Cover Image

PAPERBACK
$24.00



View/Hide Left Panel
Click for next page ( 188


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 187
18 IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICY: OPTIONS FOR ACTION Martin W. Holdgate INTRODUCTION: A GLOBAL DILEMMA The title of this forum begs a question: Does humanity have a common future in the face of global change? We do not have a common present. We live in a world of depressing gulfs between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, cared for and neglected, and consumer and producer societies. We live in nations with dramatic differences in population growth and pressure on the natural resource base. Lessons of history suggest that stresses are as likely to produce competition or isolationism as cooperation. Are not the stresses of higher global temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and increased W -B penetration more likely to exacerbate current problems, especially in regions whose population is likely to double within 25 years, and plunge nations into misery and strife? We already have environmental refugees moving from areas of depleted resources and causing frontier conflicts. What must be done if we are to prevent turmoil as a consequence of global change? The answer, surely, is to try to get the most practical and effective policies followed where we can, as soon as we can, even if we cannot solve all the world's problems at a stroke. For being daunted by the challenge will solve nothing. Partial success is better than total failure. THE CRITERIA FOR A SUCCESSFUL RESPONSE Any public policy addressing this situation must meet five criteria: 1. It must start from the social and political realities of today's world, in all its diversity and complexity. 2. It must accept that governments and people have more immediate preoccupations than what the world will be like 50 years hence 3. It must accept that it is the activities of the developed world that have largely caused the problems now confronting us and that the North is looked to by the South to solve those problems in a way that will not inhibit the South's essential development. 187

OCR for page 187
188 4. It must accept that policies and actions have to be developed nationally in ways that fit national traditions, politics, and aspira- tions and that are capable of effective implementation on the ground. 5. It must accept that national efforts must be linked internation- ally, but in an equitable way that does not impose the judgments of the North on the South. I suggest that a successful global approach, a mosaic though it must be of international, national, and local actions, will have five ingre- dients: 1. Awareness building. 2. Avoidance strategies. 3. Adaptive strategies. 4. Abatement measures. 5. Assistance mechanisms. These will be discussed in turn. Awareness needs to be cultivated at international, national, and personal levels. There is evidence that governments are aware of the potential immensity of the problems: For example, the U.N. General Assembly responded positively to the debate initiated by the president of the Maldives, who pointed out that virtually none of his country's 1191 islands would remain after a 2-m rise in sea level. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) has held informal discussions with ministers who placed global change high on their list of concerns. One hundred twenty-four delegations, 80 of them led at the ministerial level, attended the recent London Conference on the Ozone Layer. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been established to consider the changes, their im- pacts, and responses. The Commonwealth has established an expert group to advise its heads of government on these same issues. There is less evidence of effective national analysis and planning, and what there is lies mostly in the developed world. In the United States, Congress has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency prepare a report on policy options for stabilizing global climate. On April 26, 1989, the British prime minister, five members of the cabinet, and five other ministers discussed the questions with 50 leading scien- tists and industrialists. But these discussions are only slowly cascad- ing down to catalyze strategies in individual firms and local communi- ties. At a personal level, awareness depends immensely on the mass media. Such personal awareness is essential because global impact is the integral of innumerable human actions that appear trivial when consid- ered alone. Twenty years ago, how could anyone who puffed an aerosol can have suspected that he or she was depleting stratospheric ozone over Antarctica in springtime? Even a woman in the Sahel who cuts the last bush in a desperate quest for firewood is likely to be aware of the local rather than the wider implications. So building awareness is one key to the evolution of policy. Aware- ness-building campaigns should emphasize the need for sound science, in- cluding the gathering of more data for input to better models. They need to explain in nonhysterical terms what the scientific evaluations

OCR for page 187
189 imply and what can be done. They need to build commitment at the citizen level to the expenditure, and to the changes in products on the market, that will be needed. In developing countries they will need to explain how local administrations can act to avoid problems and at the same time maintain the impetus of environmentally sound development. Avoidance strategies and adaptive strategies are closely linked. The first means evaluating how the best available scenarios of global change could affect a region, a country, or an industrial corporation, and desisting from actions that could aggravate risk and loss. The second means changing plans and actions in a more definitive way to shift the process of planned investment and development onto a durable course. For example, we have good reason to expect that sea levels will rise by some 10 to 20 cm by 2030 and will go on rising thereafter. It makes sense to avoid development low down on unprotected coastal plains and deltas that are at special risk. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cal- culated that natural salt marsh systems in Boston Harbor provided sea defenses that averted some U.S.$17 billion worth of expenditures on con- struction. Salt marshes, like mangroves in the tropics, have a capacity for upward growth if sediment is supplied, pollutant discharges from the land are controlled, and damaging overuse, like excessive cutting of mangroves, is avoided. Coral reefs, whose shelter is essential to the survival of many atoll nations, can grow at up to 10 mm per year if likewise protected from damage and pollution. While the capacity of all these systems may be outstripped if sea level rises follow some projec- tions, it makes sense to survey such natural defenses and avoid action that reduces their effectiveness. Forests, similarly, play a crucial part in controlling water runoff, preventing erosion, and in the Amazon, maintaining rainfall. The current destruction promises to establish a vicious cycle of climatic, hydrolog- ical, and production decline. Yet it is pursued for reasons that appear economically compelling in the short term. What is needed is the demon- stration that sustainable use is more compelling. I have seen estimates that such sustainable extraction of timber, fruits, medicinal plants, and wildlife, correctly valued, can yield over U.S.$200 per hectare per annum as against a one-time U.S.$150 for irreversible destructive clearance. Avoidance strategies mean substituting more durable and resilient land use. Adaptive strategies mean preparing now for the changes likely to occur under the best available scenarios: reviewing cropping systems, forestry, river management, irrigation, and the distribution of urban and industrial development so that they will be in the right place at the right time. For those concerned with conserving biological diversity, adaptive strategies require looking at the pattern of protected areas, which in 50 years may no longer provide suitable habitats for the organ- isms they are supposed to safeguard. We have to plan now, without waiting for models that give us a clear regional breakdown of likely change, because every decade we delay may aggravate losses. But because of the scientific uncertainties, plans themselves must be flexible and adaptive. One pattern we could follow is that of the National Conservation Strategy, adopted by many governments with help from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

OCR for page 187
190 A successful national strategy has three important features. First, it has to draw together the "horizontal" dimension of government, making all departments that depend on and influence environmental resources plan for their sustainable use, and this means involving finance, industry, energy, agriculture, forestry, and commerce as well as the obvious "green centers" of national parks and wildlife. Second, the strategy has to extend ''vertically" from central through local government and has to bring in industrial corporations, village communities--especially women-- and citizen groups. It has to create genuine dialog about what to do for the common benefit. It has to promote a genuine attachment of the true cost of environmental change to development projects. And third, it has to create a continuing process, not just another document on the shelf. This kind of process, moreover, addresses the whole question of wise use of national resources; it therefore allows the impact of change to be put in a social context. But while avoidance and adaptation can save lives, costs, and much pointless destruction, the lesson of this forum is that we face changes far too grave to allow us merely to adjust to them while their causes are unchecked. We face a bigger alteration of climate in a shorter time than the world's ecosystems have experienced even during the dramatic oscil- lations of the past 200,000 years. This will shift the zones of ecolog- ical tolerance of species hundreds of kilometers horizontally, and hun- dreds of meters vertically, with unpredictable consequences for natural systems and crops. Low-lying nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu, or the Maldives may face submergence in 100 years. We have to attack the causes and this means abatement. Priorities for abatement need to be based on (1) the relative significance of a damaging substance and (2) the practicability of contra 1 . Best estimates suggest that carbon dioxide (C02) contributes 50 percent of the greenhouse effect; methane, 18 percent; chlorofluorocar- bons (CFCs), 14 percent; nitrous oxide, 6 percent; and others, notably tropospheric ozone, 12 percent. There are special reasons to start with CFCs, also clearly incrimi- nated as depleters of stratospheric ozone. The recent London conference concluded that we had to adopt as our objective the total elimination of production and consumption of CFCs and haloes. It heard from industry that substitutes are available or are under development. It urged the universal acceptance, strengthening, and more rapid implementation of the Montreal Protocol. There is no reason why we cannot eliminate CFCs by the end of the century. We can also press ahead with the application of existing technology to scrub sulfur oxides from flue gases and to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides from power stations and the precursors of tropospheric ozone from automobile emissions. All these things are relatively simple techni- cally. If we cannot deal with them, there is not much hope for our action against more intractable greenhouse gases. It may be more difficult to act against methane and nitrous oxide, since a high proportion of the former appears to originate in wet rice cultivation and livestock. But by common consent, abating CO2 is the great challenge.

OCR for page 187
191 About 80 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions come from fossil fuel combustion. Coal, oil, and natural gas all yield it, but coal produces the most per unit of energy produced. North America contributes 27.5 percent; Eastern Europe, 25 percent; Western Europe, 15 percent; Asia, 8 percent; the Pacific region, 6 percent; and the other developing countries, 5 percent; so it is very much a developed world responsibility even though the developing countries bid to overtake us in 30 years. As a matter of equity, it is the developed countries that are looked to for abatements that will make room for Third World growth without environ- mental disaster. One target might be to halve CO2 emissions from the developed coun- tries by 2020. This is ambitious, for current energy-use projections imply an increase of over 25 percent on that time scale. I have seen reviews suggesting eight possible approaches: 1. Reforestation. 2. Generating energy from organic waste, which otherwise goes to landfills and releases methane. 3. Improved efficiency in the generation and use of energy from fossil fuels. 4. Substitution of fuels like natural gas that produce less CO2 per unit of energy generated. 5. Removal of CO2 from power station flue gases. 6. More efficient use of fuel for transport. 7. Development of renewable sources (hydra, wind, wave, geothermal, solar, and fuels from biomass). 8. Increased use of nuclear energy. The optimal mix and scale of benefit from each must vary from country to country. Some, like reforestation and generation of energy from waste, are worth doing and can have great public appeal, even if their contribution is small. Others, like substituting natural gas for coal, presuppose the availability of supplies. In most developed countries, however, the most promising approaches are likely to be energy conser- vation (which in Europe could contribute 40 percent of the target), development of fuel-efficient transport (12 percent), and if the public can be satisfied on grounds of safety, increased use of nuclear energy (23 percent). The target is attainable--at a cost. But only if the citizen is prepared to act. For energy conservation in the home, factory, and office depends on consumer commitment, and economies in transport may mean some reduction in vehicle performance. Market forces can help both, and this points to an expensive energy policy with, for example, the threatened tax on gasoline of U.S.$1 to U.S.$2 per gallon. Tax incen- tives can help pull through investment in home insulation. Public statements of technical targets may be needed to bring forward more efficient products like the 80-miles-per-gallon automobile (recall that technical targets for emission abatement pulled through the 3-way cata- lyst). There is, self-evidently, a feedback loop here to awareness, which can pull products through by creating environmentally sound markets.

OCR for page 187
192 Internationally, if not nationally, assistance will undoubtedly be needed to secure the changes required. Many of the poorest countries are also among the most vulnerable to climatic change, if deserts become more arid and the sea encroaches on densely populated coasts (and half the population of the world lives in coastal zones). Such assistance will be needed for three main purposes: 1. To finance national surveys and development of avoidance and adaptive strategies. 2. To promote development of forestry and agroforestry systems and other land-use practices most likely to be resilient in the face of change. 3. To transfer technology that will incorporate substitutes for CFC,s and greenhouse gas abatement methods. Cooperation will also be needed in ways that go beyond traditional development aid. World markets and trading patterns must be adjusted to favor products from developing countries suited to a changing world. Real resources will need to be transferred from the North to the South to promote the conservation of biological diversity that the North uses but the South shields. We need also cooperation in science to gather good worldwide data and develop better models. A good start has been made through the World Climate Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other groups. Beyond this, there is a case for expressing our common commitment in a framework convention on the limitation of climatic change. This might bind its contracting parties as follows: 1. To observe a code of conduct in respect of measures to protect the atmosphere. 2. To cooperate in research and assessment. 3. To provide assistance for technology transfer. 4. To negotiate specific protocols for the limitation and reduction of greenhouse gases. Such a convention will inevitably take thorough debate, but it is my impression that there is international recognition of the need to do something to give voice to the collective commitment of the world community. Finally, we need to review the world's institutional machinery. Primarily, this means the United Nations. There have been many pro- posals, but I suggest it will be easiest to work with the structure we have. 1. The U.N. Security Council, whose mandate is wide enough, might periodically review major environmental issues of global concern that could threaten peace and security. 2. A commission on environmental change might provide technical backup to the Security Council, perhaps continuing the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on C1, mate Change .

OCR for page 187
193 The Agencies Coordinating Council could make a real effort to the U.N. agencies together. The U.N. 3. harness 4. The U.N. Environment Programme, perhaps given a new mandate at the second U.N. conference on the environment due in 1992, could continue to provide a wider forum for environmental discussion. But the United Nations alone is not enough. The action pattern we need is much broader. As chief executive of the world's largest pro- fessional organization concerned with conservation, may I make a plea for the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? With a membership of 62 gov- ernments, 130 state agencies, and over 300 NGOs active in 120 countries, we can operate with a flexibility denied to the intergovernmental ma- chinery and build institutions especially in the developing world. Such machinery is needed, for the developing countries need a vehicle for stating their needs and reversing the traditional dominance of "northern"' concepts and priorities. CONCLUSIONS - My conclusions are simple. We must stimulate public awareness of the problems that confront us, but on the basis of good science rather than exaggeration and half-truth. We must promote individual commitment to actions that may cost more now, to save immense costs later. We need to promote national, local, and corporate measures of avoidance and adap- tation, and we should do this now in parallel with the increased perfec- ~ . We must accept the need for assis- tance, especially to the developing world ~ if they are to pursue energy- efficient pathways. And we must redesign our international machinery for coordination and cooperation, including the development of a new inter- national instrument or convention and stronger organizational mechanisms. We may not succeed everywhere--I admit to being pessimistic about the prospects in some areas--but we can ensure more success by acting now than by doing nothing in the misplaced hope that the problems will solve talon ot science. which we also need themselves. r