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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4.2.1 Eco-efficiency = money in the bank

Business can profit from taking the environment into account (generally called eco-efficiency). Poor environmental performance is seen as a reflection of poor business practice in general. Eco-efficiency promotes the economic benefits of energy and materials savings, at the same time being first to market with new technologies or products. Since business sustainability lobbies promoted eco-efficiency in the early 1990s, the creed has gained rapid acceptance, and with good cause. There
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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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3.3.1 Too late for the nation state?

Nation states have long been thought of as comprising citizens who ‘share the same fate’. For a long time it made sense to think in terms of the shared fate of members of a nation state (although different social classes would generally have experienced different versions of this fate). However, the global economic, political and social flows described in this chapter, and the global environmental changes charted throughout this book, make it much more difficult to think in terms of clear
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3.3 Green governance needs citizens

The term ‘good governance’ implies that ‘ordinary people’ will be involved in deciding what to do, trying to make it happen, and deciding whether it has happened (debate, implementation, monitoring). But what, in practical terms, might citizen involvement in the governance of an issue such as climate change mean? Citizen involvement in decisions and actions can mean anything from filling in a questionnaire to joining a demonstration to sitting on a committee. One helpful approach is A
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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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4.3 Technical and behavioural actions

The numbers generated by the carbon calculator use a computer model based on some of the best information available. However, as I mentioned earlier, the results are not exact because calculators typically require you to enter broad categories of information about yourself and your household. And there are always uncertainties about some of the data on which the calculator is based. Nevertheless, the calculator allows you to explore the important actions needed to lighten your carbon load and
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3 How heavy is your footprint?

You've seen that individual and household carbon footprints vary widely both within and between countries. So, in this section you'll be working out your own carbon footprint using the computer-based calculator linked in the box below. This is the Quick version of this calculator. A more detailed and complete version is available when formally studying the Environment: journeys through a changing
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2.3 International comparisons of carbon footprints

You've seen that the carbon footprint of an individual or household is a simple idea, but calculating it can be quite complicated. It depends on whether you count only CO2 or include other greenhouse gases; whether you count only the emissions generated within a country or include imports and exports; and whether you count emissions from government activities as part of a citizen's carbon footprint.

This means that international comparisons can be difficult and so are usually
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1.1.2 The carbon footprint boundary

Depending on where you draw the boundary, the carbon footprint can apply to an individual person, a household, an organisation or event, a product, a city, region or country, or the whole world. I'll mainly be considering the footprints of individuals, households and the countries they occupy.

But even then the boundary needs to be defined carefully. Sometimes the carbon footprint is taken to mean the individual's or household's direct CO2 emissions, main
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References

Edwards, P. N. and Schneider, S. H. (2001) Self-governance and peer review in science-for-policy: the case of the IPCC Second Assessment Report, in Miller, C. and Edwards, P. N. (eds) Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Available from: http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Mediarology/Mediarology.html (accessed 10 May 2007).
IPCC (2000) Land Use, L
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2.8 End of unit question

Question 12

The writer and campaigner George Monbiot wrote the following (in The Guardian Weekly, 10 February 2000): ‘Every time someone in the West switches on a kettle, he or she is helpting to flood Bangladesh’. What is th
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2.6.1 Weighing up the evidence: the full cast of suspects

Figure 36 (again adapted from the TAR) takes your thoughts on Question 11 on a stage. It gives estimates of the cumulative effect since pre-industrial times of the various climate change agents, with the contributions expressed in terms of radiative forcing. Note that the figure also includes yet another device for communicating the IPCC's confidence in a particular finding – an indication of the ‘level of scientific understanding’ that accompanies each estimate. This reflects the autho
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2.5.2 Environmental indicators

The notion of a link between climatic conditions and the behaviour of plants and animals (e.g. the growth of trees or coral) and the composition of natural communities or ecosystems (the type of vegetation in a given area, say) is fundamental to the use of proxy data to reconstruct past climates. Some examples of biological responses to recent climate change were included in Box 9. Here we should be wary of jumping to conclusions. Such changes involve complex living systems that can respond i
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2.2.1 Long-term rhythms in the climate

The instrumental record referred to above is based on direct temperature measurements (using thermometers), and extends back only 150 years or so. Temperatures further back in time are reconstructed from a variety of proxy data. These include historical documents, together with natural archives of climate-sensitive phenomena, such as the growth or retreat of glaciers, tree rings, corals, sediments and ice cores (see Author(s): The Open University

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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2.1 Preamble

Here are some quotes from the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ (SPM) included in the report from the scientific working group in the IPCC TAR (IPCC, 2001a):

  • The Earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities.

  • Globally, it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instru
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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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1.6 The human impact on the atmosphere: the coming of the industrial age

There is no doubt that CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. The record from Mauna Loa charts a continuing rise in CO2 concentration since measurements began in 1958, when the level was 315 ppm; the value had reached about 370 ppm by the end of the 20th century, and hit more than 378 ppm in 2004. Important as changes in atmospheric CO2 undoubtedly are (see below), we need to be aware that this is not the whole story of human-induced greenhouse forcing. In par
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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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