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Global Sustainability

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Global Sustainability There has long been evidence that the global model of economic development is one that is unsustainable. Development within nations, especially as regards to industrialization and development of infrastructure to support economic expansion, has relied on a model of thought that is outdated and ignorant of the social costs such development incurs. A model of development, sometimes called the “Washington Consensus,” is on that is based upon pre-modern norms. The massive expansion of population and industrial centers has rendered these assumptions obsolete. With ever increasing consumption of precious natural resources, especially fossil fuels, new factors have come into play that are largely ignored or set aside. Robert Costanza notes that economies today are bound more by limits of natural resource availability than the limits of capital infrastructure. The byproducts of this increased consumption and resulting environmental pollution are rendering what is ostensibly progress and development as something much less so. Negative externalities may even be making “progress” harmful. The issue, however, is that although many acknowledge the need for a new model of global development, efforts are hampered by those parties whose interests are hurt by proposed changes in worldviews. Allan E. Goodman of Georgetown University recounts the history of how the international efforts to ban the use of chlorofluorocarbons — known globally as CFCs — came about, with the resultant effort culminating with the 1987 Ozone Protocol. Evidence had long suggested that the depletions of the ozone layer some ten kilometers wide in the Earth’s atmosphere had massive implications for human health. Shocking rises in the reported cases of skin cancer correlated this thought, which was confirmed by a number of scientists who found that CFCs were a crucial factor in ozone depletion. Interestingly, the United States was the primary participant in efforts at curtailing or banning CFCs. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency was one of the first parties to encourage talks regarding the continued use of CFCs, and the resultant discussions among NATO members were a result of their voiced concerns. Two years later, the 1977 ozone protection amendment to the Clean Air Act banned the use of all CFCs in the majority of aerosol products, and parties within the United States clamored for the international community to follow suit. That same year, a number of countries constituting the United Nations Environment Programme — UNEP — worked towards the formation of a Coordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer, whose mandate would be the annual evaluation of information relevant to the ozone layer and to changes within the atmosphere.
The issue, however, was that a number of parties’ best interests hinged on the continued use of CFCs, which had been introduced by General Motors in the 1930s. By 1986, just a year before the Ozone Protocol was established, estimates placed the annual value of goods and services dependent on the use of CFCs to be a staggering $28 billion. Furthermore, those industries provided nearly a million jobs. Scientific parties in the United States mostly agreed that CFCs were harmful to the ozone layer, but some parties still argued that evidence was inconclusive. Finally, a number of CFC industries and expanding nations dependent on CFC use opposed regulation and were “deeply suspicious of the multilateral diplomacy involving UN agencies because of the intense Third World politicking that had come to characterize the secretariats of those agencies and the negotiations they sponsored.” Domestically, a lobbying group called the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy, led by chairman Richard Barnett, represented these parties and they employed energy consultant Putnam, Hayes, and Bartlett to provide data about economic repercussions. Internationally, highly industrialized nations such as Britain, France, Japan, and the Soviet Union opposed efforts at CFC curtailment, as the continued use of CFCs would help them gain an advantage over the United States. Additionally, industrializing nations such as South Korea were loathe to give up CFCs as the ban in America left a profitable market open for entrance. America’s delegate to Austria, Richard Benedick, spoke to these international elements of the need to look beyond individual economic interest and see the effects on its population. Much of the opposition to environmental change in any form remains today. Industrialists are afraid of what regulation might mean to the bottom line, and companies that are open to exploring “green” options are afraid to do so as there is little government encouragement for them to do so. Thomas L. Friedman commented “We have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years.” He pointed to the need for market forces to push environmental change the mindset concerning it. The issue, however, is the as consumers we are not required to pay for the negative externalities of using fossil fuels. If we were, it’d become more attractive to go to alternative options.
Costanza takes a different approach, listing six “Lisbon Principles” that are different than the standard market forces: responsibility, or using resources in an economically sustainable manner; scale-matching, or how to integrate across boundaries of scale; precaution, or being conservative with variables; adaptive management, or remaining flexible to new information; full cost allocation, or adjusting markets to reflect internal and external costs; and participation, or the encouragement of all parties in global sustainability. While these factors are present in the global economy today, a primary reason that global sustainability is yet to be achieved or even approached is that nations need to be in agreement and have consensus on direction. Coupled with market forces and forcing people to pay for negative externalities, these factors can encourage global development of a model of sustainability. It is not a question of “can we?” but of “will we and how will we?” As long as it is more convenient to both individuals and nations to continue with their current methods of consumption, a global mindset of sustainability will be impossible implement.

Works Cited Costanza, Robert. “Stewardship for a “Full” World.” University of Vermont Arcadia Publishing, (2008). Goodman, Allan E. “Negotiating the 1987 Ozone Protocol.” Pew Case Studies in International Affairs. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (1998). Freidman, Thomas L. “The Power of Green: What does America need to regain its global stature? Environmental leadership.” The New York Times (April 15, 2007).

[ 1 ]. Robert Costanza, “Stewardship for a “Full” World,” University of Vermont Arcadia Publishing (2008).
[ 2 ]. Allan E. Goodman, “Negotiating the 1987 Ozone Protocol,” Pew Case Studies in International Affairs, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (1988).
[ 3 ]. Ibid.
[ 4 ]. Thomas L. Friedman, “The Power of Green: What does America need to regain its global stature? Environmental leadership,” The New York Times, (April 15, 2007).

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