Global Environmental Problems: Implications for US Policy

U.S History & Government II
Unit 2: The Role of the U.S. in a Changing World
Global Environmental Problems: Implications for US Policy
Part 1: Global Environmental Problems
Name: Carolyn Thompson
Background: Until recently, environmental issues were viewed as primarily local and national
problems. Smog was considered a problem for people living in southern California. Pollution of the
Great Lakes was an issue for the states surrounding these bodies of water. However, during the past
two decades, scientists have helped to focus our attention on more far-reading environmental threats
such as climate change, ozone depletion, and deforestation. These problems transcend national
borders. A new concept---global environmental problems---has entered the public arena and created a
challenge for the men and women who define foreign policy for our nation. This week, we are going to
take a careful look at the relationship between public policy and the ecological health of our planet.
After acquiring a solid foundation of background knowledge, we will convene a meeting of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee to debate a range of policy options open to the U.S. At the conclusion of
the debate, you will choose which policy option you agree with the most and write a brief response
explaining your reasons. Tonight’s homework is intended to provide you with critical background
information for our debate. Please read the handout carefully and complete the following chart based
on the information presented. This homework is your ticket into class tomorrow!
Environmental Problems
Climate Changemost
scientists believe that
climate change is a
result of human activity.
Ozone Depletionsince
the 1970s, scientists
have known that certain
chemicals damage the
ozone layer—about 10 –
25 miles above the
earth. In 1985, scientists
discovered a hole in the
ozone over Antarctica.
By 1999, this hole had
doubled in size.
Acid Rain
 build up of carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxidethe
gases trap heat in the
atmosphere by absorbing the
earth’s infrared energy
 carbon dioxide is 60% of the
greenhouse gas build up and this
is directly related to human
activitybuilding oil, coal and
natural gas.
 the amount of carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere has increased
by 30% since the late 18th
centuryindustrialization is the
key culprit.
 Chemicals are linked the
destruction of the ozone layer--especially
in refrigerators, air
conditioners, upholstery, foams,
and packing materials
 In 1987, developed countries
agreed to stop producing the
CFCs. But developing countries
are still producing themthey
have a deadline of 2010. If we
can continue to reduce the
production of CFCs then the
ozone will recover by 2050.
 it results from nitrogen and
sulfur being emitted by the
burning of fossil fuelspower
plants, manufactures,
 warmer climate, rising
sea levels, changing
patterns of precipitation
 more extreme
 deforestation
 more diseases
 rising sea levelsmaybe
20 incheswould put
20% of the world’s
population in greater
can lead to increased
levels of ultraviolet
radition which can have
negative effects on
also can damage crops
damages lakes and
forests, leaches
nutrients from trees
hurts fish and
U.S History & Government II
Unit 2: The Role of the U.S. in a Changing World
in the atmosphere, nitrogen and
sulfur are converted toe acids
which come back to earth in
rain, snow and fog.
Water Pollution
use of pesticides and chemicals
that are the by products of
combustion contribute to the
pollutionmost nations have
banned the worst polluters.
Decline of Biodiversity
cutting down of trees
poor farming practices
short sighted irrigation projects
too many cattle grazing on lands
human encroachment on
acid rain can cross
international borders
which makes it an
international problem.
the developed world has
moved to put
restrictions on the
production of sulfur and
nitrogen oxide but the
developing world is still
producing it
20% of the world’s
five million people die
every year from
contaminated water
negative impact for
climate change
loss of tropical rain
build up of greenhouse
loss of potential sources
of medicine, food, and