Global communities are put on notice over the concern of environmental degradation that has resulted from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. This issue is a necessary cause of alarm to the extent that various global meetings have been held to discuss the way forward to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere (Blok, de Jager, & Hendriks, 2001). Such conventions include the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Similarly, various measures have been adopted by different nations to mitigate climatic change that is responsible for global warming. The measures include the development of green buildings and the implementation of programs such as reforestation.
High emphasis on the concern of climatic change by environmental economics suggests that the problem of global warming is a real threat to the sustainability of global populations. However, there are mixed reactions to the issue of climatic change and global warming. For instance, nations are divided on whether to enforce the Kyoto Protocol. Questions also emerge on the commitment and role of various global players in mitigating the two challenges. For example, climatic change economists face the challenge of whether they are actively remaining in touch with climatic change. However, despite the different opinions, the paper argues that human beings are the worst enemies of the environment and that the Kyoto Protocol and the concept of green buildings are the two major interventions to climatic change and global warming.
Human Activities and Global Warming
Human activities, which destabilize the natural flora and fauna, contribute immensely to global warming and climatic change. These two concepts refer to the increased average worldwide temperatures. Nordhaus (2007) argues that the increase occurs due to the amplified emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG). For example, exposure of green materials or wastes generated by people to air leads to their breakdown by anaerobic bacteria coupled with other organisms to form wastes and carbon II oxide (Galle, Samuelsson, & Borjesson, 2001). These two products contribute naturally to the greenhouse effect (Hiramatsu, Hanaki, & Aramaki, 2003).
The increased levels of GHG emissions pose the risks of global warming, which results in heightened melting of ice caps in the polar region. The overall effect of this situation is the rising of water levels in the oceans, leading to submerged coastal regions (Nordhaus, 2007). Furthermore, GHG emissions present challenges of weather-pattern disturbances that have led to catastrophic storms, flooding, and more incidences of drought around the globe. These problems influence local, national, and international relations since they have economic, social, and political implications (Richard Ivey School of Business, 2013).
When green wastes that are naturally generated by people gather in landfills, the absence of air causes the breakdown of the material into methane, carbon II oxide, mulch, and water with the help of anaerobic bacteria. Carbon II oxide and methane come out in approximately equal magnitudes (Bogner & Matthews, 2003). Further decomposition of methane to produce water and carbon II oxide then takes place. All these components of decomposition of green wastes contribute to climatic change and global warming. When the planet warms, climate also changes. However, it should be remembered that greenhouse gases are important in trapping heat for it not to escape into space, a situation that can make the earth colder. The problem occurs when these gasses increase to high levels to the extent that more energy is trapped than necessary. This phenomenon makes the earth less inhabitable by both animals and plants, including human beings.
Laxity of Climate Change Economists, Scientists, and Other Bodies
Climatic change and global warming are two phenomena that have cost implications for the environment. From the article, ‘Economists are out of Touch with Climate Change’, Smith (2016) calls climatic economists to effectively participate in the fight against climate change, including global warming. He argues that climate change economists have been dormant to the level that their participation in addressing the crucial issue of climate change is not felt at all, despite the urgency of the matter and the need for policies that can address the situation.
Smith (2016) demonstrates how proper understanding of the trend in climatic changes and the impact that such changes have on the environment requires the input of various stakeholders. These stakeholders include climate economists, climate scientists, and environmental agencies such as the UNEP among others. These parties have to work in collaboration to keep the issue of climate change on the check. However, for this partnership to occur, there is a need for scientific research on the effects and implications of global warming on the world’s flora and fauna. However, Smith (2016) reveals a missing gap between climate science and economics. He argues that economists have abandoned the significance of science in their analysis of climate change to the extent that they only include obsolete scientific facts that make no sense in the current debate about global warming. Does this finding make the situation hopeless?
Smith (2016) reveals how most climate change publications from economists fail to cite natural science opinions. This case raises the debate on the use of scientific facts when it comes to climate issues. The scientific view on climatic matters entails the general verdict among scientists concerning the degree at which global warming is taking place, including the underlying causes and the likely repercussions. Hence, a deliberate act of ignorance of the role of science in climate change suggests the failure to consider the positive relationship between economic trends and natural occurrences. Scientific facts have been made available for all disciplines to use as a way of substantiating their claims. Therefore, it is the high time for global populations to deploy evidence derived from scientific research in climatic change and global warming to collectively fight the phenomenon, which threatens world sustainability.
Moreover, climatic change and global warming continue to worsen because of the laxity of the side of nations around the globe. They have failed to show commitment to the pacts established to address the problem. For instance, the US made a decision not to support the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 due to fears from its people that maximum emission limits would raise the cost of production. Canada argued that it would not assent to the costly Kyoto Protocol regulations in case the US, its closest competitor, failed to comply. Canada was worried about its capability to compete with the US in both domestic and international markets. Irrespective of the argument advanced by any nation on the decision not to support any pact that seeks to address the two problems, questions arise on the commitment of nations to address the challenge of global warming. This concern is important, especially upon considering its effects on the increased greenhouse gas emissions, which explain the phenomenon of global warming and climatic change.
Mitigating Climatic Change and Global Warming
With the increasing concern of human activities on global warming, there has been an incredible need for mechanisms of reducing its impacts on the environment. One of the proposed strategies for addressing this challenge involves building environmentally friendly houses that are otherwise called green buildings. Constructors of these buildings deploy “a process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition” (Kats, Alevantis, & Adam, 2013, p.12). Consequently, green buildings minimally interfere with the natural environment.
Various concerns are worth considering when adopting any building technology. One of the central concerns of putting up green buildings is to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with conventional structures. However, in the process of building any house, there is always an extent of disorientation and interference of the natural environment. Hence, the greenest building is the one that is accompanied with the least interference on the environment.
A building occupies space that was originally meant for other natural systems. Therefore, even if the process of the building does not degrade the environment through interference with the ground structure, space is consumed. This situation has the impact of making most buildings fail to comply with the requirement that they should use a small space. Furthermore, green buildings need not contribute to sprawling, which is defined as the tendency of structures to spread in a manner that does not follow any fashion (Kats et al., 2003). These three rules of any green building are significant since the overall goal of going green is pegged on the idea that people must put in place strategies for ensuring that energy absorption or release to the environment is kept minimal as a way of controlling global warming and climatic change.
The International Energy Agency estimates that well above 40 percent of the total global energy consumption is due to the buildings (Pushkar, Becker, & Katz, 2008). Buildings are also responsible for 24 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions (Pushkar et al., 2008). Therefore, it is possible to manage the impacts of global warming due to environmental degradation by controlling further development of ways of the building by adopting the green way of building and construction. The only worry is whether this technology is sustainable and readily embraceable by all nations across the world.
Green buildings deserve to be energy sufficient, efficient, and self-sustaining. Hence, green buildings require a high capacity to reduce energy consumption rates in terms of the force that is required to power equipment and heat. Hence, the green movement prescribes the usage of materials, which have low embodied energy in the construction of green buildings. Such materials include wood. Since steel has high-embodied energy, it is not a preferred green building substance.
Green buildings require the materials used to be highly recyclable. Steel perhaps fits well in this category of materials. Although wood may be replenished, the rate at which forests are disappearing is alarming to the extent that many countries have resorted to restricting the felling of some species of trees, which are under threat of extinction. Therefore, based on the need to use materials with low embodied energy, green technology’s applicability in the development of commercially viable buildings encounters some drawbacks. Indeed, the use of materials such as wood with high-embodied energy presents another challenge, deforestation, which leads to high levels of carbon dioxide gas, a greenhouse gas that is responsible for global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC) requested all its member states to decrease their levels of GHG emissions. The goal was to manage the impacts of global warming on climatic change. The UN was concerned that this issue would have negative implications such as hunger on global populations. This concern pushed the UNFCCC to organize a meeting in Kyoto, Japan. The objective was to finalize an agreement seeking industrialized nations to set and meet targets for reducing GHG emissions. The ensuing agreement from the 1997 convention, which was signed by 160 UN member states, was named Kyoto Protocol (Richard Ivey School of Business, 2013).
The protocol does not require nations to have the same targets for reducing GHG emissions. In the 1997 agreement, which came into force in 2005, nations were put to task to meet their unique target in reducing the emissions. The deadlines for accomplishing this agenda was put between 2008 and 2012 (Richard Ivey School of Business, 2013). The overall goal was to reduce global emissions by not less than 5.2% of the total 1990 emission levels. For example, Canada vowed to reduce its emission by 6% (equivalent to 270 megatons) while the US pledged to reduce by 7%. The EU pledged an 8% reduction. This plan meant that the world would significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, which had increased the problem of climatic change and global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol also required nations to determine how they would realize their targets. However, the US coupled with various developing nations failed to sign the pact when the time came for its ratification in 2001 (Richard Ivey School of Business, 2013). During the 2009 Copenhagen meeting, Cancun conference of 2010, and the 2011 Durban gathering, more emphasis was placed on the recruitment of additional nations into the treaty, including seeking more clarity on the intention of various signatories. The strategy is one of the surest ways of addressing climatic changes and global warming. However, it has faced challenges. For instance, by 2013, many nations had not offered significant details (Richard Ivey School of Business, 2013). Hence, it remains ambiguous on how the protocol will effectively call all nations to mitigate the problem of climatic change and global warming.
Considering that some nations support while others overlook the problem of global warming, the emerging question is whether all nations operate as good international citizens. If all nations have to continue operating as good international citizens outside any pact that protects the global populations against the impacts of global warming and climatic change, they need to contribute positively to the resolution or prevention of problems that are associated with global warming. However, a question remains on such a possibility, considering the positions taken by key stakeholders, including the US and Canada on the issue. Nevertheless, despite nations taking some hard-line positions and with arguments on the positive involvement of all stakeholders in easing the problem, the global population needs to remain aware that climatic change and global warming are a real threat to the world’s sustainability. Hence, taking appropriate action such as the re-adoption of the Kyoto Protocol for nations, for instance, Canada and the US, which abandoned the pact is necessary. For nations that are still committed to the pact, the full implementation of the agreement is vital to save the global population from the menace of climatic change and global warming.
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