Ever since the onset of industrialization in the middle of the 1700s, our planet’s population has been rapidly increasing due to the rising production capacity and the developing technologies allowing better maintenance of health care and support for the population (Sachs, 1). Naturally, the need for resources grew along with the population size and soon has led to overconsumption – a very dangerous phenomenon for the environment and, as a consequence, for the future of humankind. As a result, the contemporary leaders are faced with a problem of global character – the urgent need for sustainable ways of developing science, technology, and businesses without outing the survival of humanity under threat. The change of this magnitude requires a serious approach based on the leaders worldwide’ combined efforts and a set of policies enabling sustainable development, preventing the further deterioration of the environment. Due to the diversity of factors contributing to the problem and the variety of perspectives and positions of different countries, the generally accepted and effective policies are very difficult to establish.
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Essential elements of the climate change problem
The elements that are currently known as the contributing factors involved in the problem of climate change are multiple and diverse. In particular, Sachs named the emissions of CO2 as one of the major drivers of climate change on our planet (399). The emissions are attributed to versatile modes of transportation that are actively used in the contemporary world, heavily impacted by globalization. In other words, communications facilitated by transportation modes such as airplanes, motor vehicles, and ships are crucial for modern economies and political relations. Attempting to address the problem of excessive emissions of CO2 and the pollution of the atmosphere, policymakers are put before a choice – they either have to restrict the number of vehicles used worldwide or the amount of CO2 produced by the existing transport.
The former option is highly unrealistic as it would result in an economic turmoil created by the lack of resources that are usually delivered by airplanes, trucks, trains, and ships. At the same time, the attempts of limiting the amount of discharged CO2 have been successfully proposed and implemented by organizations such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States and the European Commission in the European Union. In particular, the EPA’s standards are based on the evaluation of the latest technology available to different manufacturers and facilities correlated with the reasonable regulations preventing the excessive emissions produced by car and airplane engines and factories (“Center for Climate and Energy Solutions”).
Moreover, another significant element of climate change is the global nature of the problem (Sachs, 394). In other words, the cooperation of the world’s governments is required to achieve noticeable change. Unfortunately, this is not always an option. While the high-income countries begin to prioritize the environmental issues, the developing countries with the emerging economies are more focused on the maximization of profit and production that happens at the cost of the environment.
Finally, the growing population facilitating the excessive consumption of natural resources is another element contributing to the climate change problem. More transportation and manufacturing are required, and more emissions are produced (Sachs 337).
Policy protecting from negative environmental impacts and promoting sustainable development
At the end of 2015, the summit of high-profile scientists from all around the globe was organized. It has resulted in the identification of seven essential aspects that need to be included in the policy protecting from the negative environmental impacts and promoting sustainable development. The first formulated aspect covered the governments’ commitment to the policies preventing climate change and global warming (Yeo). In particular, the warming needs to be controlled and should not reach over 2 degrees Celsius. There has been outlined a clear numerical limit reflecting the permitted amount of CO2 emissions that would help protect the atmosphere form the deterioration. However, to achieve the desired goal, a fundamental transformation of the global economy is required (Yeo). Moreover, this type of change can only happen under the complete agreement’s circumstances and full collaboration between the world’s developing and developed countries.
Also, as specified by Bojinski et al., an effective policy aimed at the facilitation of environmental protection and sustainable development needs to be based on assessment, research, and the specialized information from the climate services (1431). Also, knowing the broad range of consequences of the environmental change, the policies directed at its minimization must not only target the reduction of pollution of water, soil, and air. They also should take into consideration the impacts on the economy, the elimination of damage caused by the present change, the reduction of vulnerabilities of the modern economies to the outcomes of transformations enabled by the policy, the protection of the ecosystems that are still viable, and the establishment of fund from which the environmental policies would draw costs necessary for their successful implementation (“The Earth Statement”).
Regulations for the achievement of the emissions reduction
Emissions trading schemes (such as cap-and-trade, for example) and carbon taxes are some of the approaches to emissions reduction based on markets’ use. One such scheme was created and put in place in Chicago when the area’s CO2 emissions became a very serious problem. In particular, the minimization of pollution in the region was achieved due to establishing a limit on emissions and the trade of emission allotment units between the participating emitters (Tietenburg 14). The sources exceeding their permitted amount of emissions had to face monetary penalties for the overproduction of the harmful substances. In that way, the overall limit for emissions was achieved and successfully maintained. An establishment of a similar global-scale system based on the carbon taxes and trading schemes could help control the atmosphere pollution worldwide and make the production more sustainable.
When it comes to the issues related to education concerning global warming, the problem lies in uneven environmental literacy levels in different countries or population groups. To be more precise, there still exists a very large global community that is refusing to believe in the existence of climate change perceiving it as a made-up issue or a conspiracy theory (Dunlap and McCright 145). For instance, many of the representatives of the American conservatives and republicans support the idea that climate change is not a real problem, and nothing has to be done about it. It is quite logical that if the county’s leaders prefer to stick to this belief, there is little chance for any environmental initiatives to breakthrough. Also, there is still a wide range of countries where environmental pollution and the greenhouse effect are not discussed or even known. As a result, the awareness about the problem must be raised worldwide, and education covering this topic is made a part of school and college curriculums.
Roles of cities in promoting low-carbon sustainable development
While poverty and the lack of sufficient sanitation practices are the major problems in rural areas, the urban population is mainly faced with environmental pollution (Satterthwaite 1-2). In fact, in the large industrial cities, the emissions of CO2 exceed those characterized as staying within the “fair-share” limits in the perspective of the entire planet by 5 to 10 times (Satterthwaite 2). In that way, the cities can be considered the most active sources of emissions. Moreover, knowing the cities’ contribution, they require environmental initiatives addressing and regulating the pollution of air they inflict. When it comes to the introduction of such projects, large cities have a significant advantage regarding their capability if maintaining sustainable development. In particular, due to the high density of the population (because people tend to live in multistoried buildings), it is possible to save the use of energy and water, in turn, reducing the emissions produced by power plants. Like on the global scale, the environmental initiatives in the large urban centers are based on the smart management of resources, their allocation, and the elimination of waste. Such processes can be time-consuming as they require a shift from the old-fashioned manner of resource use and supply to the newly designed models.
According to the estimations of the high-profile scientists, the permitted amount of emissions needs to be below 1000 Gt of carbon-dioxide worldwide for the global community to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius goal (Yeo). However, seeing the estimations of the current emissions produced by the G20 countries, it is possible to conclude that to date, the worldwide regulations and initiatives aimed at the minimization of chemical discharge causing the greenhouse effect are bringing some positive results, primarily in the developed countries. The projects of the latter states show that the current emissions are declining, and the reduction is anticipated to increase over the next couple of decades. However, the ongoing growth of the global population may potentially serve as a counterforce to the improvement initiatives causing the countries to consume more resources.
The additional problem is that the progress related to eliminating the excessive emissions of CO2 is uneven throughout the world, and the pollution of the developing countries such as China is at a very high level (UNEP 54). The same goes for the effectiveness of the initiatives directed at cutting the amounts of discharged substances; in particular, many countries can minimize their production of CO2 and other GHG contributors by a higher percentage than the others. Moreover, there exists a range of countries whose actions, initiatives, and results regarding the effort aimed at the minimization of air pollution are unknown or undisclosed. This limitation serves as a barrier to establishing clearer projects and tracking the current progress.
Bojinski, Stephan, et al.“The Concept of Essential Climate Variables in Support of Climate Research, Applications, and Policy.” American Meteorological Society, 2014, pp. 1431-1443.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Power Plants.” C2EC, 2015, Web.
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Dunlap, Riley and Aaron McCright. “Organized Climate Change Denial.” The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, edited by John Dryzek and Richard Norgaarn, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 144-160.
“The Earth Statement.” The Earth League. 2015, Web.
Sachs, Jeffrey D. The Age of Sustainable Development. Columbia University Press, 2015.
Satterthwaite, David. “The Role of Cities in Sustainable Development.” Sustainable Development Insights, no. 4, 2010, pp. 1-8.
Tietenburg, Thomas. Emissions Trading: Principles and Practice. Routledge, 2011.
UNEP. “The Emissions Gap Report 2015.” The United Nations Environment Programme, 2015, Web.
Yeo, Sophie. “Scientists Set out Eight Essential Elements for UN Climate Deal.” CarbonBrief. 2015, Web.