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3.3.3 Obligations to trees?

Citizenship is generally held to be based on a contractual view, where rights and obligations are balanced. In other words, you get various rights in return for your commitment to live by your society's rules and expectations. Political philosopher Andrew Dobson suggests that ecological citizenship is based in a non-reciprocal sense of justice or compassion. The discussion of our relationships with past and future generations in Section 5.2 establishes that our obligations to future generatio
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Acknowledgements

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence, see terms and conditions). This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following:

Figures

Figur
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1 A climate change icon

The polar bear has become an international climate change icon. But how much is known about this bear, its habitat and life? This unit will talk about the role of language, but by way of introduction how about the name of this bear? To me it is the polar bear; to a German it is an Eisbär (ice bear) and to a French person it is an ours blanc (white bear). In these three examples the bear is referred to as polar, white, or an ice bear – eminently sensible. The Latin name for th
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Introduction

The scientific theory of plate tectonics suggests that at least some of these Arctic lands were once tropical. Since then the continents have moved and ice has changed the landscape. This unit will concentrate on evidence from the last 800,000 years using information collected from ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, and will use this evidence to discuss current and possible future climate. The cores show that there have been nine periods in the recent past when large areas of the Earth
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6.1 ‘I’, ‘we’ or ‘they’?

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action.

(Al Gore, 2007)

There are some things that we can do as individuals: making this an energy-efficient house and making smart transport choices. Then there a
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5.3 Moving towards a sustainable carbon footprint

So far, you've been considering reductions in average individual or household carbon footprints by 20% to 30% or more.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that this will not be enough. As I mentioned in Section 4, developed countries, like Britain, Germany and America, will have to reduce their CO2e emissions by 60% to 80% or more by 2050 to prevent climate change running out of control, while at the same time allowing the growing populations of Africa, India and China to r
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2.2.2 Temperature changes over the past millennium

One of the most striking images in the IPCC TAR is reproduced (in adapted form) in Figure 24. Together, these two temperature records tell a compelling story, crystallised in our earlier quotes from the SPM. So let's just pause to take a closer look at each of them.

Figure 24

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2.2 Records of the Earth's temperature

To put the temperature records reported by the IPCC in context, we start with a longer-term geological perspective on the Earth's GMST.


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1.8 End of section questions

Question 5

1.5 ‘Radiative forcing’ as an agent of climate change

Since its first major report in 1990, the IPCC has used the concept of ‘radiative forcing’ as a simple measure of the importance of a potential climate change mechanism. The basic idea is straightforward. Any factor that disturbs the radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere has the potential to ‘force’ the global climate to change: it will either warm up or cool down until a balance is restored. The perturbation to the energy balance of the whole Earth-atmosphere system i
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2.4.2 Ecological restoration

The changing science of ecology, coupled with a greater awareness and development of alternative styles of managing natural resources, continues to influence our notion of what is good and what is right for nature. One of the first and most influential formal expressions of an environmental ethic that arose from early organic and ecosystems models of ecology was that of Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s argument is regarded as an environmental ethic because it explicitly gives moral consideration to,
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2.2.3 Ecological economics

Ecological economics, which formally came to prominence in the mid-1980s, represents a departure from reliance on the use of mainstream economic modelling. Instead, it branches out to actively engage with and incorporate the ethical, social and behavioural dimensions of environmental issues. In short, ecological economics attempts to provide an interdisciplinary approach to environmental issues, whereas environmental economics maintains the primacy of economic modelling.

Mark Sag
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Learning outcomes

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

  • describe environmental matters regarding obligation and entitlements from a ‘caring’ perspective;

  • appreciate the significance of environmental consequentialist ethics in conversations around developing care;

  • identify and compare formal and less formal expressions of environmental responsibility;

  • understand ‘accountability’ in the context of environmental issues;

  • ide
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Introduction

Nature Matters considers environmental responsibility and what may matter from a caring perspective and an accountability perspective. A reading by Andrew Light reflects on four key debates in environmental ethics regarding the way in which nature is valued, and prompts the question on how such debates might inform environmental responsibility.

Section 2 examines the formal processes involved in developing accountability in the context of sustainable development. The persuasiveness of t
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7.4 Closing thoughts

Of course, doing anything about this needs scientific evidence and understanding, but it also requires social, economic and technological changes, which can only be achieved through political will. If you want to explore some of the broader context, a good place to start would be the New Internationalist issue 357, ‘The Big Switch: Climate Change Solutions’ at New Internationalist.

Faced with the sort of predictions climatologists are making, is it sufficient for science teac
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7.3 Running the models forward

What happens when the models are run forward? It depends upon the models used and the scenarios they are asked to run. It seems almost certain, however, that there will be increases in the global mean surface temperature, to the order of +1.5 to +4.5 °C (– possibly more, according to some models and scenarios.

These changes are predicted to be associated with increases in sea level, changes to weather conditions (e.g. more regular and violent winter storms in the UK) and changes to t
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4 Further reading

For information on changes to flora, click on Science magazine.

For changes to fauna, and economic effects, go to Information Sheet 4, or for the paper quoted at the top of the screen, Information Sheet 1, both at Climatic Research Unit.

Click on 'View document' to open the data-smoothing information

3 Recorded temperatures

Analyses of over 400 proxy climate series (from trees, corals, ice cores and historical records) show that the 1990s was the warmest decade of the millennium and the 20th century the warmest century. The warmest year of the millennium was 1998, and the coldest was probably 1601. (Climatic Research Unit, 2003)

Throughout historical times, fluctuations in the Earth's mean temperature have been recorded. During the seventeenth century, the Thames periodically froze over during winter and m
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2 A 4.6 billion-year history

Climate change is a natural process of warming and cooling that has occurred all through the Earth's history. Throughout geological time there have been ‘hot-house’ periods and ice ages. In order to understand the current situation, it is necessary to have some sense of context and perspective, from historical and geological time-scales. The document below shows a chart showing a generalised temperature history of the Earth.

Click on 'View document' to see the chart

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1 Natural climate change?

The chart below shows a record of the global mean surface temperature of the Earth compiled for the past 140 years. Clearly there is an upward trend, but what does a chart like this really show?

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