Although there may be individuals and groups who for various reasons are willing to continue with the 'do nothing' or 'business-as-usual' approaches to current global environmental problems, they are a minority, and the urgent need to provide solutions is widely accepted. Given the complexity of the problems being addressed, it is not surprising that there is no one approach that satisfies all needs. Most of the options currently being considered involve either adaptation or prevention, and sometimes a combination of the two.

Adaptation in its simplest form is already part of the earth/atmosphere system, represented by the adjustments required to maintain equilibrium among the various elements in the environment. As part of the environment, human beings have always had the ability to adapt to changing conditions, and in many cases society has been shaped by such adaptation. Can society continue to adjust in the face of the major environmental changes currently taking place? In the short-term the answer is a qualified yes. Adjustment is already under way, and takes many forms. The abandonment of drought-stricken land is one form, for example, as is the addition of lime to acidified lakes. Many individual lifestyle changes—such as wearing a hat, spending less time in the sun or using sunscreen lotion to reduce the impact of higher UV-B levels—are also adjustments to a changing environment. This type of approach may be necessary until appropriate preventative measures are developed, or the full effects of the solutions can work their way through the system.

Adaptation often appears attractive because in the short-term it is a relatively simple and low-cost approach. With time and continuing environmental change, however, the cost of adaptation may eventually exceed the costs of providing solutions. In theory, adaptation and the development of preventative measures should take place in phase so that solutions can be in place before the cost-effectiveness of adaptation is lost. In reality, adaptation is a reactive approach involving little planning or consideration of such elements as timing and cost-effectiveness. Thus the impact of adaptive policies is difficult to predict. However, considering the magnitude of current environmental problems, it seems likely that adaptation can only be a temporary measure. Ultimately, the cumulative effects of the changes will surpass the ability of society to adjust, and solutions will have to be found.

As research into global change continues, it becomes increasingly clear that the only way to ensure that environmental problems will not become progressively worse is to reduce and ultimately halt the processes that cause them. When considered qualitatively, in the academic isolation of the lecture hall or the comfort of an armchair, it appears that all of the current global environmental problems can be solved in that way. They share the same overall cause—human interference in the environment—and specific causes are common to several of the issues. Acid rain, increased atmospheric turbidity, the intensification of the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion could all be reduced with the exercise of greater control over anthropogenic emission of dust, smoke and gases. Those problems which could not be solved completely might have their effects mitigated. It is unlikely, for example, that humankind will ever be able to prevent or control drought, but, through the management of human activities in areas prone to drought, problems of famine and desertification might be alleviated.

The technology exists to tackle most if not all of these problems, but the gap between theory and practice is immense, perhaps insurmountable. It is maintained, in large part, by a combination of political intransigence and the financial constraints under which government and non-government organizations are forced to work. Much of the difficulty arises out of the socio-economic and political consequences of the required changes, which are perceived by some to be even more detrimental to society than the continued existence of the problem. In short, the disease is considered less damaging than the cure. For example, a substantive diminution of acid rain could be accomplished by restricting the use of sulphur-rich, bituminous coal, but it would have the effect of placing in jeopardy the economic viability of the areas producing that commodity. The economic, social and political impact of the closure of dozens of mines, accompanied by thousands of redundancies, may be seen as much more serious than the death of even several hundred lakes. Such concerns continue to influence the methods adopted to control acid rain. Rather than replacing the sulphur-rich coal with a low-sulphur alternative, the problem has been dealt with at the postcombustion stage by the introduction of scrubbers.

Socio-economic and political considerations also limit some of the solutions that might be applied to drought and famine. That problem could be approached by letting nature take its course, as was the norm in the not too distant past. It can be argued that the present system of providing food aid, and drilling wells in areas suffering from famine and drought is the easiest way to ensure that the problems will continue well into the future. Cutting back on aid, or removing it completely, would lead to largescale starvation and death, but it would also reduce stress on the environment, and allow the restoration of some form of equilibrium to the system. Current moral and ethical attitudes would presumably prevent the adoption of such a policy, and even the suggestion that it be considered would have far-reaching political implications.

Energy consumption is an element common to many environmental problems, and its treatment illustrates quite well some of the difficulties faced in the search for solutions. The reassessment of energy sources, leading eventually to a reduction in fossil fuel use is seen by many to provide the most likely solution to the problems of atmospheric turbidity, acid rain and global warming. It is particularly attractive because it is a broad-spectrum solution, which does not require separate technology to be developed for each issue. Improved energy efficiency, for example, would have a wideranging impact. It would reduce the output of CO2 and CH4, the main greenhouse gases; it would bring about a decline in atmospheric acidity by reducing emissions of SO2 and NOx; it would create a cleaner and clearer atmosphere by reducing the release of particulate matter. All of these could be achieved without additional technological developments. With cooperation among the developed and developing nations it is technically possible to lower atmospheric CO2 to 1976 levels through improved efficiency (Green 1992). In practical terms this is an unlikely achievement, however. With all of the uncertainties inherent in the global warming predictions, the developed nations might be reluctant to implement the necessary measures because of the initial costs involved, and developing nations—such as China—which see their future development tied to fossil fuels might be unwilling to make what they see as a major sacrifice. Attempts to improve energy efficiency would be accompanied by widespread economic impacts. Although efficiency is usually associated with lower costs, start-up costs would have to be taken into account. Supply and demand patterns would change. Greater efficiency would cause the demand for fuels to fall, which in turn would bring about a decline in prices. Under these circumstances, nations or groups of nations such as OPEC, economically dependent on fossil fuel production would be reluctant to participate in such a scheme.

Cooperation can be encouraged, particularly at the national level, through fiscal measures such as taxation. A carbon tax, paid on fuel consumption has been suggested as a means of reducing fossil fuel use, for example. Although most often proposed as a scheme to slow global warming by slowing down CO2 emissions, it would have an impact on other issues also. It would be relatively easy to set up and administer, and the resulting higher fuel prices would in theory lead to improved energy efficiency. The revenue generated by the tax could be used to offset existing environmental damage created by fossil fuel use, or invested in research aimed at finding solutions to environmental problems.

The simplicity of the carbon tax concept makes it attractive, but it is not without its drawbacks. All tax increases have political consequences, and in a world dependent upon readily available and relatively cheap energy the imposition of a carbon tax would have major socio-economic implications. High cost energy producers would suffer most. Coal and oil producers in North America and Europe would experience a greater financial impact than the oil states of the Middle East, for example. If the tax was graduated according to the polluting potential of the fuel, coal—with its emissions of CO2, SO2 and particulate matter—would be taxed at a higher rate than oil or natural gas. The actual tax levy would vary according to CO2

emission targets and the timeframe proposed. Estimates range from a tax of $20 per tonne of carbon to maintain CO2 emissions at 1990 levels, to $250-275 per tonne to reduce CO2 emissions by 70 per cent from the current estimate for the mid-twenty-first century (Green 1992). None of this would be achieved without international cooperation, and ultimately it would lead to changes in the composition and geographical distribution of the energy industry. The overall higher cost of energy might retard technological development, particularly in the developing nations, and it might be necessary to vary the taxes, not just by commodity but also by source so that the Third World would bear less of the burden. Thus attractive as a carbon tax might appear at first sight, its implementation is not without some obvious and serious economic and political constraints.

Neither improved energy efficiency nor the imposition of an energy tax will halt the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment. At best they can reduce emissions of gases and particulate matter to manageable levels. All of these pollutants are eventually removed from the system by natural recycling processes, but emission levels are now so high that the recycling processes cannot keep up. If they could be rejuvenated, perhaps they could contribute to the solution, or at least the amelioration of certain environmental problems. Such an approach has been proposed to counteract global warming by using the natural ability of plants to remove CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. It would involve the reforestation of large tracts of land so that carbon could be removed from the atmosphere, and sequestered or stored in the growing vegetation. In Canadian studies, it has been estimated that after taking such factors as land availability, soil conditions and climate into consideration, the maximum possible increase in carbon sequestration would be only 9-10 per cent, at a cost of $6-23 per tonne of carbon stored (Van Kooten et al. 1992). To absorb all of the 5 billion tonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere annually would require the planting of 1.3-1.7 billion acres of new forest every year, backed up by efficient harvesting and replanting schemes. Clearly this is impossible, and current estimates based on moderate cost-effectiveness suggest that no more than 4-5 per cent of total carbon emissions could be sequestered in this way (Green 1992).

Together, these schemes—improved energy efficiency, carbon taxation and afforestation— would indeed lessen the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, but no major improvement is likely until society's dependence on carbonbased fuels is much reduced. Alternative sources such as the sun, the wind, the sea and the biosphere, cannot supply energy in the amounts and at the rate demanded. The other potential alternative— nuclear fission—has been so discredited by recent events that it cannot be given serious consideration until problems of operational safety and radioactive waste disposal have been resolved. Thus, although developments in the energy sector have the potential to ameliorate a number of existing global environmental issues, major improvements are unlikely under current technological, socio-economic and political conditions.

It is increasingly apparent that solutions to the global environmental problems presently facing society must be economically, socially and politically acceptable. They must be more. Current global problems are multifaceted, therefore the solutions must be multifaceted. They must consider societal and environmental consequences equally, rather than emphasizing the former, as is commonly done at present.

The environment suffers because of the time scales followed by modern society. Politicians, for example, tend to deal in short-term causes, effects and solutions, living as they do from election to election. Many environmental problems do not fit readily into such a framework. Rapid, sometimes catastrophic change is an element in the environment, but, more often than not, change is accomplished through the cumulative effects of relatively minor variations over a long period of time. As a result, potentially important changes may not be recognized, or, if they are, they are ignored because of their seeming insignificance. Even when attempts are made to deal with such changes, the results may only become apparent after a considerable period of time. In the case of ozone depletion, for example, it will take several decades following the complete abolition of CFCs before ozone levels return to their normal range. In politics, where immediate and obvious solutions tend to be the order of the day, such a time lag is often considered politically unacceptable, and no action is taken.

Despite this, concern for environmental change has been growing among politicians and government bodies. They have made funds available for the investigation of global problems, and encouraged the dissemination of the research results through conferences and publications. The next stage in the process must be the implementation of the recommendations contained in the research reports. That is proving to be difficult, however, since it requires a long-range planning strategy, and modern planning policy is designed to provide solutions to short-term problems. Environmental impact procedures, for example, seek to integrate the environmental and socio-economic considerations arising from the development of a specific project and mitigate their effects at the outset. It is assumed that the decisions made at that time will minimize environmental impact throughout the life of the project, but there is already evidence that environmental change is accelerating so rapidly that this approach is now inappropriate. Current environmental problems require long-range planning extending several decades into the future, and responsive to change, if they are to be solved. Planners and policy-makers have not yet adjusted to that requirement. For example, reforestation is going ahead on the assumption that current climatic conditions will prevail during the life-span of the trees, yet in the next 50 years the intensification of the greenhouse effect is likely to cause climate to change in the areas being planted. Irrigation projects and hydro-electric schemes costing millions of dollars are being developed with no thought to the impact of current global problems on precipitation patterns several decades from now. Coastal and waterfront property is being developed as if the rise in sealevel, projected to accompany global warming, is of no consequence. Few of the long-range plans necessary to deal with the problems have been put in place, and there have been few important governmental or industrial decisions which have paid more than lip-service to the recommendations of the research scientists.

The implementation of measures to alleviate the effects of global environmental disruption is further complicated by the scale of the problems. Most will require international cooperation if they are to be controlled successfully. The major conferences which have addressed such issues as acid rain, ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect have been international in scope and have included agreements in principal on the measures required to reduce their impact. Such agreements are important, but they provide no guarantee that the situation will improve. Since they require ratification by individual nations, delays in their implementation are common. One year after the signing of the Montreal Protocol on the depletion of the ozone layer, only seven of the original thirty-seven signatories had ratified the treaty. Even when there is complete ratification, the problem of enforcement remains, and the possibility always exists that the worst offenders may refuse to become involved. For example, Britain and the United States declined membership in the '30 per cent club' when it was formed in 1979 to combat rising levels of acid emissions. Both were major contributors to acid rain, and many environmentalists felt that their lack of cooperation would be disastrous. It was only in the mid-1980s that Britain began to accept some responsibility for downstream acid rain damage, and began slowly to reduce acid gas emissions. It took even longer in North America—more than a decade—before the United States instituted pollution abatement measures that would reduce the export of acid rain north into Canada. Continued high levels of acid gas emissions during these lost years simply added to environmental deterioration, and retarded the necessary clean-up and recovery.

Similar problems arise with drought, famine and desertification. These were originally local issues in the Third World, which became global when the developed nations began to provide relief from drought and famine, and sought to combat desertification. Some success has been achieved against drought and famine, usually by employing the developed world's advanced technology and long-established supply and transport systems. Desertification remains rampant in many areas. Steps must be taken to prevent further environmental damage and to rehabilitate areas already damaged. Since it is independent of national boundaries, however, attempts to halt the spread of the desert in one area may be negated if nothing is done in an adjacent area. Success is only possible with international cooperation, and economic or political pressure may have to be applied to achieve that. Even if cooperation is complete, however, there is still no guarantee that the problem will be solved. Much will depend upon economic conditions in the developed nations, for they will be required to provide much of the necessary financial aid. Any downturn in the world economy—such as the recession of the early 1990s—puts their contribution in jeopardy, and threatens the success of the fight against desertification.

The great economic gap between rich and poor nations adds to the difficulties of resolving environmental problems at the international level. The developed nations are often accused of asking the Third World to make sacrifices to solve problems that they did little to create. In theory, the benefits would be evenly spread because of the integrated nature of the earth/ atmosphere system, but the short-term impact often appears detrimental rather than beneficial. For example, a reduction in the harvesting of tropical hardwoods from the rainforest is the goal of a number of environmental groups in North America and Europe. It would reduce local environmental problems and contribute to the slowing down of global warming. For many tropical nations, however, lumbering in the rainforest is an important source of revenue. They resent outside interference, and point out with justification that their contribution to global warming is minimal compared to that of the industrialized nations. They question the emphasis on the rainforest, when forestry practices in mid to high latitudes also disrupt natural carbon recycling. Similarly, many nations, in which petroleum production and export is the main income earner, resent the imposition of measures—such as carbon taxes—designed to help the environment, but also likely to reduce their revenues and restrict future development.

A major concern at the international level is that measures aimed at preserving the environment will impose too high a cost on those least responsible and least able to pay. The challenge will be to define and present the issues in such a way that the nations involved will see it as in their own best interests—economic, social, political and environmental—to introduce measures to prevent further damage to the environment and ameliorate existing problems. This will be no easy task, and although the need for global cooperation to combat global environmental problems is widely recognized, it seems likely that the vagaries of international politics and economics will continue to frustrate attempts to implement solutions.

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