Environmental Issues

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Monday, February 02, 2015

This part of the global issues web site attempts to highlight some of the environmental issues and concerns that have an affect on all of us — from what we do, to what we don’t do.

Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?

Last updated Sunday, January 19, 2014.

Why is Biodiversity important? Does it really matter if there aren’t so many species?

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play.

For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.

And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife.

Read “Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?” to learn more.

Loss of Biodiversity and Extinctions

Last updated Sunday, January 19, 2014.

It has long been feared that human activity is causing massive extinctions. Despite increased efforts at conservation, it has not been enough and biodiversity losses continue. The costs associated with deteriorating or vanishing ecosystems will be high. However, sustainable development and consumption would help avert ecological problems.

Read “Loss of Biodiversity and Extinctions” to learn more.

Nature and Animal Conservation

Last updated Sunday, January 19, 2014.

Preserving species and their habitats is important for ecosystems to self-sustain themselves.

Yet, the pressures to destroy habitat for logging, illegal hunting, and other challenges are making conservation a struggle.

Read “Nature and Animal Conservation” to learn more.

Climate Change Affects Biodiversity

Last updated Sunday, January 19, 2014.

Rapid global warming can affect an ecosystems chances to adapt naturally.

The Arctic is very sensitive to climate change and already seeing lots of changes. Ocean biodiversity is already being affected as are other parts of the ecosystem.

Read “Climate Change Affects Biodiversity” to learn more.

Coral Reefs

Last updated Sunday, March 03, 2013.

One type of ecosystem that perhaps is neglected more than any other is perhaps also the richest in biodiversity—the coral reefs.

Coral reefs are useful to the environment and to people in a number of ways. However, all around the world, much of the world’s marine biodiversity face threats from human and activities as well as natural. It is feared that very soon, many reefs could die off.

Read “Coral Reefs” to learn more.

Addressing Biodiversity Loss

Last updated Wednesday, April 06, 2011.

At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was born. 192 countries, plus the EU, are now Parties to that convention. In April 2002, the Parties to the Convention committed to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity loss by 2010.

Perhaps predictably, that did not happen. Despite numerous successful conservations measures supporting biodiversity, the 2010 biodiversity target has not been met at the global level. This page provides an overview on how the attempts to prevent biodiversity loss is progressing.

Read “Addressing Biodiversity Loss” to learn more.

Biosafety Protocol 1999

Last updated Monday, March 19, 2001.

The February 1999 Biodiversity Protocol meeting in Colombia broke down because USA, not even a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which the protocol is meant to be part of, and five other countries of the "Miami Group" felt that their business interests were threatened. The safety concerns were unfortunately overridden by trade concerns. Some technological advances, especially in genetically engineered food, have been very fast paced and products are being pushed into the market place without having been proven safe. All over the world, concerned citizens and governments have been trying to take precautionary measures. However, 1999 was not a successful year in that respect.

Read “Biosafety Protocol 1999” to learn more.

Biosafety Protocol 2000

Last updated Sunday, July 01, 2001.

A Biosafety Protocol meeting was hosted in Montreal, Canada January 24 to January 28. Compared to the fiasco of the previous year, this time, there had been a somewhat successful treaty to regulate the international transport and release of genetically modified organisms to protect natural biological diversity. However, there were a number of important and serious weaknesses too.

Read “Biosafety Protocol 2000” to learn more.

Biodiversity Links for more Information

Last updated Monday, October 04, 2010.

Read “Biodiversity Links for more Information” to learn more.

Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction

Last updated Sunday, February 01, 2015.

The climate is changing. The earth is warming up, and there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening, and human-induced. With global warming on the increase and species and their habitats on the decrease, chances for ecosystems to adapt naturally are diminishing.

Many are agreed that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns.

This section looks at what causes climate change, what the impacts are and where scientific consensus currently is.

Read “Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction” to learn more.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Last updated Saturday, December 25, 2004.

The world mostly agrees that something needs to be done about global warming and climate change. The first stumbling block, however, has been trying to get an agreement on a framework. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meterological Organization (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on global warming. The IPCC concluded in 1990 that there was broad international consensus that climate change was human-induced. That report led way to an international convention for climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This section looks at this Convention and some of the main principles in it.

Read “UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” to learn more.

Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action

Last updated Monday, March 05, 2012.

The United States plus a few other countries, and many large corporations, have opposed climate change treaties seemingly afraid of profit impacts if they have to make substantial changes to how they do business.

However, as more climate change science has emerged over the years, many businesses are accepting this and even asking their governments for more action so that there is quick clarification on the new rules of the game so they can get on with their businesses.

This section explores some of those fears to see if they are justified or not.

Read “Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action” to learn more.

Action on climate change is cheaper than inaction

Posted Monday, February 02, 2015.

Many are afraid that tackling climate change is going to be too costly. But increasingly, studies are showing action will not just be cheaper than inaction, but could actually result in economic, environmental and even health benefits, while improving sustainability.

Read “Action on climate change is cheaper than inaction” to learn more.

Global Warming, Spin and Media

Last updated Saturday, October 19, 2013.

For many years, large, influential businesses and governments have been against the idea of global warming. Many have poured a lot of resources into discrediting what has generally been accepted for a long time as real.

Now, the mainstream is generally worried about climate change impacts and the discourse seems to have shifted accordingly. Some businesses that once engaged in disinformation campaigns have even changed their opinions, some even requesting governments for regulation and direction on this issue.

However, a few influential companies and organizations are still attempting to undermine climate change action and concerns. Will all this mean a different type of spin and propaganda with attempts at green washing and misleading information becoming the norm, or will there now be major shift in attitudes to see concrete solutions being proposed and implemented?

Read “Global Warming, Spin and Media” to learn more.

Climate Justice and Equity

Last updated Sunday, January 08, 2012.

For a number of years, there have been concerns that climate change negotiations will essentially ignore a key principle of climate change negotiation frameworks: the common but differentiated responsibilities.

Realizing that greenhouse emissions remain in the atmosphere for a very long time, this principle recognizes that historically:

  • Industrialized nations have emitted far more greenhouse gas emissions (even if some developing nations are only now increasing theirs);
  • Rich countries therefore face the biggest responsibility and burden for action to address climate change; and
  • Rich countries therefore must support developing nations adapt—through financing and technology transfer, for example.

This notion of climate justice is typically ignored by many rich nations and their mainstream media, making it easy to blame China, India and other developing countries for failures in climate change mitigation negotiations.

Development expert, Martin Khor, calculated that taking historical emissions into account, the rich countries owe a carbon debt because they have already used more than their fair quota of emissions.

Yet, by 2050 when certain emission reductions are needed by, their reduced emissions will still add up to be go over their fair share:

It is likely that rich countries will emit 200 gigtons of carbon more than what it would under a fairer allocation. (That is, they will likely emit a total of 325 gigatons out of a maximum of 600gt by 2050)

However, rather than continue down the path of unequal development, industrialized nations can help pay off their carbon debt by truly helping emerging countries develop along a cleaner path, such as through the promised-but-barely-delivered technology transfer, finance, and capacity building.

So far however, rich nations have done very little within the Kyoto protocol to reduce emissions by any meaningful amount, while they are all for negotiating a follow on treaty that brings more pressure to developing countries to agree to emissions targets.

In effect, the more there will be delay the more the poor nations will have to save the Earth with their sacrifices (and if it works, as history shows, the rich and powerful will find a way to rewrite history to claim they were the ones that saved the planet).

These issues are explored in more depth here.

Read “Climate Justice and Equity” to learn more.

Climate Change Flexibility Mechanisms

Last updated Monday, April 02, 2012.

Flexibility mechanisms were defined in the Kyoto Protocol as different ways to achieve emissions reduction as part of the effort to address climate change issues. These fall into the following categories: Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism.

However, these have been highly controversial as they were mainly included on strong US insistence and to keep the US in the treaty (even though the US eventually pulled out). Some of the mechanisms face criticism for not actually leading to a reduction in emissions, for example.

Cartoon Depicts politics in global warming negotiations where an emissions-producing Uncle Sam (representing the rich nations, including the US) is twisting the arms of a poor person (representing poor nations) to sell emissions quotas at dirt cheap prices

Image ©: Centre for Science and Environment

Read “Climate Change Flexibility Mechanisms” to learn more.

Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change

Last updated Tuesday, October 29, 2002.

A mechanism suggested for tackling climate change and warming has been the idea of using Carbon Sinks to soak up carbon dioxide. To aid in this, reforestation, or planting of new forests, have been suggested. This is a popular strategy for the logging industry and nations with large forests interests. While there may be some potential in this solution, it cannot be effective on its own. This is because it legitimizes continued destruction of old-growth and pristine forests which are rich ecosystems and have an established biodiversity base (albeit shrinking now) that naturally maintain the environment (at no cost!). Creating new forest areas would require the creation of entire ecosystems. It is also criticized for being a quick fix that does not tackle the root causes effectively and does not lead to, or promote actual emissions reduction.

Read “Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change” to learn more.

Global Warming and Population

Last updated Sunday, December 05, 2010.

It seems there has been a recent interest in associating climate change/global warming with “over population” and that countries such as China