism – and too little technological and legal uncertainty – about their management is voiced and in some cases defended on cost-benefit grounds.  While the difficulties of getting a global agreement on reducing GHGs are discussed, a close reading of the book reveals equivalent, if not greater difficulties in addressing the legal barriers to CE.

What is sorely missing from the book is an acknowledgement that since the economic meltdown of 2008, industrial activity and emissions have in fact slowed and some progress has been made in global-climate policy alliances of western North-American states/provinces and some European countries, and the beginnings of GHG legal regulation are in process by the US EPA. The historic large rate of economic growth of the industrial nations is no longer assured as a result of the financial crisis. Meeting voluntary GHG reduction targets may now be more easily realized, not because of technological progress or political commitment, but because the developed world’s high throughput economic system may be reaching its systemic and economic limits.  Further, should the real costs of global climate disruption begin to be increasingly fully realized in terms of agricultural disruption, coastal destruction, and weather-related disasters, the economic futility of reducing nations’ dependence on energy-intensive activities may also be waning.  Cultural shifts in patterns of consumption, decreasing disposable income by many, cutbacks in industrial production, and an environmental awakening may well counter the arguments that we have no choice but to develop GE. The book makes an important contribution to policy discussions about CE, but its underlying premise that CE is inevitable and probably good is questionable.

Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Danya Rumore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moser and Boykoff address the question of what successful adaptation would look like by delving into the various definitions of success (including the economic, political, institutional, ecological, and social dimensions) to help shed light on the complexity of the situation.

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Successful Adaptation to Climate Change: Linking Science and Practice in a Rapidly Changing World, Edited by Susanne Moser and Maxwell Boykoff, Routledge, 2013, 331 pp.

Planning and preparing for the impacts of climate change are among the most pressing concerns of the 21st century. However, while the importance of climate change adaptation is increasingly clear, there is little clear guidance on what “successful adaptation” means. What should planners, policy-makers, and other professionals working on adaptation aim to accomplish? How should we as a society judge our success in managing the risks associated with climate change? What tools, techniques, and processes are crucial to effective adaptation? These are the questions that adaptation scholars and practitioners take up in Susanne Moser’s and Maxwell Boykoff’s edited volume Successful Adaptation to Climate Change.

Through case studies ranging from adaptation efforts in the San Francisco Bay area to risk communication efforts in the Mekong Region, the authors explore the tricky terrain of adaptation. They don’t try to provide a single, concrete answer to the question of “What is adaptation success?” Rather, the contributors try to help readers understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in adaptation decision-making. They make clear that “adaptation success” is context-specific and socially defined. And, they provide encouraging evidence that effective solutions can be found.

With fresh examples and interdisciplinary research from across the world, Successful Adaptation to Climate Change offers a thorough if not entirely comprehensive view of the adaptation landscape. The book’s chapters take on issues spanning from science-policy interactions to effective communication and engagement, drawing on empirical data and experiences to infer lessons learned. From the case studies, a number of valuable themes emerge, such as the importance of meaningfully engaging those likely to be affected by climate change impacts and adaptation decisions; the need for more effective decision-support systems that can feed relevant science and information into planning and decision-making; and the necessity of institutionalizing systems for monitoring, evaluating, and learning from adaptation practice. Perhaps the most striking take away for many readers is the conclusion that—as explicitly stated by Lisa Dilling and Rebecca Romsdahl in their chapter on “Promoting adaptation success in natural resource management through decision support”—investing in people and effective institutions is likely to be as important to successful adaptation as investing in scientific data and technical tools.

Successful Adaptation to Climate Change, while very accessible, is largely academic in tone and provides more in the way of big picture guidance than specific advice for those facing on-the-ground decisions. Hence, it is likely to be more relevant for academics, students, and those working at the science-policy interface than for most planners and policy-makers. However, in providing one of the most comprehensive overviews of adaptation concerns, research, and action on the ground to date, the book has valuable lessons for anyone working to support effective adaptation.



Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Isabelle Anguelovski, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This book, co-edited by Hernan Casakin and Fátima Bernardo, looks into the role of place identity in shaping a person’s perception, understanding and appreciation of their physical environment.

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The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments, Edited by Hernan Casakin and Fátima Bernardo, Bentham Science, 2012, 231 pp.

How are place attachment, sense of belonging, and place identity relevant to the experience of residents, urban planners, and architects in the built environment? A number of disciplines ranging from environmental psychology, geography, urban sociology, architecture, or urban planning have engaged at length with the concept of place identity – that is the part of our personal identity through which people express their belonging to a specific place. However, to date little attention has been paid to the relationships between identity, place, and urban design and planning. This is an important gap in theory, empirical research, and practice-oriented work that the wide diversity of chapters in The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments attempt to fill.

Not only does this volume provide insights into the diverse ways through which people experience their city or neighborhood and the ties they weave with it despite disruptions, change, and new developments. The authors also offer in-depth analysis about place (re)creation over time and the specific role of architects, developers, and policies (such as overcrowding ordinances, zoning, urban renewal and redevelopment) as they affect the identity of a place and the local value it has for residents. This intellectual concern is particularly relevant in a context of urban globalization, competition, integration, homogenization, and architecture’s obsession with modernism, together with demands for urban design originality and differentiation.

A few chapters (13,14) analyze those tensions very nicely as they uncover the multiple ways in which architects reshape cities and neighborhoods, and how many new projects and buildings create anonymity, vacuum, and disconnection for traditional residents. As place identity becomes reshaped, the built environment is at risk of losing its vitality and livability. Most of the authors also propose concrete recommendations for creating more holistic and deeper approaches to urban design through a variety of nicely documented cases studies – from the design of welcoming and useful spaces for elderly residents in Israel (Chapter 8) to the protection and enhancement of public spaces in informal settlements in Colombia (Chapter 7).

Despite these compelling insights, the volume is bit repetitive in regards to the theoretical frameworks or definitions offered in each chapter. It would also gain from an Introduction and Conclusion bringing all the chapters together and providing greater cohesion to the volume. It reads more like a – rich and detailed – collection of essays than a true edited volume with an original argument. The argument is not new that urban designers must understand people’s experiences of and expectations from places when they develop, (re)develop, or rebuild them. The book only alludes to the numerous conflicts and forms of contestation that arise over place transformation and place identity disruption, and how urban planners, designers, and architects confront these movements and conflicts. How does place identity in the built environment becomes reshaped and reasserted in light of resistance?

Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Lawrence Susskind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr Brian Stone, Jr. provides new information about the disastrous heat island effects created by urban centers and prescribes various policy frameworks to help correct this increasingly urgent situation.

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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live, by Brian Stone, Jr., Cambridge University Press, 2012, 187 pp.

In his incredibly important book, Professor Brian Stone and his team at Georgia Institute of Technology show in no uncertain terms that CO2 emissions are not the only cause of climate change. Thus, reducing CO2 emissions won’t address the heat waves and frightening heat island threats that kill more people than any other climate-related risk each year. The “loss of trees and other vegetative cover combined with the emission of waste heat from industries, vehicles and buildings” is causing dangerous heat island effects in cities all over the world. Climate science has tended to ignore the fact that cities are getting hotter than the countryside that surrounds them. And adaptation strategies that don’t reduce the causes of urban heat islands are beside the point.

In an easily accessible but scientifically scrupulous way, Stone explains why climate skeptics no longer have any basis for doubting that human actions are the cause of current worldwide temperatures increases. And, he provides persuasive modeling evidence to show that temperature increases in cities represent a serious health hazard.

Stone argues for (1) broadening the definition of climate change to encompass land-surface drivers; (2) a regional scale approach to monitoring and explaining temperature changes; (3) a commitment to forest protection and reforestation, particularly in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia; and (4) adaptive mitigation (e.g. ways of reducing climate change impacts that help cities achieve other objectives at the same time).

In my view, Stone doesn’t get the international relations behind climate change treaty-making right; and, because he doesn’t put climate change treaty-making in the broader context of other global negotiations (e.g. perpetual North-South disagreements, the difficulties of getting any country to relinquish any of it sovereignty, enforcement problems with all international law, the principle of differentiated responsibility that was the key to getting developing countries to sign the original 1992 Framework Convention, etc.), his proposed reforms are less than compelling. Nevertheless, after reading this book it is impossible to think about climate change as a problem we can pass on to future generations. Cities need to do something now. Moreover, we don’t need international mandates to force us to implement land-based mitigation. The health and welfare of current residents depends on cities restoring vegetation and reducing (and capturing) the thermal radiation created by urban development.

Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Kathleen Araújo, Harvard University

In this book, Joanna Lewis, provides a detailed account of China’s role in the global climate change situation and the innovative measures they are taking towards a greener future.

Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low Carbon Economy, by Joanna I. Lewis, Columbia University Press, 2013, 304 pp.

Recent international challenges, like the global recession and sovereign debt crises, may have caused some people to miss a subtle, but important development – China has become a leader in “newer” forms of renewable energy. The Asian energy technology latecomer (widely known for installing one coal-fired power plant a week) has created top-ranked wind and solar energy industries in recent years, leading some national policy-makers from other countries to ask how their own domestic efforts to do the same could be so quickly outpaced. In her book, Green Innovation in China, Georgetown University Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs Joanna Lewis begins to answer this question by examining the rise of the Chinese wind industry.

In a well-researched argument, Lewis makes the case that China is becoming a hub for global innovation with domestic and foreign wind technology firms. Drawing upon interviews, policy documents, and energy data, she details the way in which China transformed itself from a country with no real experience in wind turbine manufacturing to one which can produce state-of-the-art wind technology systems and now leads in cumulative installed wind capacity. Acknowledging that conventional indicators, like R&D spending or patents, can be insufficient to capture the science and technology learning dynamics in play, she argues that licensing and government policy support were critical. She also includes discussion of issues like trade secrets, quality control, and slow grid connection, then speculates that intellectual property rights will probably become more important to Chinese companies as they becomes increasingly vested in wind technology exports. As a China policy consultant and scholar, Lewis brings an unusual, embedded perspective to her closing evaluation of competition and cooperation between the United States and China – the world’s largest energy consumers, greenhouse gas emitters, and economies.

While this book is accessible to a broad audience, it will be particularly valuable for policymakers and industry decision-makers interested in emergent technology markets. Broader questions about the efficacy of the World Trade Organization or debates about China’s role in global technology transfer leave ample room for a sequel. For now, though, those wanting to deepen their understanding of green jobs measures, intellectual property issues in emergent technology markets, or strategic partnering with China will not want to miss what Lewis has to say.

Jul 30 2013


Reviewed by David Wirth, Boston College

Weston and Bollier propose a new structure for environmental policy and law based on a broader interpretation of green governance as it relates to human rights, economics and international relations.

Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights, and the Law of the Commons by Burns H. Weston and David Bollier, Cambridge University Press, 2013, 384 pp.

An individual human right to environment has been problematic, in part because the content of that right would be very difficult to define and its application to particular cases would be a formidable task. The authors, recognizing both the utility of the concept and the challenges it presents, recast the question in structural, decentralized, collective terms rather than in an individual, hierarchical, and legal framework.

Finding a useful analogy in the Internet, the authors advocate confidence in self-organized governance and collaboration in complex adaptive systems. Certainly such developments as private certification schemes developed by NGOs to identify sustainably harvested timber tend to suggest optimism about such a model. Whether such an approach will be sufficient to provide a path to address a problem of the staggering proportions of climate heating is another question altogether.

The authors, recognizing this challenge, then take on the question of global governance. The existing multilateral system is an ineffective patchwork of institutions, organizations, and practices, which generally boil down to a least-common-denominator compromise to which most states can acquiesce.

Instead, the authors of this work propose an approach based on commons management. Arguing for an orientation that is “more practical and improvisational than theoretical and directive” (180), the authors then set out ten catalytic strategies for achieving green governance. These include expanding and strengthening the public trust doctrine and an eclectic analysis that touches on Locke, Social Darwinism, the Magna Carta, and ancient Rome, to name a few.

It is beyond dispute that the world lacks anything approaching a coherent, effective approach to managing the stratospheric ozone layer and the global climate, whose existence as common-pool resources (the authors’ preferred term) has become apparent only in recent decades. As with the debate over the right to environment, this volume offers a variety of much-needed provocative alternative approaches to global commons management.

Jul 30 2013


Reviewed by Alexis Schulman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this book, Judith A. Layzer analyzes seven prominent Ecosystem-based management (EBM) initiatives to determine if EBM delivers the benefits its supporters promise.

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Natural Experiments: Ecosystem-Based Management and the Environment by Judith A. Layzer, MIT Press, 2008, 384 pp.

Although the sweeping environmental statutes passed in the 1960s and 1970s produced substantial improvements in US environmental quality, over the years these laws have also been assailed as too top-down, homogenous, and inflexible. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) has found favor among industry critics, as well as scientists, policymakers, and environmentalists, as a panacea to the failings of the conventional, “command and control” approach to regulation. EBM rests on three core principles: the domain of management ought to be defined by ecological, not political, boundaries; stakeholders, those impacted by management decisions, need to be included in decision-making processes; and management rules should adapt over time to changing local conditions. EBM cheerleaders argue that this approach will yield improved environmental health, while protecting other social interests, reducing conflicts, and producing lasting decisions.

But does it?

In Natural Experiments, Judith A. Layzer examines the efficacy of EBM in practice by analyzing seven of the most prominent EBM initiatives in the US, including the Everglades Restoration Plan and the California Bay-Delta Program (CALFED). Lazyer is primarily interested in testing the proposition that EBM improves environmental outcomes, above and beyond what would be expected under the status quo. Methodologically, such an evaluation presents enormous challenges, including the demands of extensive counterfactual analysis across cases that vary greatly. It is not, therefore, surprising that her work is one of very few to address this critical question with any analytical rigor. Applying a multi-pronged qualitative analysis, replete with exceedingly detailed case studies and process tracing, Layzer’s most significant result lends support to EBM skeptics. She finds the collaborative dictum, in particular, “perpetuates, rather than mitigates, the existing power imbalance,” resulting in less protective management plans and poorer environmental outcomes. Instead political leadership—specifically a willingness to prioritize environmental protection over other interests—exerted within the “conventional political framework,” resulted in the greatest environmental gains.

Advocates of collaborative management may rightly argue that process design is critical, and these cases stray far from the ideal set out in the literature. Nonetheless, the question remains: given the failures of the collaborative efforts Layzer assesses, is collaborative environmental management practical for the scale and complexity of the environmental challenges we face? Or is EBM better off without it?

Jul 30 2013


Reviewed by Lesley Pories, World Bank

Chellaney makes the case that water will likely become one of Asia’s greatest concerns in the future, bringing to the reader’s attention the increasing political and security issues that surround Asia’s limited water supplies.

Water: Asia’s New Battleground by Brahma Chellaney, Georgetown University Press, 2011,
309 pp.

Throughout the history of mankind, water (and a lack thereof) has been at the root of the rise and decline of numerous civilizations. Today, the risk of history repeating itself is clear: Brahma Chellaney’s overview of the geopolitical dynamics regarding control of increasingly scarce water resources in Asia gives a comprehensive, if incomplete and occasionally biased, examination of how the need for and manipulation of this all-important resource influences Asian politics and will continue to do so.

“Water scarcity is set to become Asia’s defining crisis by midcentury,” he opens. Throughout, water serves as a common thread connecting economic growth and development, societal pressure and geopolitical posturing. Chellaney does an admirable job of weaving these components together, providing valuable insights for international relations (IR) aficionados and laypeople alike.

In my view, Chellaney tries to cover too much territory. Taking the broadest possible definition of Asia, his treatment of the Israel-Palestine-Jordan water dispute is elementary, his review of Chinese disagreements with Russia and Kazakhstan contains some errors, and his depiction of water conflicts on the Korean peninsula is cursory. As might be expected given his position within a premiere Indian think-tank, his knowledge is most extensive when he is addressing issues of immediate concern to India. He glorifies India’s behavior towards Pakistan and vilifies China. There is no mistaking Chellaney for an objective observer. On the other hand, faced with these foreboding challenges, who can be objective?

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