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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Columnist: Ampong, Charles Horace

Climate Change Summit – The Road Map to Success (Part 1)

Issues in retrospective

The world has been looking for answers to the emerging and expectant environmental problems. Such blatant expectation has been towards the industrialized world including but not limited to the United States, Europe (EU) and emerging economies (China, India) in Asia. However, problems pertaining to the environment are very widespread and so the onus of its remediation, mitigation and sustainability cannot rest only with the economic powers of the world. Candidly, these economies have contributed immensely to the production of green house gases (predominantly water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, ozone, CFCs) leading to global warming (rising temperatures on the surface of the earth) and depletion of the ozone layer. Some concurrent problems include acidification of soil and water sources and climatic disasters such as rising sea levels, ice melting at the poles, floods and biological diversity life destruction among others. Chemistry tells us that ozone layer depletion and increased carbon dioxide is predominantly from two sources: first ozone (unstable and strong oxidizer) reactions with carbon and nitrous fumes released in the atmosphere and secondly ozone’s reactions with emissions of CFCs and similar chlorinated and brominated organic compounds. Other prominent sources of increased carbon dioxide are fossil fuels and wood or deforestation. Unfortunately, human activities such as combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation are fast becoming primary contributors to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increase.

Certainly, it can be deciphered that these reactions and activities have dual effects. First, it leads to increased carbon dioxide far beyond its background levels (that is permissible levels) in the atmosphere. Second, is the depletion of the ozone layer which means the Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun cannot be filtered efficiently to avoid its harmful effects to life forms including humans on earth. Preposterously, there are some scientists who argue that the correlation between global warming and ozone depletion is not strong. That is to say, ozone depletion is not causation for global warming. Whatever, their theories are, the world is witnessing today increasing warming of the surface of the earth, melting of ice at the poles and concealed damage to life forms besides other climatic disasters. Again, some environmental activists do want to categorize climatic changes as an isolated scenario of the world’s environmental problems. Unfortunately, this is absurd and is contradictory to the proverbial statement which says that “whatever goes up must definitely come down”. The question is: Where do stack emissions from industrial plants (point sources of greenhouse gases such as Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous fumes, water vapor and other gases such as sulphur dioxide) go? These gases when released go up into the air undergo reactions or not and eventually fall back with a different chemistry onto the ground. Thus contaminating soil and water through their acidification potential and sometimes fatally affecting biological diversity. A typical example is when sulphur dioxide, a waste product from coal plants, causes acid rain through its reactions with water and falls back into soils and waters acidifying them. There is a general school of thought that these emissions and their chemical reactions produce heat which is responsible for rising temperatures and that floods and droughts are part of the natural climatic variations. In fact, it must be accepted that human activities is explicitly exacerbating the rising temperatures and natural climatic variations. Generally, the rising temperatures affect life in the air, in water and in the soil which are active players in climatic variations. Apparently, it is erroneous to isolate climatic changes as a separate entity in environmental degradation issues. For it’s evident from the preceding texts that climatic changes brim over into water and soil media of the terrestrial environment. Ultimately, it is expedient that one assesses climatic changes from the perspective of environmental stability which stems from air, soil and water management techniques based on holistic pollution control policies. Again, whatever the altercation is between scientist, activist and the rest of the world, something is wrong with the environment and remedial measures are needed. The pace of economic growth by some developing and developed nations do suggest that world emissions are likely to increase and likewise the environmental problems. Thus, world governments do not need to drag their feet anymore as posterity is waiting to judge us if nothing is done. In fact, the current environmental issues must be categorized not only as a debauchery but also a social stigma or anathema.

Next, the redemption of the environment from the perspective of declining climatic changes and its corollary would require the collective effort of all people from every continent of the world. Accordingly, strategies and programs to be pursued should not be regionalized, politicized or polarized but rather based on a general consensus and objectivity. What’s more, this is not the time to be judgmental tagging certain nations and continents as perpetuators of environmental pollution and demanding accountability probably because of their unscrupulous emissions and inordinate waste disposal activities. We are in it together and united we stand divided we fall. Now, in the context of the discussions so far, this article would seek to address the problem of climatic changes from the view point of environmental stability.

The model must change

Many believe the world would be a better place if there is political stability and economic stability and this has created the tendency to relegate environmental stability to the background. However, experience portrays a high degree of association between political stability, economic stability and environmental stability. Also, this is an indisputable fact which supports a paradigm of mutual dependence between political stability, economic stability and environmental stability in the design of effective mitigative measures to deal with the climatic changes. Surprisingly, in the past, world economic powers have failed to back their words or agenda with actions. They have failed to actuate any pragmatic policies primarily due to financial constraints and also their propensity not to pursue the economics of social benefit against social cost. Clearly, social benefit which has long-term socio-economic beneficiation outweighs social cost. However, financial capability has been the central focus instead of social benefit. Now is the time for change and prompt action. It is the fervent wish of all that the summit on climate change in Copenhagen would be unprecedented leading to the enacting of holistic, pragmatic, dogmatic and sustainable policies and not ad hoc policies which has been the trend of the past. Rationally, policies should encompass the integration extensively of economic growth, industrial development and potent environmental policies. Honestly, what the world needs now is not agendas made up of the setting of unattainable emission targets and cuts by players of industrialization such as U.S (17% by 2020 – Washington Post Newspaper source) and China (45% by 2020 – Washington Post Newspaper source) or smaller cuts by poorer nations but sustainable policies that amalgamate political stability, economic stability and environmental stability. Also, the rational for the pursuit and success of this amalgamation is the designing of policy models that simulate the effect of the environmental stability from the perspective of political and economic stability.

Hypothetically, in the policy model, environmental stability should be seen as the mediation between political stability and economic stability. To consider environmental stability as mediation is to count it as part of the solution to the attainment of economic stability. Anyway, this is paradoxical for supporters of democracy who claim that political stability provides good governance which is antecedent to economic stability and prosperity besides being a causal link between them. Sorry to say, it is plausible that political stability provides the platform for economic stability but plausibility is not a proof. Technically, the association of political stability and economic stability and prosperity is not sustainable unless it is linked consciously with environmental stability and mitigation. As a matter of fact, the effect of political stability on economic stability is confounded with the effect that environmental stability has on economic stability. That is to say changes in political stability can be associated with changes in economic stability but environmental stability can be associated judiciously with economic stability, growth and sustainability. Obviously, it is right to say that political stability effect on economic stability and sustainability is confounded with the effect of environmental stability on economic stability and sustainability. Also, if the relationship between environmental stability and economic stability growth and sustainability is practically significant then it is conclusive that environmental stability mediates to confound the effect of political stability on economic stability and sustainability. This does not mean that the association between political stability and economic stability, growth and sustainability does not exist. Rather, this effect is confounded by the effect of environmental stability. So, there is the urgent need to tie environmental stability to economic stability and sustainability when designing action plans for environmental problems mitigation.

Realistically, economic growth is not sustainable in the absence of articulate environmental policies. Why? In simple terms, lack of articulate environmental policies would escalate diseases which in turn would affect the labor force capability and consequently slow down industrialization and economic growth. This problem is common in developing countries where the labor force capability has been enervated by worker turnover due to upsurge in health problems. Truly, in pursuits of economic growth some countries have consciously and unconsciously relegated to the background environmental stability. The aftermath is degenerative economic growth because of weakened labor force strength stemming cumulatively from health issues and reduced life expectancy. It is in the light of these developments that the author of this article is opting for change in the model from old to new. The old model sees political stability as causation to economic stability and sustainability whilst the new commends environmental stability as causation for sustainable economic stability.

Source: Charles Horace Ampong [MSc(Eng), MBA(finance)]

GLG Councils Consultant Remember “We are the world, we are the children…this is a choice we’re making we saving our own lives...”