Environmental Challenges

by Hari Osofsky

As I stare out at the grey, rainy day here in Eugene, my thoughts turn to recent bad news about our atmosphere and oceans. Three publications from the past few weeks indicate the climate change is likely to have a massive economic impact, the world’s fish stocks are on the verge of collapse, and Canada is not complying with its Kyoto obligations. The good news is that each of the first two reports suggested that significant policy intervention could still make a difference. Is there the political will to make that happen?

A report issued on October 30, 2006 by Sir Nicholas Stern, head of the UK’s Government Economic Service and former World Bank Chief Economist, notes in its summary of conclusions:

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

The investment that takes place in the next 10-20 years will have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next. Our actions now and over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes.

An article in the November 2006 issue of Science indicates that:

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

Just before both of these were released, however, Canada’s 2006 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development noted that Canada is failing to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol:

What Canada is doing with respect to its Kyoto target

40. The challenge in meeting Canada’s Kyoto target is often expressed in terms of an “emissions gap.” This is the difference between projected annual business-as-usual emissions (the emissions that would occur in the absence of any specific requirements to reduce emissions) in 2008–12, and Canada’s Kyoto target.

41. According to the Government of Canada’s National Inventory Report—Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada (1990–2004), in 2004, Canadians emitted 758 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, 34.6 percent higher than Canada’s Kyoto Protocol target. Much of this growth is attributed to increased emissions from energy industries and from transportation, whose emissions increased 41 percent and 30 percent respectively between 1990 and 2004. Within the energy industry, the increase is largely fuelled by increased demand for electricity and growing oil and gas production for export. Transport-related emissions account for over one-quarter of Canada’s emissions, and within this sector the largest increase is from light trucks (including mini vans and sport utility vehicles)—an increase of more than 100 percent from 1990 to 2004.


4 Responses

  1. The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.

    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.

    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

    Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




  2. Oh wonderful, the above poster is apparently attempting to carry the flag in the war against rational thought.

  3. Cf. Bill McKibben’s review essay in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, ‘How Close to Catastrophe?’ (Vol. LIII, No. 18, Nov. 16, 2006). It includes a policy proposal that may irritate Mr. Gross even more than the above comment!

  4. Sushil Yadav appears to be advocating a return to pre-industrial society. That’s a far cry from a carbon tax (Which, from the article online, is what I presume you are referring to,) unless you intend to impose a carbon tax so punitive as to essentially destroy the economy.

    I can’t say I’m particularly worried about a carbon tax, most countries seem very unmotivated to do anything to burden their economies. If anything, it seems more likely to be used as an excuse for protectionism against cheaply-produced foreign goods.

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