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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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Introduction

This unit explores the topic of climate change and global warming. We will begin by exploring how the Earth’s global mean surface temperature is determined through a global “balancing act” of the rate of energy that comes from the Sun and the rate at which the planet returns that energy into space. We will also discuss the natural greenhouse effect, and how this contributes to a balanced global climate. We will then go on to consider the human impact on the atmosphere, including the imp
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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

1.3 Framing nature matters as systems

Much of what is considered Nature is often codified as ‘systems’ – natural systems, ecosystems, ecological systems and/or environmental systems. Systems thinking is an active cognitive endeavour to conceptually frame reality. A key feature of framing Nature in terms of systems is the appreciation given to the multiple interrelationships and interdependencies that exist in the natural world.

The Thing – that is, the repercussions of the eighteenth-century European industri
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6.6.1 The Royal Commission on environmental pollution scenarios

The UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution produced (RCEP) its 22nd report Energy: the Changing Climate in June 2000. The Commission examined what changes would be needed in Britain's energy systems if, as suggested by the various reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2001), it should prove necessary to reduce the country's emissions of greenhouse gases by about 60 per cent by 2050.

The Commission investigated the various possibilities very tho
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6.3 (b) Switching to renewable energy sources

The use of renewable energy usually involves environmental impacts of some kind, but these are normally lower than those of fossil or nuclear sources.

Approaches (a) and (b) are essentially ‘supply-side’ measures – applied at the supply end of the long chain that leads from primary energy production to useful energy consumption.


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5.3 The rebound effect

When individuals or organisations implement energy efficiency improvements, they usually save money as well as saving energy. However, if the money saved is then spent on higher standards of service, or additional energy-consuming activities that would not have otherwise been undertaken, then some or all of the energy savings may be eliminated. This tendency is sometimes known as the ‘rebound effect’. For example, if householders install improved insulation or a more efficient heating boi
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4.2 Solar energy

Solar energy, it should firstly be stressed, makes an enormous but largely unrecorded contribution to our energy needs. It is the sun's radiant energy, as noted in Box 2, that maintains the Earth's surface at a temperature warm enough to support human life. But despite this enormous input of energy to our ci
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3.4 Bioenergy

Not all fuel sources are, of course, of fossil or nuclear origin. From prehistoric times, human beings have harnessed the power of fire by burning wood to create warmth and light and to cook food.

Wood is created by photosynthesis in the leaves of plants. Photosynthesis is a process powered by solar energy in which atmospheric carbon dioxide and water are converted into carbohydrates (compounds of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen) in the plant's leaves and stems. These, in the form of wood o
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3.1 Introduction

So what are the principal energy systems used by humanity at present, and how sustainable are they?

Until quite recently, human energy requirements were modest and our supplies came either from harnessing natural processes such as the growth of plants, which provided wood for heating and food to energise human or animal muscles, or from the power of water and wind, used to drive simple machinery.


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2.4 Natural science valuation: towards ecological restoration

While the previous two subsections dealt with the social sciences, the ideas of ecology represent more the natural sciences tradition. In the early years of controversy around how to practise sustainable development, some concern was expressed about the perceived bias towards social rather than natural sciences. Bryan Norton (1992), for example, is critical of the social scientific approach. He argues that reliance on standard economic and other social scientific tools will not be enough to e
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2.2.2 Environmental economics and green consumerism

In economic terms, green consumerism is typically expressed using measures based on the willingness to pay (WTP) principle. As mentioned above, this takes two main forms: eco-taxation, in which environmental costs are estimated and added to the price of commodities (e.g. vehicles with high carbon emissions); and eco-labelling, in which products are labelled with relevant environmental information, such as is now required by the food industry and governments in many industrialised count
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2.2.1 Environmental economics

Environmental economics emerged as a sub-discipline in the 1960s, following a tradition that began in the early twentieth century with ‘agricultural’ economics and continued in the 1950s with ‘resource’ economics. In each case, natural resources are treated as environmental assets in the same way as other resource inputs, using the classical mainstream supply and demand economic models. David Pearce, who at one stage was at the forefront of environmental economics and was an ac
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2.2 Economic valuation: towards ecological economics

The blue whale could have supplied indefinitely a sustainable yield of 6000 individuals a year.

This is one of the earliest references to sustainability in the literature, taken from the 1971 edition of the science journal Nature (cited in Senge et al., 2006, p. 45). Here, the blue whale is given instrumental value – a means of measuring not the survival of the blue whale for its intrinsic v
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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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References

Allison, L. (1991) Ecology and Utility: The Philosophical Dilemmas of Planetary Management, Leicester, Leicester University Press.
BBC (2008) ‘The wrong way to a warmer world?’ [online], BBC News, 3 April, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/analysis/7328634.stm (accessed 15/4/10).
van den Born, R.J.G. (2008) ‘Rethinking nature: public visions in the Netherlan
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2.1 Conversing with environment

Consider a situation involving what might be regarded as eco-social collapse. For example, the trigger of global warming (caused primarily by use of fossil fuels in developed countries) has encouraged the rapid development of biofuel agriculture through grants from rich countries in the global North to Brazil and other tropical countries in the global South. This has generated both ecological problems (deforestation, pesticide pollution, etc.) and socio-economic problems – particularly with
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Learning outcomes

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

  • appreciate different connotations and traditions of the terms ‘nature’ and ‘environment’ in the context of environmental responsibility;

  • use conversation as a core metaphor for describing ‘what matters’ in environmental responsibility;

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


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Introduction

This unit explores different understandings of nature and environment and the significance these may have for developing responsibility. The problems of connecting human and non-human nature are presented here as being a challenge peculiar to the concerns of environmental responsibility. They provide the impetus for exploring the idea of ‘conversation’ as a metaphor for what matters in environmental responsibility. Using a reading by Stephen Talbott as a foundation, the conversation me
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