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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Text

Box 1: ‘O sweet spontaneous’. Copyright 1923. Trustees for the E E Cummings Trust.

Box 5: Maugh, T H (2008) ‘The MIT Meteorologist’s theory
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References

Capra, F. (1996) The Web of Life. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., and, in the UK, reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Capra, F. (2002) The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimension of Life into a Science of Sustainability. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., and, in the UK, reprin
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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

1.4.2 Engaging with multiple perspectives

A systems approach begins when first you see the world through the eyes of another.

(Churchman, 1968, p. 231)

The Ulrich reading is an extract from an article written in honour of another systems philosopher, C. West Churchman. Also drawing on Churchman's influence, Jake Chapman sums up two qualities of systems thinking in terms of ‘gaining a bigger picture (going up a level of abstraction) a
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1.4.1 Dealing meaningfully with holism

Ulrich's primary observation is quite straightforward. Any system as a human construct is unable to capture the total complexity of interrelationships and interdependencies that make up the real world. This idea resonates with the paradox of framing referred to by Moore. It also resonates with Ilan Kapoor's reference to the work of Slavoj Žižek, quoted earlier: ‘Reality is what we (mistakenly) take to be wholeness or harmony, while the Real denotes the impossibility of wholeness’ (Kapoo
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1.4 Nature matters in terms of a critical systems literacy

The systems philosopher and social planner Werner Ulrich has long argued for a more ethically informed idea of systems. Before looking at Ulrich's ideas, however, it is worth returning to examine the relevance of the earlier Moore and Martell readings to this subject.

One of the hallmarks of systems thinking is a recognition of the limits of holism, relating to the problem of aesthetic framing expressed by Ronald Moore (2006, p. 263):

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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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1.2 A framing paradox: experiencing nature with cognitive tools

Whilst language tools are helpful in conveying meaning in conversation amongst humans, establishing what matters in ‘conversation’ between human and non-human nature, or amongst non-human living entities, requires different cognitive tools. Cognition refers to the way in which external information from the environment is processed. As sentient beings, humans and some other animals are able to experience wellbeing and suffering. In the next reading, Ronald Moore examines how we engage with
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1.3.5 Corporate connections

As I mentioned in Section 2, what was happening in the factories of overseas contractors was said to have appeared remote to most, if not all, the chief executive officers of the clothing multinationals in the 1980s. Overseas contractors were selected on the basis of market price, quality and reliability, not on whether forced or child labour happened to be employed to stitch the product together. However, all that changed in the early 1990s when the geographical ties between the big retailer
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1.2.5 Offshore fragments of industry: a pro-market standpoint

From a pro-market standpoint, global market forces and the competitive pressures that they generate leave businesses with no choice but to take advantage of lower labour costs elsewhere. In the textile business or the toy business, lower wage costs are the key to profitability; if your competitors find a cheaper labour source, you either follow their example or go out of business. It is not, so the argument runs, because managers lack integrity or compassion that there are now more manufactur
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1.2.3 Activity 2

Before you read on, I would like you to dwell for just a moment on the significance of this shift from direct investment by Western firms to the establishment of subcontracting ties with overseas partners. Aside from outside firms being able to p
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1.2.2 Offshore fragments of industry

The rise of global factories in the 1970s owed much to the rapid improvement in transport and communications technologies which took place at that time and which made it possible to keep in touch with, and control, production processes in different parts of the world. Just as significant was the fragmentation of industrial production whereby parts of the manufacturing process could be relocated over vast distances. Sewing in garment and footwear production, for instance, was among the
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1.1.2 Activity 1

You have already glanced at Figure 1 and some of the worki
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Table

Box 4: Four Scenarios for 2050, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 22nd Report, Energy– The Changing Climate, June 2000. Crown copyright material is reproduced under class licence number C01W0000065 with the p
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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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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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6.5 Changing patterns of energy use

Before considering the feasibility, and the plausibility, of radical changes in patterns of energy production and consumption, of the kind that will be needed during the first half of the twenty-first century if we are to progress towards sustainability, it is useful to recall the profound changes that have already occurred in our energy systems during the latter half of the twentieth century.

In Britain just after World War II most homes and other buildings were heated by coal. Most el
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6.2 (a) ‘Cleaning-up’ fossil and nuclear technologies

This means mitigating some of the adverse ‘environmental’ consequences of fossil and nuclear fuel use through the introduction of new, ‘clean’ technologies that should substantially reduce pollution emissions and health hazards. These include ‘supply-side’ measures to improve the efficiency with which fossil fuels are converted into electricity in power stations; cleaner and more efficient combustion methods; the increasing use of ‘waste’ heat in combined heat-and-power scheme
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6.1 Introduction

So far, we have briefly introduced three key approaches to improving the sustainability of human energy use in the future. These are:

  • (a) ‘cleaning-up’ fossil and nuclear technologies;

  • (b) switching to renewable energy sources;

  • (c) using energy more efficiently.


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