Environmental Issue: Climate Change
Changes in global temperatures require people to develop suitable ways through which they can cope with resultant negative implications. Knowledge about the causes of these changes and effects is imperative, and people should use it to inform decision-making. This ensures that the intervention measures that they adopt are objective, credible, and therefore, beneficial. This paper critically reviews Pidgeon’s “Public Understanding of, and Attitudes to, Climate Change: UK and International Perspectives and Policy.” After reviewing the policy recommendations that this article puts forth, it suggests ideal policies that the governments of the countries can adopt to mitigate the negative implications of climate change.
Summary of Article
In his article “Public Understanding of, and Attitudes to, Climate Change: UK and International Perspectives and Policy,” Pidgeon acknowledges that academic institutions across the globe have exhaustively reviewed the concept of climate change (Pidgeon S87). Seemingly, nations are conversant with the meaning, causes, effects, and implications of climate change. Yet, regardless of this awareness, countries accord it low importance as compared to numerous other personal and global concerns. Pidgeon implicates strong contextual barriers such as externalized responsibility and psychological distancing for preventing public engagement with this phenomenon (Pidgeon S94). He explains that factors such as increasing politicization, distrust, issue fatigue, and effects of global financial crises contribute to the current state of affairs. Unlike western countries, some countries in the east understand the effects of climate change and continue to take practical steps to mitigate it. Considering the complex nature of the concept, fragmented efforts are unlikely to yield any noticeable benefits.
To curb this problem, Pidgeon recommends that relevant stakeholders should use effective communication and democratic governance (Pidgeon S96). Notably, current national as well as international governance systems compromise efforts to mitigate climate change. They prevent both the public and governments from assuming responsibility for this issue. Specifically, political groups should embrace democracy and use ideal modes of communication to engage the public in this initiative. Such an approach increases their participation and prevents incidences of patronization. According to the author, this is a sustainable approach to addressing various other environmental issues that compromise human wellbeing (Pidgeon S97).
The alterations that define climate change are caused by human activity or natural variability and have various impacts on the people’s wellbeing. Climate change culminates in alterations in global temperatures and affects the functioning of environmental systems. As indicated earlier, people need to develop coping mechanisms and resilience in order to sustain their wellbeing (Vig and Kraft 62). Currently, the world’s poor nations lack access to as well as control of these important resources. Although rich countries have sufficient relevant capacities, they continue to exhibit laxity with regard to addressing the concern effectively. This is attributable to various factors including distrust and global financial crisis.
The changing temperatures affect agricultural production systems by altering seasons (Vig and Kraft 44). In some regions, extreme weather conditions lead to loss of crops. Other areas experiencing drought start receiving rainfall. In this case, this is beneficial to the people residing in these regions because they have a chance to pursue agriculture. However, growing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns increase the spread of pests, thus contributing to crop failure.
With respect to energy use, increasing temperatures require nations to use air conditioning that utilizes more energy. Nonetheless, people in certain geographical regions need less energy because of warm winters. Weather extremes compromise effective production of electricity from hydropower and affect human health (Vig and Kraft 72). Regarding water and the hydrological cycle, climate change makes some regions experience floods, while others struggle with the negative effects of drought. Furthermore, the changing temperatures impact ecosystems as well as plants and animals that exist therein (Vig and Kraft 72).
Evaluation of Policy
As Pidgeon suggests, education and empowerment are the most idyllic strategies in addressing the complexities surrounding climate change (Pidgeon S85). In this respect, education equips people with the knowledge, skills, and expertise that they can use to cope with the issue. Furthermore, it challenges countries to use creative approaches and benefit from some of the effects such as increased precipitation. However, this knowledge cannot be meaningful if it is not put into practical use. Governments are responsible for ensuring that nations use this knowledge to mitigate the effects of global climate changes. These institutions have the power, authority, resources, and machinery to implement relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in an effective and timely manner. It is for this reason that Pidgeon believes that through governments, the society can address the issue of climate change with ease (Pidgeon S95).
Furthermore, Pidgeon claims that public engagement in mitigation efforts is vitally important (Pidgeon S99). Indeed, the contribution of various agencies such as the media, scientists, activist groups and non-profit making organizations is vital. This ensures that the efforts made towards addressing the problem are concerted and, therefore, effective. Public participation also eases resource mobilization (Vig and Kraft 88). Moreover, inherent inclusion promotes support for implementation efforts from various stakeholders. Although it is time consuming, the approach is sustainable, and the efforts are worthwhile.
Through democratic approaches, countries can use effective communication tools to inform the public about the importance of their involvement in the process (Pidgeon S96). In addition, democratic approaches allow for effective mobilization of resources to address various problems. Since the government is influential, it can use its authority to formulate and implement effective policies and regulations too. Pidgeon’s policy is idyllic and has the ability to stimulate public participation. Nonetheless, it needs to be used together with other strategies in order to optimize results. This is particularly so because the climate changes phenomenon is complex and requires comprehensive interventions. Notably, its effects on the economic, social, cultural, and environmental spheres are different.
The major cause of climate change includes greenhouse gas emissions. In most instances, these stem from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, intensive and extensive agricultural practices, urbanization, and deforestation. This implies that addressing climate change requires significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. As mentioned earlier, effects of climate change are pervasive and, therefore, require urgent solutions. Research evidence shows that reducing greenhouse gas production is beneficial (Vig and Kraft 86). However, this should be done at the lowest cost in order to safeguard the economic wellbeing of nations. The low cost strategy is also sustainable and ensures that the countries all around the globe engage in effective and lasting intervention measures.
It is vital for governments to consider exploring green technologies as well as practices. Such technologies promote energy efficiency and encourage exploration of renewable sources. They can attain this by using market-based instruments that promote innovation. However, these should be used with research and development initiatives in order to optimize returns. Undertaking research ensures that the solutions that various bodies and agencies adopt are efficient and effective. Thus, information instruments, regulations and research, and development initiatives should complement market based strategies (Vig and Kraft 66). These are instrumental in overcoming information and market failures that compromise timely diffusion and development of friendly technologies. Furthermore, the regulations should aim at achieving well defined results in order to encourage creativity and ensure flexibility.
What is more, it is also imperative to consider analyzing performance of agricultural, energy, and transport sectors. In this respect, states should ensure that technologies that are used in manufacturing and developing infrastructure promote efficient energy use practices. In this respect, it is worth acknowledging that these infrastructures are used for an extensive period. It is important for building codes to incorporate energy efficiency requirements and encourage the use of energy sources that are not carbon intensive. Moreover, specifically technical options like carbon storage and capture offer useful alternatives. With respect to agriculture, governments should implement and enforce viable policies and practices that seek to reduce emissions. These include management of animal waste and agricultural fertilizers, as well as landfill gas recovery. Furthermore, they should implement desirable policies that aim at reducing agricultural subsidies that are environmentally harmful, supporting practices that are environmentally friendly, and so forth.
As Pidgeon suggests, governments should levy energy taxes in order to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere (Pidgeon S98). They should refrain from offering certain factions of the society tax exemptions or reductions. Particularly, they need to tax energy intensive sectors to ensure responsibility with respect to energy consumption. This measure would reduce greenhouse gas emitting activities because of the expenses that are involved. In addition, it is necessary to decrease subsidies that encourage emission of greenhouse gases either directly or indirectly.
Since climate change has global implications, western countries cannot achieve mitigation single-handedly. They should cooperate with other states in achieving their goals and objectives. This requires the implementation of international policies and regulations that guide and enhance environmentally conscious behavior. For instance, governments can establish global prices on carbon. This will ensure that all states assume responsibility for practices that increase greenhouse gas emissions (Vig and Kraft 93). Although developing countries may lack the capacity to pay for their emissions, formulating and instituting these policies and regulations would encourage them to pursue economic investment sustainably.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, people should devise viable ways of adapting to the impacts of the phenomenon and coping with the changes in agricultural productivity, severe weather conditions, loss of habitats, and ocean acidification amongst others. In this respect, it is imperative to undertake research and equip communities with knowledge regarding effective coping strategies (Vig and Kraft 116). Community leaders, regional governments, state governments, the business community, and environmental agencies should collaborate in developing comprehensive climate change adaptation strategies. These should also encompass assessment of current as well as future trends. Sharing this information at different levels enables communities to be better equipped with important knowledge regarding effective coping strategies. Furthermore, all stakeholders should participate actively in the identification of threats that are related to climate change. Based on these, they should proceed to the development and evaluation of the appropriate effective strategies.
Currently, western countries are informed about the concept of climate change. However, in order to ease collaboration efforts, they should disseminate this knowledge to nations in developing countries of Africa and Asia. In particular, these people should be informed about the interrelationships among the biological, chemical, and physical systems. Notably, decisions are difficult and involve various factors including social values, economics, competing priorities, and possible uncertainty. In essence, the impacts are significant, and therefore, the intervention strategy should be comprehensive (Vig and Kraft 119). In order to help people make informed decisions, governments should focus on providing them with fundamental knowledge regarding the severity, likelihood, causes, and costs of the effects of this phenomenon. In addition, they should be provided with credible information regarding the efficacy of various strategies. To ensure that countries attain a rational level of decision-making regarding this issue, educators should deliver the information effectively and objectively.
Most importantly, measures should be undertaken to promote a systematic approach to addressing the problems of climate change. Viable strategies in this regard include integrated resource planning, urban planning and management, water management, and system wide energy planning. Furthermore, governments can liaise with nongovernmental organizations and scientists to implement programs that support livelihoods of local populations (Pidgeon S99). This empowers communities and discourages pursuit of practices that are environmentally insensitive.
Finally, it would be important to invest in enhancing metrics as well as environmental monitoring at local, project, national, and global levels. Monitoring emission trends is motivating and fosters learning. Information gained from this can motivate stakeholders to engage more in environmentally friendly practices. The indicators can be used at different levels for benchmarking and designing desirable country strategies. Findings of rigorous environmental impact assessments, in their turn, can guide decision-making when investing in the energy sector. Countries should also focus on monitoring and evaluating emission prevention interventions in a bid to ensure that the interventions are effective in addressing the emissions problem.
In his review, Pidgeon agrees that although the western society is well acquainted with the complexities of climate change, they have failed to take critical measures to address the problems effectively. He suggests that democratic governance and good communication skills are imperative in mitigating the effects of climate change. Apart from contributing to crop failure, climate change culminates in depletion of habitats and ecosystems, health complications, and so forth. The phenomenon is characterized by increasing global temperatures as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Although Pidgeon’s strategies are effective, they need to be used together with other policies, regulations and guidelines in order to yield desirable outcomes. Most importantly, they should focus on reducing the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
From the findings of the preceding analysis, it is important for governments to cooperate with each other in addressing the impacts of climate change. Besides imposing taxes on carbon emissions, they should discourage climate change subsidies and exemptions. In addition, nation states should explore green technologies. These are energy saving and instrumental in reducing emissions. What is more, governments should collaborate with nongovernmental agencies, local communities and other parties to mitigate the effects. Finally, countries should take practical measures to evaluate and monitor the interventions. Coupled with research and development, this ensures that they implement workable and sustainable intervention measures. Such a comprehensive policy will definitely help in addressing the persistent and pervasive effects of the climate change phenomenon.
Pidgeon, Nick. “Public Understanding of, and Attitudes to, Climate Change: UK and International Perspectives and Policy.” Climate Policy, 12 (2012): S85-S106. Print.
Vig, Norman, and Michael Kraft. (2009). Environmental Policy: New Directions for the Twenty First Century. New York: CQ Press. Print.