Smoking does NOT cause cancer

Smoking does not cause cancer… and fossil fuels do not cause global warming.

Whether or not you agree with the correlation of global warming and the production of fossil fuels, are you really that attached to your double ply tushie cushie Depends-thickness toilet paper, your fork-destroying hand-munching garbage disposal, and your jack-hammer strength 8-jet 360 degree open-your-mouth-for-too-long-and-you-might-drown shower, that you can’t bear to sacrifice any of those things if there was even a slight chance that it could help save our environment and ensure a beautiful planet for your children and grandchildren? Um, hello? Anybody in there?

You do realize that if you over water plants they die, right? And no, plants do NOT know the difference between bottled and tap water. You must be aware that Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola Co’s Dasani are both made from purified water sourced from public reservoirs – right? Riiight!?

Ok, some serious questions people…

Do you reeallly believe you have to run your dishwasher on a daily basis because if you don’t drink from your favorite coffee mug every morning,  consequentially your boss will happen to pick that day to hold an impromptu evaluation on your value (or lack thereof) to the company? You really don’t think that might be due to the fact that you skipped three days of work last month because “your car wouldn’t start”, “your dog died…for the second time” and “Harold Camping said the world was going to end”?

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The Struggle: Science vs. Society

Merging the ideals of scientists and environmentalists with those of current decision-makers is not an easy task. In order to have a successful science-policy dialogue, several obstacles must be overcome. We must link issues of biodiversity and sustainability to development issues that speak to the general public, which will in turn create concern among policy-makers. If society at large is uninterested in a particular subject, the chances politicians will be on board are very slim. Creating public hype or concern on a subject people know little about can pose quite a challenge. Another challenge is identifying policies that can address multiple environmental issues at a time. Every issue has its trade-offs, and most countries will barely even bat an eyelash for environmental protection unless policies also serve to helping achieve their own personal sustainable development objectives. Market imperfections such as: “perverse  energy, water, agricultural and transportation subsidies; the lack of recognition of the value of natural resources; failure to appropriate the global value of natural resources; failure to internalize the social costs of environmental degradation into the market price of a resource; the failure to invest in research and development of future technologies; and limited technology transfer to, and the inefficient use of technologies in developing countries” are all significant obstacles that need to overcome in order to significantly influence decision-making (Watson 2005).

Certain conditions can foster better and more effective interactions between policymakers and society at large than others. Two general requirements for success in biodiversity assessments are: a government mandate and adequate outreach. Firstly, without sufficient government involvement, research lacks the opinion of potential users, and therefore misses a vital contribution for an assessment’s success. Secondly, without adequate outreach and communication with these users both before and after the compilation of reports, the assessment is relying solely on what the scientific community deems important, bypassing user needs entirely. In addition to these general requirements, it helps to have a group or organization who’s opinion the public trusts that can provide knowledgeable and trustworthy judgement calls on various environmental issues and their importance. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is an example of one such process.

In recent decades, science has undergone a marked increase in political undertone. The bottom line is, once environmental issues are linked to human harm or societal degradation, those issues become a lot more pertinent. For instance, government-implemented policies to reduce the production of ozone-depleting substances followed solid scientific evidence that indirectly linked human activities to increased incidences of skin cancer in light-skinned people. Such circumstances cannot be taken lightly by politicians without significant public backlash. Anything that helps policy-makers appear to care more about issues as important as public health than their adversaries is a priority in their minds. The fact that policies to reduce skin cancer happen to coincide with scientists’ environmental agenda is just dessert.

Watson, R.T., 2005. Turning science into policy: challenges and experiences from the science-policy interface. The Royal Society B (360): 471-477.

Climate Change

Climate Change and Society

Climate change does not only have an impact on the natural world, but on society and the economy as well. Both developing and developed countries will be impacted and will undergo significant changes in a variety of ways.

As global warming continues, many previously uninhabitable areas become desirable as a more comfortable living climate ensues. This is the basis for why developing nations are vulnerable to climate change. The slightest global temperature increase can cause drastic changes. This increase may be beneficial for colder mountain regions such as Northern Russia which will experience extensive snowmelt, opening up new areas for development. However, for countries like Nigeria, this could mean unbearable heat waves. Equatorial and low-latitude regions will become too hot, causing a decrease in crop yield and economic return, increasing civil unrest. For simple reasons like geography, the Northern Hemisphere, which houses more developed nations like the United States and Canada, are more likely to draw inhabitants that seek refuge from the blazing heat of the lower latitudes, triggering an economic boom to already affluent nations.

Global warming not only affects migration, it has a direct effect on many economic sectors. If strict carbon dioxide regulations are enacted as a response to global warming, purchasing carbon offsets may become increasingly desirable to high-emission industries. Planting Leucaena trees (an unusually fast carbon dioxide metabolizer), is an option for greenhouse-offset businesses. An increase in precipitation, should it arise (especially in the form of downpours that would normally cause flooding), would create a high interest in water-related investments such as hydropower. The melting of Arctic sea ice could trigger a boom in the commercial shipping industry as previously icebound seas become available for transit routes. While routes across the North Pole region will become more viable (resulting in decreased shipping costs from East Asia to the United States), traffic in port cities such as Singapore may decline.

In order to keep up with an ever-developing world, developing countries need a plan of action that will allow them to adapt to climate change while still pursuing development goals. Governments would benefit more from enacting incentives for the private sector to develop innovative greenhouse gas reduction methods then from conducting this research themselves – progress would be both faster and more cost-effective. Investments in bioengineered crops designed to sustain higher temperatures would also prove beneficial, as well as those in energy-efficient buildings and cars. Although the list of potential adaptations is long, the most important step is for these countries to accept global warming and its effects on the local economy in order to take the necessary steps towards a sustainable future for their people.

As countries brainstorm the best climate change plan of action, they often ask, “What’s in it for us?” Whatever the reason, it is increasingly clear that nations worldwide would benefit from accepting the implications of global warming and acting accordingly. In fact, the sooner the better