Geography: Challenges for the Planet (Topic 2)

7.1 – the causes, effects and responses to climate change

a. how and why climate has changed since the last ice age

  • From 10,000 years ago, globally, temperatures have risen to 6° c
  • Within this time, there have been fluctuations – after the last ice age, temperatures have risen rapidly over the past 2,000 years
  • Warm periods interrupt cold periods and vice versa
  • 19th Century Industrial Revolution – biggest change to greenhouse gas emissions in history

Changes in the Earth’s Orbital Geometry: 

  1. Earth orbits the sun on a slightly variable tilt
  2. It wobbles on it’s axis
  3. Angle of the tilt varies

All three of these afters affects the amount of energy received by the Earth from the sun, often affecting global temperatures by about 1°c. This is known as the Milankovitch mechanism, and is the main reason for the ice ages. 

Changes in Solar Output

Energy transmitted by the sun varies in small amounts, but can have large impacts on global temperatures. these factors may increase/decrease global temperatures and can cancel themselves out.

Catastrophic Events 

Tectonic activity

  • Movement of continents caused by plate movements affects the pattern of global atmospheric and ocean circulation
  • It slowly changes the climate by causing the wind and ocean movements to differ

Volcanic activity

  • Volcanic activity and collisions between the Earth and extraterrestrial objects result in large quantities of material being ejected into the Earth’s atmosphere – this is the link between the events of the dinosaur extinction
  • Volcanic eruptions release large amounts of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere
  • These gases act as a cloak and reduces the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface
  • CASE STUDY: Laki Volcanic Eruption 1783
  • Millions of tonnes of poisonous gas sprayed over the air over Iceland
  • 27 km of volcanic vents poured out liquid (probably pyroclastic flow) for 8 months – this is known as a fissure explosion
  • 13km ² of material over 500 km² over southern Iceland
  • Effects – killed off vegetation, animals due to starvation
  • Much of Europe blocked from solar radiation, reducing global temperatures

b. causes of climate change on a local to global scale, including greenhouse gasses


The Greenhouse Effect – 

  1. Sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, warming the earth’s surface
  2. Infrared radiation is given off by Earth
  3. Most escapes to outer space, allowing Earth to cool
  4. However some infrared radiation is trapped by gases in air
  5. So, we get the enhanced greenhouse effect – increasing levels of CO2, increase the amount of heat retained by the sun, causing the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface to heat up.

The main greenhouse gases:

  • Water vapour (clouds)
  • Methane (cows, waste)
  • Carbon dioxide (Fossil fuels)
  • Nitrous oxide (industry)


Climate change is being encouraged by deforestation, aerosols and fridges with CFC, oil and petrol and engines, greenhouse gases and fossil fuels

  • Methane – livestock produce methane in indigestion (15.20%)
  • Rice fields produce up to 20% of the global methane
  • Landfill sites – 15%


  • Carbon dioxide – released by the burning of fossil fuels (Oil, coal and natural gas)
  • As trees store CO2 as they photosynthesis, as they are deforested they cannot take CO2 out of the system

PC: Wiki


Population increase –

  • More transport on the road (78 cars/100 people in the USA) = more need for petrol
  • More rubbish = more waste = more methane
  • More food required = more paddy fields, increased levels of methane, more forest cleared for cattle and other livestock = more CO2 and methane
  • More energy required = More burning of fossil fuels

On car ownership –

  • Car ownership is seen as status, a dream for the working class of developing countries, often because their public transport isn’t reliable, safe or clean
  • These developing countries will not listen to HICs slowing the rate of development because of global warming
  • Businesses that want to market to this new developed nation will add to CO2 emissions by the creation of cheaper cars eg. Tata Motors – cars are available for £1,500

c. negative effects that climate change is having on the environment and people

3 main negative effects:

  • Sea level rise – temperature increase causes ice sheets to melt and raise sea level. Seawater expands in warm temperatures
  • Failing crop yield – Changes in rainfall and temperature will affect the type of crops grown as well as the crop yield
  • Retreating glaciers – Glaciers are retreating because of temperature caused by climate change. Melting ice affects ocean currents – the gulf stream could be pushed forward (South) making Europe even colder

Impact on food production: 

  • As the natural environment is affected, so will global crop yield.
  • Most important foods: rice and wheat will only be able to be grown in distinct regions, small number of countries responsible for large populations of wheat crop
  • Wheat ‘belt’ countries such as the USA, Canada and Russia are likely regions to experience climate change which could impact citizen’s food welfare
  • If climate change reduces harvest significantly, food prices will rise and LIC and MIC populations will be badly affected
  • Changes in climate may lead to changes in disease – eg. Malaria. Mosquitoes are now able to habilitate warmer climates

Impact on sea level 

  • Caused by 2 processes: melting of land based ice sheets, expansion of seawater as temperatures incline
  • Effects – threatens the survival of small, low lying islands such as the maldives
  • Impacts on all Coastal regions
  • Low lying deltas and floodplains may be contaminated by seawater


  • More storms and flooding – London is protected by the Thames barrier but could be breached by a storm surge and London could be flooded
  • Animal and plant species living in high mountains could be extinct due to warmer temperatures
  • Rising temperatures could lower snowfall, making the already fragile Scottish ski industry disappear
  • Tropical diseases such as malaria could spread to the UK
  • Warmer climate may make growing traditional cereals hard to grow, impacts the economy and food chain
  • Southern Britain may experience draughts and water shortages

CASE STUDY: BANGLADESH – ‘A drowning country’


  • Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change with increased tropical cyclones and river flooding
  • 80%, (634 mil) people are subject to flooding as 80% of Bangladesh is below sea level
  • They are threatened by climate change but do not contribute to it – the GDP/person is $1900, the water rising is 1 ft / year

Impacts of climate change on Bangladesh

  • Nov 2007 – Super Cyclone Sidr (South of Bangladesh)
  • Wind speeds approx 200km/hr
  • Affecting 7mil
  • Loses would have been higher, if there were no early warnings

Effects –

  • Agricultural areas ruined by salt water
  • Sewage systems are disrupted
  • Bangladesh will need $3.5 bn over the next 5 years to strengthen its defences as well as maintaining them – the HICS are not willing to help
  • Cyclones are more common because of the increase in water temperature
  • Villages lost land, food and family members – no drinking water, journeys are up to 5 times times a day
  • Flooding during the dry season becoming more common
  • MOre water flows through Bangladesh than the whole of Europe combined. The water will only increase as the ice melts, the only way to get rid of water is by dredging sediment, dredging is good but expensive and short term
  • In one storm, an entire village can be lost
  • Water borne diseases are on a rampant rise. Always wet and cold, not hygienic
  • Education systems will suffer from a lack of school buildings and lack of transport

d. responses to climate change from a local to global scale

Global scale I – Governments of the world

  • 1992 – 3-14 June, Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro 
  • Goal: Achieve environmental and sustainable development for countries
  • Result: Agenda 21, voluntary plan of action for sustainable development. Carried out on a local national and global spectrum, subject to alteration during the course of UN meetings.


  • 1997 – Kyoto Conference
  • Result: Kyoto Protocol
  • Aim: Commitment by the parties to internationally reduce CO2 emissions in response to rising 1992 carbon emissions.
  • Stats:
  • 192 parties taken part
  • 37 industrial nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions
  • 100 developing countries excused from the protocol eg. China and India. Australia refused to join
  • Feb 2005, protocol to take effect
  • COP  18, Doha – extends protocol 2020


  • 2007 – Bali COP conference 13
  • Goal: shares vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing
  • Aim: Bali road map document – key organ to reaching a sustainable future
  • Kep parts – deforestation
  • Forest managements
  • Technology for developing countries
  • Establishment of adaptation fund board


  • 2010 Copenhagen conference (COP15)
  • Aim: Achieve a political rather than a legal agreement within the leaders of COP15
  • Advance technology, finance for less developed countries and tougher forestry restrictions and decrease global temperature by 2°c


  • 2015 Paris COP 21
  • Aim: To achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate


Why didn’t the USA implement the Kyoto Protocol?

  • In 1997, facing an economic hitch and energy insufficiency
  • By the US reducing greenhouse gases, it will have to use much more natural gas, which the US doesn’t have
  • For the purpose of political face, economy and successful industry
  • Not to be hindered by spending money on ecological purposes

Global scale ii – Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

Case study: Greenpeace

Aim –

  • To combat climate change
  • Forest destruction
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Oceans destruction
  • War and disarmament
  • Melting Arctic
  • Fracking


  • Through campaigns and charity work to battle against the use of fossil fuels
  • They aim to equip everybody with sustainable transport by encouraging the use of public transport, cycling and walking

local scale i – schools

Case study: KLASS 

  • Positive – taught from a young age to save energy, paper and recycle. Majority of things online to cut paper wastage
  • Negative – 1,680 laptops / ipads which will need to be replaced in 2 years, adds to the waste of the community as a whole. Energy to power devices and internet increases CO2 emissions as a whole

local scale ii – local councils

Case study: UK govt

  • UK govt slowly influencing smaller towns and cities within the UK by the media
  • UK department of transport decided to improve local infrastructure – more eco-friendly. 2/3 of all journey are under 5 miles
  • They encourage communities to walk or cycle this distance

local scale iii local interest groups

Case study: ‘Manchester is my planet’

  • Created in 2005 to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050
  • To contribute the social + economic wealth enhancing the life of somebody who lives in Manchester
  • Decisions and funds are done on a local basis and have achieved a significant change

7.2 – Sustainable development for the planet

a. definitions and interpretations of sustainable development

Sustainable development: development that meets the need to the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

Although all companies have to have sustainability statements, all companies exist to make profit

b. the concept of sustainable development

i. large companies and their policies for sustainable development

Case study: Interface Inc. (Carpet company)

  • 7 goals to improve environmental performance
  • Eliminating waste
  • Benign emissions
  • Using renewable energy resources
  • Closing the loop
  • Using resource efficient transport
  • Creating a culture that integrates sustainability principles
  • Creating a sustainability-based business model

Case study: Unilever

  • Unilever tea, Kenya is looking at how to use wood from eucalyptus trees to dry picked tea leaves. This would increase tea production and a reduction of fuel wood
  • Changing tree planting policy – increase density, coppicing (cutting back the tree to stimulate tree growing) and increase wood supply by 15%
  • Improve wood burning techniques – eg. leave the wood to dry longer, more efficient boilers this would reduce wood consumption by 25%

Case study: Google

  • Google gives its employees grants to buy environmentally friendly cars
  • 9,200 solar panels have cut dependence on fossil fuels by 30% in the Californian Google Campus
  • Incentives to cycle to work to profit charities

ii. management of transport in urban areas


What does traffic affect/do/create?

  • Traffic congestion
  • Pollution
  • Production of greenhouse gasses
  • Health problems
  • Airborne pollution causes acid rain, destroying buildings

In order for people to want to use public transport, it must be

  • Clean
  • Efficient (Many people can use it at once, it arrives on time)
  • Cheap
  • Safe

Public transport options (public)

  • Busses
  • Trains
  • Trams
  • Taxis

Schemes to reduce cars on the road

  • Road tax to reduce engine size – hybrids and electric cars get discounted
  • Making public transport more appealing – busses get priority lanes, therefore they can beat the congestion. They also reduce congestion as they cut off the number of cars emitting emissions
  • Park and ride scheme – In Canterbury, it is £3 (In London, £10) to park on the outskirts and cycle within town. This reduces traffic CO2 emissions in the centre. It provides tourists an option for cheaper, safer parking
  • Cycle hire: Boris Bikes – Easy to pay (by credit card, accountability). Encourages people to cycle and reduces congestion
  • Congestion charging (£10 in London) if they enter the zone. Has reduced traffic levels by 21% emd emissions as a whole to 12%.
  • Lift sharing – encouraging people to car share by getting priority lanes

iii. effects of resource extraction from tropical rainforests and their management

CASE STUDY: Oil extraction from the Oriente Region, Ecuador 

  • This includes deforestation for pipes, roads and unlined oil pits
  • From 1964–> now
  • The Oriente Region in Ecuador is the most biodiverse place in the world – billions of symbiotic relationships. It provides medicines (periwinkle flower cures childhood leukemia) trees (Giant ecosystems within giant Cebo trees) and vast varieties of animals, birds and ecosystems

Key oil extraction companies:

  • Texaco petroleum
  • Oleoducto de crudos pesados (OCP)
  • Assorted private oil companies

Key against oil extraction foundations:

  • WWF (NGO)
  • Indigenous tribes – Hourani, Shuar…. – these indigenous tribes will suffer extinction if their food sources die as a result of our actions
  • Nature conservancy (NGO)

Consequences of deforestation

  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Forests could be overloaded with CO2 as there is not enough trees to absorb it
  • Action of deforestation will contribute to the buildup of greenhouse gases
  • Soil leaching
  • Indigenous tribes become environmental refugees

Effects of oil extraction

  • Hydrocarbons in water are 200-300 more concentrated than permissible for human consumption – indigenous tribes have been told otherwise
  • Miscarriages and illnesses amongst the Huaorani people are becoming more frequent
  • Rare plants and animals are doomed for extinction
  • Stomach cancer is 5x more frequent
  • Unlined waste pits allow oil to seep into the soil ,damaging the environment and those who live around it.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s