While pundits and politicians debate whether climate change is a real phenomenon, Diana Liverman, co-director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, has been studying various policies and programs around the world that attempt to reduce carbon emissions.
Liverman gave a lecture yesterday at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection outlining the effects a Kyoto Protocol carbon offsetting program known as the Clean Development Mechanism has had on developing nations that have participated.
The Kyoto Protocol requires participants to reduce their carbon emissions by certain percentages each year. If these targets cannot be reached, then a country can choose to invest in projects such as wind farms or reforestation in exchange for carbon credits which offset their extra emissions.
These credits are then sold on the global carbon market, which functions like a commodities exchange and incites investment in sustainable development to receive more credits, Liverman said.
Liverman’s research focused on carbon offsetting projects taking place in Latin America, and her lecture detailed the results from the field studies conducted in Honduras and Mexico.
In certain Honduran communities, Liverman’s study found that people were more enthusiastic about the increased number of jobs and access to electricity that was a result of the offsetting projects rather than direct carbon credit profits.
In Mexico, Liverman’s study focused on the La Venta wind farms and their impact on the local community. The study found that opponents of the wind farm mistakenly argued that the turbines would damage crops and cattle, but there was no harm to local agriculture after construction and they switched positions.
Liverman said she was in favor of communities making these sustainability decisions for themselves.
“We should allow communities to decide which offset projects, if any, to go along with and who they sell [their credits] to,” she said.
Katherine Lininger, a geography and environment graduate student, said she thinks a carbon market may solve the climate change issue and she believes the average individual can play a role in improving the environment.
“A lot of change can happen if many people take part in reducing their emissions,” Lininger said. “But it’s really helpful for the government to regulate and give incentives to take action.”
Advertising graduate student Melissa Messer said she is happy to see private companies take interest in sustainability and green issues, but she wonders why there is a lack of national consensus on the issue.
“My office complies with [sustainability standards], which is exciting to see corporations taking these actions,” Messer said. “Climate change is scary, and it’s interesting that the issue is under debate in the U.S.”