The Global Environment – An Emerging World View
Article 2 “Global Warming Battlefields: How climate Change Threatens Security?” on pages 16-22 in the Annual Editions (11/12) textbook.
As you read, consider the following discussion points.
- Try to reconcile the “development” with the “sustainable” in the industry and communities.
- Development with capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.
- Best way know to help the poor today; “economic growth” has to be handled with care otherwise it may end up with a degraded and devastated natural environment.
- Every generation should leave water, air, and soil resources as pure and unpolluted as when it came on earth!
- Win-win strategies for environmental issues, would it be possible?
- To help both economy and environment, environmentally harmful subsidies need to be reconsidered.
- According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature “largest conservation group”, Greens and businesses do not have the same objective but they can find common ground!
- 2002 UN World Summit on sustainable development in South Africa – Johannesburg? Did it contribute any useful actions and policies?
- Kyoto Protocol (1997, Japan) a UN treaty on climate change/global warming to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions 5% below of 1990 levels by 2012; what was the bitter test in many mouths in Kyoto?
- Two areas where concerns about human health and environmental overlap: improving access for the poor to cleanser energy and safe drinking water!
- India’s leader Mahatma Gandhi’s testimonial about industrial revolution in Asia? “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialization after the manner of the west…It took UK half of the resources of the plant to achieve their prosperity, so how many planets will a country like India require?”.
- Economic growth comparison of China versus India.
This lesson will illustrate increasing global perspective on environmental problems and the degree to which their solutions must be linked to political, economical, and social problems and solutions.
The societal effects of climate change are not limited to humanitarian disasters. It is likely that there will be an increase in ethnic conflict, insurgencies, and civil violence whenever climate change negatively affects supplies of vital resources.
Diminished rainfall and river flow, rising sea level, and more frequent and severe storms will cripple the ability of underdeveloped societies to meet even basic sustainability levels.
The Hardest Hits
On water scarcity
On food availability
On coastal inundation
Watching the River Flow
The Mogadishu Effect
“The Earth is one but the world is not. We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each country, strives for survival and prosperity with little regard for its impact on others.”
World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), Our Common Future
The great technological accomplishments of the twentieth century in the areas of telecommunications, computers, energy, agriculture, materials, medicine, genetic engineering, and defense have transformed the world and brought people closer. However, millions of people worldwide still go to bed hungry at night. These technological advances have enabled us to design advanced early warning systems to warn against missile attacks, but we have failed to develop an advanced early warning system to warn against and prevent global famine or the spread of disease.
What is sustainability?
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland Commission Report, Our Common Future, 1987)
“No human being has the right to diminish the life and well-being of another and no generation has the right to inflict harm on generations to come.” (David Orr (2006) Framing sustainability. Conservation Biology 20:265-266)
How would you describe a sustainable development?
Sustainable development is leaving the next generation with a sufficient endowment of nature capital and human-produced capital to enable the attainment of a per capita living standard equal to or greater than that of the current generation.
Questions to consider:
- Does the Global Public Support Sustainable Development?
- How to promote Sustainable behavior?
Sustainable Systems Goals could include the following:
Source: Sources: Dr. Bill Stigliani’s UNI faculty Leadership
in Sustainability Education Workshop, 2011.
- Genetic diversity
- Biological productivity
Economic system goals
- Increasing production of goods and services
- Satisfying basic needs or reducing poverty
- Improving equity
Social system goals
- Cultural diversity
- Social justice
- Gender equality
Watch a short video from The Minature Earth Project that examines what it might be like if we could turn the population of the Earth into a small community of 100 people.
What is Environmental Justice?
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Fair treatment means
….that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.
Meaningful involvement means
- people have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health;
- the public contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision;
- their concerns will be considered in the decision making process; and
- the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.
Some Environmental Justice Issues and Examples:
In the U.S., some types of hazardous material disposal sites (landfills or incinerators) are more likely to be located in or near minority communities.
Minorities have low representation, in both decision-making and staff positions within environmental/natural resource agencies and regulatory bodies at all levels of government and non-governmental organizations.
Minority community located hazardous sites appear to receive lower priority in remediation. (Edwardo Rhodes, UNI – Faculty Leadership in Sustainability Workshop, Summer 2011).
- Cancer Alley in Louisiana and Mississippi … average American faces about 10 lbs of toxic waste a year … the average Cancer Alley resident is exposed to about 4,500 lbs of toxic waste a year. The population of Cancer Alley is predominantly African American.
- Cove and Red Valley, Arizona: In 1940’s the site of uranium mining, primarily by Native Americans. Risks of exposure were known even then, but suppressed due to national security needs.
- 1990’s-Present in Boston: during the “Big Dig” it was decided to move the “combat zone” to another central location. The “combat zone” was moved adjacent to Boston’s China Town. (Edwardo Rhodes, UNI – Faculty Leadership in Sustainability Workshop, Summer 2011).
Global Warming and Climate Change
Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal. Global warming is already under way. The evidence is vast and the urgency of taking action becomes clearer with every new scientific study. Some of the most obvious signs are visible in the Arctic, where rising temperatures and melting ice are dramatically changing the region’s unique landscapes and wildlife—as well as people’s lives and livelihoods. Across the globe, other early warning signs include melting glaciers, shifting ranges of plants and animals, and the earlier onset of spring.
Global warming is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that are emitted primarily by the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests. These gases remain in our atmosphere for decades or even centuries.
The profound impact rising temperatures have had in the Arctic provides a window into a future we may all experience. With continued warming, we can expect more extreme heat and drought, rising sea levels, and higher-intensity tropical storms. At risk are our coastal property and resources, the livability of our cities in summer, and the productivity of our farms, forests, and fisheries.
In February 2007, the leading international network of climate scientists called International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950.
They said the world was in for centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas and shifting weather patterns — unavoidable results of the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
The year 2010 was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average, the summary says, with combined land and sea-surface temperatures 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit above the average.
But while the average temperature in the contiguous United States alone was above average, this was only its 23rd warmest year on record.
Greenhouse Gases and CO2 emissions
The following two graphs illustrate CO2 concentration and global average temperature values from 1860 to 2000. As you see, both graphs have very similar trends of quickly increased ratings after 1960s of industrial revolution.
|Source: Office of Science and Technology Policy|
Some greenhouse gases occur naturally (include water vapor, CO2, CH4, nitrous oxide, & ozone) in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities.
1. CO2 is released to the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, & coal), & wood are burned.
2. CH4 is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Also from decomposition of organic wastes in municipal solid waste landfills, & raising of livestock.
3. Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural, industrial activities, and combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels.
4. Very powerful greenhouse gases that are not naturally occurring include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
Greenhouse Gases released by coal combustion play a significant role in:
- Destabilizing climate
- Contributing to sea-level rise
- Weather extremes
- Disease outbreaks
- Unexpected large shifts in agriculture & water supply
- Extensive ecosystem damage
- Loss of species
- Other serious disruptions.
Atmospheric concentrations of GHGs have risen from 280 ppm (parts per million) to 370 ppm in two centuries! According to International Energy Agency (IEA) study, worldwide CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels reached a record 30.6 billion metric tons in 2010 (5% more than 2009 values). The economists call these latest numbers as “wake-up call”. (USA Today, July 2011).
Let’s explain some of the concerns of global warming and its possible outcomes:
- a rapid rise in temperatures would lead to climate changes that could be devastating for many places.
- Central America, most of Africa, much of south Asia, and northern China could be hit by droughts, storms, and floods
- Since flooded regions are generally poor & live near the tropics, those most likely to be affected will be least able to adapt;
- the biggest fear of all is that warming could trigger irreversible changes that would transform the Earth into a largely uninhabitable environment
- The collapse of the “conveyor belt” system of ocean currents that brings mild climate to much of Europe; if temperatures rise, it could trigger radical changes in the ocean-current system that would damage both Europe & the Americas;
- industry holds the key–success is dependent on environmental agreements between major corporations;
- the uncertainty surrounding a threat such as climate change is no excuse for inaction–data showed the threat from ozone depletion was far deadlier than was thought at the time a decision to act was made
Is global warming connected to the hole in the ozone layer?
Global warming and ozone depletion are two separate but related threats. Global warming and the greenhouse effect refer to the warming of the lower part of the atmosphere (also known as the troposphere) due to increasing concentrations of heat-trapping gases. By contrast, the ozone hole refers to the loss of ozone in the upper part of the atmosphere, called the stratosphere. This is of serious concern because stratospheric ozone blocks incoming ultraviolet radiation from the sun, some of which is harmful to plants, animals, and humans.
The two problems are related in a number of ways, including:
- Some human-made gases, called chlorofluorocarbons, trap heat and destroy the ozone layer. Currently, these gases are responsible for less than 10 % of total atmospheric warming, far less than the contribution from the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
- The ozone layer traps heat, so if it gets destroyed, the upper atmosphere actually cools, thereby offsetting part of the warming effect of other heat-trapping gases. But that’s no reason to rejoice: the cooling of the upper layers of the atmosphere can produce changes in the climate that affect weather patterns in the higher latitudes.
- Trapping heat in the lower part of the atmosphere allows less heat to escape into space and leads to cooling of the upper part of the atmosphere. The colder it gets, the greater the destruction of the protective ozone layer.
Assignment 1 Submission:
Type this assignment using a word processing program and save as a file. If you are using a word processing program other than Microsoft Word, then please save the file as Rich Text Format.
Submit your assignment by clicking on the Assignment 1 Submission link in the Course Content menu on the left and uploading your assignment. Need help? See the eLearning Tutorials for instructions on how to submit an assignment.
Assignments include both questions and essay(s) related with the article covered and the ideas discussed in the course notes.
You need to review both article and lecture notes to answer the following questions.
- As stated in “Global Warming Battlefields,” so far, what has been the focus of most experts’ warnings about climate change?
- As described in article “Global Warming Battlefields,” what did the IPCC’s Working Group II have to report on the issue of coastal inundation?
- Explain how resource wars and ethnic warfare conflicts are interrelated to climate change.
- Describe and provide examples on how migratory pressure would likely to be among the most destabilizing impacts of global warming.
- Explain how national security and global warming would be related. Provide examples as needed.
Describe what you believe are the most serious three environmental problems. Explain why they are serious with your own words, and what need to be done to resolve them.
For this essay you may briefly watch the video documentary (2009) called “Home: We all have a date with the planet” that is freely available on YouTube
If the link is broken, you may also search “Home project” at youtube.com.