Global Warming Solutions Essay, Research Paper
Natural Resources and ecology.
Since the mid nineteen sixties, environmentalism has exploded as a movement. Many environmentalists view modern industrial society as unsustainable and the way that western society functions as damaging the earth’s natural biosphere and cycles.
There is a growing body of evidence to support the belief that our consumer culture and industrial processes are in fact destroying the delicate balance and complex interrelationships that nature has forged and upon which we still rely. The biggest worry of most ‘green’ groups at present is the well documented ‘global warming’ effect in which it is believed the earth’s average temperature is rising, causing sea levels to rise (more to do with thermal expansion of water than ice cap melting), destruction of natural habitats and most worryingly to humans; climate change. However it would be ignorant to believe that the earth has always been as it is now, indeed rapid climate change is a natural phenomenon which has occurred countless times in the earths history; ice ages and warm periods mark definite periods in earths living history, a period of extreme warmth for example marked the Cretaceous / Tertiary era boundary where over 90% of the land species of the earth became extinct allowing mammals to become the dominant class of species. Ice age and periods of warmth are common and a feuture of a dynamic planet. Despite this, geology and anthropology have discovered fresh evidence that suggests this latest climate change event may be different. Only in times of extreme volcanic activity or celestial change has a climate change period been so quick in taking effect, and this present one is accompanied by neither.
Evidence to suggest that it is indeed human activity which is causing environmental disaster is growing. Statistical and historical evidence suggests there is a direct link between the actions of humans and environmental destruction. Although conclusive proof can easily be found for acid rain and deforestation as well as loss of habitat and desertification, clear concise proof that man is directly responsible for global warming is hard to find. However a document recently signed by 1500 scientists and over + of living Nobel prize winners was written to support the belief that global warming is the product of mans disequilibria with nature. Other evidence such as tree rings and ice boar holes does show conclusively that Co2, CFC and So4 have risen faster than at any other period in the earths recent history, (globwarm.com 2001) without the aide of volcanic activity which accounts for far more Sulphur emissions than fossil fuel burning. (Exxon Mobil 2001). Recent Ice samples from Greenland show that in just this past century, these gases increased to their highest level in 220,000 years and led the research scientists to conclude this increase resulted from industrial activity, deforestation, and agriculture. (globalwarming.envirweb.org). 2000 year old tree ring samples from Tasmania taken in 1975 concurred with this analysis showing a marked increase in temperature at 1900 and continuing temperature rises since, although before 1900 temperatures had been reletively steady since 525BC.
Other statistics show the level of destruction in recent times since industrialisation, 150.000 sq. Km of tropical rainforest, equivalent to the size of Wales, was being destroyed every year between 1950 and 1990. (http://www.tree4life.com/ingles/deforest3.htm).
Over 60 million tons of CO2 is released into the atmosphere daily (Green Peace 2000), CO2 being the major greenhouse gas (although CFCs trap 1200 more heat than CO2). Many more things show how our society over consumes, from over packaged products, throw away plastic toys, masses of unread newspaper supplements, wasted resources on advertising, disposable nappies, non returnable bottles and of course the private car which not only pollutes the air but uses up huge areas of land in the form of roads.
The independent government funded Hadley Research Centre has carried out very extensive prediction studies on what will be the effect of global warming on the global environment. They predict that sea levels will rise by 30 cm by 2070 rendering huge areas of land becoming sea, and that global temperatures will rise by 3′c by 2030. Although rainfall will on the whole be reduced, western Britain’s rainfall is likely to increase by as much as 2mm per day. These statistics make terrible reading but when the consequences are considered the seriousness of what will happen to our world especially in such a time of high population are genuinely horrifying. Sea rises will mean the very map of the globe will change, parts of western Europe and East Anglia will be waterlogged but more disasterous will large parts of Africa and Asia especially the countries of Bangladesh and India who already experience extreme flooding. Florida and the southern states of America are also at risk, as well as many smaller areas of the world and individual atolls and islands. Extreme weather will become more likely as jet streams and atmospheric cells are altered, leading to higher damage costs in the west and poverty in the south. The picture is bleak, one of famine and war, droughts and floods, disease and pestilence. The worst affected; those who are struggling to provide for themselves already, the poor and developing.
The green movement is very broad, although most greens reside firmly in the left pointing out that exploitation of the environment is explicitly linked to exploitation of people, and so loss of jobs, privatisation and worsening welfare (Globalise Resistance Network 2001). Some environmentalists however are often linked to the right, seeing the environment as a single issue separated to modern capitalism. The ‘deep greens’ are often linked to far right groups supporting gun ownership and deportation of immigrants and the ‘green capitalists’ such as Anita Brodick owner of the body shop, although supporting green issues have been found also to support sweatshop labour, bad working practices and no recognition of trade union rights both here and abroad. (adbusters 2001)
It is interesting to see how the broad spectrum of greens views and solutions to environmental problems. Many point to increase legislation and consumer responsibility in order to reduce over consumption and promote ecologically friendly means of living, indeed the Green party has forgotten its early radical tendencies to promote just these policies believing that the system can be reformed in order to decrease environmental destruction. However others within the environmentalist movement argue that the problem is capitalism itself and that the system cannot be reformed to become sustainable because of its very nature. Capitalism exists only by increasing consumption in order to increase sales and profits and can only create profits where exploitation occurs, either in the form of exploiting workers, the environment, or both. In order to allow people to continue with the high standards of living enjoyed in the developed world without exploiting the environment, surpluses would have to be reduced and radical changes in the nature of production and consumption would have to occur. The free market is opposed to regulation of any kind and law and legislation in order to cure the problem is unworkable in practice. Free market economics is based on competition and so the company that can lower costs and increase productivity is the one that survives; (although in reality cartels, monopolies and oligopolies as well as well placed political funding and strict patenting laws work against this theory in practice) overall the company that can exploit the best wins out. The sort of laws that would be needed to halt environmental destruction would mean massive losses in profits and further exploitation of workers, the investment needed to find ecologically friendly ways of production is too greater risk for companies which already have so much invested in fossil fuels and environmentally destructive forms of production. British Petroleum recently unveiled plans for the company to transform itself into an ‘environmentally friendly company’ this bold statement was backed up by a new logo, and masses of publicity, it was only afterwards that it was discovered BP had spent 6 times as much on the marketing of the company as environmentally sensitive, than had actually been spent on environmentally friendly investment and research and development (adbusters / Socialist Worker 04/01). Those companies that could not find loopholes in environmental laws would turn to higher prices and further exploitation of workers to make up for the losses in profit.
Green consumerism is something that many groups promote, People and Planet, Green peace; The Green Party and Friends of the earth all promote this type of action for the environment. However this business is very much a niche market, only those who are well off enough to choose such goods can make a difference. The old, poor, young and students have to choose based on harsh economic reality and cannot afford 1.20 for free-range eggs over 28p for battery eggs (battery farms use chemicals and create large amounts of waste that must be dumped instead of allowed to return to the biosphere).
Of course technical problems mean that environmentally friendly productive forms cannot be installed, recycled paper although seemingly environmentally friendly uses harsh and dangerous bleaches and chemicals to make it economical, and uses huge amounts of water. Hydrogen power has been found to be worse than diesel gas forms of energy because of huge quantities of energy it takes to produce. Water power destroys huge areas of natural habitats in the form of damns and artificial lakes, solar power is land intensive and still requires large quantities of chemicals. These few examples show that our culture, system of production and consumption must be radically altered in order to bring it into equilibrium with nature.
Land use planning can be used as an effective tool to minimise the effects of global warming and environmental destruction. Planning must adapt to the new challenges that it will face, PPG25 and 24 go some way to address these problems. PPG24 will attempt to reduce the number of polluting developments although it scope is somewhat limited to the location of such developments and so will have little impact on the global scene. PPG25 attempts to combat one of the main features of climate change; flooding either from extreme weather events or sea level rises by citing developments away from flood plains and coastal areas. Land use planning must be used to minimise to radically redesign the locations of developments away from the areas at risk from the effects of climate change and to facilitate the new developments which will occur as large sections of the population relocate away from the worst effected areas. The responsibility of protecting our national heritage will become more difficult as large areas of land become uncultivatable and high intensity agriculture moves into areas traditionally used as marginal agricultural land, many of which are located in areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks. Stewarding increasing conflicts of urban settlements, rural areas and agriculture will have to become the responsibility of the planning system, as it can affectively choose locations for different uses and control the size and nature of urban areas. Development of Brownfield sites must become even more of a priority as we strive to protect the country side from development. Planning must ensure that afforestation occurs on a large scale in order to reduce CO2 levels. The Cross Governmental Climate Change Committee has released a document for land use planners, even this document (see bibliography for location) does little to attack the causes of environmental destruction, instead citing land use planning as a mechanism to reduce the effects.
Planning can only minimise the effects of climate change. It can little to remove the causes. To prevent environmental disaster from occurring, there must be radical shifts in our lifestyles, political and economic systems and methods of production.
Climate predictions. Hadley Research Centre.
Land use change document. Cross Governmental Climate Change Committee
People and Planet Pamphlets.
Exxon Mobil Website.