Introduction to Environmental Science and Studies

Exam 3
Please answer each of the following questions completely with well-formed sentences and paragraphs.

Exam 3

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Introduction to Environmental Science and Studies

 

Please answer each of the following questions completely with well-formed sentences and paragraphs. Demonstration of your knowledge and synthesis of course content will comprise approximately 85% of your grade. Writing organization and mechanics will account for the remaining 15% of your grade.

 

You are free to use your notes, your book, lecture slides and other materials when developing your answers. However, all writing must be ORIGINAL and IN YOUR OWN WORDS. It is not acceptable to copy words directly from the book, lecture slides, or any outside sources.

 

 

  • The original U.S. Clean Air Act (1970) established federal and state regulations for reducing six “criteria air pollutants:” 1) Nitrous oxides (NOx); 2) Sulfur dioxide (SO2); 3) Carbon monoxide (CO); 4) Ozone (O3); 5) Particulate matter (PM); and 6) Lead (Pb). Describe the primary anthropogenic sources for each of these pollutants and also describe the particular environmental and public health concerns associated with each of these pollutants. Given that there are many other kinds of air pollutants, why did the United States government choose these specific pollutants for aggressive regulatory action? Why does the “Kuznet’s curve” relationship imply that most, if not all, countries will adopt and, even more importantly, enforce similar types of air quality regulations as originally established by the U.S. Clean Air Act? In other words, why does the Kuznet’s curve make it fairly predictable that a developing country like China would eventually start adopting (and enforcing) aggressive air quality regulations, as it has indeed started doing in recent years? (25 points)

 

  • Ozone (O3) is an interesting gas that figures prominently in discussions of atmospheric air pollution. Expanding on your answer for Question 1 above, give a detailed description as to how tropospheric ozone forms and also describe three environmental/public health problems associated with high levels of tropospheric ozone. Next, discuss the basic chemical process by which the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the stratosphere resulted in the production of what came to be known as the “ozone hole.” Describe why stratospheric ozone is crucial for maintaining life on earth (at least as we currently know it), and why this scientific consensus about the importance of ozone proved crucial in the international ratification of the Montreal Protocol. Finally, how does the ozone hole relate to global warming and climate change? (25 points)

 

  • Define and explain the relationships between the “greenhouse effect,” “global warming”, and “climate change.” Briefly describe the historical development of the scientific theory of anthropogenic global warming and climate change, including key contributions made by Fourier (circa 1824), Foote (circa 1856), Tyndall (circa 1859), Arrhenius (circa 1896), Callendar (circa 1938), Keeling (1958), Hansen (1988), and Mann (1998). Why does the very clear evidence of “natural” climate change, as associated with phenomena like earth’s orbital oscillations (Milankovitch cycles) and variations in solar output, not provide a valid reason for dismissing large bodies of scientific evidence indicating that contemporary climate change is mostly being driven by greenhouse gases emitted by modern human society? Why are ice cores such an important tool for understanding past climate change and informing projections of future climate change? (35 points)

 

  • What are the two primary reasons that contemporary climate change is causing sea level rise? Describe why it may seem like the sea is rising faster in some places as compared to others and, in fact, may even look like it is fall in certain places. Although the sea has “only” risen about 7-9 inches (18-23 cm) over the past 100 years, why does our understanding of past sea-level changes raise concerns that sea-level rise could potentially accelerate quite rapidly over the next few decades? How is sea-level rise already impacting Florida? Discuss at least two major concerns associated with accelerating sea-level rise on coastal communities. (15 points).

 

  • Net present value (NPV) is a tool used by economists to “discount” future monetary values. It is based on the very intuitive principle that having something of value today is worth more than receiving that same thing sometime later in the future. For example, if given the choice of receiving $100 today or $100 one year from now, almost everyone (and everyone who is rational!) would choose to receive $100 today. As discussed on our last day of class, the concept of discounting is used extensively within environmental policy, especially in terms of cost-benefit assessments. At the same time, many environmental activists and, indeed, policy-oriented environmental scientists are troubled by the use of discounting for certain kinds of ecosystem services.

 

For this last question, first describe what is meant by “sustainability” and “sustainable development.” In particular, what kinds of moral obligations does sustainability impose on present people for the sake of future generations? Describe why the concept of assigning monetary value to ecosystem services is viewed by many environmental policy-makers as an important tool for promoting sustainable development and conserving natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Conversely, discuss why use of net present value for ecosystem services could be problematic for future generations, especially when evaluating the value of ecosystem services that are irreplaceable (for example, loss of an endangered species) or non-substitutable (for example, having a generally stable climate system or, more dramatically, having oxygen to breathe). In your view, what is the proper role of environmental scientists, who are professionally obligated to follow the scientific method, within the societal discussion of such moral and policy dilemmas? (25 points)

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