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3.1 Who will make the decisions?

Where will the decisions be made that will result in meaningful action on climate change, and who will make them stick? Following climate change politics in the media can give the impression that most of the action on climate change is going on between national decision makers in international forums. It is important to keep in mind that these forums have resulted from persistent pressure from a combination of grassroots environmental activists and a global network of science and policy exper
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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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1.1 What is 'globalisation'?

Activity 1 What does ‘globalisation’ mean to you?

Note down on paper or in your learning journal  your first tho
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Introduction

Human societies have to take urgent action to end their dependence on fossil fuels. They also have to prepare to adapt to the uncertainties inherent in global environmental changes, particularly climatic ones. We have to alter the whole path of our development and decision making in order to make our societies both environmentally adaptable and sustainable. This unit takes on the task of trying to chart some of the ways in which this might come about.

The context for these changes by g
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Summary

In this part I have presented evidence showing that even apparently remote regions of our planet are intimately connected through physical processes. For example, once an organic POP is transported to the poles, then biological processes can take over and through bioaccumulation perhaps cause harm. But this physical connection has allowed the ice to preserve unique proxy records of the past climate of our planet. Directly measuring the gases trapped in the ice has enabled histories of past at
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5 The contemporary Arctic climate

There is a remarkable seasonality in the Arctic climate. For example, the flow in some of the great rivers of Russia and North America that empty into the Arctic Ocean almost stops in winter (Figure 21). During May, ice in the rivers starts to break and in June there is a rapid flood of fresh water followed by a
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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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3.3 The Keeling curve

The Keeling curve is the plot showing the trend in rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1958 recorded at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The story of atmospheric CO2 in the last 50 years is a relentless rise derived from human use of hydrocarbons and, as I write this in 2008, the annual mean concentration is 383 parts per million (ppm). When Keeling first collected his CO2 data he travelled around making the measurements at widely spaced locations – but he saw t
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3.2 The past temperature of the planet

Measuring the concentration of lead in the ice is called a direct measurement: the ice sample is melted and the water produced contains a very small but readily measured quantity of lead dust. A very accurate set of scales would be needed to measure it, but it is a directly measured quantity. There are also many indirect measurements that can be made using proxy data. The concept for using proxies is both simple and brilliant: one measured property allows inference about other states o
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3.1 Greenland's snowfall

Greenland snowfall differs depending on whether it falls in summer (when snow is comparatively warm and moist) or winter (when snow is cold and dry). These differences mean that as the snow is turned to ice, annual layers are formed that are in many ways similar to tree rings: thick annual layers mean high snowfall and thin annual layers low snowfall. The accumulation of snowfall on the summit of Greenland – and most importantly what is trapped within the crystals as it turns to ice – can
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2 The atmospheric and ocean flows

We now know that PBDEs end up in the Arctic through their physical transport by the winds, the ocean and the rivers of the world. All three mechanisms are important, but the most rapid carrier is the wind. The basic principle of global atmospheric circulation is simple: warm air rises and cold air sinks. The warming effect of the Sun is much greater at the equator than at higher latitudes and so the air is much warmer and it rises. At high latitudes the air cools and it sinks. This drives a h
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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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Learning outcomes

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

  • appreciate how chemical processes in the rest of the world affect the Arctic environment and the species inhabiting it;

  • recognise the physical processes that determine atmosphere and oceanic flows in the Arctic;

  • appreciate the scientific research process and the use of scientific evidence;

  • use quantitative scientific evidence to examine the link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels a
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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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Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:

The content acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons licence). See Terms and Conditions.

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2. Enjoyed this? Browse through our host of free module materials on LearningSpace<
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7 Summary

This unit has shown you that much of the carbon footprint of an economy is due to the direct and indirect use of energy and consumption of food, goods and services by individuals and households. Hence, what you can do as an individual consumer and/or household member to lighten your carbon footprint can be significant. But communities, business and governments also have a crucial role in tackling greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

After completing this unit you should be able
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6.4 The role of governments and business

Despite all the possibilities for individual and group action to lighten carbon footprints, there will still be people, groups and organisations who will not be doing much. Many individuals limit themselves to ‘every little bit helps’, with relatively minor effects on their carbon footprint, like reusing plastic bags or recycling paper. This avoids having to consider more significant changes in car and air travel, home energy use, diet or shopping. Others will simply carry on producing an
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6.3 The role of active citizens and communities

Few people agree that individuals should take the main responsibility for tackling environmental issues. For example, in a 2007 poll of over 2000 UK citizens, 70% agreed that the government should take a lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people's behaviour. However, over 60% disagreed that there was nothing they could do to avert climate change and over half agreed that they would do more if others did more too, although 40% thought that recycling was
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6.2 The role of individuals and households

You've been considering how to reduce your own carbon footprint to help tackle the worst effects of climate and other environmental changes. To that extent, ‘I’ as an individual consumer has a role to play.

But unless you live alone, you share your household with other people, a group that could be called ‘we’. Everyone in the household may have similar views on living lightly. But, even within a household, there may be different views and priorities about what, if anything, sho
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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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