Environment: treading lightly on the Earth
Environment: treading lightly on the Earth

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Environment: treading lightly on the Earth

2.3.5 Viewing and listening for a purpose

Videos can be a powerful medium for showing and explaining complex subjects. They can help you move away from static words to show the dynamics of events, interactions and processes. This study note will give advice on how to view a video effectively.

Study note: Viewing and listening for a purpose

To view video effectively, make sure you can watch without distractions, as when learning from text. Before you view, think about why you are watching a video. Is it to help you gain deeper understanding of a topic or to provide illustrative background material? Will you need to incorporate ideas from the video into an assignment? To learn effectively from viewing, read any notes supplied or the relevant sections of the course beforehand.

When viewing a video there’s a lot of information to take in at once. So after viewing, write down the main points. Don’t write down everything – key points reflecting the video’s purpose are most useful in triggering your memory and understanding. You may want to note down questions or links to things you’ve seen before. You can, of course, stop viewing to take notes or go through to the end – do what works best for you. Sometimes the material may be very rich, and you may feel it is worth viewing several times, but consider whether you have time for this.

If you use these techniques you should be able to use the many environmental TV, radio and online programmes more effectively to enhance your knowledge and understanding. A word of caution – words and images on video and TV are very engaging and may easily convince you. But they give only a version of events and, as with written materials, you should ask questions about the reasons behind the programme and whether alternative views may be just as valid.

Now watch the following video by statistician Professor Hans Rosling who explains why it is important to compare carbon dioxide emissions per person for different countries (as in Table 2 and Figure 9), rather than total emissions, in order to develop policies for tackling climate change on a fair basis. Then complete Activity 5.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
Skip transcript: Video 1 Hans Rosling on carbon emissions

Transcript: Video 1 Hans Rosling on carbon emissions

How much energy do we humans use? How much fossil fuel do we burn every year in the world? Which country emits more or less carbon dioxide? I'm going to show you the key indicator to use. It's carbon dioxide emission per person. And I'm going to show you how to compare countries. But there's a trap here, and you don't want to fall into it. It's the difference between emission per country and emission per person. In other words, the total amount and the rate. But first have a look at this. I'm going to show how the emission in the whole world varies according to income, from the richest billion all the way down to the poorest billion.
I will show this, from the poorest billion to the richest billion, from the one who hardly can afford shoes to the one who fly with airplanes. Now, this shows the total amount of fossil fuel used in the world during one year, coal, oil, and natural gas. And it represent more or less the total emission of carbon dioxide. Now, how much of that is used by the richest billion? Half of it. Now, the second richest billion, half of what's left. And you understand what the third use, half of what left. And the others use hardly anything. This is rounded numbers, but it clearly shows that almost all the fossil fuel is used here by the one, two, three richest billions, more than 85% they use.
Now, the richest billion here at least have stopped increasing, but we are yet to see whether they will decrease. And in the coming decades, it's the economic growth of these two that will increase the fossil fuel use and the carbon dioxide emission, even if these ones over here come out of extreme poverty and get rich all the way to the motorbike, that doesn't contribute much to the emission of carbon dioxide.
This is a good website to find data on carbon dioxide emission. It's called UNdata. If you type carbon dioxide here and hit Search, you get a number of different indicators, which you can use to compare countries in different ways. First here is carbon dioxide emission in tonnes, that's total amount per country. Next is carbon dioxide emission per capita. That is per person in the country. And there is also a number of other indicators you can use to compare.
This chart shows the carbon dioxide emission in 2011, the latest data for all major countries in the world. Each bubble is a country. On this axis, income, 400, 4 000, 40 000 dollars per capita. On this axis, I show carbon dioxide emission per person, from a few tonne per year to 10 and 20 tonne per person in year. Now, the size of the bubble, the total area of the bubble, that represent the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted from that country. And you can see that China has the biggest area. They have the highest emission per country. Number two, United States. Number three, India.
But these countries are on very different emissions per person. So China and India, with a relatively low emission per person, have big bubbles because they have huge populations. United States, they have a big bubble because they're very high up. They have almost three times as much emission per person compared with China. It's obviously important what big countries do, but the discussion about carbon dioxide emission have sometimes got confused when it focus only on total emission of the country.
And some have blamed China for having the biggest emission when they have a relatively average emission per person. It's a little as if you would say that the Chinese population is more obese than the American population because the total population weigh more than the American. You have to estimate obesity calculating weight per person, and I find it rational to do the same thing with carbon dioxide. Governments must be held responsible for the emission per person in their countries.
There are two more things you can see on this chart. First is as countries get richer, they tend to have a higher carbon dioxide emission. Look here, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China, Russia, United States. The second thing you can see is that there's a huge difference in carbon dioxide emission per person among the richest countries. They all have a very high income per person, but up here, Saudi Arabia, Australia, United States, and Canada, with almost 18 to 20 tonne per person. Down here, France, Sweden, and Switzerland, with quite low, four to five tonne per person. And in the middle, Japan, Germany and United Kingdom. So being rich doesn't mean that you have to have a very high emission per person.
You can go yourself to this graph on the web and find out where is your country, and you can compare your country to other countries, how their emission per person have changed over time. I am personally very interested to follow this data year by year into the future. Will these bubbles, countries with huge population, will they turn upwards here and emitting more and more to follow in this direction, or will they follow countries who have found a way to live well at lower emission levels? Then they may land somewhere over here with the much smaller bubbles. This is the most crucial when it comes to what sort of climate change we will have in the future.
End transcript: Video 1 Hans Rosling on carbon emissions
Video 1 Hans Rosling on carbon emissions
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Activity 5 Hans Rosling on carbon emissions

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes
  • a.Why does Rosling say it is necessary to compare countries on emissions per person rather than total emissions?
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Measuring mean emissions per person of rich countries is fairer, and so more likely to be politically acceptable, to middle-income and poor countries.

  • b.From which groups of countries does Rosling say the main growth in emissions will come in the future?
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The main growth in emissions will be from newly industrialised countries (e.g. China) and other developing countries (e.g. Thailand) whose inhabitants earn between $10 and $100 per day on average.

  • c.What level does Rosling suggest different groups of countries aim for in reducing their emissions?
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Rich countries with high carbon emissions per person, like the USA and Australia, should reduce their emissions to the lower level of other rich countries like France and Sweden. Rapidly developing countries like China and Thailand should try to avoid the path of countries like the USA, the UK and Germany by preventing their emissions per person from growing as much.

  • d.What does Rosling leave out of his analysis?
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Rosling does not include non-CO2 GHG emissions or the emissions embedded in imports and exports in his analysis.


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