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In February 2007, the United States Scientific panel concluded that global warming being experienced today is irreversible. It is also apparent from the report that anthropogenic activities have been the major cause of this worrying trend. It is also clear that the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from burning forests and smokestacks and tailpipes has led to increasing in average temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. This has led to intense debate on what to do. Business-class has grouped to pressure for federal regulations on greenhouse gases emissions. This has gained a lot of support with the Oscar award of Al Gore’s documentary, ‘An inconvenient Truth.’ Greenhouse effect is a natural process that allows the warming of the earth’s surface but, with increased release of large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane gases due to industrial economies, earth’s warming has accelerated. The Scientific panel has forecast an increase in temperatures of 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. This will lead to 7 to 23 inches rise in sea levels (New York Times).
The recent efforts to rally support for legislation to tackle global warming and climate change in United States have been with senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. They have drafted what they are calling the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.” This proposes a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the 2005 levels by 2020 and a cap-and-trade system that will put a ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions and allow carbon credit trading. If this legislation is enacted, it will enable America to chart its own energy future without relying on foreign oil from countries that are unstable and hostile to America. It will also ensure protection of both the investors in clean energy and consumers. This will enable the country to combat climate change and pollution and enable it to safeguard the health, security, economy and environment. With America among the largest contributors to carbon emissions in the world, this legislation will reduce significantly carbon dioxide emissions (Foon 2009).
The United Nations panel of scientists met in November 2007 to make an assessment of the risks of failure to act on climate change. In the meeting, they described boldly such risks as melting of polar ice which could lead to rising in sea levels, extinction of species and extreme weather changes. This document has been influential in guiding policies dealing with climate change effects and general development. This report is very important especially to the third world countries that have had to bear with the consequences of climate change such as prolonged drought and storms and rise in sea level, while they contribute little to the emissions. This report did not hinder in spelling out what we are up against if the world became just a little warmer and managed to get the attention of world leaders. Risks of irreversible changes are clear as melting of ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica in the future, and extreme weather which has already begun to be experienced in some parts of the world, as well as extinction of large numbers of species, should be enough to drive policymakers and developers into real action. This should happen faster than we are seeing today if global warming is to be curbed (Rosenthal 2007).
The global temperatures for 2008 were predicted to be cooler than those of 2007 due to the effect of La Nina current in the Pacific Ocean by the United Nations Meteorologists. It is clear that the 1998-2007 was the warmest decade on record due to the effects of global warming brought about by the greenhouses gases. The cause for alarm is the difference between the predicted and the observed temperature for particulars years. The 2007 was forecast to be the warmest year in recent history which turned out to be the opposite in many parts of the world and major losses experienced due to crop failures. These disparities should not dominate most of the debate rather the long-term effects of the upward trend in temperature changes. The effects of natural processes such as La Nina and El Nino should not be taken to mean that the earth had adjusted to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. The effects of the latter have been experienced and are devastating and irreversible such as loss of species (Roger 2008).
Efforts to deal with reduction of greenhouse gases have focused on many aspects of development. Reduction of emissions by stopping deforestation of tropical forests is such a measure. It is estimated that 20% of global greenhouse gas production comes from cutting down and burning tropical forests. Another way this contributes to global warming is by reducing carbon sink. Environmental effects and impacts do not respect country boundaries as what happens in the tropical rain forests concerns the rest of the world. This is the reason the governors of states of California, Wisconsin and Illinois signed a memorandum of understanding with six governors from Indonesia and Brazil. These governors manage more than 60% of tropical forest lands. This agreement was meant to act collectively in developing rules, incentives and tools for addressing the problem of deforestation and land degradation. This kind of cooperation and commitment in dealing with environmental challenges should be encouraged and especially in combating global warming and adapting to effects of climate change (Mongaby 2008).
Effects of global warming have been recorded mostly in the Arctic due to the decreasing ice. Polar bears have been captured in the arctic stranded as they hold on to the remnants of rapidly melting ice. In ordinary circumstances they can swim for miles to dry land but now the shoreline is getting further and further due to melting ice. The struggle for survival is apparent as they are becoming thinner making them unable to swim and eventually drown as was witnessed in Alaska when four of them drowned in 2007. It was a common phenomenon for a bear to give birth to three curbs but today they are reported to be having one curb. This is a clear indication that the fragile habitats of these creatures are threatened by the rising temperatures which cause polar ice to melt. Another indication of threat to their habitats is the melting of ice on mountains surrounding the Arctic, which provided breeding ground for bears, leaving them covered with water. This will slowly lead to their extinction if measures are not taken (Mould 2007 and Carlton 2007).
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Japan is a country of islands. Many of these islands just like the rest of the world are affected by the effects of global warming. Tuvalu Island is under the threat of sinking which will leave its population of more than 10,000 displaced and homeless. The residents of Tuvalu lead a simple and happy life, but they are not spared by the effects of global warming to which they have no or little contribution. This island started experiencing frequent floods and storm surges and extreme weather conditions which seriously affect their agricultural and fishing industries. This demonstrates to the world that environmental issues know no boundaries and therefore people should take responsibility to protect them and use them sustainably. The effects of global warming weigh heavily on small communities around the world who mostly live in fragile environments such as marginal lands, small islands and in ASAL areas mostly in developing countries. With the threat to their way of life they exert more pressure on the environment compounding the problem. Communities such as Tuvalu should be protected by curbing global warming (Fukue 2008).
Democratic Party of Japan leader’s announcement of his administration’s commitment to curb global warming by cutting down 25 % from the 1990 level by 2020 at the Asahi World Environment Forum, could not have come at a better time. The world leaders especially in the developed world should take cues and demonstrate their commitment. Businesses should not be worried as energy-efficient production will not only improve the economy, but is also beneficial to the livelihoods of the people. It will also create opportunities for innovation which will create employment for many people. It is also important for all nations to take measures to reduce carbon emissions and protect and conserve carbon sinks such as tropical rain forests. Efforts of isolated countries will not solve the problem. Collective measures by all nations are important and fair in sharing the responsibility of the impacts of global warming rather than the blame game adopted by world leaders (Yamaguchi 2009).
The Kyoto protocol will be expiring in 2012 with no record of substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This could be attributed to its lack of support by the major nations such as United States of America and lack of commitment by its signatory nations. The protocol had its loopholes too such as its top-down approach of implementation, tight emissions targets, regulations and timetables. As nations prepare for another replacement for Kyoto Protocol in December 2009, it is important that participation of emitters be sought and the current situation in the world be put into consideration. Governments today are more interested in protecting their consumers from taxation requirements for environmental purposes that will add the burden to them. Emission requirements will have to explore opportunities that will be economically viable and ecologically sustainable. They should create employment opportunities and re-energize the failing economies. This is a wake-up call for nations to conduct research and develop energy sources, renovate the energy facilities they have and reduce industrial energy intensity (Kitazume 2009).
The effects of global warming have been felt world over with phenomenon such as extreme climatic conditions and rise in sea levels but, people and especially scientists are still not in agreement on global warming. Of these impacts, extinction of species has not been given much thought as only amphibians and some insects have been indicated as extinct. This is why the first mammal to extinct, the white lemuroid possum, a rare species with habitats in the mountain forests of Queensland Australia, should end the debate and get people down to action. Vulnerable species which live in threatened habitats can not survive small changes in temperature rise. Surveillance on them should be mounted as efforts to curb global warming are put in place. This brings to question whether countries or organizations have the capacity and resources to mount such surveillance on all species under threat. This may be possible in some developed nations but the third world countries might not be able to mobilize such resources. This means that some species will disappear never to be seen even without our notice (Peter 2008).
A divided stand between scientists on the global warming phenomenon is not going to help matters at this stage when an action and less arguing is needed to deal with greenhouse emissions. When the people supposed to come up with evidence and advice on such grave matters take different positions, policymakers and the general public is left confused about what is happening. When the writer sites the statistics of the last eight years to point out that there is no evidence of global warming, it should be noted that human-induced global warming has been occurring gradually since the industrial revolution. It is not practical then to use the data for one decade only. Global warming is also a natural phenomenon that made the earth habitable in the first place. What has changed is that this warming has been accelerated by the addition to the atmosphere of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide from human activities such as the combustion of carbon-based fuels. Significant rises in temperatures in the last century have been recorded. This is enough evidence to show that something is happening, that the earth’s resilience to absorb these gases has been compromised (Carter 2007).
Participation of countries with emerging economies such as China in international efforts to combat climate change is a big boost to reduction in greenhouse gases emissions. China alone contributed 18% of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 and is estimated to exceed the United States of America levels by 2010 which is the largest producer. The Kyoto protocol’s failure to impose limits on emissions of world emerging economies such as China and India put a dent in its success of reducing the same. Though China has not committed itself to carbon caps, its announcement of cutting down carbon dioxide emissions is a positive sign. This change of heart could be attributed to the rising concerns of threat to food security and rising water levels which could flood some cities in China. This points out that in developing the next treaty after Kyoto expires in 2012, all countries should have a responsibility in combating global warming whether developed or developing. A similar announcement and commitment from Mumbai would be a welcome surprise (Moffett and Oster 2007).
The use of solar panels for heating water in residential parts of China cities is the new mark of rising standards of living. This simple technique of using solar energy is a clear indication of commitment to use of clean energy from a country that injects into its electricity grid a coal-powered station every day. This is a move to be applauded since it not only reduces carbon dioxide emissions, but also air pollution from a country with eight of its cities among the top ten most polluted in the world. The country has also invested in production of wind turbines for its domestic use and export. These technologies of producing affordable clean energy will go a long way in reduction of carbon dioxide. Other nations should develop their own technologies that are affordable to their majority population and use renewable energy causing little or no pollution. Development of intermediate technologies that address the needs of the people will replace massive technologies that are energy inefficient in most countries (Climate Progress 2009).
Temperature rise of half a degree Celsius especially in the last two decades has tremendously affected individual animals and plants globally. Their breeding time, migration and flowering have been affected. These, in return have touched on their interactions between species and their distribution in the same habitat and in the whole ecosystem. These changes will bring about changes in their genes as they adapt to changing conditions. This will cause loss of genes and in vulnerable species extinction. The effects climate change will have on species in different localities are not yet known. This requires a lot of research to establish which localities need to be protected in order to preserve genetic diversity as the world tries to come up with measures to halt human-induced global warming (Kennedy 2008).
Research showing that trees are major producers of methane, a greenhouse gas, should not be interpreted to mean that planting trees to act as carbon sinks are effort in futility. It should be noted that, the process is purely natural and nature has a way of regulating itself and the process of global warming is what makes the earth habitable. The problem arises when this process is accelerated by increasing the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through human activities. However, a lot of research is required to establish the benefits deforestation and afforestation bring about both as a carbon sink, in the ecological processes and hydrological cycle. This will eliminate the confusion that such research produces. All this new evidence on climate change research will greatly help in shaping the successor to Kyoto protocol after 2012. This new treaty should put in place all aspects of global warming including putting into account carbon sinks which were not considered in the Kyoto protocol (Jha 2007).
Research and development into renewable sources of energy are paramount if the world nations are to combat global warming and the resultant climate change. Biofuels from crops have raised concerns about their viability due to environmental costs and threats to food security. This is however viable in some places where energy demand is not very large and when suited to people’s needs, it has proved to be a reliable energy source and employer in developing countries. Production of energy from second-generation fuels is another avenue that should be explored more. One such biofuel is cellulosic ethanol obtained from processing urban waste. This, if fully developed will provide a source of clean and renewable energy and also reduce the amount of waste municipal and city councils have to deal with. Enough research should however be done to ensure there are no impacts of such an activity to the environment such as air pollution from smoke (Science Daily 2009).
Scientists are yet to agree, unanimously, that there is global warming happening. As the authorities on the subject, they leave the public wondering who to believe or even trust. Respected scientists are coming out publicly to declare whether there is any global warming or not and whether it is human-induced or not depending on their own opinion and research. When all this is happening evidence to support there is something happening is noted daily around the world such as disappearance of species, changes in physiology of species and excessive melting of polar ice and ice sheets. Policymakers are left debating and divided on whether to adopt measures of reducing emissions or not. This leaves one wondering whether scientists are playing politics on such a grave matter. This has worked up the public against any measures to curb carbon emissions citing costs, economic disruption and loss of jobs. Their concerns are quite understandable but there is always a price to pay in correcting past mistakes (Tracinski and Minchin 2009).
The United Nations Scientific panel in 2007 concluded that global warming being experienced today is irreversible. It is clear from the report that anthropogenic activities have been the major cause of this worrying trend. It is also clear that release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from burning forests and smokestacks and tailpipes has led to an increase in average temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. This has led to intense debate on what to do. Business-class has grouped to pressure for federal regulations on greenhouse gases emissions. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that allows the warming of the earth’s surface but, with increased release of large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane gases due to industrial economies, earth’s warming has accelerated. The Scientific panel has forecast an increase in temperatures of 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. This will lead to 7 to 23 inches rise in sea levels (Associated Press 2007).
Clean and reliable sources of energy are what the world needs to move past the debate on global warming and emissions trading which has been politicized beyond scale. Apart from biofuels from crops and second-generation biofuels, there is the solar energy which if developed fully can be used in all parts of the world. The ultra-light technology being developed by a Swiss company using a copper indium compound is a breakthrough. This can be used in both small and large buildings and in power plants to provide energy for a wide range of processes. This technology can see remote places in the developing countries in Asia and Africa access affordable energy and prevention of many deaths caused by indoor pollution from unsuitable fuels. Solar energy can effectively curb carbon emissions and conserve the environment degraded by many years of excavation of the ground. The governments need to put the right policy environment for development and use of this source of energy (Pritchard 2007).
China and USA contribute 40% of all greenhouse gases emissions into the atmosphere. Past failures of these two countries to commit to Kyoto treaty for reduction of emissions have seen the treaty become almost a total failure. It is imperative for the Obama and Hu Jintao administrations to make major commitment to curb global warming since their past failure to do so has been unfair to other nations which had made the commitment. Chinas announcement of its policies at the UN summit in New York may leave the USA taking all the blame for the past failures especially if the Senate fails to pass the Cap-and-trade system bill, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, in the December Copenhagen Convention (Usborne 2009).
Reports by the World Wide Fund (WWF) in October 2008 could not have come at a better time. This was good timing to help policymakers look at, consult and formulate a swift action and commitment to cutting down emissions before this year’s December convection in Copenhagen. Rapid and massive loss in Arctic sea-ice within a period of fewer than thirty years is a clear indication things are getting out of hand and those involved should make a decisive action. This is also a warning to countries to start putting in place adaptive response measures to climate change. Incidences of strong cyclones, sinking of land in some parts of the world and severe droughts will require policies geared to dealing with them as they could result in food shortages and displacement of people. The United States of America, Australia and the European Union should use their influence to secure commitment to treaties for combating global warming in this year’s convection (Eccleston 2008).
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The government of New Zealand is committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions as per the Kyoto Protocol. The year 2009 has seen an estimated surplus of $242 million from the previous year’s deficit of $546 million on money that would have been used to buy credits. However, this positive improvement is not due to efficiency in production in the energy, transport and industrial sectors, but, due to reduced emissions from agricultural emissions due to experienced drought afforestation. Agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases are not as significant as in the other sectors mentioned above. This shows that the country has a lot to do in order to reach its target as these are temporary changes. It also shows that afforestation and reforestation measures can be integrated into the fight against greenhouse gases successfully (The New Zealand Herald 2009).
Scientists, experts and the general public should stand up and force their policymakers and governments to put up measures to combat global warming. This is because the effects of this phenomenon such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and snowmelt will affect the whole world irrespective of where they are. People should call upon their governments to take big steps in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Governments have in the past acted on false hope that the situation is not as urgent as scientists predicted calling them alarmist or hoping the situation will go away. It is however clear that urgent action needs to be taken as there is no time for more debate (Glaister and Randerson 2008).
This year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting was convened in New in September in what was expected to be a road map to Copenhagen in December. The most anticipated event was speech by China’s president on its policies in dealing with global warming, and most important commitment to cutting down carbon emissions. China and India were not included in the Kyoto Protocol for cutting their emissions despite being the second largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions. USA is not a signatory to Kyoto and president Obama’s announcement of his policies was also important and was expected to be influenced by China’s policies. This shows the importance of commitment to combating global warming by major carbon dioxide contributors (Blakenmore 2009).
World leaders gathered in New York for the United States General Assembly summit to outline their policies and specific commitments to global warming eradication. Japan’s prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama made the most ambitious commitment of cutting carbon emissions by 25% from the 1990 levels by 2020. This commitment was on condition that other industrial powers like USA, India and China showed commitment to cutting GHG emissions. This announcement was criticized at some quarters. This is however beneficial in some ways since it will put pressure on the named countries to outline their commitment which is verifiable. This is also a way forward in curbing Global warming as other nations such as China and USA made similar announcements though no specific details were given (Eilperin & Lynch 2009).
Japan has the second largest economy in the world and is fifth position in GHG emissions. It is hailed as the most efficient energy user in the world. In a climate symposium in Tokyo, the newly-elect prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, outlined his administration’s policies in regard to combating climate change. This he said would be on condition that other major polluters do the same. He argued that Japan alone cannot be able to combat global warming by cutting emissions and that it will have to be cooperated by the world. This is justified in that environmental problems know no boundaries as emissions from other nations will still accelerate global warming. If Japan were to do it alone it will only hurt its industries which have been pushed to the limit. Global warming will require concerted efforts of every nation (Kaneko & Gertz 2009).
The news of the Japanese prime minister’s declaration of cutting down carbon emissions by 25% on the 1990 levels was greeted with optimism. The prime minister then traveled to New York to deliver the same message at the United Nations summit. Being newly elected and making bold moves in matters of international concern shows how independent and strong he is. The world needs such leaders who think globally and acts locally to serves the interests of not only their people but the whole world. Other industrial powers should take such bold steps to combat global warming (Miks 2009).
Prime Minister Hatoyama won many hearts by announcing the most ambitious emissions-cutting policy at the United Nations summit in New York in September this year. The policy that captured the developing nations more is one on offering more aid to be able to cope with effects of climate change. Though his counterparts in China and USA tried to commit themselves they were seen to be rhetoric rather than proactive. China should give specific figures on emissions and specific guidelines they will use. On the other hand USA was preoccupied with domestic issues and president Obama failed to emphasize to his senate the urgency of the matter (People’s Daily 2009).
Prime Minister Hatoyama is positioning himself as a leader in the campaign against climate change. This will make Japan an influential power in this year’s Copenhagen convention that will see countries making a framework for combating global warming after Kyoto expires. This is shown by his calling upon China, India and USA to make challenging targets to cut emissions before the summit. This is important to this campaign as the first two polluters have no commitment under Kyoto protocol and the USA failed to ratify the Kyoto protocol leaving Japan as a major industrial power carrying the whole burden. If pressure from Japan to these polluters to make specific and high targets is to be implemented, this campaign will see more success than recorded under Kyoto (Energy Business Daily 2009)
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