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Environment issues

Page history last edited by Donna Kennan 10 years, 10 months ago

Global Environmental Issues






Why these are"global" concerns


The main problem here is a lack of personal or private ownership. There is a saying in economics that if something is owned by everyone (as is the environment), than it is owned by no one. If every one owns something, then no one in particular is personally responsible for it. If someone is not given a personal stake in maintaining or improving something, and if they don’t have a stake in the outcome, then they will have very little incentive to look after it.


One way to overcome this “tragedy of the commons” (prisoners dilemma) is to come up with some method of assigning an economical cost to the individual for his or her actions, such as levying additional taxes on gasoline consumption. Alternatively, a government may regulate the technology of the automobile itself, thereby adding cost to the car producers. One way or another, it usually can only be solved by a government power that is higher than the individual, because as the parable illustrates, it is not in the individuals self interest to correct this problem. If the society as a whole decides that the environment is an asset that needs to be protected, then it’s argued that the state should play a role in saving us from the “tragedy of the commons”.


If environmental problems were confined to just one state, then the issues would not be as complicated from an IPE perspective. But because many of the environmental problems today are global in their nature (deforestationglobal warming, etc), there is a need for some sort of international power to force individual nation states to consider the “greater good”, and not just their self interest. Countries, like individuals, will have the incentive to act in their self interest as long as the majority of the costs associated with those actions will be borne by others.


For example, a country like Brazil might have it in their best interest to chop down most of the Amazon forest (which covers 50% of their country) and make way for more agricultural plantations of valuable soy, coffee or sugar. But it is in the world’s best interest to keep that essential rainforest intact because it is instrumental in providing the world with oxygen to breath. The benefit of chopping down the trees would be given exclusively to Brazil, but the cost of poorer air quality would be shared by all countries in the world. On an individual level, if you ask most Brazilians, they will tell you that it is unfair that the world asks them to keep the forest intact, but is unwilling to offer them financial compensation for doing so. Many other countries, however, find it distasteful to pay Brazilians to not chop down their forests. This issue is a long way from being solved, but the parable of the “tragedy of the commons” at least helps us to better understand what is going on.



International organizations play a large role in dealing with environmental problems




On the international level, environmental problems become difficult to address because there is not a global-cop out there that can force sovereign nations to do what they don’t want to do.


For example, if China were to want to build 1000’s of coal burning electrical generators, there isn’t a whole lot that the Europeans could do to stop them. They might argue with the Chinese that coal burning is extremely bad for all of the pollution that it causes, but the Chinese would be well within their rights to go ahead with their coal plans anyways (and they are). It might well be in the worlds best interest to limit the amount of coal that is burned, or at least invest in expensive clean-coal factories and expensive pollution-reduction technologies, but the Chinese may not want to spend the money to invest in technologies such as these. The incentive for them as a country is to produce as much electricity as cheaply as possible to feed the growing demands from their enormous population. The cost of global warming is minimal to the economic demands of their immediate energy-hungry population. They might well see that it is every countries best interest in the long term to limit the amount of CO2 that enters the atmosphere, but they would be happy if other countries would take action, and leave them alone to develop their economy as they see fit. This is where the “prisoner’s dilemma” comes into the picture.



The “prisoners dilemma” helps us to understand the complex negotiations that occur on the international level when relating to the global environmental problems. The prisoner’s dilemma is a parable that helps to illustrate the fundamental problems of individuals placing their own selfish interests ahead of those of the larger group.




Root of the problem


When discussing the global environmental problems such as ozone depletion, there is a clear advantage if you can be the only country using the cheaper (but more harmful) technology. If you can get all of the other countries in the world to use the more expensive technology and if you were the only one polluting, then your small amount of pollution would not be enough to cause any major environmental harm. But, if everyone were to use the cheaper and more polluting technology, then the damage would be substantial and everybody would suffer. Therefore, there is the incentive to try and get everyone else to be good, but for the individual to try and cheat the system.  (see prisoners dilemma discussion)


This same reasoning can be seen in environmental concerns around the world. If my company were the only one chopping down the rainforest, then it wouldn’t be a problem, but if every company did so, then it would be gone in a heartbeat. If my company were the only one polluting a river, then it wouldn’t matter, but if all of the companies polluted the river, then it would be. The same parable has applications from global warming to deforestation to depleting of the world’s fish supplies. In each of these cases, it is clear to see how there needs to be uniform agreement on the issues if any progress is going to be made.


This helps to explain why global environmental problems are so much more difficult to address because each individual nation’s government is primarily responsible to its citizens. With national priorities of economic development, it is often in the countries interest to defect. For this reason, many people look to international organizations and NGOs to help defend global environmental assets.








Industries of focus for Clean-tech investing





energy industry 

 solar energy




agriculture might not sound like an interesting topic for entrepreneurship, but think about renewable energy from corn, soy





furniture industry and the environment






Interesting markets and business opportunities 


carbon trading


 - is a market where countries can go to trade the rights to pollute.  Very interesting stuff. 


green business models

- here we are going to highlight some innovative companies around the globe that are doing their part to innovate green business models. 



Global warming and greenhouse gases


websites to track greenhouse gases








Concepts to watch:

external links


Comapny iconBiofuels - Corn is one potential feedstock for biofuels Biofuel, based on fuel derived from organic biomass from recently living animals or plants or their byproducts, has transformed from a... read more
Comapny iconCarbon Trading - Carbon emissions in action, EPA Carbon emissions by sector and fuel type, EIA "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from the obsservations in... read more
Comapny iconCellulosic ethanol - It’s hard to open a newspaper without finding a story about biofuels, and in particular, ethanol. Most cars in Brazil can run on 100% ethanol. Ethanol, if blended with... read more
Comapny iconChina's Coal Power Pollution - Through China's use of coal, it is the largest greenhouse gases emitter in the world. The negative pollution impacts from coal on China's farming could increase... read more
Comapny iconChina's Water Scarcity - China has both water shortages and water quality issues. This has significant implications for: China's ability to produce its own ethanol fuel The sustainability of... read more
Comapny iconClean Coal - Coal can be very dirty. When you pick up a briquette to put in your barbeque, your fingers turn black; when coal is burned in power plants and factories, the smoke released into... read more
Comapny iconEthanol - See also articles on Biofuels, Renewable Energy, and Cellulosic Ethanol Ethanol's future is intimately linked to that of the US corn crop. In the world of biofuels, ethanol is... read more
Comapny iconGlobal Climate Change - Global warming could mean more freak storms like Hurricane Katrina, pictured above--bad news for insurance companies. For thirty years now, many scientists have been... read more
| Related: Ace (ACE), Alcoa (AA), Allstate (ALL)
Comapny iconHurricane Season - Hurricanes are a fact of life along the gulf coast and Southeastern United States. The Atlantic hurricane season typically begins around the beginning of June and lasts until... read more
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Comapny iconOil Prices - Few inputs impact the U.S. economy as much as the price of oil. Oil powers the cars, trucks, and airplanes that transport people and products for the entire economy. As oil prices... read more
| Related: OPEC, 3M Company (MMM), Alcoa (AA)
Comapny iconPeak Oil - Recent oil price increases, turbulence in the Middle East, and an increasing awareness of the impact we humans have on the environment have all fostered concerns that the world is... read more
Comapny iconRenewable Energy - Renewable energy refers to a subset of energy sources that are derived from constantly replenishing sources and hence, unlike nonrenewable energy, will never run out. In... read more
| Related: Biofuels, BP (BP), Carbon Trading
Comapny iconRising Worldwide Demand for Energy - Worldwide energy consumption is destined to grow... ...across all fuel types By 2030, worldwide energy demand will be more than 50% greater than it is... read more
Comapny iconSolar Power - Love doesn't make the world go round. The sun does. Literally. It's the gravitational pull of the sun on the earth that keeps our planet moving. The sun also, directly or... read more
| Related: 3G, Applied Materials (AMAT), BP (BP)
Comapny iconU.S. Energy Regulations - President Bush and the Secretary of Energy review a Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) facility, which the Energy Policy Act of 2005 supported Untangling the web of... read more
Comapny iconWind Energy - Harnessing the power of wind...(Skandia) It is the ultimate renewable resource. Wind is caused by differences in temperature and air pressure (due to the sun's heating the... read more








More environmental issues


This entry lists the most pressing and important environmental problems. The following terms and abbreviations are used throughout the entry:

  • Acidification - the lowering of soil and water pH due to acid precipitation and deposition usually through precipitation; this process disrupts ecosystem nutrient flows and may kill freshwater fish and plants dependent on more neutral or alkaline conditions (see acid rain).
  • Acid rain - characterized as containing harmful levels of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxide; acid rain is damaging and potentially deadly to the earth's fragile ecosystems; acidity is measured using the pH scale where 7 is neutral, values greater than 7 are considered alkaline, and values below 5.6 are considered acid precipitation; note - a pH of 2.4 (the acidity of vinegar) has been measured in rainfall in New England.
  • Aerosol - a collection of airborne particles dispersed in a gas, smoke, or fog.
  • Afforestation - converting a bare or agricultural space by planting trees and plants; reforestation involves replanting trees on areas that have been cut or destroyed by fire.
  • Asbestos - a naturally occurring soft fibrous mineral commonly used in fireproofing materials and considered to be highly carcinogenic in particulate form.
  • Biodiversity - also biological diversity; the relative number of species, diverse in form and function, at the genetic, organism, community, and ecosystem level; loss of biodiversity reduces an ecosystem's ability to recover from natural or man-induced disruption.
  • Bio-indicators - a plant or animal species whose presence, abundance, and health reveal the general condition of its habitat.
  • Biomass - the total weight or volume of living matter in a given area or volume.
  • Carbon cycle - the term used to describe the exchange of carbon (in various forms, e.g., as carbon dioxide) between the atmosphere, ocean, terrestrial biosphere, and geological deposits.
  • Catchments - assemblages used to capture and retain rainwater and runoff; an important water management technique in areas with limited freshwater resources, such as Gibraltar.
  • DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) - a colorless, odorless insecticide that has toxic effects on most animals; the use of DDT was banned in the US in 1972.
  • Defoliants - chemicals which cause plants to lose their leaves artificially; often used in agricultural practices for weed control, and may have detrimental impacts on human and ecosystem health.
  • Deforestation - the destruction of vast areas of forest (e.g., unsustainable forestry practices, agricultural and range land clearing, and the over exploitation of wood products for use as fuel) without planting new growth.
  • Desertification - the spread of desert-like conditions in arid or semi-arid areas, due to overgrazing, loss of agriculturally productive soils, or climate change.
  • Dredging - the practice of deepening an existing waterway; also, a technique used for collecting bottom-dwelling marine organisms (e.g., shellfish) or harvesting coral, often causing significant destruction of reef and ocean-floor ecosystems.
  • Drift-net fishing - done with a net, miles in extent, that is generally anchored to a boat and left to float with the tide; often results in an over harvesting and waste of large populations of non-commercial marine species (by-catch) by its effect of "sweeping the ocean clean."
  • Ecosystems - ecological units comprised of complex communities of organisms and their specific environments.
  • Effluents - waste materials, such as smoke, sewage, or industrial waste which are released into the environment, subsequently polluting it.
  • Endangered species - a species that is threatened with extinction either by direct hunting or habitat destruction.
  • Freshwater - water with very low soluble mineral content; sources include lakes, streams, rivers, glaciers, and underground aquifers.
  • Greenhouse gas - a gas that "traps" infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere causing surface warming; water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Groundwater - water sources found below the surface of the earth often in naturally occurring reservoirs in permeable rock strata; the source for wells and natural springs.
  • Highlands Water Project - a series of dams constructed jointly by Lesotho and South Africa to redirect Lesotho's abundant water supply into a rapidly growing area in South Africa; while it is the largest infrastructure project in southern Africa, it is also the most costly and controversial; objections to the project include claims that it forces people from their homes, submerges farmlands, and squanders economic resources.
  • Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) - represents the 145,000 Inuits of Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland in international environmental issues; a General Assembly convenes every three years to determine the focus of the ICC; the most current concerns are long-range transport of pollutants, sustainable development, and climate change.
  • Metallurgical plants - industries which specialize in the science, technology, and processing of metals; these plants produce highly concentrated and toxic wastes which can contribute to pollution of ground water and air when not properly disposed.
  • Noxious substances - injurious, very harmful to living beings.
  • Overgrazing - the grazing of animals on plant material faster than it can naturally regrow leading to the permanent loss of plant cover, a common effect of too many animals grazing limited range land.
  • Ozone shield - a layer of the atmosphere composed of ozone gas (O3) that resides approximately 25 miles above the Earth's surface and absorbs solar ultraviolet radiation that can be harmful to living organisms.
  • Poaching - the illegal killing of animals or fish, a great concern with respect to endangered or threatened species.
  • Pollution - the contamination of a healthy environment by man-made waste.
  • Potable water - water that is drinkable, safe to be consumed.
  • Salination - the process through which fresh (drinkable) water becomes salt (undrinkable) water; hence, desalination is the reverse process; also involves the accumulation of salts in topsoil caused by evaporation of excessive irrigation water, a process that can eventually render soil incapable of supporting crops.
  • Siltation - occurs when water channels and reservoirs become clotted with silt and mud, a side effect of deforestation and soil erosion.
  • Slash-and-burn agriculture - a rotating cultivation technique in which trees are cut down and burned in order to clear land for temporary agriculture; the land is used until its productivity declines at which point a new plot is selected and the process repeats; this practice is sustainable while population levels are low and time is permitted for regrowth of natural vegetation; conversely, where these conditions do not exist, the practice can have disastrous consequences for the environment .
  • Soil degradation - damage to the land's productive capacity because of poor agricultural practices such as the excessive use of pesticides or fertilizers, soil compaction from heavy equipment, or erosion of topsoil, eventually resulting in reduced ability to produce agricultural products.
  • Soil erosion - the removal of soil by the action of water or wind, compounded by poor agricultural practices, deforestation, overgrazing, and desertification.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation - a portion of the electromagnetic energy emitted by the sun and naturally filtered in the upper atmosphere by the ozone layer; UV radiation can be harmful to living organisms and has been linked to increasing rates of skin cancer in humans.
  • Water-born diseases - those in which bacteria survive in, and are transmitted through, water; always a serious threat in areas with an untreated water supply.



source:  https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2032.html







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