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Human Impact on Climate Change

Info: 2592 words (10 pages) Essay
Published: 2nd Nov 2021 in Environmental Sciences

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The science of human-induced climate change has been undeniable. The absolute consensus in the majority of the scientific community is that human activity has been leading to an increase in average global temperature. Moreover, there has been an avalanche of research done to link mountain of detrimental effects to the increase in carbon dioxide emission, such as high-frequency drought and heat waves leading to forest fires, flooding, ocean acidification, increase in sea level due to the shrinking and thinning of the Arctic ice, extreme weather such as erratic jet stream and high-wind-velocity hurricanes and typhoons, the expansion of deserts and subtropics, the extinction of many species and reduced diversity of many ecosystems, the decreased in crop-production and the drop in nutrition for our dietary needs that followed, etc. ("Global warming").

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The evidence is crystal clear and leaves no room for further scientific debate. Yet there are still people that deny climate change or refuse to take any action to prevent it. The multifaceted reasons that are usually given by denier usually stray away from the scientific enterprise, which is not misguided by any mean considering the complexity of the subject. Said reasons lie mostly in the realm of psychology, politics, economics, and religious faith. Among them is the argument that to ultimately decrease emission, we must increase emission to get all the impoverished people educated about and capable of making a difference in climate change, which is also one of the few that is worth considering because it has overwhelming evidence to support such as the observation that third-world country's population generally care less about climate change. Even if we can come to the conclusion that even the aforementioned population should be actively participating in humanity's cumulative effort to slow down emissions by restricting their industrial growth, is it just to force these people to stay impoverished by being underdeveloped, technologically speaking? Not allowing them to go through the industrial revolution as we did in the west is seemingly very hypocritical and unjust.

Despite the strong foundation in ethnic and economic of said counter-argument, it is still an absolute necessity, and a completely plausible one, to implement climate policy as it is according to the will and benefit of both giant corporations and the layman.

Jordan Peterson, although a psychology professor by train, is a well-respected climate change skeptic in the public's eyes who claims to have worked for a UN committee on sustainable economic and ecological development. He argues that climate change is at best " an absolutely catastrophic nightmarish mess…[because] First of all, it's very difficult to separate the science from the politics. And second, even if the claims, the more radical claims are true we have no idea what to do about it… ". He elaborates that because of the high degree of uncertainty preventing any meaningful projection of climate consequence in the near future, one can not make any fruitful plan that guarantees environmentally friendly results (GWPF 00:45-02:15). Peterson's alternative approach is to increase emission in the short-term to raise his or her GDP up above the poverty line, who will then care more about and take action for climate change (GWPF 02:45-04:00).

As airtight as it might sound, Peterson equivocating the public's understanding with the scientific use of the word "uncertain" in his underdeveloped hypothesis is very misleading. As Marshall points out, "when scientists say uncertain, the public hears unsure". Marshall admits that some parts of climate change are "conjectural, little understood and highly uncertain", but he doesn't follow Peterson's decision to do nothing because of it (Marshall 73). Marshall reaches his conclusion by examining the hypocrisy of policy makers when it comes to other high-profile issue that isn't environmentally related, such as a terrorist attack. Marshall voices this objection in form a rhetorical question, "... a one percent chance of a terrorist attack should be acted on as though it is a certainty, but a ninety percent chance of severe climate disruption is too uncertain for action?" (Marshall 75).

However, Marshall still agrees that Peterson's economic hypothesis has a solid psychological ground, as "...[human] do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates and the deep changes it requires ... because it carries none of the clear markers that would normally lead our brains to overrule our short-term interests, we actively conspire with each other, and mobilize our own biases to keep it perpetually in the background" (Marshall 112). And therefore, by eliminating the short-term distraction that is poverty, they imply the environment will clean itself up from all the new interest arising among the layman.

However, an independent study from Alex Lo, within the sample of 33 countries, suggests that the rise in GDP will not guarantee that a society will gravitate toward helping out the environment. For instance, countries with one of the highest incomes, such as Norway, are more likely to downplay the threat of climate change. On the other hand, countries with the lowest and the third lowest GDP in the sample, Australia and the Netherlands, rank among the highest in the perceived danger department because a high proportion of the population is in danger of flooding and inundation. Lo then concludes that "the belief that anthropogenic global warming is a very dangerous event declines as GDP increases" (Lo 342).

To find the cause of this correlation, Lo, as well as Peterson, observes that wealthier nations have a high proportion of educated citizens being informed of and recognizing climate change as an important issue, but unlike Peterson, he makes an important distinction between perceived importance and perceived risk. Because there's an indication that that people from wealthy countries tend to see climate change as the most important problem, but are less likely to rank it as a highly dangerous threat, i.e. GDP per capita correlates positively with the perceived importance of climate change, but negatively with perceived risk (Lo 335). Lo hypothesizes a better indication of risk perception: energy consumption from oil. The more oil used by a certain country, the lower is the perceived danger of climate change (Lo 344, 347).

Oil consumption is the elephant in the room for climate change issues in terms of energy consumption. Many oil-dependent countries rank among the lowest in terms of their perceived danger of climate change, such as Norway, the US, and Finland (Lo 344). This is a major red flag for Peterson's alternative approach as oil is the so-called only viable way to get people out of poverty fast. A serious justice issue is called into question here by not allowing third world countries to use their oil reserves to develop their industrial.

Is it hypocritical for western civilization to discourage third-world countries, via their "virtue signaling", after having abused oil and, therefore, carelessly pollute the atmosphere and increase the global temperature by an alarming amount? Do the so-called third-world countries even need their intervention?

As some oil giants like Iran and Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian national petroleum and natural gas company, also the largest companies in the world by revenue, have to consider using renewable because their oil reserves will not be able to handle the increasing demand. For example, recent advancements in solar and wind energy have lead Iran, a so-called third world country with rich resources like oil and natural gases, to invest heavily in renewable energy as an answer for rising demand and foreign energy export.

A lot of effort was put forth by the government to encourage this process, such as implementing a policy that guarantees a fixed price for renewable power, and which has been responsible for the dramatic growth of renewable energy in several European countries, or offering to cover up to 50% of the cost of installing residential PV arrays (Najafi et​ al. 940-941). Najafi also points out a similar resolution in the Middle East at the time when​ energy demand is extremely close to outstripping supply (Najafi et al. 936). ​ Many giants in the​ oil industry such as Saudi Aramco are speeding up efforts to diversify, investing more in natural gas and cleaner technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells … [they also] do huge business in non-energy uses of crude, turning it into chemicals used for everything from plastics to fertilizer (Shankleman and Smith). Citing the shifting interest of people to electric carmakers such as Tesla and China's BYD as a risk factor,​ Aramco admits that oil demand will peak in the next​ two decades, when their oil preserve is nowhere close to running out, and fund the diversification of its economy for the post-hydrocarbon age (Shankleman and Smith).

However, switching to renewable is not an easy option for those less fortunate. Nyahunda in the study rural Zimbabwe, a community facing food insecurity, water scarcity and loss of livestock because climate change has impacted negatively on agriculture, the main source of livelihood in Zimbabwe's rural communities. Nyahunda explores the challenges faced by the rural community when they try to mitigate the effect of climate change.

Firstly village leaders cannot rely on the indigenous knowledge system to predict the weather to plan for the seeding, harvest or their various agricultural techniques.

Secondly, the lack of resources and technoscience adaptive methods, such as drilling of boreholes, dam construction for irrigation, supplementary feeding and reliance on food aid, plunged them into further poverty ( Nyahunda and Tirivangasi 5-6).

Thirdly, the lack of support to implement viable mitigation strategies from the government, who is "expected to carry out programs that incorporate people's ideas in order to come up with policies that address their needs" ( Nyahunda and Tirivangasi 7).

And last but not least, the lack of information about resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which even though help them meet their need in times of drought, haven't properly prepared them for the future through education (Nyahunda and Tirivangasi 8).

Nyahunda concludes that the most important way to help rural poor people adapt to climate change is through "the provision of information, immediate response to needs and climate-smart agricultural policies" (Nyahunda and Tirivangasi 1). One can see a lot of parallels to the current situation in the US from those in Zimbabwe, such as the way politicians and many for-profit organizations ignore all the climate activists who voice the concern of the general public in issues concerning climate change although it is beneficial for all to do the opposite.

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Another pressing concern in preventing further environmental and communal damage from climate change is that the point of no return may be around the corner. Zalinge uses the energy balance model and the PlaSim (planet simulator) to examine the validity of the claim that if greenhouse gas emissions are not substantially decreased, there will be dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate by the end of this century made by so-called radical (Zalinge et al. 715).

The term "Point of No Return" or PNR is used to label the year at which earth's carbon emission is irreversible and mostly fatal to all terrestrial life. For an energy balance model, the probability density function of the PNR when graphed suggests that it will occur sooner rather than later as the claim state. Zalinge also claims that when applying these findings to a more detailed, high-dimensional climate model PlaSim, they will produce even more specific results in many specific regions, of which no PNRs exceed the year 2100 (Zalinge et al. 716). If Zalinge is correct, the PNR is approaching fast and there will not be enough time to test Peterson's hypothesis, considering the fact that his push for a sudden increase in emission may push us over the limit even earlier.

Climate change isn't anything new to humanity as a society. But recently, Greta Thunberg's viral and passionate speech at the U.N., which calls out the blatant greed and indifference of wealthy people toward climate change and brings up the urgency of the issue, has revitalized many people's motivation and managed to garner support from many organizations around the world (VICE News 00:00-04:30). Marshall also attempts to see the matter under an​ optimistic lens and suggests that "even with our limitations, humans can accept, understand , and take action on anything … [as] we have immense capacity for pro-social, supportive and altruistic behavior. Climate change is entirely within our capacity for change. It is challenging but far from impossible" (Marshall 229). If only a 16-year-old Swedish highschooler made such​ a large impact on the world state, imagine the cumulative effort of many educated and concerned people could do.

Work Cited

B. C. van Zalinge, et al. "On Determining the Point of No Return in Climate Change." ​Earth System Dynamics​, vol. 8, no. 3, 2017, pp. 707–717.

GWPF. "Professor Jordan Peterson on climate change and climate policy at the Cambridge Union." ​YouTube​, 8 Nov. 2018, ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBbvehbomrY.

Lo, Alex, and Y Chow. "The Relationship between Climate Change Concern and National Wealth." ​Climatic Change​, vol. 131, no. 2, 2015, pp. 335–348.

Marshall, George. ​Don't Even Think about It : Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change​. First U.S. ed., Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Najafi, G., et al. "Solar Energy in Iran: Current State and Outlook." ​Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews​, vol. 49, no. C, 2015, pp. 931–942.

Nyahunda, Louis, and Happy M. Tirivangasi. "Challenges Faced by Rural People in Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change in the Mazungunye Communal Lands, Zimbabwe." ​Jàmbá : Journal of Disaster Risk Studies​, vol. 11, no. 1, 2019, pp. E1–e9.

Shankleman, Jessica, and Grant Smith. "Analysis | Why Even Saudi Aramco Is Now Talking About 'Peak Oil'." ​The Washington Post​, WP Company, 17 Nov. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/why-even-saudi-aramco-is-now-talking-about -peak-oil/2019/11/15/d3401df0-07d1-11ea-ae28-7d1898012861_story.html.

VICE News. "Greta Thunberg Rips World Leaders at the U.N. Over Climate Change." ​YouTube​, 23 Sep. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW3IQ-ke43w.

Wikipedia Contributors. "Global Warming." ​Wikipedia​, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming. Accessed 25 November 2019.

 

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