Magnitude and Nature of Climate Change
For years now climate change has been a major challenge that contributes immense stress to the communities, societies and the globe at large (Birch, 2009). Climate change effects are global in scope and unparallel in scale. They range from threatened food production as a result of shifts in weather patterns to catastrophic flooding due to rising levels. If drastic actions are not taken today to curb this problem, adapting to these impacts in the future will be expensive and nearly impossible (Bill, 2011).
Climate change has been defined as a major and permanent change in the statistical distribution of the weather patterns over millions of years (Kroll & Shogren, 2008). This change could be in average weather conditions, or the distribution of weather around the average conditions. Climate change is as a result of factors such as variations in the amount of solar radiation received by the earth, biotic processes, volcanic eruptions and plate tectonics. Presently, some human activities have been identified major causes of climate change. The experts try to understand the present, past and future climate by using observations and hypothetical models (Cowie, 2007). A climate record extending into the past of the Earth has been gathered and it continues to be collected based on geological evidence from the profiles of borehole temperature, flora and fauna records, cores obtained from deep accretions of ice, stable isotopes, glacial and periglacial processes, records of past sea levels and other analyses of sediment layers (Downie et al. 2009). Besides, general circulation models are founded on physics and are used in hypothetical approaches to match the past climate data, make future protuberance and link the causes and impacts of climate change (Haines & Patz, 2004).
The heightened fossil fuel burning and changes in land use emits and continues emit increased quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gasses include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Heightened levels of these gasses in the atmosphere contribute to the rise in the amount of sun`s heat withheld by the atmosphere, which is often radiated back into space (Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2008). The increase in this heat has resulted to greenhouse effect, which in turn has led to climate change. Climate change can be characterized by global warming (rise in average global change), alterations in cloud cover, melting if ice caps and glaciers, precipitation over land, reduced snow cover, ocean acidity, and heightened ocean temperatures.
It is apparent that climate change will continue impacting the environment, the socio-economic and related sectors, agriculture and food security, water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, human health and coastal zones. The alterations in the rainfall patterns are likely to cause shortages of water and flooding (IPCC AR4 SYR, 2007). The melting of glaciers will cause soil erosion and flooding. Rising temperatures will lead to shifts in crop production seasons in turn affecting food security, and alterations of distribution of disease vectors exposing more people to the susceptibility of diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. Increases in the levels of temperature will increase the rates of habitants and species extinctions up to 30% with a 2° C rise in temperature.
Further, climate change is a major threat to poverty reduction, and could hinder development efforts. In spite of the climate change being a global menace, its effects are mainly severe to the poor nations and the poor people (Pittock, 2009). This is due to the fact that the poor are highly dependent on natural resources and they have a limited capacity to adapt to climate variability and extreme. If key ecosystems are restored and maintained can help communities to cope and support livelihoods that are dependent on the services of the ecosystems. Shifting towards low carbon societies can help decrease greenhouse gas emissions, improved human health, as well as creation of green jobs.
Relevant State and Non-state Actors in the Problem Area
The study and practice of the politics of global change circulate around government actions. In scholarship and diplomacy increased attention is being showed to non-state actors. As revealed by text, government has allowed non-state actors to extensively access the international climate policy process (Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2008). Apparently, non-state actors take part in party meetings, prepare policy reports, lobby governments, and interact with the media and the public. Whether this increased presence reflects an important shift in global politics incremental evolution, it is evident that non-state actors are an important part of the political landscape (Pittock, 2009).
The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), the central legal instrument at the heart of the climate management, was discussed as part of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Smith et al. 2003). FCCC was discussed in several rounds termed Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees (INCs). Since they came into being, five annual conferences and parties and small meetings organized around particular issues and involving the elaboration and adjustments of treaty commitments have been held, and the non-state actors have played a part in these conclaves (IPCC, 1990).
The governments have a responsibility of creating appropriate conditions and the right incentives to enable the private parties to manage risks form the impacts of climate change, as well as make resourceful investment decisions for containing risks to public assets and service delivery (Smith et al. 2003). The activities of the government should also ensure that individuals, businesses and groups are able to effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change. The government may require special strategies to build on extant social support arrangements and build capacity in the susceptible communities (Smith et al. 2003).
Another actor on climate change is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (IPCC, 1995). The convention comprises of 192 nations including China and the United States. The member states meet yearly to discuss the mitigation strategies of greenhouse gas emissions and other issues related to climate change (IPCC, 1995). Since the Kyoto Protocol, the parties have been discussing Climate Change Agreement.
In more than one respects, Europe has been in the fore front advocating action on climate change. The European Council certified the Strategic Energy Review of the European Commission, and agreed on a unilateral cut of 20 percent in European Union greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 relative to 1990 in 2007 (Newman, 2011). To achieve this, it will be important to strengthen and extend carbon trading arrangement and deploy low or zero carbon technology. Besides, the European Council also certified the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in 2020, and ascertained that it would commit to meeting this target if other established nations agreed to meet the same target and the more established nations such as China, India and Brazil showed a significant contribution to their responsibilities and contributions (Edwards & Miller, 2001). This was termed as the greatest moments in the History of Europe. The Council also targeted meeting 20 percent of the European Union energy needs from renewable, leaving individual states to make their own policies in a manner to allow nuclear power as part of their energy mix to be taken into consideration in allocating individual country targets for renewable (Rushefsky, 2002). The European Council highlighted the assessment of the commission to the contribution of nuclear energy in fulfilling the growing demands about the safety of supply of energy and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and recognized the role of nuclear energy as an energy source that emits less carbon dioxide (DiMento & Doughman, 2007).
Canada supports a climate change approach which helps achieve economic and environmental benefits for its citizens (Burroughs, 2001). With the integrated nature of the economy of North America, the approach includes aligning the climate policies of Canada with those of the United States. The Canadian government is largely contributing to the efforts of reducing the total greenhouse gas emissions of Canada by 17% by 2020 through the sector-by-sector approach (Burroughs, 2001). Canada started with greenhouse gas regulations for its electricity and transportation sectors. In addition, this country has been at the fore front of the global action on climate change. As an active member of the Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this country has remarkably heightened its climate change related support to enhance international progress and appropriate action by nations with a commitment of 1.2 US billion dollars in novel as well as additional climate change financing for the financial years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (Newman, 2011). Canada continues to keep its commitment under the Copenhagen Accord, offering its fair share of novel and fast-start financing to enhance climate change efforts in developing nations.
Climate change impacts will continue to be pervasive and serious impacting every feature of the economy, environment and society of Australia (Loarie et al. 2009). Because the decisions being taken today will continue to have long lasting consequences, it is important for serious actions to be taken. This means that everyone has a role to play in the mitigation of climate change. As such governments, households, businesses and community have complementary roles in adapting to climate change impacts (Karns & Mingst, 2010). As with the contemporary risk management, local initiative and private responsibility will be spearheading adaptation of climate change in Australia, with most benefits going to those who are at the forefront of adapting to these changes. All the government levels in Australia have a mandate to help the country cope with the impacts of climate change. In most cases the adaptation of climate change will be most effective it is managed by a single nation, local government or territory (Edwards & Miller, 2001). In some other cases, it will be important to have a combined response by numerous governments or levels of governments.
In order to establish a coordinated approach, it is important to identify government responsibilities in acclimatizing to climate change (Burroughs, 2001). It is the initial step and once government responsibilities have been identified and agreed upon, the second step involves attributing roles to appropriate government levels. In Australia, allocation of adaptation roles in the three government tiers is required to balance local expertise, knowledge and capacity with the interest of the state. The Australia government has taken responsibility to ensure that risks are well addressed, whilst management and adaptation of the effects of climate change are also dealt with. The three government tiers work together to evaluate how the adaptation roles would be allocated and this is important in helping to successfully deal with risks posed by climate change.
In order to assess the effects of climate change and how adaptation measures can assist in mitigating the issue, a number of Germany states have developed a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework. North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein are among the states which have implemented an adaptation strategy associated with the German National Adaptation. The former has an operating M&E system which centers on climatic and environmental parameters (Cowie, 2007). The Meteorological Service, together with the state authorities is responsible for providing required data. The Schleswig-Holstein state is in the process of implementing an M&E system for climate change. Research is underway to recommend appropriate indicators with regards to such factors as spatial resolution, resource intensity, and timelines (Cowie, 2007).
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are non-state actors who extensively take part in global climate change policy process. NGOs assist in monitoring global responses to climate change including IPCC and FCCC. It is true that climate policy assist in addressing among the most fundamental issues of the twenty first century. Climate policy is associated with forestry, transport, and energy policies and therefore, it has the capability to modify production and consumption procedures both in the agricultural and industrial societies. With reference to this, climate policy can sway other social and environmental issues. Climate change is perceived as a multifaceted social issue whose solution can assist in building a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.
NGOs perceive climate change as the most significant environmental problem on the global agenda. Putting this into consideration, the NGO community has offered significant attention to the issue. For instance, during the COP-1 that took place in Berlin, approximately one thousand NGO representatives from around 165 NGOs were accredited whilst during COP-3, approximately four thousand IGO and NGO delegates were present (DiMento & Doughman, 2007). This evidences the fact that for numerous NGOs and nation governments, climate change is an important issue. The functions of NGOs which relate to global climate policy include:
* Assisting in setting the global agenda and raising awareness regarding environmental issues
* Offering information and advice concerning climate policy
* Monitoring actions of state governments
* Applying pressure in order to influence the process of global negotiation
International Institutional Responses to Climate Change
International institutions are non-state actors that have taken major action to deal with the issue of climate change. For instance, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has a sub-program in climate change through which it works together with nations with an aim of strengthening their capability to deal with and acclimatize to the issue of climate change. UNEP also helps countries to ensure low carbon emissions, increase awareness amongst the public regarding climate modification around the globe, and enhance awareness of climate science. The UNEP`s sub-program is strongly supported by the Green Economy Initiative. It encourages cleaner technologies and investments and these offers a great chance of reducing emissions, safeguarding the world`s ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as reducing poverty by creating green jobs. The function of UNEP with reference to climate change is created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation procedures (Kroll & Shogren, 2008). The 2009 Copenhagen meeting laid down the significance of taking urgent actions regarding climate change as well as the requirement of supporting developing nations in their alleviation and adaptation endeavors (Loarie et al. 2009). In addition to offering these fundamental services, UNEP also assist nations in preparing and participating in climate talks.
The key roles of UNEP as far as climate change is concerned are explained herein.
* UNEP assists nations lessen their susceptibility to the impacts of climate change. Besides, nations are assisted to create natural resilience using their ecosystem services as this would safeguard them from the effects of climate change. Through this UNEP helps nations adapt to climate change.
* Another function is climate change alleviation. Nations are assisted and supported by UNEP to make sound policy, investment, and technology which result in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The main aim is to increase renewable and clean sources of energy, ensure energy efficiency and conservation. All these factors aim at dealing with and alleviating the issue of climate change.
* Developing nations are also encouraged to reduce emissions which originate from deforestation as well as forest degradation. The intention is to help nations lessen forest land emissions, in addition to investing in low carbon emission paths to ensure sustainable development. In order to achieve this, UNEP provides incentives to developing nations. This function also incorporates sustainable management and conservation of forests.
* UNEP helps decision makers together with other audiences to improve their knowledge and awareness regarding climate change. This encompasses science of climate change and its effects. The institutions seeks to make certain that decision makers, the public, as well as other concerned audiences get access to significant information concerning climate science (Edwards & Miller, 2001). It also communicates effective programmes linked with climate change thus, promoting best practices. An example of such a program is the Compendium developed in 2009 regarding climate change science. The Compendium offered sufficient information that was obtained from numerous research publications. This is s great move in helping governments together with other involved stakeholders have adequate knowledge on the topic of climate change therefore know how to deal with it.
In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) procedure was established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (Karns & Mingst, 2010). The aim of IPCC was to analyze climate science and offer direction to governments and policy makers. The initial evaluation report was provided in 1990 and it put forward a number of issues (IPCC, 1990). These encompassed: greenhouse gas have an effect on climate change and human acts have resulted in increase in emissions, and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thus, enhancing greenhouse gas impacts (IPCC AR4 SYR, 2007 IPCC, 1995). In fact, most global warming that has been evidenced in the last fifty years has been attributed to human activities. Global warming is one of the major causes of climate change.
The United Nations has also played a major part in dealing with the issue of climate change. The institution has arranged for various conventions with an aim of establishing global agreements that are fundamental in avoiding risky climate change. One of such frameworks is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UNFCCC aims at preventing hazardous climate change (Karns & Mingst, 2010).
Policies that can be Pursued by the United States Government to deal with Climate Change
Climate change is a global problem and this implies that state governments should come up with policies and strategies to assist deal with the issues. The United States for instance is susceptible to the effects of climate change and as a result, the state agencies have come up with various strategies to combat the problem thus, reduce the risk. The preparation of an incorporated climate change strategy is significant in helping the government public and private institutions prepare and respond appropriately. Decisions makers can employ the framework laid down by the response strategy in assisting communities and the country at large from the effects of climate change. The United States has also implemented strategies with an aim of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. During the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit held in December 2009, the U.S. president committed in taking the action with an aim of dealing with the issue of climate change. The federal government of the United State has also implemented environmental policy with the intention of regulating environmental unfriendly activities (Rushefsky, 2002). The policy aims at safeguarding the environment.
The United States distinguishes that the amplifying risks posed by climate change necessitates an urgent and focused initiative. In collaboration with People`s Republic of China, the U.S. explored on the modifications of anthropogenic climate and its aggravating effects encompassing increase in world average temperatures, acidification of the oceans, global extreme changes in weather, and loss of Arctic sea ice (Rushefsky, 2002). The acceleration in climate change requires intensification in international efforts to lessen emissions of greenhouse gas. The United States recommends a comprehensive cooperation action with an aim of containing climate change. This goal will be achieved through the initiation of a Climate Change Working Group (Rushefsky, 2002).
What individuals can do to prevent Climate Change
There are various practices that individuals can exercise with an aim of preventing climate change. These include taking precautions on the factors that result in climate change. For instance, using renewable fuels and recycling can result in low emission of green house gas. This implies that global warming, one of the main causes of climate change, will be avoided (Bill, 2011). Individuals can also help in creating awareness about climate change in the community. Such awareness may include enlightening the community of the causes of climate change, its effects and how it can be prevented. Human activities have been demonstrated to be among the main causes of global warming. For instance, the heightened fossil fuel burning and changes in land use emits and continues emit increased quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This implies that human have a great role to play in controlling climate change (Downie et al. 2009). By engaging in environmental friendly activities, individuals can play a great role in dealing with climate change and alleviate the various effects including health impacts (Haines & Patz, 2004).
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