Category Archives: Environment

Politics : Entry 4 : My Opinion : Environment

I will now write on my opinion on the environment.

Environment

Summery

I will summarise on what I have written on the Left Wing approach on this subject. The history of this is, the environment issues only really became relevant to the Left after the 1970s. Before the 1970s you had Karl Marx and William Morris who had concerns about the environment. Whereas Mao Zedong rejected environmentalist issues since he believed that, based on the laws of historical materialism, all of nature must be put into the service of revolution. After 1970s, however social movements and some unions campaigned over environmental issues. Some segments of the socialist and marxist left consciously merged environmentalism and anti-capitalism into an eco-socialist ideology

In the 21st Century, questions about the environment have become increasingly politicized, with the Left generally accepting the findings of environmental scientists about global warming, and many on the Right disputing or rejecting those findings. The left is however divided over how to effectively and equitably reduce carbon emissions; the centre-left often advocates a reliance on market measures such as emissions trading or a carbon tax, while those further to the left tend to support direct government regulation and intervention either alongside or instead of market mechanisms

I will now summarise on what I have written on the Right Wing approach on this subject. There is a prevalent group in the right wing regarding the environment, especially in the US and this is called Anti-environmentalism. Present day anti-environmentalists view environmentalism as “an attack on middle-class capitalism” The policies seems to be the eradication of environmental regulation, the traditional denial of global warming and keeping things as they are. Some on the right wing do however accept global warming.

Introduction

So to continue, the two biggest arguments in this field would be global warming since climate change itself is generally accepted on both sides, and regulation in the environmental industry. Firstly, I will talk about global warming and the history of how each political side approached this issue, then give my conclusion if I accept the premise of global warming, and then do the same for regulation in the environmental industry.

Global Warming

Firstly, I will define and describe global warming for the benefit who don’t have a clear idea on what it is. Global warming is a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. The greenhouse effect is the trapping of the sun’s warmth in a planet’s lower atmosphere, due to the greater transparency of the atmosphere to visible radiation from the sun than to infrared radiation emitted from the planet’s surface. Or in other words, the greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be in the absence of its atmosphere. If a planet’s atmosphere contains active greenhouse gases the atmosphere radiates energy in all directions. Part of this radiation is directed towards the surface, warming it.

The existence of the greenhouse effect was argued for by Joseph Fourier in 1824. The argument and the evidence was further strengthened by Claude Pouillet in 1827 and 1838, and reasoned from experimental observations by John Tyndall in 1859. The effect was more fully quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. However, the term “greenhouse” wasn’t used to describe the effect by any of these scientists; the term was first used in this way by Nils Gustaf Ekholm in 1901. In 1917 Alexander Graham Bell wrote “[The unchecked burning of fossil fuels] would have a sort of greenhouse effect”, and “The net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.” Bell went on to also advocate the use of alternate energy sources, such as solar energy.

The “greenhouse effect” of the atmosphere is named by analogy to greenhouses which get warmer in sunlight. The explanation given in most sources for the warmer temperature in an actual greenhouse is that solar radiation in the visible, long-wavelength ultraviolet, and short-wavelength infrared range of the spectrum passes through the glass roof and walls and is absorbed by the floor, earth, and contents, which become warmer and re-emit the energy as longer-wavelength infrared radiation. Glass and other materials used for greenhouse walls do not transmit infrared radiation, so the infrared cannot escape. Infrared is an invisible radiant energy. Infrared radiation was discovered in 1800 by astronomer Sir William Herschel. In the Solar System, there also greenhouse effects on Mars, Venus, and Titan. The effects found on Venus is particularly large, due to its atmosphere, which consists mainly of dense carbon dioxide.

In America, US President Richard Nixon was instrumental in founding the United States Environmental Protection Agency and tried to install a third pillar of NATO dealing with environmental challenges such as acid rain and greenhouse effect. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration described environmental protection as an economic burden. In a 2008 Gallup poll of the American public, 76% of Democrats and only 41% of Republicans said that they believed global warming was already happening. The gap between the opinions of the political elites, such as members of Congress, tends to be even more polarized. In Europe, opinion is not strongly divided among left and right parties. Although European political parties on the left, and Green parties, strongly support measures to address climate change, conservative European political parties maintain similar sentiments, most notably in Western and Northern Europe. For example, Margaret Thatcher, had been a strong supporter of an active climate protection policy and was instrumental in founding the British Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter. And gave speeches to the UN general assembly on this issue. After her career Thatcher however was less of a climate activists as she doubted climate action a “marvellous excuse for supranational socialism,” and called Al Gore an “apocalyptic hyperbole”. France’s centre-right President Chirac pushed key environmental and climate change policies in France in 2005–2007. Conservative German administrations in the past two decades have supported European Union climate change initiatives, concern about Forest dieback and acid rain regulation were initiated under Helmut Kohl’s conservative minister of the interior Friedrich Zimmermann.

The shared sentiments between the political left and right on climate change further illustrate the divide in perception between the United States and Europe on climate change. As an example, conservative German Prime Ministers Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel have differed with other parties in Germany only on how to meet emissions reduction targets, not whether or not to establish or fulfil them.

The arguments for global warming is,

  • Sea level is rising in many areas of the world. This is partially attributed to the melting of ice caps and glaciers, but more to the changes in the gases contained within the sea. In the past decade, the global mean sea levels have doubled compared to the 20th century trend of 1.6 mm per year. The global sea levels rose about 6.7 inches in the last century.
  • Global temperature rise during past century and half continues. Tracking global atmospheric temperatures since the 1800s, scientists point to a steady rise with a stronger period in the 70s, lull in the 90s and a return to the rising pattern in the 2000s.
  • The rise in the number of vehicles and industries has resulted in greenhouse gases getting trapped in the atmosphere. The increased heat in the atmosphere have been absorbed by the oceans. There is over 50 years of documented temperature records for the oceans that have recorded a steady rise in its temperature since 1969.
  • The glaciers on several mountain ranges, particularly in Greenland and Antarctica, are decreasing in size due to reduction in gases that help to maintain temperatures, and changes in the regions climate. Studies conducted by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 36 to 60 cubic miles of ice every year between 2000 and 2006.
  • Acid level in ocean is increasing which is making the oceans of the world more acidic. This is due to emission of more harmful gases in the atmosphere by humans which is getting absorbed by the oceans. This is resulting in an increase of algae blooms and mass fish deaths, as well as a change to the chemical composition of the water.

The arguments against global warming is

  • Scientists who argue against global warming say global warming isn’t real because since the 90s there hasn’t been a significant temperature change. The upswing in the temperature started from 1975, continued till 1997 and the temperature has been flat since then which clearly states that there isn’t any significant change in temperature in last 17 years.
  • There is no consensus about global warming being real among scientists. Advocates also point towards the fact that a recent gathering of 31,000 scientists in the field of environmental science couldn’t reach a consensus on whether or not global warming is real. They believe that they don’t have long term historical climate data or the data they have isn’t clear.
  • Arctic Ice increased in volume 50% in 2012 alone. Core measures of the Arctic Ice show that it has increased in volume since 2012, which argues against global warming causing ice caps to melt. Few people have even predicted that global warming would cause whole Arctic ice to melt which contradicts their version.
  • The climate model calculations used to predict the effect of global warming have been proven to be flawed which means that the long term predictions that they have been making are meaningless. Some scientists even argue that any increase in global temperatures could be a natural climate shift.
  • Advocates who promote arguments against global warming being real, point towards all the dates having come and gone where predictions were made about effects that never happened. For example Al Gore predicted that all Arctic ice would be gone by 2013. But, on contrary Arctic ice is up by 50% since 2012.

My opinion is that the main part of the problem lies in the two groups using different definitions of how global warming appears in the climate. This is one of the reasons that those advocating that global warming is real now use the term “climate change,” since it is more reflective of the real issue. The other problem lies in proof, and in studies that try to prove whether or not global warming is real. Contrary to public belief, the results of all scientific studies aren’t conclusive.

To be considered proof of a hypothesis, the studies have to be able to be replicated by others and produce the same results. With the global warming studies, analysis of decades of weather data is often used. The first problem is that weather data from 100 years ago wasn’t kept to modern standards of evidence. The second problem is that analysis is interpretation; you can really put any spin on it. This is why some of the arguments for and against whether global warming is real can use the same data and come to different conclusions.

So what do I accept? Is global warming real? There has been periods in the past where earth have undergone extreme climate changes in the past due to alternative reasoning given, due to various different factor. Has a change in industrialisation caused Co2 omissions to go up? Or is it just a coincidence of natural causes alongside the industrial period up till now which caused the emissions to go up…For me it would be naïve to think we don’t influence the planet. To say humans don’t increase carbon emission rates which increases radiation is simply wrong. The whole concept of acid rain debunks the statement “humans don’t influence the environment” alone. However do I accept global warming doomsday scenario where we are all going to drown if the ice caps melt? No, since there has been a big period in human history where the arctic melted and there were no ice left on the planet and human has progressed in this period. An example of this would be Greenland. Now it is an icy wasteland but before had no ice, which were then inhabited by the Icelanders and Norwegians which the land was then turned into all ice during the little ice age which happened at the period from 1300 to about 1850. So to clarify I accept the global warming premise but we are not going to all die. (Well we are but of old age or other causes)

Regulation of Environmental Industry

To make this shorter I will just give the arguments for and against regulations for the environmental industry, then my opinion at the end

Firstly, for regulation.

  • The cost models used are often too static and limited. The static model is a tactic used to show that any regulation will incur unacceptably high costs for industry. It assumes that industry, and perhaps more surprisingly, the market, does not adapt to changes. These models ignore established principles, including the fact that the price of a new innovation tends to decline over time and as the market grows
  • Studies have shown that the cumulative burden of regulations on companies is considerably lower than the sum of individual regulations. This is something that is frequently ignored in cost estimates
  • The beneficial effects on industry are often underestimated or ignored. More and more studies point to the benefits that arise from environmental regulation. These include increased innovation and competitiveness
  • Companies that are proactive are often prepared for regulatory changes well ahead of time. They have already done the work, absorbed the costs and would therefore benefit from a levelling of the playing field through stricter regulation. A recent OECD report shows that well-designed environmental regulations do not hinder overall productivity growth and actually boost that of companies with high productivity. Unfortunately, those companies do not see the need to speak up and are rarely heard.
  • Pollution and other kinds of environmental externalities impose costs upon others. A polluter forces others to bear the costs of his activities. Pollution tends to violate people’s property rights, as well as certain rights they have over themselves (such as the rights against having their health compromised against their will).

Against regulation

  • Environmental protection is simply too expensive for a battered economy.
  • Regulation comes with undeniable costs that can affect workers. Factories may close because of the high cost of clean-up, or owners may relocate to countries with weaker regulations.
  • Jobs will be lost which will cause the unemployment figure to go up.
  • This will affect market competition negatively
  • More regulations mean higher cost.

In times when we are told that the economy is shaky, we tend to see environmental concessions as a luxury, something that we can cut out when needed. Forgetting for a second the overarching objectives of environmental regulation which is to avoid damage to our health or the ecosystem, consider this thought: might not a shaky economy be a very good reason to introduce or maintain some environmental regulations? For me it comes down to this, In a pure cost setting the government should not interfere with the environment, but will we then be giving markets free roam to pollute to their hearts content? There will be companies coming into the marketplace to make greener cleaner products and you could argue that consumer demand could boycott business to get them to fail so a business that has cleaner products or practices is the preferred option to buy from in this setting, but in this mixed economy where companies are given subsidies and given contracts by the state which gives them a monopoly on the market which means no matter what the customer does, the business cannot fail then in my opinion, I have no choice but to be for regulations to limit the negative externalities those propped up businesses can do.

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