Ecologic Problems of the Modern World and their Impact on the International Politics

Ecologic Problems of the Modern World and their Impact on the International Politics

Nika Chitadze

Director of the Center for International Studies

President of the George C. Marshall Alumni Union, Georgia – International and Security Research Center

Tbilisi, Georgia



Environment and its such resources, as water, air, always were the necessary conditions for the human`s life and activities. But, during the many centuries of the history of mankind, environment was not represented the problem neither for the humanity, nor for its further sustainable development. Environment and natural resources were offering the satisfaction the needs of those people, who lived in the concrete period of the world history without causing the damage to the next generations.

At the second half of the XX Century, the topic related to the environmental protection was included to the agenda, including the political aspects, because of the fact, that as a result of the economic activities of humanity, the environment pollution got such level, when under the threat become the different species and event the whole ecological systems. In the future, the actuality of the problems, and also the researches in the field of ecology, popularization of its knowledge, active involvement of the international nongovernmental organizations and movements in the field of ecology has resulted the fact, that the discussion of this problem become to be widely considered.

Legislatives and programs in the framework of environmental protection

The additional stimulus for the review of the ecologic problems become the several technological catastrophes, which have attracted the attention at the first stage of the concrete states, and later the whole world community in general. One of the first countries, which adopted some measures for the protection of atmosphere, was Great Britain, which adopted an appropriate legislative acts in 1956.

At the end of 1960-th and beginning of 1980-th, the ecological problem was included to the political agenda, first of all because of the fact, that due to the economic damage, which was directed and continued to be directed to the nature, the serious and actual question related to the further sustainable development of the humanity has been emerged.

In 1970 years, many countries start the creation of the special departments and Ministries on the environmental protection. If 1972 such structures were in 26 and 10 years later they in 144 countries.

At the same time, in several countries the contradictions among the appropriate ecological structures from one side and economic and financial from the other have been emerged.

In 1972, the first Conference of the United Nations on the problems of environment was held in Stockholm in 1972.  It adopted the decision about foundation the United Nation Environmental Program, UNEP, which had to stimulate international cooperation in this field. In the consequent years took place the conflict of interests of the economic and ecological problematics. It can be illustrated on the example of the third conference of UN on Maritime Law (1973-1982), which adopted the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS. The problem was concluded in such issue, that the gaining the agreement under the conditions, when in the negotiations are participating more than 1000 representatives from the more than 150 countries with the different level of the economic and technological development, and accordingly with the possibilities of the economic activities in the oceans, was very difficult. Anyway, the agreement was reached and convention of 1982, was taking into consideration the creation of 12-miles zone for the shipping and 200 miles – for the economic activities in the ocean space (fishery, production of fossils etc.).

In general, the conference fixed, that the ocean represents the common heritage of the humanity, and recommended the keeping of balance between economic activity and rational consumption of natural resources.

Deterioration of the Main environmental conditions since the 80-th of the XX Century

In 1980-th, the new topics in the ecologic agenda have been appeared. If earlier political aspects of ecology were limited by the discussion the problems of the pollution of atmosphere and water, within the consequent years to those issues have been added such problems, as global warming, ozone depletion, preservation of the diversity of existing flora and fauna. 

From the atmosphere pollution especially suffer the huge mega polices, which first of all connected with the exhaust of gas emissions.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people in the modern period are inhabited in such populated areas, where the air cleanness does not respond to the necessary requirements. At the same time, if the economically developed states adopt an appropriate legislative measures and spend significant amount of financial resources on the fighting against gas emissions and also with the other sources of the air pollution, the poor countries are not able to do the same things. As a result, the situation often is becoming very critical. One of the most polluted cities in the world in the modern period is Mexico.

Analogic problem exists in the connection with the pollution of the water resources. Especially difficult is to resolve this problem in such situations, when on the banks of the water reservoirs  the big cities and industrial enterprises with the bad system of used water purification are located.

Next ecologic problem is connected with the reduction the area of the fruitful soil, increasing the area of deserts and decreasing the forest massive. During the many centuries the human civilization was developing as a result of the gaining control over the new land territories. But in the beginning of the 21-st century, those possibilities turned out practically exhausted. By the experts estimations, in 2025 the annual acreage of arable lands on average in the whole world can be only 0,17 hectares. Under those conditions, the agricultural development can be implemented only by the agency of land`s intensification. However, due to the fact, that the excessive usage of the new arable lands, active intensification of the agricultural production can cause the serious ecological consequences. 

Increasing the area of the new arable lands, for example, is implemented  including the cut down the forest. And forest, as a valuable row material, is also cutting down with the commercial purposes. As a result, according to the World Resources Institute, in the beginning of the XXI c. the forest zone of the world has been reduced till 4 billion hectares, which is the approximately half of it, which was about 8 thousand years ago. And even only half century ago, 12% of the ground part of our planet was covered by tropical forests, today they remained only on the 6% of the surface.

Many countries practically lost their forest stocks.  For example, only 10% of the territory of Madagascar is covered by forests. In the difficult situation are the countries of Eastern Africa, Brazil, China. Tropical forests are intensively cutting down in the developing countries (14 million hectares annually), because forest represent the significant part of the income of those states. Particularly, Brazil obtains as a result of the export of forest and forest materials about 6 billion USD. The serious consequences of such actions have been observing even from the 1950 years.

Not very seldom under the negative influence are such forest areas, which were restored: They are usually planted by one species of trees which grow rapidly and subsequently they are subject of the cutting down again. On the empty stocks of the former forest areas influence other negative factors, which are determined by the other economic activity of human – acid rains, pollution of air and water. Disappearance of the forest from its turn causes the erosion of soil and expanding the territory of desert lands. According to the United Nations Environmental Program`s information, in 1984, 35% of land was under the threat of the development of those processes, which were connected with the empty lands and expansion of deserts.

The decreasing of the forest areas, pollution of environment represents itself one of the main reasons of the disappearance of the several types of animals and plants. According to the estimations of ecologists, the reduction of habitat for 1/10 causes the decreasing the number of types for almost 50%. Except of the loosing the opportunity to enjoy esthetic beauty of nature, it is difficult to overestimate the economic consequences of such losses for the branches of industry, which, as for example pharmacy industry, can not function without of natural raw materials. 

Emission in the atmosphere of the big quantity of gases causes to one more phenomena – greenhouse effect. Despite the fact, that this phenomena is described in XIX c. problem started to cause the serious agitation in 1980-th. During the conference in Toronto in 1988, which was dedicated to the climate change, the greenhouse effect problem was included to the agenda of the event. After the consideration this topic, several suggestions related to the reduction the gas emission in atmosphere were considered and worked out.

Rio-De-Janeiro Conference in 1992 and signing Kyoto Protocol in 1998

In 1989 General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the decision about organization the UN Conference Environment and development, which was held in Rio-De-Janeiro in 1992. Approximately during this period, more and more fears began to cause a decrease the ozone layer of the earth. At this conference The Framework Convention on Climate Change, FCCC was adopted. Due to the fact, that the rich and poor countries have different possibilities, the conference also adopted the concept of common and at the same time different responsibilities for the environment. It was mentioned, that countries of the “North”, on the share of which is coming about 20% of the world population, produce more than 70% of the emission in atmosphere, which  generate the greenhouse effect. Due to it, the Conference appealed first of all to those countries not only be maximally responsible in its actions, but to assist the countries from the ”South” from technological and economic point of view to protect the environment. This position was supported by both, developed and developing countries.

Conference mentioned about the important role of the society and nongovernmental organizations in the evaluation the effect of human to the environment and its protection. Having been created as a result of the conference the decision, to the intergovernmental group has been given the responsibility for the preparation the conference in Kyoto. On the session of the group, which was held in Berlin in 1995,  as it was mentioned by American authors A. Lamborn and J. Lepgold:

  • It is recognized, that the purposes, which were suggested by frame convention for the reducing the harmful waste in atmosphere, would not be achieved by 2000;
  • It was pointed out on the necessity of the adoption the legal obligations for the environment protection also after 2000;
  • It was determined, that only developed countries were not able to resolve the problems related to environmental protection by themselves. “Global South” increases its emissions in atmosphere and approximately in 2030 would reach the same number of problems, as a  “Global North”;
  • It was decided reformulation the principles of responsibilities of the states.

Before the starting the conference in Kyoto, intergovernmental group again met in Bonne. At this stage members of the European Union presented the suggestion, according to which, the developed countries had to take the responsibilities to reduce the emission in atmosphere harmful substance, with the purpose of the decreasing the action of the greenhouse effect. In the relation to those, who would not fulfill the obligations, it was suggested the introduction of the different types of radical sanctions and fairs. Several states, on which the greenhouse effect threated to be reflected first of all (for example Cyprus, which was concerned with the sharp rise the level of the world ocean) presented the initiative to take the starting point not 2010, but 2005 year.

During the conference in Kyoto, which was held in 1997, have been clearly shown the different point of views on the ecologic problems and ways for its solution. The developed countries were proving, that in the XXI century, concretely the countries from the “Global South”, when several of them was developing rapidly from socio-economic point view, would be the main sources of the emissions in atmosphere. From their turn, China and India, and also countries, which joined the initiative, were insisting, that the limitation of the emission in the atmosphere the harmful substances should not concern to them. As an argument, there have presented two point of views. First of all, in the contemporary period, the volume of the emissions in atmosphere, which were spreading by the developed and developing states, were not equal.  Second, developing countries could not afford themselves to reduce such emission. Furthermore, According to their position, the biggest share of the emissions in atmosphere, which was causing the ecologic problems was coming on the share of USA. 

Despite of disagreements, the conference in Kyoto has been finished by the signing the Kyoto protocol, which was approved by 159 states. According to this document, 38 industrially developed states had to reduce the emissions in the atmosphere in comparison with 1990 - by six types of those gazes, which were causing the greenhouse effect  within the period from 2008 to 2012, including the EU members for 8, USA for – 7, Japan for 6%.

Till the end of 2000, 84 countries signed and 31 ratified the presented protocol. However, those countries are mostly small, island states and for them, from one side, the Kyoto Protocol is not a big burden and from the other- they are less vulnerable as a result of the greenhouse effect.

In the next years, several countries conducted the hard discussions related to the possibilities and feasibility of the fulfillment the Kyoto protocol. Although, several developing countries, for example Argentina, decided to support the common direction of the Kyoto protocol for the reduction the emissions in atmosphere. But many of them turned out to be outside the frame of its action, having been mostly oriented of the own economic development. The attempts to work out some system, which would stimulate the reduction of the harmful emissions in atmosphere independently from the economic development of the countries, level of their dependence to the greenhouse effect and contemporary level of emissions, has not brought any result.

The problem of keeping of the environment is not limited by the above-mentioned aspects. Approximately at the same level, for example, exists the question about nuclear waste and possibilities of the technological catastrophes with the global or regional ecological consequences. One of the first such type of ecological catastrophes was held in USSR near the city Chelyabinsk. The next big damage with the radiation pollution concerned Pennsylvania in 1976. And finally, the last serious incident was registered at the Chernobyl Atomic power station in 1986. 

The danger represent not only the nuclear objects. No less sufficient can be the consequences and damages on the chemical and other enterprises, especially those, which are located in the regions with the high density of population. Other danger comes from the daily activity of the humans. Thus, tragedy, which was connected with the chemical production took away the lives about 1500 people, was held in Indian city Bhopal in 1984.

The other problem in the field of environment protection is construction of the hydropower stations, which, from one side, give the possibility to consume the electro energy, at the same time with the cleanest means, from the other – those energy objects are changing the ecological situation in the basins of the rivers, floods the large territories, create the obstacle for the movement of the fishes etc. The economic interests of the states and private transnational corporations very often contradict with the interests of those organizations, which are involved in the protection of the environment – ecological movements, and also human rights organizations. Conflict situations related to the construction of the hydropower stations have been caused on Danube, Amazon and other rivers.

Finally – one more problem related to the ecologic sphere – armed conflicts and their influence on the situation around the environment. Big ecologic catastrophes are possible even in case of the small, local conflicts. The war in the Persian Gulf - as a result of the occupation the Kuwait by Iraq has demonstrated, what type of danger for the ecology of the planet can have the arson of oil wells. It become necessary the effort of the many countries for the seize those fires, and also the cleaning of the earth surface from the oil pollutions.

But the environment itself can become the source for the conflict. For example, because of the intention the gaining control over the resources of the fresh water; the possibilities to eat ecologically clean products and breath with the fresh air.

As a whole, by the estimation of the Oxford researcher A. Hurrell, within the period from 1970 till the end of 1990 to the ecological problematic it is observed the transition from the discussion of the problems, which are connected with the “limits of the resources”, which are on the planet, to the topics related to the “limits of wastes”. 


Ecological problematic in the modern times suggests the joint activities for its resolution by the states, and also international intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, think-tanks, Trans national corporation and also experts in the concrete fields. In this regard, the ecology, represents one of those types of problems, which most clearly demonstrates the necessity of the involvement of the different international actors in the world political processes, and also their interactions during the resolution of the contemporary problems.

On the example of the ecologic problematics it is possible to observe the interdisciplinary character of the modern world problems, for the resolution of which it is necessary the expert knowledges of the specialists in the field of International relations, lawyers, economists, biologists, chemistries, geographers etc. And finally, this is the problematic, on the example of which it is especially clearly detected the deleting of the boundaries between internal and external politics, from one side, and between two scientific disciplines: political sciences and classical international (interstate) relations – from the other side. As it is mentioned by E. Harrell, during the analysis of the global problems of the environment, political theory in the separate country now is not the intellectually adequate choice.

As a whole, despite the difficulties and contradictions, before which the modern world is faced, during the resolution of the ecologic problems, it is important to find the methods and capabilities to manage with them. International regimes in the field of ecology, is one of them.            



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