To achieve CO2 stabilization in the atmosphere within the next century will require profound social changes in a world where most societies have already become, or aspire to be, carbon cultures. "Culture" is understood as a critical set of institutions that guide the ideas by which a society lives. Culture penetrates market, political, and other institutions and is far more than a "grab-bag" for all those factors that are not about economics or politics. In carbon cultures, much behavior and enterprise depends on carbon-rich fossil fuels.
Human activities affect the carbon cycle through a number of interacting pathways. Understanding is most advanced for the most direct factors treated one at a time and at a single scale. Especially important are the processes driving changes in land use toward lower carbon stocks and the incentives for continuing use of carbon-rich fuels. The underlying social structures and processes driving changes in the carbon cycle, however, are complex (e.g., Sayathe et al. 2001). Here, they are grouped into consumption, social organization, knowledge and values, technology, and institutions (Figure 20.1). This chapter considers each of these groups in turn.
Where and how people work, play, and move is critical for patterns in energy and land use. Although people do have some choice about how to meet particular needs and wants, social structures and processes greatly constrain these. Indeed some of these processes (historically) helped define those needs and wants. Consider the role of advertising, the size of marketing budgets, television programming, and the media in defining a desirable or normal "household." Corporations have a vested interest in widening the aspirational gap—the distance between what people have and what they feel they need. Ironically, the growth in the range of products does not necessarily mean
Changes in capacity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to deliver goods and services (CO2 temperature and interactive effects with other pollutants and harvesting pressures)
Surprises in climate systems
Spatially heterogeneous ecological outcomes compounding social vulnerabilities
Timing, Transfers, Trade-offs
Effectiveness, Interplay, Fit
Power, Wealth, Family
Learning, Risk, Perception, Values
Choice, Wants, Media
Figure 20.1. A simple conceptual framework for various social structures and processes influencing the global carbon cycle more choice. Indeed, the choice to meet want without a purchase is being hidden from view. Control is not absolute, but the behavior of consumers is strongly channeled.
Everyday activities are, in their aggregate, extremely important for the future of the carbon cycle, because consumer goods and services, whether sports utility vehicles, household appliances, seafood delicacies, holiday homes, or exotic holidays in third world countries, often imply large direct and indirect energy use (Schipper 1997; Weber and Perrels 2000; Wier et al. 2001). Because much of the energy comes from burning fossil fuels, there is a strong relationship with carbon emissions. Although shifts from solid fuel (biomass and coal) to liquids (kerosene, fuel oil) to gas (LPG, natural gas, biogas) suggest a decarbonization of residential fuel use patterns, increases in overall consumption may outweigh these positive trends. For example, a detailed study of household energy consumption over 50 years in the Netherlands found no significant trend toward lower energy intensities or dematerialization in consumption patterns (Vinger and Blok 2000).
The skill of advertisers in driving consumption should not be underestimated. Often products that can no longer be functionally improved in a meaningful sense can still be differentiated by turning them into cultural symbols—or ways of making the purchases associate with things like freedom, sex, and feeling good about oneself (Sachs 1999). A watch does not just tell the time, but also identifies its wearer as a driver or an adventurer. Cars are full of gadgets that have nothing to do with driving performance. Of course, this satisfying of aspiration must be an empty promise so that the production-consumption machine can continue to move. A month later, a new model and set of symbols are launched to create a new round of demand. There is no saturation of demand or limit to expansion when commodities become cultural symbols (Sachs
Choices are not completely malleable by the media. Needs and wants also arise from the characteristics of a place. Climate, topography, and the accessibility and cost of land, energy, and other materials also help determine the range of choices available. In satisfying needs and wants, people often seek to maximize convenience and comfort as much as to minimize costs (Sayathe et al. 2001). Finally, various institutions, including property rights, taxation, and access to credit cards, provide additional incentives or disincentives for certain carbon-emitting behaviors.
The trend toward increased mobility is one of the areas that shows the least sign of slowing in growth, even in mature industrialized economies (Schipper 1997). Almost everywhere it is faster, further, and more. There are also big differences among cultures. Americans emit three to four times as much carbon per capita from personal vehicle use as do Europeans, in part because of greater driving distances, but also because U.S. cars use 25-30 percent more fuel (Schipper 1997). Historically, there have been major shifts in dominant modes of transport and infrastructure, from canals and rail to roads and air. What the future of transport in 100 years will be like is hard to predict and remains one of the larger sources of uncertainty for future carbon emissions.
Consumption of meat has a major impact on land use, because it is much less efficient than directly eating grain (Heilig 1995). Some trends in the developing world are staggering. Between 1990 and 1996 the number of McDonald's restaurants in Asia and Latin America quadrupled, and meat consumption there tripled over the past 25 years. Religious and cultural values that prohibit the use of certain meats, like pork or beef, ameliorate this trend. McDonald's restaurants in India, for example, serve many vegetarian meals. Demand for other export-oriented crops like coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas, tea, and shrimp have also had major influences on forest cover in developing countries (Tucker 2002).
Countercurrents are present, but they cannot buy the airwaves, so their influence in defining culture is waning. Traditionally, many religious and other teachings have argued that an excess of material things is a distraction, wastes energy, reduces capacity to control one's life, or causes suffering. Buddhism often relates ideas of simplicity and sufficiency.
Underconsumption is also a problem. Per capita emissions in developing regions are very much lower than in the developed world (Romero Lankao, Chapter 19, this vol ume). Any just approach to reducing carbon emissions to close to zero will have to allow for major increases in some parts of the world over the next several decades. In these areas, additional consumption is important to improving well-being. For the more affluent parts of society, however, reducing over- and misconsumption is critical to local and global sustainability.
Globalization of trade and the liberalization of investment over the past several decades have resulted in many longer and more complex commodity chains (Conca 2002). Direct environmental feedback signals are easily distorted and lost (Princen 2002). Consumers now have almost no hope of reconstructing the environmental consequences of their purchase and use decisions. The challenge is acute for CO2—a common substance that is only considered a pollutant in the aggregate and global sense. Input-output tables can capture most of the goods consumed in making a final product but still neglect services and goods obtained for free from ecosystems.
Finally, changing consumption of energy, goods, and services by firms, government agencies, and the military is at least as important as modifying household consumption patterns. Their purchases are large and may be distorted by special arrangements, subsidies, and incentives. Consumption by organizations is not independent of household consumption but may provide greater opportunities for directly reducing CO2 emissions.
Alternative patterns of consumption arise as a consequence of the choices provided (or constrained) by differences in wealth, entitlements, and power, as well as differences in things like family size, life-cycle stage, and geographic features. Wealth and power help determine allocation of buildings, equipment, and places to live. CO2 emissions are positively correlated with household expenditure (e.g., Wier et al. 2001).
At the national level, a number of analyses suggest that, although emission intensities (per unit of gross domestic product) may peak at lower levels for countries at a given income level at a later date, even the lowest reasonable peaks may still be higher than many of the poorest countries can expect to reach in the next couple of decades (Dietz and Rosa 1997; Roberts and Grimes 1997). Moreover, this relationship may not continue for the poorest countries, especially if heavy manufacturing and other polluting industries tend to relocate to them (Bai 2002). In developed countries, education and employment status show little relationship with energy consumption after adjustment for wealth (Wier et al. 2001). The main reason some people consume so much whereas others consume so little is income, but around this basic relationship there is much variation.
The lifetime carbon emissions of a wealthy American differ by a huge amount from those of a poor slum dweller in Dhaka. The American has a correspondingly greater capacity to influence the aggregate outcome of world emission growth than does the res ident of Bangladesh, even though Bangladesh is much more vulnerable to climate change. This asymmetry in interests, economic status, and capacity to change the global environment often coincide. They are, in part, a product of past distribution of power.
Family size and organization are important too. Per person, smaller families use more energy for housing and travel than large households. People living in houses use more energy than those living in apartments (Wier et al. 2001). These effects, however, are much smaller than those resulting from location, through the influence of climate on energy for heating and air-conditioning. Urbanization, if accompanied by good public transport infrastructure, may reduce carbon emissions through reduced use of personal vehicles and efficiencies in heating and cooling apartment buildings.
Falling rates of fertility are now producing patterns of rapid aging in much of the world. The effects of this pattern on energy use will depend on factors like whether or not older people are cared for by their children (as in many Asian cultures) or whether they remain economically independent and choose to travel overseas (as in some western countries).
Corporate organization is also likely to be very important for CO2 emissions, above and beyond the effects of distancing emissions from consumer decisions. Vertical integration and special arrangements between states and energy producers can make emissions accounting difficult. In Vietnam and China, state enterprises have been very inefficient and polluting producers and users of energy.
Finally, the integration of carbon into development strategies of nations, regions, and even the world economic system will produce winners and losers. The winners will be mostly those that control the development of institutions at each scale, those with power and interests to pursue or protect.
Control of the production of knowledge (and the definition of legitimate sources of knowledge) is crucial to the development pathways a society follows. Engagement in modernization and globalization has greatly weakened the processes maintaining and building local and traditional knowledge. It has also undermined local institutions. Common property regimes for forest lands, for example, have been effective in maintaining tree cover in shifting cultivation systems for centuries, whereas modern practices that favor permanent agriculture and separate forest and conservation areas have failed to maintain forest cover and carbon stocks.
Perceptions of risk and vulnerabilities posed by elevated atmospheric CO2 depend on the quality of assessments as well as how findings are represented. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process has been a largely successful attempt at independent assessment in an arena where policy stakes are very high. Attitudes on the environment may not, however, be as important in practice as other cultural values in which every day actions are embedded. Cultural values such as sharing, reciprocity, respect, humility, or patience can play a major role in moderating consumption and regulating land use. Religions like Buddhism, which place emphasis on breaking attachments with material things and people and controlling desires, argue against unnecessary consumption with the philosophy that material things do not, in themselves, produce long-term happiness or peace. This perspective is a counterpoint to today's emphasis on accumulation.
Culture fashions science and policy but is also changed by science. The success of industrialization, intensive agriculture, information technology, and medical science and genetics has given societies confidence in their ability to understand and control nature and how society interacts with it. This confidence underlies not only the idea that it is possible to integrate carbon management into development at local scales, but also the global institutions being formed to address global environmental change problems through "planetary management." The social construction of the CO2 stabilization problem has been largely driven by the concerns of wealthy northern countries, which, though mostly to blame for current CO2 levels, are calling for wider participation in "solutions" (Redclift and Sage 1998).
In contrast to this perspective, a growing body of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers have become more sceptical, or at least more humble, about the capacity of societies to forecast and manage complex systems (Gunderson and Holling 2002). A skeptical approach and a broad appreciation of uncertainties (and the prospects for reducing them) place an emphasis on learning from experience and safe-to-fail experiments in policy, land management, and energy technologies. Recognition of potential thresholds implies a commitment to avoid pushing systems to their limits (i.e., dangerous interference with the climate system).
Finally, crises may be essential for people to change their worldviews, even when other knowledge suggests that a change should have taken place long ago. Risks are abstract and not well understood; disasters and crises catch everybody's attention.
Changes in energy technologies can greatly reduce emissions (Caldeira et al., Chapter 5, this volume). Achieving CO2 stabilization will require massive changes in energy systems. The issue is one of timing, transfers, and trade-offs, each of which depends greatly on environmental politics and institutional arrangements between sectors and nations. History suggests that modal changes in energy systems take 50—100 years. Current trends in investments in energy research and development in both private and public sectors are not strongly oriented toward reducing carbon emissions, suggesting that a major shift in public policy is needed.
There is practically no limit to how much fossil fuels humans could transfer to the atmosphere: although conventional oil and gas is limited (Sabine et al., Chapter 2, this volume), the amount stored as coal and unconventional reserves is huge and will not "run out" during the 21st century (Edmonds et al. 2000). Emissions of CO2 per unit of energy consumed are falling, but this trend toward decarbonization must be balanced against the continuing absolute increase in world consumption of energy (Nakicenovic 1997).
Nevertheless, a common expectation is that the elemental basis of the world economy will shift from carbon to hydrogen (Spearot 2000). There are important constraints. Some of the alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power and hydropower, have other environmental or health risks, which the public may resist. The same is also true for the wide range of carbon capture and storage technologies being envisaged now and likely to be technically feasible in the coming decades. Beyond health risks, other factors to consider include costs of storage, institutional issues related to monitoring for leakages, and risks of breakdown in the event of weak maintenance or major social disturbances like wars.
Changes to land management practices, such as reduced tillage and better fire management, can also reduce emissions. On the other hand, climate change feedbacks on ecological systems may result in the weakening of current sinks or the mobilization of new sources (Gruber et al., Chapter 3, this volume).
In developing countries where industrialization is just beginning, there are tremendous opportunities for making growth clean (Angel et al. 2000). Clean, renewable energy technologies could be accelerated in developing countries. One good mechanism for this involves encouraging developed countries to provide assistance, with the inducement that the emissions reductions in the developing countries that receive assistance can be used as credit toward national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. This is the idea of joint implementation or activities implemented jointly under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Vertical transfers, where the technology remains with the investing company, can in some cases be desirable. This is especially true, for example, with advanced technologies, such as photovoltaics, where domestic producers are not ready to compete (Forsyth 1999). In many other cases, horizontal transfers involving local embedding and training of users and manufacturers will be much more desirable. Otherwise, there is a risk that indus-trialized-country exports subsidized by carbon credits from industrialized countries will decrease the competitiveness of developing-country producers, even in cases where local producers use technologies that are more appropriate for the settings. In the worst case, the transfers could result in no net increase in renewables, but an increased share of northern technologies in southern markets, leading to greater dependencies (Forsyth 1999). Local, national, and international interventions are required to ensure that private investments actually work toward carbon management goals.
Effective governance at a global scale that would help accelerate progress toward CO2 stabilization still appears remote. Society is in the early stages of experimenting with international environmental institutions. So far, these institutions have had very minor effects, except in cases where change also made good business sense. For the Montreal Protocol on ozone, alternative technologies were available and only a few big chemical manufacturers needed to be brought on line. The situation for greenhouse gas emissions is much more complex because of the wide array of activities that result in emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol was significant in its attempt to include both emission reduction and sink enhancement. The details of accounting procedures and definitions of afforestation, reforestation, and deforestation under Article 3.3 can have a large effect on net carbon sequestration under the Protocol (Yamagata and Alexandrov 1999). It is easy to create perverse subsidies for forestry (Sanz et al., Chapter 24, this volume). An even greater challenge is striking the right balance between emission reduction and sink enhancement. If Annex I countries1 are allowed to claim too much in carbon offsets, sink enhancement could act as a disincentive to emissions reductions. On the other hand, a too-small emphasis on sinks would discourage efforts to reevaluate forests, something likely to be beneficial beyond the potential for carbon sequestration potential. Yamagata and Alexandrov (2001) estimated, using the IMAGE land-use change model, that Annex I countries could claim a net carbon offset as high as 0.2 petagrams of carbon per year (Pg C y-1) through afforestation, reforestation, and deforestation (ARD) activities. In practice, however, political and economic factors will be important determining in whether projects designed to enhance sinks will actually help store carbon and improve the sustainability of local livelihoods (Tomich et al. 2002).
The Kyoto Protocol includes several mechanisms designed to allow developing countries to help reduce emissions, while acknowledging that the basic responsibility at this time lies with the industrialized nations. All of these mechanisms, the Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, and Emissions Trading, pose many challenges for integrating international agreements with national policy, especially since the bulk of the commitments will have to be implemented by the private sector. Not surprisingly, the bargaining position adopted by country delegations has been strongly influenced by corporate sector interests. Politics will not disappear from future negotiations concerning carbon. Even less clear is how the interplay between the regime and other international and national institutions will unfold. Bottom-up approaches with a focus on things like environmental health, urban air pollution, and sustainable forest management, might, in the long run, be more effective than global efforts to control carbon emissions. Transnational networks of city bureaucrats, industry leaders, and civil society groups have begun launching voluntary programs with these goals, though results are still mixed (Gardiner and Jacobson 2002). Institutional arrangements not directly concerned with carbon or even the environment, such as those related to trade in agricultural commodities or foreign investment, may be even more important for carbon futures through their effects on consumption-production chains.
Numerous technological and institutional trends have the potential to begin reducing the rates at which carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. The timing and speed at which these transformations are undertaken will determine how high CO2 concentrations rise before stabilization. With higher concentrations, there is increased likelihood of undesirable surprises from the climate and ecological systems. Although scientists' understanding of the Earth system has increased impressively over the past few decades, our capacity to "manage" the planet is easily overstated. Uncertainties abound, and many surprises could be in store, from misunderstood feedbacks and unexpected interactions in a carbon cycle operating outside its historical range. The timeliness with which societies respond to these challenges depends a lot on their assessment of risks, the level of shared interests, and the power of various agents to effect changes in behavior, institutions, and technology.
New scenarios should explicitly address the topics discussed here. We need to consider how diverse institutions, including nations, and not just markets, interact with energy and land use. These scenarios should also address how societies learn (or do not learn) from environmental feedbacks and whether their current strategies for development are maintaining or destroying their capacity to adapt to surprises. The SRES scenarios prepared by the IPCC Working Group III (IPCC 2000) represent a substantial improvement over the original IPCC set, in terms of assumptions about carbon intensities of energy supply, sulfur emissions, and treatment of relative rates of economic growth in developing and developed countries. They still fall far short, however, of capturing key uncertainties in how societies, ecosystems, and the environment may interact over time as part of the global carbon system. For example, the scenarios do not provide much scope for exploring how development strategies may jointly influence emissions and sequestration. They intentionally neglect consideration of surprises or major discontinuities (IPCC 2000). Finally, whereas many economic processes are well represented, cultural and other social structures and processes are hardly mentioned.
Careful consideration of carbon also demands a broad discussion of regional energy security and consequently international relations (e.g., Stares 2000). For example, continuing rapid economic growth in China will require huge increases in energy imports, development of new domestic energy sources, and substantial efforts at maintaining and improving urban air quality (Gao 2000). China will likely displace the United States as the world's largest CO2 emitter sometime in the 2020s, at which time per capita emissions will also exceed the world average.
The structure of society, including economic and political relations, will continue to drive growth in consumption of goods and services for at least several decades. It will not be easy to decouple this growth from its carbon consequences, but this is a prerequisite for CO2 stabilization. It will be even more difficult to build the institutions and incentives for behavioral change in a manner that is just and ecologically sustainable. A
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For the Kyoto Protocol, Annex I countries are those that are economically most developed, plus the countries of Eastern Europe and the European parts of the former Soviet Union. The list consists of Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.
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