One of the most enduring and important issues in the study of globalization involves its relationship to the environment. The environment has always been a global issue as we all share the same atmosphere, are warmed by the sun and are connected by the oceans and seas. The globalization process can be undoubtedly seen as a real obstacle to environmental security given the current circumstances.
In spite of this realistic fact, the earliest thoughts on the globalization process used to ignore or at least underestimate the significance and importance of environmental issues. There was some early concern for the environmental impact of fallout from nuclear testing and acid rain. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, the environmental movement made great progress; several notable problems including the depletion of the ozone layer and global climate change made the environmental issues more globalized. It is clear that many actors around the world are involved in the creation of these problems and that virtually everyone in the world will have suffered from the consequences.
Without a doubt, it is indisputable that the environmental issues are global but at the same time, not everyone or every part of the world is equally responsible for the most intense worldwide environmental problems. It is clear that the most developed countries are disproportionately responsible for them. On one hand, such problems do not, and shall not affect everyone and all areas of the world in the same manner. For example, the rise of the seas’ levels as a result of global warming shall mostly affect people who live in the coastal parts or islands or even peninsulas. Such areas shall also be affected by the expected increase in the rate and intensity of hurricanes. Tornados are also expected to be increased, although they are likely to affect different geographic areas.
On the other hand, many people in other parts of the world suffer from different global environmental problems commonly. For this reason, if we take the example of the decline of available drinking water, this issue is seen to be an increasing challenge even in the North equally. The main sources of environmental problems may change as, for example, the centre of manufacturing is not stable. Nowadays, free trade is considered to be so central in the economic globalization process from a neoliberal perspective. At the same time, it is generally seen as the environment’s enemy.
The free-trade policy leads to the expansion of manufacturing and to the wide range of pollutants produced by it. At the same time, it leads to the view that the efforts made by environmentalists to limit industrial pollution are impediments to free trade and need to be opposed. If efforts to reduce pollution are implemented, they need to be watered down and, if possible, eventually eliminated. In effect, environmentalists offer an alternative model of globalization to that of the neo-liberals. Moreover, they view the UNCED Conference as a great success for them and for the environment, considering it as a move towards convincing the politicians to take the environmental issues seriously.
180 countries were ranked in 2019 on their environmental performance based on several dimensions such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, sanitation, agricultural policies, and many other dimensions. The highest-ranked three countries in terms of friendliness to the environment were Switzerland, France and Denmark. Such rankings are mainly based on one of the fundamental dimensions of Sustainable Development. This latter can be dated back to the report of 1987, which involves the environmental and economic changes that meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the needs of the future. A key event in the history of global environmentalism, indeed of globalization, was the 1992 meeting in Rio de Janeiro, but formally the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which is known as a move towards legitimizing and advancing the concept of sustainable development.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is considered to be a major effort to deal with the issue of climate change due to carbon emissions. Ratifying states would have been required by 2012 to reduce their emissions to 5 % below what they were in 1990. The Kyoto Protocol was followed by Copenhagen Accord in 2009. The agreement created ceilings for the carbon emissions of developed countries, but none for developing countries, especially China and India. Several countries ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but the responsible countries for a total of 55 % of emissions have failed to reach the required percentage. In spite of the failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, many believe that a similar move will need to be negotiated. After all, the evidence on global climate change, especially global warming, seems even clearer and stronger today than in the late 1990s.
To sum up, we can claim that despite the efforts we have focused on; it is necessary to make many other moves globally under the umbrella of the United Nations, other Governmental International organizations and even NGOs as the environmental increasing challenges are faced up globally. Even if there are many regions that are more concerned by the effects of some environmental problems more than others such as the rise of seas’ levels, this does not mean that those problems shall be just solved regionally. Rather, these questions have become increasing challenges globally.
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