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Environmental Economics Climate Change

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"Environmental Economics Climate Change"
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There is much confusion between the terms climate and weather. Climate involves the entire Earth's atmosphere and what is going on there. Weather involves what is going on at a particular time and in a particular place. Global warming and cooling is a climate change issue.

Another point of confusion lies in whether the causes of atmospheric pollution are man made or natural.  Assessing the economies of lowering the levels of atmospheric pollution is impossible without an accurate and reliable assessment as to the source of the pollution.

The atmosphere of the Earth is understood to have been created by the greatest acts of pollution in the history of the world: volcanic eruptions of such a magnitude and nature that molecules were spewed forth and remained in suspension to create the atmosphere. The atmosphere of the Earth is affected by the addition of molecules that bond with others, that change from interaction with others, or that introduce new substances in the atmosphere.

The majority of atmospheric pollution and change is caused by decomposing life. The decomposition process of animals and plants produce gases that enter the atmosphere and cause chemical reactions and bonds to create new substances, such as acid rain.

It could be said that more people grow more plants and husband more animals for food. People burn more fossil and other fuels to heat more housing structures and to transport themselves and their products.  People, plants and animals are living, dying and gassing off in far greater quantities than ever before. Another source of temporary atmospheric pollution is in the introduction of solid particles from desertification.

These facts are one of the ways in which human logic leads to ideas about the causes of climate change. It is thus, extremely unlikely that exactitude in measuring and identifying all of the exact sources of atmospheric pollution, let alone defining how such pollution contributes to climate change will occur for a long time.

Most of the atmospheric pollution is natural, but there is much more nature than there ever was before because of growing human populations! People need more plants and animals for survival. The decomposition and gassing off of wastes are increasing. As a result, the major living human contribution to atmospheric pollution is in natural decomposition and fossil fuel carbon emissions.

In terms of economics, there are great imperatives for reducing the carbon and particulate contributions that result from human activity. The economy of transportation, heating, housing, industry and power production are being swamped with calls to reduce the dependency on four things: fossil fuels, land use that results in desertification, water pollution that reduces the water's ability to provide oxygen to the atmosphere, and coal burning.

The most promising push is to convert from fossil fuel based heating, transport and power production systems to those which are supported by solar, wind, hydraulic, and biomass based power production. The equipment and transportation mechanisms that rely on fossil fuels are showing great promise as an area where conversion to electric or hybrid mechanisms is now possible.

The problem with using electric power from batteries that have permanent and powerful magnets has resulted in a new economic crisis. The batteries depend on large amounts of lanthanides, or rare earth metals. China has cornered the market on rare earths, requiring some delicate negotiations. Rare earth metals are used in a wide variety of applications and there is much competition for them.

The problem with biomass based fuels is that they can cost as much in power to produce fuel as they provide in fuel. Anyone who has had a garden and has gone through the watering, fertilizing and tending involved can understand how biomass might not contribute more than a reduction in carbon emissions to the atmosphere in relation to their cost. Some cheaper biomass options are found in distillation methods for recycled cooking oils, for example, but a mass economy of scale might be difficult to achieve if there are not sources of capital investment for mass production of cleaner burning fuels that are made from biomass.

In terms of the other economic effects of climate change, it is well known that melting of the polar ice caps will raise the levels of the seas. The list of problems that include  eliminating massive quantities of shorelines, disrupting the natural circulation of warm and cool water in the oceans and disrupting the food chains of the oceans is endless. Everything from mass human and animal migrations to disruption of port design and operations; fishing industries to housing; tourism to water sports;  and real estate to oil refining and delivery be affected.

The effect of rising sea levels can extend well inland because of backflow through brackish areas and deltas, where flooding can decimate delicate land systems and create newly submerged areas. Even issues as unthought of as massive wild animal migrations from intertidal, swamp, sea marsh, and delta zones into more populated areas can cause great economic consequences.

The final economy lies in the money that is being spent to convince the public and the policy makers that one or the other is the cause. This economy includes the massive spending and activity that goes into arguing positions that are based on research and development, data collection and analysis, policy development, implementation and enforcement and in public information programs. Then there are lawsuits and court cases to consider. Jobs may be gained or lost. Industries may adapt or shut down. Converting to new power sources, based on understandings about climate change has an enormous impact on the public conscious as well as the overall society.

The final economy will determine the weight that is put on public funding and other capitalization of industries that will allow the mankind  to convert to new forms of activity and production in ways that reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Another goal is to change mankind's  impact on the ability of the oceans to sustain oxygen producing plant life. These are people's newest and greatest contributions to atmospheric and climate change.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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