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Pollution: A Global Responsibi Essay, Research Paper

Space: Pollution is a Global Responsibility

The statement says that pollution is a global responsibility, but first of all, in order to understand the statement and therefore argue the points of view, we must state what can be defined as Pollution. The Oxford dictionary states that to pollute an area is to

Destroy the purity or sanctity of; make foul or filthy; contaminate or defile

There are many types of pollution that effect the environment on the universal scale and also on the microcosmic scale of a particular room within a building. I would say that pollution is the destruction or a human caused change to the environment that we live in, from Global Warming to wasting heat energy by leaving the window open.

There are many types of pollution, of which the most common is atmospheric pol-lution. Atmospheric pollution is generally caused by the emissions of substances from mainly industry but also at home. A major cause of atmospheric pollution is the release of gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Sulphur Dioxide from industry, trans-port and the burning of material.

Industry is also the main cause of the pollution of rivers and oceans, where chemi-cals are dumped into water in the hope they will diffuse into the vast amounts of water, however, it doesn t work this way and slowly the oceans are becoming saturated with our pollution. This pollution of water has caused Soil pollution, where most of the nu-trients needed by the soil is gained through the absorption of our polluted water.

Other pollutants that are not destructive to the physical environment but effect the human environment are noise, light and heat pollution. This pollution occurs everyday in the urbanised world where we leave on lights, leave windows open when trying to heat our homes and produce decibels of noise that annoys our closest neighbours. Even though we occasionally don t consider this as polluting the area, we are destroying the purity and sanctity of our environment.

In the opinion of many people, we are all responsible for the pollution that we cause and for preventing it. Many countries have a strict policy that enforce industry and residential areas to ensure that their own area is within the safety standards for a human environment. However, other countries are unable to enforce such a law and the inhabitants of that country are suffering. But these corporations also argue that they should only be responsible to the pollution that they cause, and that if there is not sub-stantial evidence that they have caused the pollution, they should not be enforced to clear up, or prevent it.

One of the major pollution problems that exist in the world today is Global Warming. Global Warming has occurred because atmospheric temperatures are increasing causing the polar ice caps to melt and sea level rises, but how is global warming actually caused?

Global Warming is caused by an increase in the amount of Carbon Dioxide and other gases, including Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), in the atmosphere. It has been for over a century that Carbon Dioxide helps stop the sun’s infrared radiation from escaping into space and therefore functions to maintain the earths relatively warm temperature. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the last century will lead to elevated global temperatures, which could result in coastal flooding and major climatic changes, that will have serious im-plications for agricultural productivity as well as causing greater frequency of flooding and other natural phenomenon seen recently.

Global warming is a process that ignores national boundaries so it is difficult to determine who is responsible for this rise in temperatures. We should presume that be-cause global warming is caused by the release of greenhouse gases, then everyone is re-sponsible, in some way, for this build up of pollution in the atmosphere. Therefore, we all have the responsibility for reducing the amounts of toxic gases that we produce as a nation. But therefore, surely the government needs to enforce this somehow, and at what levels should the government say are deemed acceptable for the atmosphere.

Industry and manufacturing are the major source of toxic emissions, so surely they should be paying for research and development of ways to slow global warming. But, again, how much does industry has to pay, should there be an international standard? Enforcing the amount of gases emitted by the companies would be difficult so it would be easier for there to be a standard rate paid by the companies, but then some are pay-ing more than others. All these financial arguments about who is going to take financial responsibility for global warming is slowing down the process to preventing it and taken defences against rising sea levels and increased risk of flooding.

Financial responsibility is a debated topic of which no one is willing to pay up for the damage being caused. In one opinion, it is the global responsibility of the people to pay through the tax system, however, some people believe that industry is to blame for the pollution so they should be paying. One thing that is agreed is that there is blame for global warming in every country with no exceptions.

In the same atmospheric respects to global warming, the increasing hole in the Ozone Layer is contributing to diseases such as skin cancer, but also adding to Global Warming. The Ozone Layer is a region of the atmosphere from 12 to 30 miles above the earth’s surface. Ozone concentrations at the ratio 1:100000 occur in the ozone layer, which is considerably high compared with other areas of the atmosphere.

The ozone forms there by the action of sunlight on oxygen. This action has been taking place for many millions of years, but naturally occurring nitrogen compounds in the atmosphere apparently have kept the ozone concentration at a fairly stable level. Concentrations this great at ground level are dangerous to human health; but because the ozone layer protects life on earth from the full force of the sun’s cancer-causing ul-traviolet radiation, it is critically important.

Therefore, scientists were concerned when they discovered, in the 1970s, that cer-tain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, (CFCs) long used as refrigerants and in aerosol spray cans, posed a possible threat to the ozone layer. Released into the atmos-phere, the chlorine-containing chemicals rise and are broken down by sunlight, where-upon the chlorine reacts with and destroy ozone molecules. For this reason, the use of CFCs in aerosols has been banned in Britain as well as other countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia and most European Community members.

These harmful gases have now caused a hole in the layer allowing the ultraviolet light to penetrate the atmosphere. We are helpless to prevent the process, and now we must hope that over time, the ozone layer will be regenerated naturally through the re-striction of all toxic emissions into the atmosphere.

This will be difficult, as Newly Industrialised Countries such as Far Eastern Coun-tries Singapore & South Korea along with South American Countries Mexico and Bra-zil. These countries currently going through an Industrial Revolution of their own are not restrictive of the amount of harmful gases released into the atmosphere. Unless a complete global responsibility can be taken to ensure that no CFCs or Carbon Dioxide is released, then we will continue to suffer from these problems.

But who is responsible for these main atmospheric problems? Industry can be claimed to be responsible because they use CFCs, Carbon Dioxide and other toxic gases in their industrial processes. These industries fail to prevent the release of these harmful gases into the atmosphere. The companies should find a different process of manufacturing so that either none or a nominal amount of greenhouse gases are re-leased into the atmosphere to cause the depletion of the ozone layer. Surely they should be the people to take responsibility and clear up, as it is there mess.

But in contrast, as the customers of products such as CFC aerosols and even pet-rol/diesel cars, we also produce these harmful gases that have been damaging the at-mosphere since the industrial revolution. In areas such as cars, people tend to buy diesel cars still without considering the environmental damage they will cause whilst driving to work everyday.

Customers are not aware of the environment issues when buying products such as cars, aerosols and other products. Many people argue that if the customer is targeted to buy more environmentally friendly products then industry will produce these products for the people. Financial responsibility is a burden that no one is willing to bare.

The final major atmospheric problem in our global concern is Acid Rain. Scien-tists have discovered that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of acid rain. Acidic deposition, or acid rain as it is commonly known, occurs when emissions of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX) react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form various acidic compounds. This mixture forms a mild solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Sunlight increases the rate of most of these reactions.

These compounds then fall to the earth in either wet form (such as rain, snow, and fog or dry form (such as gas and particles). About half of the acidity in the atmosphere falls back to earth through dry deposition as gases and dry particles. The wind blows these acidic particles and gases onto buildings, cars, homes, and trees. In some in-stances, these gases and particles can eat away the things on which they settle. Dry de-posited gases and particles are sometimes washed from trees and other surfaces by rainstorms. When that happens, the runoff water adds those acids to the acid rain, making the combination more acidic than the falling rain alone. The combination of acid rain plus dry deposited acid is called acid deposition. Prevailing winds transport the compounds, sometimes hundreds of miles, across state and national borders.

Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams and contributes to damage of trees at high elevations (for example, red spruce trees above 600m in height). In addi-tion, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irre-placeable buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation’s cultural heri-tage. Prior to falling to the earth, SO2 and NOX gases and their particulate matter de-rivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and impact public health.

Acid rain is a process that is not restricted by national boundaries. For example, British industry causes acid rain through emissions form their factories, and when these gases mix with the water vapour they form Sulphur Dioxide or Nitrous Oxide, which is deposited over Scandinavia. Surely it is Britain s responsibility for the damage caused to Scandinavian forests and lakes are we should pay damages to their country for the clean up. Britain should also pay for the prevention of the release of gases through con-versions of factories and cars that produce the emissions.

But surely the countries of Scandinavia are causing acid rain, which is deposited on other countries. Should they pay for their damage in a way the each nation is paying for another nations pollution damage. Many people believe that it would be far easier and more sensible for each country to pay for their own damage and the prevention of the production of emissions in the future. Therefore, this will prevent the release of the gases and reduce the cost of conservation and redevelopment of damaged areas. Shar-ing the cost of the damage is the only way each country will take some responsibility.

Throughout the world, in both More Economically Developed Countries and Less Economically Developed Countries, there are companies that have exploited the envi-ronment and the people that occupy the area. An example of this situation is the Trans-national Corporation of Shell. Shell is the largest oil company in the world, however, the use their position and money to influence governments so that they can cut corners on safety. Nigeria is one of the biggest oil fields in the world and Shell has a huge base in the country. The country relies on Oil for 70% of its income and in particular Shell, and in order to keep the company operating within their country, it allows the corpora-tion to do as it pleases.

One of the safety regulations that exist in Britain is that all oil pipes from pumps the refinery must run underground. Although, this makes them difficult to repair, it makes it safer for the residents. In Nigeria, the oil companies are allowed to run pipes above ground and these take the quickest route that means that they frequently run through towns and villages. In some cases, the authorities have allowed the demolition of some houses to make way for the pipes to run. These pipes are polluting the area and have caused the depletion of crops grown in the area. Soil pollution has meant that the land has become infertile and unable to bear crops or animals. The government of Ni-geria have encouraged the destruction of the people s main income in order to sustain the government s main income.

This example shows that some pollution is not always a global responsibility but the obligation of the company that caused the pollution. The government that presides over the Trans-national Corporation should then enforce this obligation. We as a people must be protected by the government and not affected by the decisions the government makes. Pollution to this Less Economically Developed Country is being caused by a More Economically Developed Country corporation so who should take responsibility. Many people see this as a straightforward argument that Shell should take responsibil-ity for the damage created.

International laws should enforce the behaviour of a Transnational Corporation in a Less Economically Developed Country to prevent any conflict between the corpora-tion and the inhabitants of the area occupied. In examples where the corporation operat-ing in the country is manipulating the government, then international organisations should take responsibility to enforce that the company acts properly in their operations and pays compensation to any local areas damaged or destroyed by the operational processes of the company.

This enforces the view by many people that individual countries or companies cannot be held entirely responsible to pollution because they don t have international standards to maintain, as in the case on TNCs operating in many countries, it may be difficult so each operation to maintain pollution standards for each country. Thus, by having international standards, companies and countries are able to work towards a minimum level to which pollution must be reduced.

These laws are drawn up, discussed and established in international law at United Nations summits by representatives from every member of the UN, which, is virtually all states throughout world, and even those countries who are not full members are able to send a representative. Recently, the United Nations met in Brussels to discuss Global Warming at a Climate Conference.

During this time of talks, it was planned that an agreement would be drawn up to decide international limits of emissions of the toxic gases mentioned throughout this report. This highly publicised conference came to an end after many developed coun-tries became to stubborn to compromise over the levels of emissions to be allowed so as they do not affect the atmosphere and the processes operating within.

This is the latest of many summits that have occurred since the set-up of the or-ganisation to ensure that their inhabitants protect the world. Throughout the confer-ences, decisions are made to ensure that the world we live in is ecologically and envi-ronmentally maintained. An example of a documentation of how the environment is es-sential to our world is that of Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 was written and signed by the United Nations at a summit in Rio de Janeiro on the 14th of June 1992. This agreement ensures the protection of the atmos-phere and the processes that operate within it. These include the protection of the ozone layer, the reduction of emissions that cause acid rain and global warming. The report also encourages energy efficiency and sustainable developments throughout the devel-oped and developing worlds.

Many of these situations have led myself to believe that the companies producing the pollution should pay for preventing any damage to the environment through filtra-tion of the toxic emissions produced. It is possible for the gases to be removed from the air so that no toxic fumes are release and most are transformed into other elements or compounds. This should reduce the pollution to both their own countries and countries immediately around them.

I believe that to enforce this responsibility, the nation s government should moni-tor the volume of emissions and ensure that the corporations adhere to international limits set by all countries through an international environmental governing body. This environment body should also ensure that Transnational Corporations do not manipu-late other countries that rely on the income that the company produces. Any corporation that fails to comply with the restrictions should be severely fined.

However, companies that do not have the financial power to prevent the pollution should receive financial aid from an international pool of money set aside by each country depending on their own financial status. In ways of preventing pollution, the More Economically Developed Countries mush help the Less Economically Developed Countries, and in particular Newly Industrialised Countries, to reduce the pollution that they are causing and to help prevent the pollution being released.

I believe that as an international community, pollution is a global responsibility and through the education of people throughout the world, more can be done to prevent the pollution occurring. It is my opinion that if the customer of many products are tar-geted so that the customer has environmental knowledge to make an informed decision on the products to purchase.

Thus, by ensuring that the customer will only purchase environmentally friendly products, the manufactures will be forced to ensure environmental quality to attract the customer to their product. After all, it is the customer or normal person that is affected by the pollution so surely they could have some impact on changing the environmental habits of a country.

I believe that by taking these measures then pollution will be lowered and that the environment can recover from the 150 years of heavy pollution caused by human neglect. It is a complete global responsibility in some part to take initiative to prevent the amount of toxic gases emitted, however, it is the governmental responsibility to en-force an industrial responsibility to reduce and prevent the volume of emissions. Over-all, everyone globally has a responsibility to prevent the pollution of the earth.

Bibliography

+ Geography: An Integrated Approach David Waugh

o Atmospheric Processes

+ Agenda 21: United Nations Environment Programme

o Internet: http://www.unep.org/

+ United States Environmental Protection Agency

o Internet: http://www.epa.gov/

+ Global Warming Central

o Internet: http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/globalwarming.html

+ Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry

o Internet: http://www.cac.yorku.ca/intro.html

+ Greenpeace Ozone Campaign

o Internet: http://www.greenpeace.org/ ozone/

+ Environment Canada

o Internet: http://www.ec.gc.ca/ozone/

+ Shell Case Study: Ken Sara-Wiwa

o Internet: http://www.prairienet.org/acas

o The Times: Times 2 Thursday November 16th 2000


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