Worldwide Damage Due to “Natural” Disasters, 1980

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SOC101Y

Introduction to Sociology

Professor Robert Brym

Lecture #19

Sociology of the Environment

20 March 13

Important Terms

Technology

is often defined as the application of scientific principles to the human life.

improvement

of

Normal accidents

are mishaps that occur because the very complexity of modern technologies ensures they will

inevitably

though in unpredictable ways. fail,

A

risk society

is a social system in which technology distributes danger and advantage among all social groups, although some are more exposed than others are.

Global Warming and Polar Ice

1. Heat-trapping gases produced mainly by human activity collect in the atmosphere (CO

2

[carbon dioxide], CH

4

[methane], etc.)

2. More heat enters the atmosphere than escapes because some of it is absorbed and some of it is reflected back by the blanket of heat-trapping gases.

3. Heat melts ice, creating water and revealing tundra.

4. Tundra releases CH

4

, a more effective heat-trapping gas than CO

2

.

5. Water reflects less heat than ice does because it’s darker than ice, speeding up global warming.

(2)

Ice

(4)

Heat-trapping gases (C0

2

, CH

4

, etc.)

(4)

Tundra

(3)

(5)

(1) gases from burning fossil fuels, etc., released into atmosphere

Water

Annual Mean Global Surface Air

Temperature and Atmospheric Carbon

Dioxide Concentration, 1880-2009

14.8

14.6

14.4

14.2

14

13.8

13.6

13.4

13.2

13

Safe upper limit: 350 ppm

500

400

300

200

100

0

Year

Note: Pre-1959 carbon dioxide concentration estimates come from intermittent Antarctic ice core measurements. Post-1958 carbon dioxide concentration estimates are based on continuous atmospheric measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in

Hawaii.

Global Warming, 1880-2012

BIG VERSION http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004030/2012_GISSTEMP_ update_datescolorbarcentered.mp4

or

SMALL VERSION http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a004000/a004030/2012GISStemp_d atescolorbarcentered.m4v

As early as 2050, there will be no summer sea ice in the Arctic

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/10/01/science/20071002_ARCTIC_GRAPHIC.html?th&emc=th#

Ocean Acidification

The high level of CO

2 in the atmosphere is partly absorbed by the oceans, causing them to acidify (lowering pH due to the formation of carbonic acid) faster than at any point in the past 300 million years.

56 million years ago, ocean pH fell by .01

 unit per century.

Now, ocean pH is falling by .1 unit per century.

Coral reefs, oysters, salmon, and other species are threatened by ocean acidification.

Worldwide Insured Losses Due to

“Natural” and Human Catastrophes,

1970-2009 (in 2005 $US billions)

$US billions

Global Fossil Fuel Reserves and the 2

"

C

Carbon Budget

Oil: 22% Gas: 13%

284 billion tons used by 2011

These calculations exclude heat-trapping gases others than carbon dioxide, such as methane.

Environmental issues become social problems when…

1.

policy-oriented scientists, the environmental movement, the mass media, and respected organizations discover and promote the issues;

2.

people connect real-life events to the information learned from these groups; and

3.

scientists, industrial interests, and politicians who dispute the existence of environmental threats must fail to convince the public that the threat is illusory and human intervention is unnecessary.

Environmental racism is the tendency to heap environmental dangers on the disadvantaged.

Total particulate matter, short tons per capita

6

Northwest Territories

4

2

Yukon

Alberta

Saskatchewan

0

0

Manitoba

20 40 60

Aboriginals as percent of population

80

Fort Chipewyan:

250 km. downstream along the Athabasca

River from the industrial centre of the Alberta tar sands

Air Pollution and Poverty in Toronto Neighbourhoods

Trucks in China

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/12/08/world/asia/choking_on_growth_7.html#story4

Going for a walk in Tiananmen

Square, Beijing, 21 January 2013

Sixteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China. Air quality in Beijing deteriorated beyond World Health

Organization (WHO) safe limits every day in January 2013. Official measurements of fine airborne particulates

(PM2.5) that pose the largest health risks rose to 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing on 12 January 2013, compared with WHO guidelines of no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The Nano by Tata Motors, Mumbai

CAD $2,804.25 + tax (20 Feb 2013)

Top Carbon Dioxide Emitters, 2011

Country

China

USA

India

Russia

Japan

Germany

Iran

Canada

South Korea

UK

Percent of global CO

2

Share of world population (B) emissions (A)

23.71 19.4

17.91 4.6

5.47 17.1

5.28 2.1

3.77 1.9

2.59 1.2

1.84 1.1

1.80 0.5

1.78 0.7

1.61 0.9

2.0

2.2

1.7

3.6

2.5

1.8

Index of irresponsibility

(A/B)

1.2

3.9

0.3

2.5

Why the market and high technology can’t solve the problems of environmental degradation on their own:

Price signals are imperfect.

Political pressure is needed.

The pace of change is too slow.

$US

Renewable Resources, World,

Percent Decrease, 1990-2010

Percent decrease fish catch irrigable land crop land rangeland, pasture forests

What needs to be done now

Reduce consumption of just about everything by people in rich countries.

Increase investment in energy-saving technologies and environmental cleanup.

Subsidize environmentally friendly industrialization in developing countries.

Renew commitment to voluntary efforts, new laws and enforcement bodies to ensure compliance.

Raise taxes.

Carefully assess risks associated with biotechnology projects and consult public before such projects go forward.

Share profits from genetic engineering with donors of genetic material.

Preconditions for action

Awareness of the gravity of the environmental problem

Belief in the capacity of people and their governments to solve the problem

Willingness to make substantial economic sacrifices to get the job done.

Environmental Practices,

Canada, 1994

Percent

100

80

60

40

20

0

83

71

42

21

Recycles paper, glass

Regularly lowers home temp

Uses low-flow shower head

Does not drive to work

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