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Feature stories from SMU School of the Environment faculty working toward a greener planet. 

Dr. Kate Ervine
International Development Studies

The threats posed by human-induced climate change to the future of our planet and its inhabitants are unprecedented in their scope and scale. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, species extinction, the increased prevalence of destructive weather patterns, including storms, heat waves, drought, and more extreme precipitation and flooding, the spread of epidemic disease, declining agricultural productivity and diminished global food security, environmental refugees, economic decline - each undermines our ability to thrive and prosper as a global community, with our poorest and most vulnerable disproportionately experiencing the impacts of a warming climate. While the historic Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, attended by over 190 countries, signaled a high degree of global consensus on the urgent need to lower the world's carbon emissions, the difficult and contentious work of translating consensus into effective and just policy and action remains.


This is where Dr. Kate Ervine's research begins. Drawing on the traditions of political economy and political ecology, Dr. Ervine analyzes those factors, including the historical and contemporary evolution of the global economy and its reliance on fossil fuels to generate economic growth, the unequal distribution of global resources and wealth between rich and poor, and North-South political divides, that influence global, national, and local climate change mitigation policies. Within this context, Dr. Ervine's research examines efforts across the globe to put a price on carbon, with an emphasis on comparatively analyzing the design and implementation of carbon markets worldwide. From indigenous communities in Mexico selling the rights to the carbon stored in their trees to heavy polluters in the global North, to the politics of carbon market design in the European Union, California, Quebec, and China, to the struggles of environmental justice groups resisting market implementation, Dr. Ervine's research offers important lessons for policy makers and citizens involved in responding to one of the gravest crises ever faced by humanity.