Pollution refers to the introduction of contaminants to the natural environment resulting in adverse changes in the natural eco-systems. Pollution can take the forms of chemical substances or energy such as heat or light and noise among others. Pollutants are the components of pollution which can either be in the form of foreign substances or energies or occur naturally as contaminants. Environmental pollution, therefore, involves contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth system to an extent that does not support normal environmental processes. The major types of pollution include air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, soil pollution, and light pollution.
Description of the Problem
Carbon is a vital element in fuels and is important in the making of high-tech car parts and tennis rackets among other products. Any product with carbon, when burned, causes the carbon atoms to end up with oxygen and form carbon dioxide gas. This is a powerful greenhouse gas. The more the gas is in the atmosphere, the warmer the climate. The gas has always been present to keep our planet warm and comfortable. However, its amount has been increasing to alarming levels that are quite detrimental to the environment (Cairoli, 2018). Carbon results in carbon emissions which contribute to the greenhouse effect, causing the earth to get warmer and warmer. The effects can result not only on air pollution but also in water and soil pollution.
The carbon dioxide gases among others released into the atmosphere results into various consequences which include the following:
New kinds of climate in various countries, i.e., new kinds of temperatures may arise such as being much colder or extremely hotter. The amount of rainfall will also increase globally due to increased evaporation rates and extreme weather conditions will be experienced more often.
A rise in desertification and a consequent reduction in fertile grounds. In this case, countries where there it is already hot are likely to experience more dry areas such as in Chile where the driest desert on earth (Atacama desert) is moving towards the capital (Santiago de Chile) resulting in extremely dry conditions and increased air pollution (Cairoli, 2018).
A rise in acidification meaning that the sea water will get more acid which will negatively affect the coral reefs and water animal species that live there. This will negatively affect sea life and the environment at large and would result in the extinction of sea animals. It would result in a complete shake-up of the natural circle of life.
There would also be a change in the food supply since the changing weather will negatively affect the agricultural industry as well as the human food supply chain (Cairoli, 2018). Increased carbon emissions would result in increased temperatures and reduced precipitation, thereby changing the conditions suitable for growing food crops in various areas.
The above are a few examples of the detrimental effects of carbon and its emissions on the atmosphere and indicate why the problem should be handled with the seriousness that it deserves.
Causes of the Problem
Carbon emissions arise from natural and human sources that result in carbon dioxide emissions. The natural causes include processes of decomposition, ocean release and respiration. Human sources are the greatest contributors to carbon emissions with the age of the industrial revolution. The major human contributors to carbon emissions include the combustion and use of fossil fuels in power plants, vehicles, planes, and industrial facilities. The three major types of fossil fuels include coal, natural gas, and oil which contribute 43%, 36% and 20% of carbon emissions respectively (Le Quere et al., 2013). Heat generation and electricity in the economic sector produces the largest percentage of man-made carbon dioxide emissions that constitute 41% of fossil related emissions. The transportation sector is the second largest cause of anthropogenic carbon emissions producing 22% of fossil fuel related carbon emissions. The industrial sector is the third largest source of man-made carbon dioxide emissions producing 20% of fossil fuel related emissions (Le Quere, et al., 2013). Industrial processes produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide emissions as a by-product of chemical reactions that are required for their production processes.
Market Failures Associated with the Problem
Market failure indicates the inability of a free market to maximize a society's welfare. The greatest market failure brought about by carbon and carbon emissions is climate change with the core one being the greenhouse-gas externality. The greenhouse gases result from economically viable activities with the emissions not falling on those involved in the activities. Instead, the effects affect future generations and people living in developing countries while those responsible for the emissions do not pay the price. The resulting adverse effects of greenhouse gases are therefore external to the market. It is, therefore, an ethical, rather than an economic incentive for businesses and consumers to lower their emissions. However, the market fails by excessively producing greenhouse gases.
Various other market externalities accompany the greenhouse gas externality. These include those that arise from inadequate information on how to reduce emissions, network effects, and poor innovation incentives. Such externalities call for interventions that include carbon pricing that is concerned about climate change. In the case of innovation, the market is currently failing to offer sufficient incentives for the development of low-carbon technologies.
Possible Economic Solutions
Various economic solutions can and have been implemented to mitigate the effects of carbon emissions and control carbon pollution. These include:
Implementation of a carbon tax. This refers to a tax implemented on the use of carbon and its products. The result is an increase in the cost of burning fossil fuels by a certain amount which would result in a decrease in the demand of the use of carbon, according to the laws of demand and supply (Tabitha, 2019).
Application of a cap-and-trade system. This is a bit more complex but the creative process. In this case, the governing body first sets a cap on the permitted emissions, establishes permits on the units of greenhouse-gas emissions and later gives or sells those permits to the emitters. The emitters will then emit the greenhouse gases as per the permits owned or even sell those permits to the other emitters. Both the carbon price and the cap-and-trade system set a carbon price on the greenhouse gases.
Government intervention is also required to stop or prevent the harmful spillovers of carbon and its components by industries. This can be done by the implementation of emission controls by the individual governments while encouraging dependence on technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration and financing these technologies. They can also implement policies such as the United Nations' 1997 Kyoto Protocol where they pledge to reduce to greenhouse gas emissions in an international effort to fight climate change through strategies such as the International Emissions Trading System among others.
Possible Obstacles to their Implementation
The mitigation strategies face various obstacles in their implementation such as the inaccuracy of information regarding emissions and trading systems. This results in the belief that carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems reward businesses for polluting the environment. Implementation of carbon taxes may not be politically viable (Tabitha, 2019). Powerful political forces reject climate science and successful carbon pricing and policing would require support from large enterprises to survive the process of legislation. History on the other end shows that addressing environmental process via legislation is cumbersome and the laws suffer from lack of funding (Tabitha, 2019).
To conclude, it is clear that carbon pollutes the environment when burned resulting in carbon dioxide gases among others which are major causes of the greenhouse effect. Carbon pollution contributes to climatic changes through a rise in desertification and acidification, changes in food supplies among other negative effects on the environment. The human sources contribute highly to the carbon emissions through the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes among others. The emissions contribute to climate change which is a grave market failure associated with carbon pollution, due to the inability to control the carbon emissions. With some of the solutions being implemented to control carbon emissions such as carbon pricing and implementation of specific government policies, there still exist obstacles in their implementation such as the inaccuracy of information regarding the control of emissions, inadequate finances to fund innovative technologies and strong political oppositions that slow down or render legislation inadmissible.
Cairolli, S. (2018). Consequences of Carbon Emissions for Humans. Sciencing. Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/consequences-of-carbon-emissions-for-humans-12730960.html
Le Quere, C. et al.,3(2019). The global carbon budget 1959-2011. Earth-syst-sci-data.net. Retrieved 16 June 2019, from https://www.earth-syst-sci-data.net/5/165/2013/essd-5-165-2013.pdf
Tabitha, M. (2019). The Challenge of Putting a Price on Carbon Emissions in the United States | Scholars Strategy Network. Scholars.org. Retrieved from https://scholars.org/page/challenge-putting-price-carbon-emissions-united-states
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