Over the forthcoming years it must be expected that all aspects of life on Earth will change drastically and dramatically, be this through climate change, technological advancement or economic transition. On analysing the ‘eighties’, or even the ‘nineties’, the changes which have occurred from then to the present day are nothing short of amazing. Most children and teenagers cannot imagine a lifestyle which does involve such technology (or gadgets) as mobile phones and laptops. These applications have become firmly inter-linked with everyday life and are now a way of life rather than a ‘flashy’ gimmick, as they were often referred to as in their infancy. In a similar way, such technology has had the same impact on businesses and the environment they operate within. Mobile telephones are prevalent amongst employees in most industries and e-mails, databases, spreadsheets and various other programmes have, to a degree, rendered the pen and paper nothing more than a ‘supporting act’. With such major changes occurring in such a short space of time, it appears businesses will continue to experience extreme and drastic new environments. How they react to them will determine their success and longevity within their markets. There is only one thing certain about the future of business – it will always be changing!
Business revolves around consumers and, in the main, satisfying their needs and desires. However, clever marketing and propaganda can often mould consumer groups in to thinking they need a certain product, service or brand. Therefore, the key drivers of how business progresses will be consumers coupled with economic, political, environmental, social, technological and legal factors. During the course of this essay, each of the factors will be analysed and suggestions on their effects provided.
Ray Kurzweil, a renowned computer scientist, predicts “We won’t experience 100 years progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity: technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. In practical terms human ageing and illness will be reversed; pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved. Nanotechnology will make it possible to create virtually any physical product using inexpensive information processes, and will ultimately turn even death into a soluble problem”. (Extract taken from article ‘Readying a radical business plan’ on money.cnn.com). Whilst the above views may be deemed ‘far fetched’, the reality is that technological advancements in recent times may also have been classed as ‘unachievable’ only a few decades ago.
Appendix 1 attached is a document produced by British Telecom which contains a predicted timeline of technological inventions. The shear volume of predicted inventions and in many cases their immense advancement in technology clearly demonstrates the opportunities and threats which businesses face. Highlighted are a number of particularly interesting suggested inventions. It must also be considered that along with positive innovations, there will always be people with counter productive motives who thrive on damaging innovations. BT’s timeline predicts such potentially damaging developments as ‘Viruses’ aimed at toys, Jigsaw viruses, ‘Phishing’ of on-line banking, Corporate ‘cyberwars’ and terrorists using GM to pollute crops and damage economy. With this in mind businesses will have to pay added attention to security as improved technology equates to improved criminals.
Climate change and growing concerns over the environment are likely to have a major impact on the way business is conducted in the future. At present legislation regarding the conduct of firms with regards to the environment is extremely evident (eg. REACH – A new European Community Regulation dealing with Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemical Substances). However, a major problem is that many large industrial countries, such as the US and China, fail to comply or ‘sign-up’ to international legislation, such as the Kyoto Protocol (February 2005). They hold too much global power, at present, for legislative action to be effective against them. Therefore, it must be hoped that support is gained from amongst these countries populations, as ‘people power’ can play a major role in convincing politicians. However, climate change resulting in the widening desertification and rising sea-levels present opportunities for major engineering projects and potential ‘big business’ ventures. For example, by guiding the sea-level ‘overflow’ into areas with limited water such as Sudan, Ethopia or the Sahara desert, a positive outcome could be extracted from a crisis. Business can be created by supplying the answers which may save cities such as London, Venice and New York from flooding, whilst regenerating water-starved countries in Africa and Asia. The other side to the argument is that technology will become available to reverse or counter-act global warming, and indeed BT predict that the hole in the Ozone layer will have disappeared by the 2050′s. However such optimism is not shared by the majority of environmental experts who fear consequences of Armageddon proportions in the not to distant future.
New technology is continuously being developed, with today’s ideas becoming tomorrow’s reality. New fuels, greater computer capabilities and advanced machinery should all play a major role over the coming years. Many production lines are presently almost fully automated, so the question is what will be the next step technologically? Will computers / robots carry out the administrative / supervisor roles as well as the production ones? Will we see an Artificial Intelligence based Managing Director, and if so who are his/hers stakeholders? Will new technological advancement make companies more efficient and LEAN, but ultimately lead to a race of AI based humanoids running a world where humans are no longer the dominant species? These are questions which cannot be answered at present, but simply considered as a possibility.
With new technology will come new pharmaceutical advancements. Cures for diseases such as AIDS and cancer may be just ‘upon the horizon’, while who is to say age reversal treatments or life prolonging tablets will not be as common as vitamin tablets in 20 years time? Such advancements would create huge new business opportunities, with an even larger and older population businesses would have to adapt to service a new consumer group with new ideas, views and desires.
The growth of nations such as China and India will have a considerable impact on the business world. With huge populations (China 1.3 billion and India 1.1 billion) willing to work in ‘inhumane’ working conditions for negligible wages, it is difficult for westernised developed countries to compete on price and output. Whilst quality may be an issue on some products from these countries at present, eventually they will gain the experience to match and maybe surpass western standards. However, as Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’ explains, people’s expectations rise over time. Thus the people of China will not tolerate such hardships indefinitely, and will eventually demand parity with their western counterparts. This is already evident in India where I.T. personnel previously earning around 25% of their American counterparts salary, are now demanding around 70%.
The possibility of a major war or conflict can never be ignored. The world wars severely slowed down many aspects of business, but also accelerated technology in the form of weaponry, vehicles and munitions. Most nations are spending heavily at present in developing and manufacturing highly technical weapons. Should a Third World War occur, the results could catastrophic. The effect this would have on the World is obvious, but it could equally have a massive effect on business with the emphasis possibly changing on which countries to deal with. Many countries who have been involved in conflicts often gain many allies, and thus such partnerships continue through business once the conflict is over.
Space travel and exploration has long been viewed as the ‘next logical step’ of mankind. In 1969, when man first stepped foot on the moon it was envisaged that regular space travel would exist in the next decades. Political wrangling, disasters, international conflicts and economic issues have slowed down the progression, but it is highly likely that at some point in the future a major emphasis is placed on exploring our neighbouring planets and beyond. The previously mentions events such as climate change, limited resources and fuels, growing populations combined with man’s ambition to always achieve more may be the driving factors behind ‘big business’ investing heavily in space exploration.
Much of international business is based on fluctuations in countries currency. Therefore, in future years we may see a World currency, which all countries adapt to. This would make trade between countries much easier, yet would be open to misuse and corruption if not policed correctly.
Cultural and language barriers between business people has often been the cause of many issues. With business transactions increasing becoming international, such issues must be addressed and overcome. Religions, such as Islam, which dictate how believers lead every function of their life could become increasingly prominent in deciding which countries do business with each other.
2020 looks to be an exciting, scary and complex year, but there again, put yourself back to 1998 and look how the World has changed since then!!
Chinas current trade progress is unrivaled. For more than two centuries, the west has maintained an unchallenged hold over methods of production that, with the presently melting global order, is quickly spreading east. If Chinas population of more than a billion makes a shift for a better lifestyle, would the planet still manage to survive the surge?
the Pacific and Asia towns have expanding citizenship that is bursting at the seams. If they walk on the same bicentennial track as the west did, researchers are claiming the normal ecological control mechanisms will shatter. if Asia should be set the pace regarding power use or if the western hemisphere should take the lead is a great debate, raging throughout the world?
While it is right that the civilized world has begun working on emissions abatement , their attempts have been half-hearted at best . As civilized and advanced human beings, westerners are reliant on power.
While most civilized countries have approved the Kyoto Protocol, the basis for abatement of emissions, America, most likely the worst abuser of greenhouse gases, has yet to sign it. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the overall ceiling is honored, but a guideline for emissions trading gives flexibility as nations and the companies in them enjoy the choice to trade carbon offsets.
The theory surrounding carbon offsets exchange is easy: countries or entities that use all their emissions liberties can purchase extra rights from countries or industries that have rights to spare. Practically speaking, it doesnt matter who emits what degree of emissions; what counts is that the whole total is beneath the cap.
Emissions exchange looks for the least cost process of controlling GHG. Carbon offsets exchange will actually lead to an across the board reduction in emissions as large polluting states and companies begin to experience the pain of buying emitting rights forcing them to try ways to control its pollution.
The general public so far seems doubtful about the effectiveness of cap and trade. How exactly would the ability be first doled out? The current method selects rights on usage history and current demands. Such a grandfatherly method really tracks to loopholes, where a few companies can pull off bigger abilities while some, more value adding industries, may be deprived.
Since 1990’s a new generation of satellite sensors with powerful capabilities have been launched to collect massive amounts of data about our planet and the many changes it has experienced.
There are dozens of remote sensing satellites orbiting the Earth collecting invaluable information about the Earth’s surface, oceans and the atmosphere and how they interact. Satellite images have been collected for scientific and technical purposes as well as just appreciating its simple beauty. These satellites collect information that our eyes cannot, collections from 30M to 0.5M resolution is now available.
To view original story with images go here http://news.satimagingcorp.com/2009/10/satellite_image_technology_monitoring_global_warming_and_climate_change_.html
Satellite images provide important land coverage information for mapping and classification of land cover features, such as vegetation, soil, water and forests for monitoring and managing Earth’s vital natural resources and the current global climate changes.
The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. From glacial periods (or “ice ages”) where ice covered significant portions of the Earth to interglacial periods where ice retreated to the poles or melted entirely – the climate and the Earth has continuously changed.
The shallow end of the Glaciers are melting swiftly. Glaciologists have determined that areas of the glacial lobe were 98 feet lower in 2004 than they were in 2000. That’s double the rate of pre-1999 thinning.
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.
Scientists have been able to piece together a picture of the Earth’s climate dating back decades to millions of years ago by analyzing a number of surrogate, or “proxy,” measures of climate such as ice cores, boreholes, tree rings, glacier lengths, pollen remains, and ocean sediments, and by studying changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. Studying this data collected over many years reveal the signals of a changing climate.
Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will increase during the next century unless greenhouse gas emissions decrease substantially from present levels. Increased greenhouse gas concentrations are very likely to raise the Earth’s average temperature, influence precipitation and increase in storm patterns as well as raise sea levels. The magnitude of these changes, however, is uncertain.
Digital Elevation Models
Satellite images allow scientists to remove vegetation, water and geological cover from the image data which allows them to produce the most detailed available Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of landscape topography. The creation of DEMs will revolutionize geological applications, land-use studies, soil science, and much more to better understand the global climate changes occurring around the world.
Digital elevation models provide details about landscape features which in result, will allow us to clearly make out the shape of our landscape and understand how water, ice, and soil might move across its surface, how it came to be its present shape and how rapidly the changes are occurring.
Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of biomass occurring in the absence of oxygen. It is the fundamental chemical reaction that is the precursor of both the combustion and gasification processes and occurs naturally in the first two seconds. The products of biomass pyrolysis include biochar, bio-oil and gases including methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Depending on the thermal environment and the final temperature, pyrolysis will yield mainly biochar at low temperatures, less than 450 0C, when the heating rate is quite slow, and mainly gases at high temperatures, greater than 800 0C, with rapid heating rates. At an intermediate temperature and under relatively high heating rates, the main product is bio-oil.
Pyrolysis can be performed at relatively small scale and at remote locations which enhance energy density of the biomass resource and reduce transport and handling costs. Heat transfer is a critical area in pyrolysis as the pyrolysis process is endothermic and sufficient heat transfer surface has to be provided to meet process heat needs. Pyrolysis offers a flexible and attractive way of converting solid biomass into an easily stored and transported liquid, which can be successfully used for the production of heat, power and chemicals.
Feedstock for Pyrolysis
A wide range of biomass feedstocks can be used in pyrolysis processes. The pyrolysis process is very dependent on the moisture content of the feedstock, which should be around 10%. At higher moisture contents, high levels of water are produced and at lower levels there is a risk that the process only produces dust instead of oil. High-moisture waste streams, such as sludge and meat processing wastes, require drying before subjecting to pyrolysis.
The efficiency and nature of the pyrolysis process is dependent on the particle size of feedstocks. Most of the pyrolysis technologies can only process small particles to a maximum of 2 mm keeping in view the need for rapid heat transfer through the particle. The demand for small particle size means that the feedstock has to be size-reduced before being used for pyrolysis.
Types of Pyrolysis
Pyrolysisprocesses can be categorized as slow pyrolysis or fast pyrolysis. Fast pyrolysis is currently the most widely used pyrolysis system. Slow pyrolysis takes several hours to complete and results in biochar as the main product. On the other hand, fast pyrolysis yields 60% bio-oil and takes seconds for complete pyrolysis. In addition, it gives 20% biochar and 20% syngas. Fast pyrolysis processes include open-core fixed bed pyrolysis, ablative fast pyrolysis, cyclonic fast pyrolysis, and rotating core fast pyrolysis systems. The essential features of a fast pyrolysis process are:
Very high heating and heat transfer rates, which require a finely ground feed.
Carefully controlled reaction temperature of around 500oC in the vapour phase
Residence time of pyrolysis vapours in the reactor less than 1 sec
Quenching (rapid cooling) of the pyrolysis vapours to give the bio-oil product.
Uses of Bio-Oil
Bio-oil is a dark brown liquid and has a similar composition to biomass. It has a much higher density than woody materials which reduces storage and transport costs. Bio-oil is not suitable for direct use in standard internal combustion engines. Alternatively, the oil can be upgraded to either a special engine fuel or through gasification processes to a syngas and then bio-diesel. Bio-oil is particularly attractive for co-firing because it can be more readily handled and burned than solid fuel and is cheaper to transport and store. Co-firing of bio-oil has been demonstrated in 350 MW gas fired power station in Holland, when 1% of the boiler output was successfully replaced. It is in such applications that bio-oil can offer major advantages over solid biomass and gasification due to the ease of handling, storage and combustion in an existing power station when special start-up procedures are not necessary. In addition, bio-oil is also a vital source for a wide range of organic compounds and speciality chemicals.
Importance of Biochar
The growing concerns about climate change have brought biochar into limelight. Combustion and decomposition of woody biomass and agricultural residues results in the emission of a large amount of carbon dioxide. Biochar can store this CO2 in the soil leading to reduction in GHGs emission and enhancement of soil fertility. In addition to its potential for carbon sequestration, biochar has several other advantages.
Biochar can increase the available nutrients for plant growth, water retention and reduce the amount of fertilizer by preventing the leaching of nutrients out of the soil.
Biochar reduces methane and nitrous oxide emissions from soil, thus further reducing GHGs emissions.
Biochar can be utilized in many applications as a replacement for other biomass energy systems.
Biochar can be used as a soil amendment to increase plant growth yield.
Biomass pyrolysis has been attracting much attention due to its high efficiency and good environmental performance characteristics. It also provides an opportunity for the processing of agricultural residues, wood wastes and municipal solid waste into clean energy. In addition, biochar sequestration could make a big difference in the fossil fuel emissions worldwide and act as a major player in the global carbon market with its robust, clean and simple production technology.
Rather than sending hard-earned cash to offset companies, we need to examine our lifestyles and consumptive behaviour. We must all do what we practically can to cut down or avoid carbon emissions before signing up to some carbon offsetting scheme. Purchasing offsets can be seen as a way to avoid real behavioural change by individuals in reducing their carbon emissions. Shortcuts are not the answer.
We need to take personal responsibility for the environment (e.g. acquire a carbon consciousness) and directly offset our own emissions. This includes reducing emissions at source by looking at energy conservation and efficiency measures (e.g. making our homes energy efficient, switching off appliances, changing to a ‘green’ supplier of electricity, using solar heated hot water, etc). Carbon dioxide emissions from the housing sector accounts for at least 27% of the UK’s carbon footprint.
We must make the effort to purchase products that have been made with minimal harm to or exploitation of humans, animals and/or the natural environment. Ethical consumerism is practiced through ‘positive buying’ and is a very effective tool in reducing carbon emissions. For example, make a point of buying produce that is sourced locally, is organic and/or fair trade. Think holistically about what you buy ? how was it produced, where has it come from (supermarket food travels on average 2,500 km before it gets to you), what networks were required to sustain its production. By favouring ethical products you directly support progressive companies.
Nothing highlights the importance of addressing the consequences of our actions as consumers more than what is happening in the Amazon. Every year large areas of the Amazon rainforest are being destroyed by agribusiness corporations to grow hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soy beans. These companies then export the high protein soy to Europe and China for use as cheap animal feed (90% of soy exports are fed to animals raised for meat – primarily chickens and pigs). Factory farming for meat and dairy is at the heart of a hidden chain that links the food on our plates to rainforest destruction in South America. To make them grow quickly and produce high yields, animals in factory farms are being pumped full of imported soy crops ? creating demand for vast plantations that are wiping out forests and forcing indigenous communities off their lands. The UK imports over two million tonnes of soy each year from South America to feed animals and spends £700 million of taxpayers’ money to prop-up intensive meat and dairy production in England.
Although soy is one of the main drivers of Amazon destruction the cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in South America. The Brazilian cattle industry is the leading cause of deforestation and it is estimated that cattle ranchers destroy at least one acre of Amazon rainforest every 8 seconds. Over the past decade more than 10 million hectares ? an area about the size of Iceland – was cleared for cattle ranching as Brazil rose to become the world’s largest exporter of beef. Brazil is currently the fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, 75% of which stem from deforestation.
Forests are vital to stabilizing the world’s climate because they store such large amounts of carbon. It is estimated that the Amazon alone stores somewhere between 80 to 120 billion tons of carbon. If the Amazon were destroyed, it would release some 50 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the United States. A fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been lost since 1970.
As the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is linked to a handful of the world’s largest food companies and commodity traders, you can help protect it and combat climate change by refusing to purchase factory farmed and imported meat products from supermarkets, fast food restaurants and other outlets (the UK is the second largest importer of processed Brazilian beef in the world – 50,000 tonnes in 2008). This will put pressure on supermarkets and high-street brands to clean-up their supply chains. You should also boycott goods made from cattle that have been linked to rainforest destruction (e.g. leather products and cosmetic ingredients) and the multinational corporations (global brands) behind these products. Better still, why not switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet as what the soy and cattle industry demonstrates more than anything is that meat consumption is bad for the environment and simply not sustainable. Switching to a vegetarian diet would reduce your carbon emissions by a colossal 50% and going vegan results in an even greater reduction.
The ‘Meat Free Mondays’ initiative recently launched by Paul McCartney and his daughters highlighted the impact of meat production on climate change. Cutting down or giving up meat is the single most effective act anyone can take to lessen greenhouse gas emissions. A ‘meat free’ diet is also better for your health. Fresh evidence from the largest study to date to investigate dietary habits and cancer has concluded that vegetarians are 45% less likely to develop cancer of the blood than meat eaters and are 12% less likely to develop cancer overall.
While boycotts and ethical consumerism campaigns are legitimate attempts to create market pressure to reform specific practices, while rewarding producers with favourable practices, they fail to address one of the most serious problems inherent in modern day societies – the mass production and consumption of goods. Whatever products you buy it takes energy to get them into your shopping basket (e.g. energy to mine raw materials, make the product and ship it). There will also be other hidden costs (e.g. the exploitation of humans, animals and/or the natural environment) infused in the production and sale of goods.
In order to live in harmony with our planet and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to go beyond ‘ethical shopping’ and try to divorce ourselves from shopping altogether. We need to simplify our lives, decrease consumption, and thus shrink our economic needs. In so doing, we limit the time that we must devote to waged labour, and regain control of our time, the most precious commodity in our lives.
Simplifying your life is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the environment and your carbon footprint. On a day to day level, it’s about reducing our consumption of the world’s resources, re-using items rather than throwing them away, recycling our waste, buying local foods (or growing your own food), walking and cycling more. Other examples include swapping your car for public transport (cars are responsible for 40% of personal emissions on average) and cutting back (or eliminating) the number of short breaks on cheap flights.
Living sustainably is not only about knowing how to make greener, more ethical, practical choices in our lives. It is also about valuing our health and wellbeing, our relationships and community above the need to consume and exploit.
Proponents of ‘sustainable living,’ ‘simple living’ (voluntary simplicity) and ‘downshifting’ realise that quality of life is much more important than quantity. Consumerism often leads to stress and dissatisfaction because it creates a society of individualistic consumers who measure both social status and general happiness by an unattainable quantity of material possessions.
The evidence cited above clearly demonstrates that making changes to our lifestyles can be a far more effective tool in preventing climate change than the carbon offset model. Instead of paying to rectify the damage once it’s done, we should take steps to reduce our own carbon emissions by taking personal responsibility for the environment, simplifying our lives, and addressing the consequences of our actions as consumers.
We should all be concerned with Global Warming and each do what we can to reduce the amount of CO2 released into our atmosphere. There are three steps you can use to lower your impact while traveling; using carbon offsets for travel to your destination, choosing carbon light accommodations, and paying attention to how you move about your destination.
Air Travel Carbon Offsets
It is difficult to get around the emissions that the airplane produces while shuttling you to your destination. Currently the best option is for you to purchase a carbon offset. There are numerous non profit organizations that use the money from your carbon offset donation to aid in the development of sustainable energy sources such as wind power or solar electric generation. Other carbon offset programs plant trees to soak up the carbon produced during your flight. Carbon offsets are not that expensive either. A carbon offset calculated on Carbonfund.org for a roundtrip flight from San Francisco to Paris would be only $11. Of course carbon offset can also be used for any travel mode that produces carbon emission be it by car, train, or ship.
A potentially less polluting lodging option to consider is a vacation apartment or home. When you stay in a vacation rental you are in control of the energy use – just as you are in your own home. Hotels use a tremendous amount of energy for heat, air conditioning, daily linen changes, and all the other services they offer. Your vacation rental will not be consuming huge amounts of electricity 24/7 365 days a year as the hotel does. You can conscientiously limit the amount energy you use by turning off the heating or Air conditioning while you are out visiting the sights. You can use the linens and towels just as you do at home.
Of course we all love to eat out and enjoy the cuisine of the region we are visiting but restaurants also use and waste large amounts of energy contributing to CO2 emissions due to climate control and keeping the kitchen and dining area ON constantly. With a vacation rental you do not have to eat all of your meals in restaurants, with your own kitchen available you can fix some of your meals further lowering your energy use and carbon load. Buying local produce at farmers markets will even further reduce your carbon footprint. Locally grown produce produces much less greenhouse gases due to shorter transportation distances.
Renting a vacation rental in a foreign land is not difficult as you might think. One can find excellent online reservation sites to book directly with the owners such as slowtrav.com or greatrentals.com. If you would like a little more help there are numerous agencies that know the properties well and can assist you in finding the best rental for your needs.
While visiting your destination of course the cleanest way to get around will be to walk, bike, take the bus, street tram, or use the metro trains in the cities. In larger European cities such as Paris or Berlin you can take advantage of the street bike rental programs. Bikes are parked throughout the city ready to ride with the swipe of a credit card. Bike to your destination and simply lock the bike up and you are on your way. Not only will you be doing the planet a favor but you gain the potential for discovering a unique sight or connecting with the locals when you are not trapped inside a car or taxi. If your accommodations are not located near public transportation and you must rent a car you can minimize the carbon emissions by requesting a Diesel vehicle. In certain destinations you can even rent Hybrid vehicles which of course reduce the carbon footprint even further.
We can all make a difference to help clean our air and reduce global warming emissions by the choices we make when we spend our money. We hope you find these ideas helpful for planning your next trip so that you can travel carbon light.