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In the universally used sense, the term global warming refers to the steady warming of global standard temperatures as a result of to the slowly rising concentrations of artificial atmospheric greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. However global warming can otherwise refer to basically the observation of warming, devoid of implying the causes of warming.
Numerous scientists have over recent times documented weather induced changes in approximately 100 physical as well as approximately 500 biological processes. The Russian Arctic for instance, has experienced higher temperatures that have consequently melted the permafrost, resulting in the foundations of five storey apartment structures to slump. On the global scene, the rain is usually increasingly intense. Storms and floods are increasingly severe, and the heat waves are normally increasingly extreme. Rivers are usually freezing late in winter and melt sooner. Trees have been found to flower earlier in the spring, while the insects appear sooner the birds similarly lay their eggs earlier. Glaciers have been found to melt at alarming rates, as the global average sea level is rapidly rising.
Even if mankind minimizes the greenhouse gas emissions radically today, the aforementioned trends would continue for many years or even centuries into the future. The rate the anticipated climate change over the next century is unprecedented in all history. All through geologic time the mean global temperature has normally varied by 5°C over interludes of millions of years. Contemporary scientists perceive that the temperature of the earth’s surface, though it has by 0.6°C since the 19th century, is expected to rise by an extra 1.4 to 5.8°C during the 21st century. Such an extraordinarily fast rate of change will impinge on the fundamental systems of the earth upon which life relies on. This would include ocean circulation, the carbon, and hydrological as well as nutrient cycles. It would upset the managed and natural ecosystems that provide fiber, water, and food. It would also add to current environmental stresses like desertification, dilapidated water quality, stratospheric ozone exhaustion, urban air contamination as well as deforestation. Many researchers have invested significant efforts in analyzing how climate change may influence human society and the natural environment. These cause-and effect linkages are usually complicated and the timing blurred. There is also a better understanding than before concerning how mankind should adapt to the anticipated impacts and help the people who face the highest levels of vulnerability. This paper posits to investigate how Global Warming is affecting the entire planet and the available solutions to the phenomenon. This paper will employ empirical evidence and data from reputable sources that relate to the subject of global warming.
An overview of the problem of global warming
The underlying hypothesis of this study posits that global warming is a severe societal concern. In the contemporary times, the fundamental scientific foundation of global warming is well-known. The core crisis is that, burning of carbon-based (fossil) fuels like oil, coal, as well as natural gas results to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Gases such as CO2, which are referred to as greenhouse gases (GHGs), accrue in the atmosphere. These GHGs have an extremely long residence period, in the range of a century. Soaring concentrations of GHGs result in surface warming of oceans and the land. Over the long run, this generates profound changes in numerous systems of the earth and consequently to human and biological activities that are generally susceptible to the climate.
Long lived gases that remain semi-permanently within the atmosphere, and do not respond chemically or physically to alterations in temperature are expressed as forcing climate change. While gases, like water, which respond chemically or physically to alterations in temperature are regarded as feedbacks.
Gases that actively influence the greenhouse effect comprise of:
- Water vapor. This is the most plentiful greenhouse gas, but notably, it performs as a feedback in regard to the climate. Water vapor rises as the earth’s atmosphere warms up, but so does the likelihood of precipitation and clouds, making these some of the most vital feedback systems to the greenhouse effect.
- This is a hydrocarbon gas generated through human activities as well as natural sources, including agriculture particularly rice cultivation, the decay of waste in landfills, and ruminant digestion as well as manure management connected with domestic livestock. In regard to a molecule-for-molecule, methane is an exceedingly active GHG than carbon dioxide, and also less plentiful in the atmosphere.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2). This is a minor but incredibly significant component of the atmosphere. It is released during natural processes such as volcano eruptions, respiration as well as through human activities like changes in land use, deforestation, as well as burning of fossil fuels. Human activity has led to an increase in atmospheric CO2concentrations by approximately 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. CO2 is the also most important long lived force of climate change and hence global warming.
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These are synthetic compounds of industrial origin utilized in several applications. However, they are currently mainly regulated in production as well as discharge to the atmosphere by global agreements for their ability to influence the annihilation of the ozone layer.
- Nitrous oxide. This is a powerful GHG that is generated by practices in soil cultivation, especially the utilization of organic and commercial fertilizers, nitric acid generation, biomass burning, and combustion of fossil fuels.
Whilst the precise future extent and pace of warming is highly vague, especially beyond the next coming decades, there may be little scientific reservation that the globe has embarked on a significant series of unprecedented geo-physical changes for the past few thousand years. Several scientists have detected the premature symptoms of this syndrome evidently in a number of areas. The atmospheric concentrations and emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing, there are indications of rapidly rising mean surface temperatures, and diagnostic signals have been detected. These diagnostic signals include higher high-latitude warming, that are distinctive predictions of this meticulous kind of warming. Recent evidence as well as model predictions supposes that global average surface temperature will increase sharply in the coming century and beyond. The fourth evaluation report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produced in 2007, gave the estimation of the temperature change in the next century at 1.8 to 4.0 °C. Whereas this may seem as a diminutive change, it is highly hastier than any changes that have taken place for over a hundred centuries. Global emissions of carbon dioxide in 2006 were projected to be approximately 7½ billion tons. It would be useful to bring this gargantuan figure down to the 12 level of the household. This translates that, if a person drives a vehicle that consumes 28 miles for every gallon for a distance of 10,000 miles in a period of one year, the vehicle will release approximately 1 ton of carbon in the one year period. If this case was considered in terms of tons of carbon dioxide, which has a weight of 3.67 times more the weight of carbon, then the vehicle emissions would be approximately 4 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
In the perspective of an average household in the U.S, which consumes electricity at a rate of approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per annum, considering that the electricity is produced from coal, the household would release approximately 3 tons of carbon, or 11 tons of carbon dioxide per annum. On the other hand, if this electricity were produced by nuclear power, or if a person travels to work on a bicycle, the carbon emissions in regard to these activities would be approximately zero. Overall, the U.S emits approximately 1.6 billion tons of carbon per annum, which is to some extent in the range of approximately 5 tons per individual. For the globe, the total is approximately 7.5 billion tons a year, or approximately 1¼ tons for every person.
Global warming impact on the world economy
As it has been discussed earlier ion this paper, global warming is the most imperative environmental challenge in contemporary time. The manner in which it will be handled will generate far-reaching impact on the world economy. It is evident that scientific opinion has come together around the perspective that human activities have added great quantities of GHGs to the atmosphere, although natural forces have also played their role in the phenomenon. Prior to the financial meltdown that hit the global economy in 2008, sanguinity was prevalent that the U.S would rapidly enact emissions control measures. Congressional deliberations on the design of climate change control measures were vigorous as specialists and the public similarly reconsidered their position towards global warming. The relentless global economic downturn, however, slowed impetus towards climate action in the U.S and globally.
There was optimism that the Copenhagen summit may result in new and indomitable targets for minimizing greenhouse emissions. It was anticipated that it would commit the developing as well as the developed countries to pursue action. However, hard decisions on a synchronized global climate policy were hardly attained. In the short-term, national governments would insist on designing their individual methods for achieving agreed targets. In this scenario, trade conflicts as a result of disparities in policies relating to climate change policies are uncertain. A core US objection to implementing stringent action in regard to emissions controls is as a result of apprehension that heavy expenditure would make the position of US producers weak, resulting to the loss of jobs and production to overseas firms located in nations such as India and China that do not equally control carbon emissions.
Not surprisingly, the economic downturn intensified apprehension of losing competitiveness. An interrelated concern is that, eventually, U.S controls would be null and void in relation to climate change if emissions activities simply migrate to other nations and if the U.S controls do not generate adequate leverage to India and China as well as other big but unwilling emitting nations to take action. In addressing the leakage as well as leverage concerns, policymakers in the U.S have endeavored to include explicit provisions in their respective greenhouse gas control bills. These include the allotment of free allowances, special exemption from new controls, as well as border measures. Other nations have done similarly in binding legislation, for instance the European Union, or draft proposals as in the case of Canada and Australia.
Several experts investigated whether the climate policy alternatives the policymakers were contemplating were compatible with foundational principles of the global trading system as stipulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The experts argued that important restrictive measures as well as export subsidies in the climate bills considered by Congress stood a reasonable chance of being disputed in the WTO. While the WTO permits member countries immense flexibility in regard to implementing environmental standards in their territories, similar discretion is not applied in their trading associations with other nations. Possible disputes in regard to trade-restrictive measures would occur under a number of foundational WTO provisions. These include, GATT Article I that relates to most favored nation treatment, Article II that relates to tariff schedules, Article III that relates to national treatment, Article XI that relates to quantitative restrictions, and Article XX that relates to general exceptions, and the Agreement on Countervailing and Subsidies Measures. If the U.S enacts its unique kind of border taxes, import bans, as well as comparability mechanisms, in the premise that measures that exhibit GATT Articles I, III and XI would be spared by the exemptions of GATT Article XX, it would cause a drawn-out duration of relentless trade friction. Throughout these conflicts, some nations would focus on winning legal cases instead of confronting the universal adversary that is global warming. The apparent political equivalent with trade legislation is evident, in that measures to recompense harshly affected industries would be necessary to forge an alliance prepared to ratify controls on emissions of GHGs.
To address the leakage and leverage issues both of which are facets of the broader competitiveness program, trade-related legislation in regard to border adjustment agendas have acquired political support. On the other hand, trade measures may easily disrupt the broad scheme of trade liberalization that has proven extremely successful in advancing global economic growth ever since the World War II. They may as well hinder global negotiations to design an international climate framework. In addition, any performance standards imposed by the U.S on overseas firms, and any comparability assessment it imposes on foreign GHGs control systems, may be overturned and imposed on the U.S. For instance, the U.S may impose its individual carbon taxation or performance standards on importation of steel rebar products from India, alluding to an outstandingly high level of carbon emissions for every ton of rebar production from India. Consecutively, India may impose duty on importation from the U.S, citing the outstandingly high figure of United States per capita carbon emissions in comparison with the global average. Additionally, trade data depict that that the biggest foreign suppliers to the U.S of carbon-intensive commodities are nations such as the European Union, Canada, and these nations emit significantly less carbon than the U.S on a per capita or national basis. Furthermore, restrictive trade measures by the U.S may serve as a justification for other nations to erect blockade against imports from the U.S but not to serve as an efficient incentive to persuade developing nations to minimize their own GHGs emissions. It should be noted that in 2007 Chinese imports constituted an average of approximately 11% of U.S carbon-intensive imports in five major product clusters combined, accounting for 6% of U.S aluminum imports, 15% of U.S steel imports, 19% of U.S cement imports, and 12% of U.S paper imports. It is not evident that these trade shares, individually, generate ample leverage for the U.S to shape Chinese GHGs policies.
In view of the vague efficacy of trade measures, their prospects to disrupt trade, and their likely conflict with WTO regulations, recommend changes in current WTO regulations that may simultaneously achieve two goals. These goals include, creating a policy space for nations to limit emissions of GHGs without forfeiting the competitive advantage of their industries while maintaining an open trading system comparatively free of opportunistic, protectionist, and discrimination measures. The authors argued that members of the WTO ought to negotiate a code of good practice in regard to the WTO on GHGs emissions controls that would delineates a huge green space for measures designed to contain GHGs emissions both in the member country and internationally. The term green space is meant to refer to policy space for climate change measures that would be imposed in a way generally consistent with fundamental WTO principles even though a technical infringement of WTO regulation could occur. Measures that would conform to the green space regulations would not be subjected to dispute in WTO dispute resolution by nations subscribing to the code. To support the efforts of WTO negotiations along these lines, it is imperative that the U.S and other significant emitting nations adopt a time framed peace clause into their climate laws. This peace clause would delay the implementation of border measures or other extra-territorial controls for a definite period while WTO negotiations are in progress. The new code ought to promote, but not oblige, members into adopting GHGs carbon taxes, or to trade emissions permits, as preferred GHGs control measures. The rationale is that, as much as the emissions permits become a profitable transaction, the space for subsidies is lessened, and the grounds of comparing emissions expenditure between activities and across nations are vastly enhanced.
International Response to Global Warming
Since global GHGs emissions are concentrated amongst a few political entities, they are by definition critical to attaining the environmental goal of the Climate Convention. A regime that may not establish enough GHG mitigation obligations and/or inducements within the political entities, through domestic efforts, global agreements, or both will not succeed environmentally. In relation to the diversity of huge emitting nations, it is not easily possible to effectively address the global warming problem without the engagement of both the developing and developed nations. However, the explicit incentives as well as obligations within an accord are liable to differ by nations as a result of a diversity of factors, such as development level and economic structure. In this regard, it is usually said that effective climate agreements ought to be global. Effective mitigation agreements may not always be global, in the perspective of engaging all nations.
The least industrialized nations as well as small island developing nations, most of which have insignificant carbon emissions, are not decisive to GHG mitigation initiatives. The concentration of GHGs emissions amongst a comparatively small number of nations might propose likely changes in the structure of global climate negotiations with regard to mitigation course of action. Unconventional institutional models would be explored that connect the main emitting nations as a group, either outside or within the U.N. Climate Convention.
In 2009, the interested parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change assembled in Copenhagen to discuss two significant objectives. The first objective was to negotiate a new inventory of emissions cutback commitments in the perspective of the Kyoto Protocol. Since Kyoto imposes obligatory targets on industrialized countries only, this first objective was the principal focus of developing nations’ negotiators. The second objective was to make steps forward on an inventory of new accords that would go together with Kyoto or potentially substitute it in general. Several great emitters in the industrialized nations prioritized this second objective and were expressly satisfied to see Kyoto weaken into oblivion. Whatsoever the comparative prominence placed on these objectives, the meetings at Copenhagen were intended to revamp and essentially shape the evolving global climate system.
As the climate regime evolves, its design as well as degree of legalization has changed over time. An extremely compliant UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 instituted minimal and vague goals. Consequently, in1997 the parties involved concurred to a considerably rigid Kyoto Protocol, with obligatory targets as well as timetables for industrialized nations countries and specific regulations and procedures on how to apply them and monitor conformity. On the contrary, the pendulum has now swung back in the opposite direction.The latest set of agreements in Cancun and Copenhagen return to broad objectives and make no endeavor to establish explicit, obligatory commitments at the multilateral level. Up till now, the Kyoto Protocol signifies the summit of legalization as far as the climate regime .............
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