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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

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

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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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5.1 Actions for lighter living

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do little.

(Edmund Burke, 1729–1797)

If you want to consider how to further lighten your carbon footprint, you may need more detailed information on the effect of technical and behavioural actions not covered by the carbon calculator, or included only as a part of other actions.

It's important to understand whic
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4.1 Your carbon footprint

Most of this section requires you to continue using the Quick Carbon Calculator (linked in the box below).

If you've completed the carbon calculator , you'll have a good idea of your carbon footprint and the relative contribution to the total load made by different components of consumption. You'll also know how your footprint compares to that of an average person in the UK.

If you live outside the UK, you may have used a calculator that provides somewhat different information abo
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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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2.5.2 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 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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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.

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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2.2 Environmental pragmatism: positioning expert support

I believe that the principal task for an environmental pragmatism is not to reengage the … debates in environmental ethics but rather to impress upon environmental philosophers the need to take up the largely empirical question of what morally motivates humans to change their attitudes, behaviours, and policy preferences toward those more supportive of long-term environmental sustainability.

(Light, 2002, p. 446)


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1.4.3 Framing reality from a critical perspective

The question arising from the previous two imperatives of systems thinking – dealing with holism and engaging with multiple perspectives – is how we might develop frameworks that deal responsibly with our inevitable limitations on being holistically comprehensive and epistemologically ‘multiverse’. Ulrich reminds us that a ‘systems approach’ to environmental responsibility is perhaps not quite the panacea that it so often mistakenly promises to be. Take, for example, the ‘ecosys
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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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Introduction

This unit explores conceptual tools for assisting our thinking and deliberation on what matters. In Section 1, a reading by Ronald Moore introduces the notion of 'framing' nature, raising the perceived paradox of inevitably devaluing an aesthetically pleasing unframed entity. Three further readings, two from Fritjof Capra and one from Werner Ulrick (all of which are quite short and markedly reduced from their original courses), provide an understanding of systems thinking for explicitly frami
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