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October 12, 2017

Essays for IBPS PO VII : Environment - An International Security Issue

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Environment: An International Security Issue

Main Points to Highlight : Everyone knows that the protection of the environment is a major responsibility in today's scenario, but is it a matter of international security? There are different opinions, Some believe that protecting the environment is a security issue whereas; others opine it to be a mere exaggerated one. The purpose ofthis essay is to assess the environment on the international security scenario and take a look at the recent developments going on to handle the menace.

Environmental pollution has attained voluminous proportions and a grave need to accept the responsibility. Industrialization and globalization are no doubt the major causes of this massive exploitation of resources as well as spoiling the balance of nature. The seas and oceans are being poisoned by chemical products, oils, industrial and human waste. An even greater problem is the disposal of atomic and nuclear waste, unsafe to dump into the sea and even more unsafe to bury under the land.

The destruction of the rain forests by cutting (an estimated fourteen acres every minute) is constantly decreasing the production of oxygen and rainfall necessary for life, while other forests in Europe and North America are being poisoned by acid rain. Apart from these effects, other effects include green house effect and the El-Ninos. The 'green-house' effect is a result of excessive hydrocarbons and carbon-dioxide increment in the atmosphere. The green house effect is contributed mainly by car exhausts. Global warming and the melting of the polar ice-caps and glaciers, causing raised ocean-levels and un-seasonal and adverse weather patterns, is known as the El-Nifio.

With increasing frequency we are informed of industrial accidents, some of which, like the chemical-insecticide disaster in Bhopal, India, killing thousands of people, resemble the sudden plagues of the middle ages. Another disaster, caused by cumulative chemical poisoning, took place at the Love Canal; New York State; USA, where a toxic chemical dump was insufficiently buried. This led to serious birth defects in infants which, in the event of the infants surviving, could be transmitted to future generations. In Minamata, Japan, villagers developed brain and nerve damage and died as a result of eating fish already poisoned by methyl mercury, dumped into the sea from a nearby factory.

The amount of environmental damage that was caused in the Gulf War of 1990-91, when over a thousand oil-wells were set to fire and tons of sticky black crude-oil was tipped into the sea, caused incalculable damage and has been and still is a major factor in the acceleration of the 'green-house' effect and the changing of global climate. The acid rain that rained as a result had sulphuric acid in it. This rain could be observed for thousands of miles around that area, wherever the wind blew the smoke-pollution.

More recently, the bombing of fuel storage facilities and chemical plants and factories in Serbia and Kosovo has had a direct and immediate impact on the world's climate and environment, with freak tornados creating havoc in central U.S.A. Now,, Eastern U.S.A. is experiencing the worst heat-wave and drought. Indonesia has an onslaught of tropical cyclones, of far greater strength and ferocity than usual. Heat-waves through central Europe and Russia are causing forest fires and Britain is encountering tornados and tropical storms, the likes of which have rarely been encountered there before.

The animal food chain has been broken by the extinction of animal species. Huge sections of the seas and oceans are being rapidly fished-out. Large parts of the world, such as the Sahel Belt across mid-Africa, are in a state of starvation with little possibility of cure except permanent aid given by other countries. The slaughter of most of the worlds' remaining wild animals has decreased their population by 90% of what it was only 50 years ago.

Politics of global environmentalism may be a fairly new aspect of International Relations, however, environmental problems have always been a part of our lives. People began to understand their role in environmental degradation only recently. It was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that worries about accelerating damage to the environment started to articulate. The first United Nations Conference on Environment was held in Stockholm in 1972 and it was there that the environment was referred to as a security issue for the first time by the several scholars that were present there.

Some issues that were raised were meeting the global challenges of bio:diversity loss and bio:safety, de:forestation, air and water pollution, climate change and chemicals management and the likes. It was realized that tackling these issues requires real commitment and effective co= operation at the international level.

The climate changes that will result from global warming are difficult to predict. The weather is determined by so many factors that it is often compared to chaos by scientists. If temperature rises significantly, some portion of the polar icecaps would melt, raising global sea levels.

The rise in sea levels would be disastrous for some places. Islands would disappear, meaning millions of inhabitants of islands the world over would have to relocate. Flooding would occur along coastlines all over the world, displacing more people and ruining cropland.

In the case of major global warming and melted icecaps, some cities, like Mumbai and Holland might simply cease to exist. Global warming, if uncontrolled, could cause a major catastrophe.

These facts about the state of environment do create an image of all that is to come in the future. The overall scenario hence, points out that this issue can no longer be handled at the local or national level, but needs immediate international attention.

With this arises the subsequent and the most important step- what next? But before digging into the solutions, it becomes advisable to analyse the situation more in depth, so as to distribute the responsibility more judiciously. The difference between the roles of developed and developing nations has come into light, considering the pace of industrialization and progress.

As the World Resources Institute (WRI) highlighted (2003), there is a huge contrast between developed/industrialized nations and developing countries in greenhouse emissions. For example, in terms of historical emissions, industrialized countries account for roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere to date. Annually, more than 60% of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions originate in industrialized countries, whereas only about 20% of the world's population resides in these countries.

This difference was recognized as a principle of common but, differentiated responsibilities when the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change was formulated and then signed and ratified in 1992 by most of the world's countries. The principle recognized the following :  

The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries. Per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low. The share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.

Furthermore, the need for developing countries to reduce emissions ultimately was also recognized, but through a different way: The rich countries were to help provide means to them for switching over to cleaner technologies.

There are concerns, however, that many developing countries are following the same path to development that the current industrialized countries have, which involved many environmentally damaging practices. Ironically much of the advise and encouragement for this comes from the western economic schools of thought. There is therefore, an urgent need to focus on cleaner technologies and an alternative path to a more sustainable form of development.

Researchers often comment that "if we follow the present course" then there will be disaster ahead. In fact, problems have already started arising due to global warming. Yet, rarely throughout history has the use of a resource remained constant. Many economists remind us that over time, more efficient and innovative ways emerge, so therein lies the hope of more meaningful courses for environment protection to come up. While some are overly optimistic that all the world's problems will be solved because humanity always figures out an answer, many are usually wise to be cautious, given our violent histories.

This does provide a fair idea about the extent and implications of the growing environmental damage. Not only this, it also shows the various possibilities the future can bring, depending on how we face the challenge. While it may seem a huge task to change our ways, the bigger picture is here and, obviously, the choices are clear. 

shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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