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Environmental Politics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7a-Hs9UxYo. Environment – the totality of surrounding conditions Ecology – interaction between a species and its environment Ecosystem – a system of interactions: between all living (organic) things and the physical environment –

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slide1

Environmental Politics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7a-Hs9UxYo

slide2
Environment – the totality of surrounding conditions
  • Ecology – interaction between a species and its environment
  • Ecosystem – a system of interactions:
    • between all living (organic) things and the physical environment –
    • and between themselves
  • Biosphere – the global ecosystem, including all ecosystems existing on Earth
  • Immense network of symbiosis (living together)
  • Self-regulating balances – emerging, being disturbed, and then restored again
slide4
Planet Earth
  • Total number of species (est.) – 2 mln. known, up to 100 mln. unknown (est.)
    • They inhabit a closed system – the Earth
    • They struggle for survival
    • They compete and cooperate
    • They modify the environment
  • The human species stands out in 2 ways*:
    • It is the only species capable of endangering or even destroying the ecosystems it depends on for survival
    • It is the only species which has penetrated every other ecosystem and established its domination over them
      • *Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World. L.: Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd., 1991
slide6
The livable natural environment is maintained by communities of living organisms whose interactions are maintained naturally
  • Self-regulating world
  • Then human interventions begin
  • The biosphere copes with these interventions by resetting the balances
  • Survival of the human species is not a required condition in the restoration of upset balances
slide7
The environmental conditions required to maintain human life are very unstable
  • The essential element: WATER
  • Its condition is vulnerable to temperature shifts between the two extremes:
    • an Ice Age, and
    • full evaporation of the oceans.
slide8
Ice ages have been typical of the planet’s history
  • Most recent:
  • 13,000 years ago
  • 500 years ago (the Little Ice Age)
  • None of them have been triggered off by humans
  • In the past, humans have created small-scale ecological disasters – limited to a specific geographical area (Mesopotamia, Greece)
  • In the past half-century, we have begun to create a global ecological catastrophe
  • Increase in temperature upsets the delicate ecological balances, triggering off unforeseen changes
slide10

Global Footprint Network: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/

slide16
Sea levels rising faster than expected, March 2009:
  • "With stiff reductions (of greenhouse gases) in 2050 you can end the temperature curve (rise) quite quickly, but there's not much you can do to the sea-level rise anymore. We are setting in motion processes that will lead to sea levels rising for centuries to come."
  • Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.
slide18
Depletion of the ozone layer
  • The layer of air at the 7-18 km altitude which protects the planet from excessive ultraviolet radiation
  • Emission of CFCs into the atmosphere
  • Ozone holes – over Antarctica, a 3-fold depletion
slide19
Availability of land and water
  • The planet has 150 mln. square kms of dry land
  • Humans are controlling 28% of it
  • This leads to deforestation (5,000 years ago, forests covered 75% of dry land, today – only 26%), desertification, depletion of water and other natural resources, chemical poisoning of soil, water and air
  • Every year, we dump 12-15 mln. tons of oil into the oceans
  • 150 mln. sq. km out of 361 mln. of the world ocean is polluted
slide20

The water crisis:

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7821082.stm
slide21
Decline of biodiversity
  • Every year between 17,000 and 100,000 species vanish from the planet. The speed in which species are becoming extinct is much faster than in the past. The last mass extinction was caused by a meteor collision 65 million years ago.
slide22
Running out of food
  • The surge in food prices in recent years, following a century of decline, has been the most marked of the past century in its magnitude, duration and the number of commodity groups whose prices have increased.
  • The ensuing crisis has resulted in a 50–200% increase in selected commodity prices, driven 110 million people into poverty and added 44 million more to the undernourished.
  • Elevated food prices have had dramatic impacts on the lives and livelihoods, including increased infant and child mortality, of those already undernourished or living in poverty and spending 70–80% of their daily income on food.
slide23
Key causes of the current food crisis are the combined effects of:
    • speculation in food stocks,
    • extreme weather events,
    • low cereal stocks,
    • growth in biofuels competing for cropland and
    • high oil prices.
  • Although prices have fallen sharply since the peak in July 2008, they are still high above those in 2004 for many key commodities. The underlying supply and demand tensions are little changed from those that existed just a few months ago when these prices were close to all-time highs. (The Environmental Food Crisis, UNEP, 2009)
slide24
The ecological crisis creates threats to international security
  • Since the end of the Cold War, at least 18 violent conflicts have been driven by the exploitation of natural resources.
  • While political and military issues remain critical, concepts of security and conflict have broadened, with environmental degradation now seen as a significant contributing factor to conflict.
slide25
Climate Change and Human Security (a European Union report, 2008):
  • http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/reports/99387.pdf
slide26
Natural resources and the environment can be involved in all phases of the conflict cycle: from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of conflict and to spoiling the prospects for peace.
  • The way that natural resources and the environment are governed has a determining influence on peace and security.
  • Investing in environmental management and the governance of natural resources is an investment in conflict prevention.
  • Cooperation over the management of natural resources and the environment provides new opportunities for peacebuilding that should be pursued.
  • From Conflict to Peace-Building: The Role of Natural Resources. UNEP, 2009 - http://www.unep.org/publications/search/pub_details_s.asp?ID=3998
slide27
2 developments generated the emergence of ecological consciousness in the 1960s:
    • Pollution – damage to air, water and soil from economic activities
    • The Bomb – danger of nuclear war
  • Since the 1960s, the environmental movement steadily grew and began to influence political processes
  • In the 1990s, concerted international actions to deal with the ecological crisis began
  • “Planetarism” (J. Attali): new thinking, driven by the e-crisis
slide28
Main political positions on issues of environmental politics
  • Mainstream: recognition of the crisis and attempts to develop governmental and international policies to deal with the crisis within the existing global political-economic system
  • Right-wing: the problems have natural, not human origins, the human factor is insignificant, increased government government regulation will damage the economy, greater market freedom will help deal with ecological problems
  • Left-wing: The existing global capitalist system is the main cause of the crisis – and the main obstacle to effective solutions. Unless the fundamental logic of capitalism is challenged, the environmental crisis will only get worse
slide31
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • Signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992
    • acknowledged that climate change was real and caused by human activities such as land use changes (deforestation) and burning of fossil fuels
    • adopted the Precautionary Principle - that a lack of scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse for inaction
    • committed Parties to the United Nations Convention to 2 types of action to address climate change:
      • Mitigation
      • Adaptation
slide32
Mitigation - reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous climate change
  • Adaptation - taking action to adapt to the climate change to which the world is already irreversibly committed. This includes investment in better planning, strengthened infrastructure, and projects and programs to adapt agricultural production and improve food security.
slide33
The Kyoto Protocol (“Kyoto”)
  • - an amendment to UNFCCC
  • Negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997
  • Open for signing from March 1998 to March 1999
  • Went into effect in 2005, when ratified by countries responsible for at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions
  • To achieve "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.“ –
  • http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/background/items/1353.php
slide34
--Legally binding commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases
  • --Countries are required to prepare policies and measures for the reduction of greenhouse gases in their respective countries.
  • --In addition, they are required to increase the absorption of these gases and utilize all mechanisms available, such as:
    • joint implementation,
    • the clean development mechanism
    • emissions trading, in order to be rewarded with credits that would allow more greenhouse gas emissions at home.
  • --Minimizing Impacts on Developing Countries by establishing an adaptation fund for climate change.
  • --Accounting, Reporting and Review in order to ensure the integrity of the Protocol.
  • --Compliance. Establishing a Compliance Committee to enforce compliance with the commitments under the Protocol.
slide35
Under Kyoto, industrialized countries agreed to reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Protocol, this limitation represents a 29% cut).
  • The 6 greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons
  • National limitations range from 8% reductions for the European Union and some others to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland
slide36
Kyoto is a 'cap and trade' system that imposes national caps on the emissions of Annex I countries. On average, this cap requires countries to reduce their emissions 5.2% below their 1990 baseline over the 2008 to 2012 period.
  • Although these caps are national-level commitments, in practice most countries will devolve their emissions targets to individual industrial entities, such as a power plant or paper factory.
  • Allowances and carbon credits have generated a market
  • This market has grown substantially, with banks, brokers, funds, arbitrageurs and private traders now participating in a market valued at about $60 billion in 2007.
slide37

In order to achieve this…

we need to do this

slide38
Implementation
  • The First Commitment Period: 2008-2012
  • Non-compliance:
    • USA signed, but refused to ratify, considers itself free of Kyoto obligations
    • Canada did ratify, but did not fulfill its obligations – and in Dec. 2011, denounced Kyoto
  • Problems
    • Need to cooperate internationally for the global common good - vs. competition between nations
    • Institutions protecting private interests from public interference
    • The power of greed (capital accumulation)
    • Obsolete thinking reinforced by propaganda of special interests
    • How to force countries to implement
slide39
Kick the Habit: A UN Guide to Climate Neutrality (an e-book for everyone)
  • http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/kick-the-habit/Default.aspx
slide40
The politics of climate change, infographic:
  • http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/11/20121118131411899744.html