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1.3.2 Search engines and subject gateways

Although both search engines and subject gateways will help you find the resources that you need, the types of information that you find will differ.

Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! search the internet for keywords or phrases, and then show you the results. These results are not mediated by the search engines, and therefore you need to use your own judgement on the reliability of the results. You may, for example, find websites written by experts, alongside websites written by
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4.3.2 Complementary currencies

Complementary currencies also demand a rethink of our economy, but have a more imaginative and radical edge. Because of the difficulties with conventional monetary systems, various alternatives are being tried. These are usually restricted to a particular group of people, and so are called ‘local’ or ‘complementary’ currencies. They are generally based in a local community and enable people to exchange goods and services without resorting to ‘traditional’ currency. Some are
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4.3.1 Ecological tax reforms

Communities such as Findhorn already behave as if natural resources need careful management: they work hard to reduce fossil fuel use. A central assumption of this way of thinking is that people need to root economies more locally (Figure 15). To see the same impulse spread through the mainstream economy would require that th
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4.2.3 Business needs sustainability

The second argument is more profound: long-term profitability, and the existence of business itself, is threatened if companies can't transform themselves. This assumes that although the costs of environmental and social impacts can be ignored for a period, in the context of globalisation of environmental, social and political processes, they will come back to haunt businesses, and ultimately threaten their survival. There are several communications and management tools that have been develop
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3.3.4 Home-grown compassion, not public commitments

It has long been held that we conduct all citizenship, and the obligations it implies, in the public sphere (i.e. outside the private sphere of the home). However, it has been argued that there are other potential sources of obligation. Andrew Dobson argues that the principal duties of the ecological citizen are to act with care and compassion to strangers, both human and non-human – not just in the present, but also those distant in space and time (Dobson, 2000). These virtues of care and
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3.2.2 Good green governance in five easy steps

It would be a serious error to imagine that ‘government’ has evaporated: it still shapes many aspects of our lives from beginning to end (welfare, taxation, transport and, of course, the recording of births and deaths). Governments are the central negotiators of environmental-change policies at international level, and of their implementation at national and local level. Nevertheless, for many areas of life, governance is undeniably a better description both of new processes that are alre
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2.2 Vibrant civil societies and a networked globe

One thing is common to all three attempts to find a route to a sustainable economy and society: in different ways they all assume that people will get actively involved in making human societies more sustainable. But this transformation will not take place through the corporate world's promises, by local protectionism, a return to ‘strong states’ or the publication of numerous indicators. Any of the three positions outlined above requires interactions and feedbacks created by a vibrant
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2.1 Political responses to climate change and the environment

Not for the first time in this book, you are faced with a term that is important but difficult to define precisely. Although the fact that plenty of people from different standpoints are using the term ‘globalisation’ is some measure of its importance, it can be confusing to find that there are different ways of framing what it means for humans and the environment today and in the future. In this section, the range of political responses to climate change and environment–economy interac
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4 The end of the last ice age: the Holocene

I have already noted that the great ice sheets took about 100,000 years to form and only about 10,000 years to decay. So what happened at the end of the last ice age? Figure 15 shows the EPICA ice core CO2 concentration and air temperature for the most recent 20 000 years, which is within the last ice
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1.8 End of section questions

Question 5

1.7 Summary

  1. Figure 12 summarises the ways in which the Earth's surface and atmosphere gain and lose energy. The main points are as follows:

     

    • A proportion (the planetary albedo) of the incoming shortwave radiation from the Sun is reflected (or scattered) directly back to space, mainly by clouds and the Earth's surface (especially snow and ice cover), but also by aerosols (e.g. dust, salt particles, etc.). Most of the re
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1.4 An overview of the global energy budget

Figure 12 incorporates the additional factors considered in Section 1.3, including the non-radiative energy transfers across the surface-air boundary (green arrow). Essentially a more detailed version of Figure 7, this figure gives quantified estimates of the globally averaged energy budget for the whole Earth-atmosphere system, and its component parts. Question 3 should help you to find your way around Figure 12, and to draw together many of the key points developed so far in this chapter. M
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1.3.4 The role of convection in the atmosphere

We come now to our final refinement to the simple picture in Figure 7. Recall that the troposphere is heated from below, with temperature then falling with increasing altitude. This situation sets the scene for the onset of convection – the bulk flow or circulation of a fluid driven by differences in temperature. Convection in the atmosphere plays a vital role in two further mechanisms – quite apart from the emission of longwave radiation – whereby energy is transferred from the
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1.3 Energy flows within the Earth-atmosphere system

Before we focus on the enhanced greenhouse effect, we need to refine the schematic representation in Figure 7 and draw in some of the other processes that influence the Earth's temperature – not only at the surface, but also at different levels within the atmosphere.


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1.2.1 Heating and cooling the Earth: the overall radiation balance

The Sun emits electromagnetic radiation with a range of wavelengths, but its peak emission is in the visible band – the sunlight that allows us to see. The wavelength of radiation has important climatic implications, as we shall see shortly. For now, we are mainly interested in the overall rate at which energy in the form of solar radiation reaches the Earth.

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1.1 Introduction

At the beginning of the 21st century, terms such as the ‘greenhouse effect’, ‘greenhouse gases’ and ‘greenhouse warming’ are printed or spoken thousands of times a week in the context of climate change caused by human activities. This section is designed to consolidate your understanding of the basic science behind these terms, and then to review what is known about the human impact on the composition of the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial age, commonly put (in this co
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2.3 Citizens in conversation with nature and experts

Before leaving office in 2008, Sir David King (the ex-Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government) introduced an ethical code for scientists. This drew particularly on his experience in working across the scientific–political divide on issues of climate change. The code comprises three attributes of scientific endeavour: rigour, representation and responsibility (Author(s): The Open University

2.2 Environmental pragmatism: positioning expert support

I believe that the principal task for an environmental pragmatism is not to reengage the … debates in environmental ethics but rather to impress upon environmental philosophers the need to take up the largely empirical question of what morally motivates humans to change their attitudes, behaviours, and policy preferences toward those more supportive of long-term environmental sustainability.

(Light, 2002, p. 446)


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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • understand why systems thinking might be useful and know something about how it can be applied in the context of environmental responsibility;

  • describe the significance of environmental pragmatism and cognitive justice as tools for supporting environmental policy and action.


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References

Anon (2002) ‘The Windicator’, Windpower Monthly, January, p. 50.
Blake, William (1994) The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Dover Publications.
Boyle, G. (1966, 2003) Renewable Energy, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Open University.
BP (2002) BP Statistical Review of World Energy [on
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