[Paleopsych] SW: On the Impact of Human Activities

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Science Policy: On the Impact of Human Activities

    The following points are made by P.R. Ehrlich and D. Kennedy (Science
    2005 309:562):
    1) A growing scientific consensus says that global society is under
    increasing threat from the impact of human activities: Climate change,
    loss of biological diversity and ecosystem services, and changes in
    patterns of land use and land cover are among the more troublesome
    problems [1-3]. Some of these problems require attention from
    governments and other social institutions. But it is the collective
    actions of individuals that lie at the heart of the dilemma. Analysis
    of individual motives and values should be critical to a solution. Yet
    society has no prominent international forum in which such issues
    (like how we should treat our environment and each other) are publicly
    2) In some countries, quite different views have surfaced recently
    about the ethics of governmental restrictions on the rights of
    landowners designed to protect endangered species and about legal
    provisions that permit "open space" set-asides of long duration. Even
    in nations with cultures as similar as those of the United States and
    the United Kingdom, issues of land care, debates over related
    subsidies, and the responsibilities of private citizens versus their
    governments can take very different shapes. In approaching
    sustainability, one needs to determine how the rights of people in the
    current generation to consume natural capital should be balanced
    against the rights of future generations. Preservation of animal life
    and the ethics of various kinds of human interference with "natural"
    systems are viewed differently by those whose cultural traditions
    differ. The steps that most members of the relevant scientific
    community believe are necessary (e.g., reduction of human-caused
    greenhouse gas emissions, establishment of marine reserves, limiting
    human population growth and per capita consumption) are disconnected
    from those measures the rest of society, and especially politicians,
    are willing to undertake.
    3) The authors propose to promote the establishment of an ongoing
    global discussion of key ethical issues related to the human
    predicament -- a Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior (MAHB). The
    time seems ripe, with the experience gained from the Intergovernmental
    Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    (MEA), to start discussing what to do. In the IPCC and the MEA,
    sociopolitical issues and policy changes that might lessen the chances
    of catastrophic consequences are considered. But the authors suggest
    we need an institution to conduct an ongoing examination and public
    airing of what is known about how human cultures (especially their
    ethics) evolve, and about what kinds of changes might permit
    transition to an ecologically sustainable, peaceful, and equitable
    global society.[4,5]
    References (abridged):
    1. "World scientists' warning to humanity" (Union of Concerned
    Scientists, Cambridge, MA, 1993)
    2. "Population Summit of the World's Scientific Academies: A joint
    statement by 58 of the world's scientific academies," New Delhi,
    India, 24 to 27 October 1993 (National Academy Press, Washington, DC,
    3. P. R. Ehrlich, A. H. Ehrlich, One with Nineveh: Politics,
    Consumption, and the Human Future (Island Press, Washington, DC, 2004)
    4. G. H. W. Bush, speech at 1992 Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro,
    5. H. E. Brady, J. S. Fishkin, R. C. Luskin, Brookings Rev. 21, 16
    (Summer 2003)
    Science http://www.sciencemag.org
    Related Material:
    The following points are made by W.M. Adams et al (Science 2004
    1) Biodiversity conservation scientists face a dilemma. There is
    increasing concern that global efforts to maintain biodiversity are in
    conflict with efforts to reduce poverty (1). The decline of
    populations, extinction of species, and habitat transformation demand
    urgent action (2). The leading response to these threats since the
    late 19th century has been the creation of protected areas (3).
    Technical capacity to design effective protected-area systems is
    increasing (4), allowing the identification of coverage and remaining
    gaps in the international protected-area system (5). This, combined
    with positive assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas is
    encouraging the consolidation and expansion of the network of
    protected areas. The 2004 World Database on Protected Areas includes
    over 105,000 sites covering an area of 19.7 million km (2). The
    problem with this strategy is that its impacts on poverty are often
    2) The creation of protected areas causes the foreclosure of future
    land use options, with potentially significant economic opportunity
    costs. The creation of protected areas can have substantial negative
    impacts on local people. The eviction of former occupiers or right
    holders in land or resources can cause the exacerbation of poverty, as
    well as contravention of legal or human rights. Globally, it is
    recognized that the costs of biodiversity conservation are not
    distributed in proportion to their benefits. Typically, many of the
    costs of protected areas in poor biodiverse countries are paid by
    local people.
    3) The meaning of poverty may be intuitively obvious, but its
    measurement is complex. Common definitions are based on monetary (such
    as per-capita income) or nonmonetary (such as health or mortality)
    criteria, although broader approaches have been suggested. In 1999,
    1.2 billion people worldwide had consumption levels below $1 a day and
    2.8 billion lived on less than $2 a day. Poverty is not a static
    condition, but it is estimated that between 300 and 420 million people
    live in a state of chronic poverty (always or usually poor).
    4) In summary: It is widely accepted that biodiversity loss and
    poverty are linked problems and that conservation and poverty
    reduction should be tackled together. However, success with integrated
    strategies is elusive. There is sharp debate about the social impacts
    of conservation programs and the success of community-based approaches
    to conservation. Clear conceptual frameworks are needed if policies in
    these two areas are to be combined.
    References (abridged):
    1. S. E. Sanderson, K. H. Redford, Oryx 37, 1 (2003)
    2. S. Palumbi, Science 293, 1786 (2001)
    3. W. M. Adams, Against Extinction: The Story of Conservation
    (Earthscan, London, 2004)
    4. C. R. Margules, R. L. Pressey, Nature 405, 243 (2000)
    5. A. S. Rodrigues et al., Nature 428, 640 (2004)
    Science http://www.sciencemag.org
    Related Material:
    The following points are made by Peter Foukal et al (Science 2004
    1) The global warming observed over the past century has been
    attributed to both natural and human forcings [1]. One of the natural
    forcings may be variations in solar activity, which appear to be
    correlated with climate change [2]. Climate models have used
    reconstructions of solar irradiance to reproduce important aspects of
    past global warming [3]. However, recent studies of Sun-like stars
    call for a reevaluation of the influence of solar activity variations
    on climate.
    2) Analyses of space-borne solar radiometry since 1978 [4] confirm
    that the Sun brightens during periods of high activity, when bright
    magnetic structures more than compensate for the dimming caused by
    sunspots. However, over an 11-year sunspot cycle, the irradiance
    varies by only about 0.08% -- probably too little for a meaningful
    influence on climate. The question, then, is whether the sunspot cycle
    is superimposed on irradiance variations of similar or greater
    magnitude that take place over periods longer than 11 years.
    3) The apparent identification of a solar component in past climate
    variations in recent model studies rests on the assumption that such
    variations over longer periods exist. The solar forcing used in these
    models includes both the sunspot cycle and a more speculative
    long-term component. The amplitude of this second component is roughly
    five times that of the magnetic modulation during sunspot cycles. It
    is based on evidence for luminosity variations in Sun-like stars (5)
    and on a hypothesized long-term relationship between the Sun's
    magnetic field and its luminosity. However, the scientific basis for
    this component is much less robust than for the sunspot-cycle
    4) Stellar observations (5) have suggested that Sun-like stars have
    low-activity phases during which the magnetic activity is even lower
    than during minima in the sunspot cycle. Extrapolation of the Sun's
    radiometrically observed irradiance to this low-activity level
    suggests that solar irradiance in the 17th century may have been 0.25%
    lower than today. Reconstructions of irradiance variations based
    directly or indirectly on the stellar evidence have been used in
    numerous climate studies, some of which form the basis of the
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusions on the
    relative roles of different external climate forcings (1).
    References (abridged):
    1. J. T. Houghton et al., Eds., Climate Change 2001: The Scientific
    Basis (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001)
    2. T. Crowley, Science 289, 270 (2000)
    3. P. A. Stott et al., Clim. Dyn. 17, 1 (2001)
    4. C. Froehlich, J. Lean, Geophys. Res. Lett. 25, 4377 (1998)
    5. S. Baliunas, R. Jastrow, Nature 348, 520 (1990)
    Science http://www.sciencemag.org

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