Responses of Human Societies to Global Warming!
The responses of human societies to global warming can take several approaches. First, prevention strategies can be employed to reduce the quantities of greenhouse gases being emitted. Mitigation mechanism strategies can attempt to compensate for emissions that do occur, for example, through reforestation policies that increase the uptake of CO2 from the air by trees and other plants.
Lastly, strategies can be employed that help communities and nations adapt to changes in climate and their consequences. In practice, all three types of approaches are likely to be important. Here, we discuss a range of prevention and mitigation policies.
It is worth noting that the problem of global warming is intimately linked to other serious environmental problems involving the atmosphere, in particular those of acid precipitation, urban smog, and depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. The problems are linked chemically because, once released, many of the pollutants that cause trouble interact in complex and synergistic ways within the atmosphere or play a role in more than one problem.
They are linked economically because these are often the same human activities that release the pollutants responsible for all three problems. And, they are linked in a policy sense because policies designed to attack one problem—by altering an economic activity to reduce emission of the pollutant responsible, for example—inevitably will affect other problems as well.
A policy designed to produce automobile that use less fuel, for example, would reduce not only CO2 emissions, but may also reduce the oxides of nitrogen (NO2) emissions that contribute to acid precipitations, urban smog and global warming.
While work should proceed simultaneously on mitigation and adaptation strategies, prevention deserves the highest priority. Preventing the emissions of greenhouse gases that would be released into the atmosphere not only delays the onset of significant global warming, but also slows its advance and reduces its ultimate magnitude.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions or even to slow their rate of growth on a global scale will require an extraordinary degree of political consensus. One country or even one region can prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases by itself, although leadership by individual countries will be important in achieving global consensus.
To be broadly acceptable, ideally, prevention policies should confer other local benefits on their adopting countries in addition to the worldwide benefit of reducing the risk of a global warming.
Many policies have been proposed and are under study. It seems clear, however, that any successful prevention strategy will include five key elements:
1. increasing the efficiency of energy production and use;
2. switching from carbon-intensive fuels, such as coal to hydrogen-intensive fuels such as natural gas, where possible;
3. encouraging the rapid development and use of solar and other carbon-free energy sources;
4. elimination the production of most CFCs and developing the means to recapture those now in use; and
5. Reducing the rate of deforestation.