The last few decades have witnessed heated debates concerning the state of greenhouse effect on the planet earth. In the same effect, Hansen et al (par. 1) argue that evidence from the palaeoclimatic data show that global forcings have great implications on the planet. For instance, climate changes to the worst are expected as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions that are closely related to economic and industrial development. Prevalence of these conditions on their part leads to endangered human and animal life. This notwithstanding, the increased production of CO2 emissions, which is the highly produced greenhouse gas, is leading to production of other forcings like methane, which is the second to CO2 on the scale of human production. This gas is responsible for tropospheric ozone increase. Other non-CO2 forcings that need human attention for the well being of the planet are O3, Nitrous Oxide and black soot which are all negatively implicating on the state of arctic ice, state of production in agriculture, human health and the general environment of the earth.
However, the effort to curb the production of these forcings has been impeded by debates of who is responsible for the perils of the global climate. Responsible agencies have failed to identify whether the calamity has been a product of the developing process of the developed countries or are the developing countries behind this. Unfortunately, the implications continue causing ravage, especially in the developing countries which are continuously reliant on agriculture for their sustenance. This paper seeks to examine the contribution of the developed countries and the developing countries on global warming and point out the dilemma faced by developing countries in terms of global warming. It also seeks to find the best way forward for the planet in relation to global warming.
Provenance of Global Warming
Studies point out that the greatest contributor to the deterioration of the global climate is carbon emissions that result from the sources of energy depended upon by many industrialized countries. The perennial dilemma has been the constant technical relationship between the energy source, the nation’s economy and the state of the environment. These three interlinked aspects of the global economy have posed a great challenge where nations have been forced to make a choice between affordability of the source of energy and its implications on the global environment. The challenge in the energy source is founded on the basis that all aspects of human life are dependent on energy fro efficiency. While many countries produce their own sources of energy, most of the produced energy is insufficient hence calling for more and more forms of energy production. Furthermore, the increasing population of the earth calls for an increase in the energy production so that it can be able to sustain the global population.
The United States, for instance, has witnessed increasing energy consumption each decade. Despite the fact that it is the world’s leading energy producer, the United States can still not sustain itself because its energy consumption outweighs the level of production. To be precise, the consumption of energy in the United States is 1.4 times the production. It was from this need that different sources of energy had to be developed to try and bridge the gap. Among the most common sources of energy that have been used in the United states since the 19th Century are wood, coal, hydroelectric power, petroleum, natural gas and nuclear electric power. However, the most used forms of energy are the nonrenewable energy forms which stand very limited chances of replenishing in the near future (Liu et al 3). This coupled up with the increasing population and hence the increasing demand leads to a future that is challenging. How will nations survive this increasing demand and reduce the overdependence on nonrenewable energy sources?
Contributions per Region
As mentioned earlier, the development of a country is greatly depending on the energy availability. This means that developed countries relied on this to reach the level at which they currently are. On their part, the developing countries also need to supply sufficient energy that will meet the increasing demand so that they can witness improvement in their economic positions. However, achieving of these goals will not be easy depending on the mentioned challenges.
Different developed countries have contributed differently to the current environmental crisis. This even prompted the Brazilian delegation to the Kyoto conference to propose that countries should be given an obligation to contribute to climate change in relation to their contribution to the current state. What therefore, were the contributions of the developed countries and the developing countries to the current situation? The table below shows the different contributions per region according to Hohne and colleagues.
The table shown above shows that all countries, both developed and developing, have contributed significantly to the issue of global warming. What actually determines the degree of contribution depends on the point of reference. However, the chat shown above was the overall contributions as put across by the committee set up to determine the contributions of each region so that the Brazilian proposition would be adopted. When using the co2 emissions as the point of reference, developing countries seem to have great contributions. Their great contributions come as a result of deforestation which has been rampant in these countries as they try to develop lands for agriculture and settlement. Accordingly, deforestation has contributed greatly to carbon emission into the air and hence global warming. In addition, rice fields have been identified as great contributors of methane into the air. Equally, this gas is one of the greenhouse gases that have had great implications on the global climate. Considering these two gases, we can conclude that the countries that are greatly involved in these activities are developing countries. For instance, Southern and South Eastern Asian countries are known for their involvement in rice farming. While they have to be involved in agriculture for their day to day sustenance, they have to be conscious of the effects of these rice fields on the environmental state.
When considering all the other sources of contribution, one general conclusion comes up. Both the developed and developing countries have contributed to global warming in a relatively equal degree. The study carried out by the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research gives a clear picture of the contributions by these countries. In this research, the factors considered included the mean global temperature to measure the extent of the effect on the climate, the period of time with which the emission was experienced and finally the sources of the emitted gases as pointed out in the Kyoto protocol. Putting this into consideration, the following contributions are arrived at. The total contributed by the OECD countries is 38%. This is closely followed by the Asian countries which had a total contribution of 26%. 22% of the emissions are accounted for by Africa and Latin America before the former USSR and Eastern Europe coming later with a 14% contribution to global warming (CICERO, par. 3).
However, assuming a different point of view gives a different answer. For example, if the study was to be approached from CO2 contributions through the use of fossil fuels, the contribution from Africa and Latin America reduces drastically. Their total contribution stands at 8% as opposed to 60% share accounted for by the OECD countries (CICERO, par. 5). Further still, the United States and China remain top contributors to global warming in a study carried out by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. In this study, the contributions of the United States by the year two thousand was 24% while China accounted for 12%. However, by the year 2007, more studies pointed out that China had overtaken the United States as the greatest emitter of CO2 in the atmosphere. What placed China in the first position, actually exceeding the United States by 8% was the fact that two thirds of their energy needs are catered for by coal. In addition, 44% of cement production in the world is accounted for by China. As a result, the year 2006 witnessed a total of 6.2 billion metric tons CO2 being emitted by China.
Considering the given data and facts, it is clear that the developed countries have caused greater havoc on the global climate as compared to the developing countries. This is evidenced by the billions of metric tons of Carbon Dioxide emitted into the air by the countries. Unfortunately, the effect of global warming is felt strongly by the developing countries. The changes in the global climate causes great havoc to these countries because most of them are reliant on agriculture as opposed to the industrial based developed countries. This means that changes in the global climate to the worst affects the agricultural production that causes a direct effect to the developing countries. This results into food shortages which is closely associated with diseases.
However, one question remains unanswered; can developing countries achieve the status of developed countries without causing similar destruction to the climate? This challenge is clearly brought out by Gullberg (par. 2) who points out that economic development, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are a closely knitted group. For any country to experience economic development, it must have reliable sources of energy. Unfortunately, the same sources of energy that are readily available greatly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions into the air hence causing global warming. This intricate relationship causes a dilemma for the developing countries. In addition, the politics of interests involved in this intricate relationship poses a great challenge and impediment in the effort to contain greenhouse gas emissions.
Different countries push for different interests within this platform of energy sources and climate conditions. Despite the fact that every country clearly understands the implications of global warming, the pressing needs within the country make them take different positions concerning this matter. For instance, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are countries with low income which are characterized by poverty. This makes economic growth their primary and central objective. Subsequently, the negative implications of their efforts to achieve economic development mean nothing to them. As Gullberg (par. 6) argues, the issue of global climate is a long term agenda that would be settled with time. What they need to address is the abject poverty that their citizens are subjected to. To achieve economic growth and development, they must have adequate and reliable sources of energy. Equally, the rising costs of oil are a great threat to their effort to attain their goals. As a result, these countries need the oil for their well being.
On their part, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) campaign for stricter measures to curb the emission of CO2 into the air. This is purely based on their vulnerability if the global climate continues to deteriorate. These countries include states like Bahamas, Barbados and many other states that are found in the Caribbean region. To these countries, the threat of global warming is there immediate concern. For example, they all understand that global warming could result into rising sea levels which consequently would lead to flooding or even total submergence of the islands. For those islands that might survive the sinking, they might be termed uninhabitable. These threats therefore make them push for stricter measures. Unlike the least developed countries who are not very concerned about the issue due to their immediate priorities, the AOSIS members find this as there very immediate concern hence push for the laws.
The other camp within the politics of energy crisis and global climate is the group of countries within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As mentioned, each country pushes for its very immediate interests. In these countries, their economic stability highly depends on their oil. Therefore, any thing that touches on the production, sale and usage of oil directly touches on their economic stability. This means that any law that will reduce the consumption of oil by non producing countries means that sales of oil are reduced. Subsequently, these countries push for measures that will slow down or completely block any effort to contain the production and sale of oil. Unfortunately, it is this oil that contributed greatly in the emission of CO2 in the air and hence resulting into global warming.
The above mentioned politics pose the greatest challenges in the effort to contain greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. While some people generically thought that developed countries were the stumbling block on the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, study has shown that this is a notion without any base. As pointed out, a country’s stand on the issue depends on their immediate demands. A good example is the AOSIS countries that uniformly call for strict measures concerning greenhouse gas emissions. However, not all these countries have a low GDP per capita. Some of them enjoy stable economic growth and are very close to the status of developed countries. But these countries still push for strict measures on green house gas emissions. In addition, some oil producing countries which are members of OPEC are considered as poor countries. Their GDP per capita are low. A good example of such a country is Nigeria. However, these countries are campaigning against strict measures on greenhouse gas emission. These politics mark the greatest challenges faced by the developing countries. While they are forced to observe their contributions to global warming, they have to ensure that they are working towards achieving a stable economic development.
The question asked earlier was; could developing countries develop without causing such havoc as experienced currently? This could be tricky. Economic development heavily relies on the sources of energy available. A good example of a country that has witnessed economic development is China. However, the greatest source of energy used was coal. In fact, Epstein (par. 4) points out that China is developing two coal powered engines each week. In addition, the country has witnessed great industrial improvement and hence economic growth all founded on the use of coal. Furthermore, one of the most productive industries in China has been cement industry of which China accounts for 44% of the total production of this commodity globally. However, cement manufacturing is believed to be the highest emitter of CO2 gas. Based on this, China accounted for 6.2 billion metric tons of CO2.
This points out that economic development is strongly connected to greenhouse gas emissions. As evidenced by China, most of the developing countries run a risk of contributing greatly to global warming if at all they intent to develop economically. In addition, the countries that are marked as least developed countries whose main priority is economic development therefore pose a threat to the environment. This is because they will strive to develop and as they do this, they will be contributing to global warming. This is further strengthened by the fact that these countries find environmental concerns as a matter of less immediacy as compared to economic development. This means that a step must be take to ensure that these countries are allowed to develop economically while the environment on the other hand is put into consideration. The only solution therefore, is the development of a sustainable source of energy that will neither dwindle nor cause havoc to the environment. This will be the only way forward. By using this method, most of the interests of these countries will be met with less resistance (Center for Climate Research, par. 7). What, therefore, are these alternative sources of energy that could be used so that global warming is reduced while development is promoted?
Berlin and Sussman (par. 1) give a detailed account of the implications of the ever rising consumer demands based on the global population increase. They argue that coal is the cheapest and most abundant form of energy. Consequently, most countries are likely to develop industries that are based on coal as their major source of energy. In addition, the International Energy Agency estimates that electricity production for 2030 would include an additional 1,400 gigawatts courtesy of power plants that are driven by coal. However, the implications of these power plants on the global climate are drastic. The agency estimates that 7.6 metric tons of CO2 will be emitted into the atmosphere by these power plants. This means that relying on coal for economic development will mean increasing global warming and its expected catastrophes. Considering this, two options remain for any substantial effort in controlling Carbon emission into the air. One option is banning the use of coal and other fossil fuels in industrial productions. This will mean that scientists come up with the method with which other forms of energy will be harnessed and stored.
Studies show that there are several options of energy production other than fossil fuels. The most common forms of alternative energy include the use of solar power, flowing water sources, also referred to as hydro power, wind power, geothermal heat, tidal power and power form biological processes also referred to as biomass. Effort has been put in the scientific world to ensure that technological solutions are discovered to capture and store energy from the mentioned sources. In 2006 only, more than $70.9 billon was invested in this cause. All this investment resulted into the development of flying energy generators, magnetic levitation wind generators and other forms of energy. All these are options that developing countries can use in order to develop economically without causing havoc to the environment.
The second option that could enable developing countries to achieve economic development without causing climate change involves the use Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Should the technological endeavors of developing this device succeed; the world will have received a great leap. This is because this technology will allow countries to continue using coal for large scale industrial production and also for the generation of electricity. However, the CO2 emitted will not cause any havoc to the environment because it will be captured before being transmitted into the air and then sequestered to certain geologic formations that will assist in the production of underground oil if injected into the oil fields. This technology currently exists. What really needs to be done is improving it and making it available for the developing countries. With these two options, the developing countries can experience economic development while climate change is contained.
In conclusion, both the developed and developing countries have greatly contributed to the current climate change. However, studies point out that developed countries have more contributions as compared to developing countries depending on the point of reference. The effort to contain this has however met with resistance due to different interests within the different countries. Subsequently, this has resulted in the dilemma of what should be done to promote economic development while the global climate is not destroyed. As a result, alternative sources of energy have been developed. These include solar energy, tidal power, wind energy etc. In addition, Carbon Capture and Storage technology has been developed to ensure that coal use is maintained while its destruction is contained. This is the only way out for the planet earth.
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