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Globalization and Diversity: Geography of a Changing World

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The Changing Global
Environment
Learning Objectives

Explain tectonic plate theory by describing those aspects responsible for shaping
Earths surface
Identify those parts of the world where earthquakes and volcanoes are hazardous to
human settlement and explain why the casualty rates from those hazards often differ from
place to place
List the factors that control the worlds weather and climate
Describe the major characteristics and global location of the worlds major
climate regions
Explain the greenhouse gas effect and how it relates to anthropogenic global warming
Describe the major issues underlying the international controversy over reducing global
warming emissions
Identify the causes of global water stress
Describe the characteristics and distribution of the worlds major bioregions
Explain the reasons behind deforestation in both tropical and higher-latitude forests

Chapter Outline

I. Geology: A Restless Earth: Geology shapes Earths surfaceincluding mountains,


hills, valleys, and plains; geologic foundation is central to many human activities;
geopolitical environment also presents challenges and hazards
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Globalization and Diversity: Geography of a Changing World

A. Plate Tectonics: geophysical theory that states that Earths surface is


composed of large, geologic platforms (plates) that move across surface; heat
exchange in Earths interior drives process; continents not identical to plates;
different types of plate boundaries: colliding plate boundaries (where two or
more plates converge); subduction zones (where two places diverge); plate
theory accounts for distribution of most earthquakes and volcanoes
B. Geologic Hazards: earthquakes and volcanoes have major effect on human
settlement and activities; responsible for damage and loss of life; volcanoes
provide some benefits to people because of geothermal heating
II. Global Climates: A Worrisome Forecast: many human activities are linked to
weather and climate; severe weather also influences human activities, including trade;
worlds climates are changing due to global warmingimplications are that humans
will have to adjust to changing conditions
A. Climate Controls: most climatic differences can be explained by set of
physical processes
a. Solar Energy: most important factor affecting world climates; refers
to energy received from Sun; incoming short-wave solar energy
(insolation) passes through atmosphere; some energy is absorbed by
land and water surfaces; some energy is reflected and reradiated;
greenhouse gas effect is the trapping of solar radiation in lower
atmosphere, causing a rise in temperatures
b. Latitude: because of curvature of Earth, insolation strikes Earth at
true right angle only in tropics; consequence is that each unit of solar
energy is more intense in tropics and is progressively less so toward
poles; different in solar intensity results in differential heating of
Earths surface
c. Interactions Between Land and Water: land and water differ in
abilities to absorb and reradiate insolation; global arrangements of
oceans and land areas thus has major influence on climates; land areas
heat and cool down more rapidly than bodies of water; continental
locations have greater temperature extremesthe term continentality
describes inland climates with hot summers and cold, snowy winters;
maritime climates are those close to oceans, with moderate
temperatures year round
d. Global Pressure Systems: uneven heating of Earths surface due to
latitudinal differences and arrangements of oceans and continents
produces regular pattern of high- and low-pressure cells; these cells
drive Earths wind and storm systems
e. Global Wind Patterns: high- and low-pressure systems produce
global wind patterns at local, regional, and global scales; winds in
general flow away from high-pressure and toward low-pressure cells;
this accounts for monsoons
f. Topography: weather and climate affected by topography in two
ways: cooler temperatures are associated with higher elevations; and
topography influences precipitation (rain and snow) patterns; as
general rule, temperatures decrease with increase in elevation at rate of

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3.5F for every 1,000 feet gainedthis is the adiabatic lapse rate;
topography also contributes to precipitation through process known as
orographic effectair that is forced over mountains cools, cooler air
can hold less moisture, hence additional cooling causes precipitation as
rain or snow; on leeside of mountains, air descends and warms,
causing rain shadow, which are areas of reduced rainfall
B. World Climate Regions: weather is short-term, day-to-day expression of
atmospheric processes; climate is long term averages from daily weather
measurements; able to generalize about similarities in temperature, moisture,
and seasonality to construct climate types or climate regions; knowledge of
climate helps convey sense of average rainfall and temperaturesbut also
permits inferences to be made regarding human activities; climographs are
graphic representations of monthly temperature and precipitation patterns for
given locations
C. Global Warming: human activitiesespecially those associated with
development and industrializationare changing the worlds climates;
anthropogenic (human-caused) pollution of lower atmosphere is especially
important; human activities have augmented natural greenhouse effect,
resulting in global warmingincrease in Earths average atmospheric
temperature; global warming may contribute to changed rainfall patterns,
flooding from sea-level rise
a. Causes of Global Warming: natural greenhouse effect provides Earth
with warm atmospheric envelope that supports life; warmth comes
from trapping of incoming and outgoing solar radiation by array of
natural greenhouse gasses (GHGs), such as water vapor, carbon
dioxide, methane, and ozone; widespread consumption of coal and
petroleum by humans is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and
methanemagnifying natural greenhouse gas effect; predictions
indicate average global temperatures will increase almost 4F by 2020
b. The International Debate on Limiting Emissions: two phases in last
30 yearsnow entering third stage: first began in 1992 at UN-
sponsored Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro167 countries agreed to
voluntarily limit GHG emissions; in 1997 30 Western industrialized
countries agreed to Kyoto Protocol which had force of law to reduce
emissionsthe United States did not ratify Kyoto Protocol because of
political concerns about negative impacts on U.S. economy; also,
concerns over carbon inequitythe position taken by developing
countries such as China and India, which argue that developed
countries should take lead in reduction; third phase began in 2011 with
meeting of 194 countries; conceptual road map (Durban Agreement)
established: new target dates for GHG reductions, both developed and
developing countries must abide, new emission goals established for
later dates, monies set aside to meet challenges of global warming; a
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)
program was established

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III. Water: A Scarce World Resource: water is central to human life; but water is
unevenly distributed around the world; more than 70 percent of Earths surface
covered in water, but 97 percent of total global water supply is saltwater; of three
percent freshwater, almost 70 percent stored in polar ice caps, mountain glaciers and
nearly 30 percent stored as groundwater; less than one percent of Earths water easily
accessible from surface rivers and lakes; concept of water stress used to indicate areas
where water problems exist or where future water problems may occur
A. Water Scarcity: about half the worlds population lives in areas where water
shortages are common; water scarcity will impact agriculture and food
production
B. Water Sanitation: polluted water sources are greatest source of illness and
death worldwide
C. Water Access: many people in world have limited access to adequate water
supplies; recent international efforts to increase peoples access to clean water
have not always workedsome have led to greater problems
IV. Bioregions: The Globalization of Nature: bioregionsan assemblage of local
plants and animals; bioregions are closely correlated to climate regions
A. Tropical Rain Forests: located along the equator; covers about 7 percent of
worlds land area; more than half of worlds known plant and animal species
live in this bioregionit is the most diverse of all bioregions; tropical forests
exhibit three distinct levels of canopy; abundant precipitation year round
B. Tropical Seasonal Forests: located north and south of equator; have distinct
(short) dry season; also includes monsoon climate region; trees are deciduous;
with pronounced dry season, region susceptible to fire
C. Tropical Savannas: associated with equatorial regions; longer dry seasons;
few treeslandscape dominated by grasslands
D. Deforestation of Tropical Forests: forests being devastated at unprecedented
rate; rates differ from region to region; especially pronounced in Southeast
Asia; destroys habitats and also contributes to global warming; deforestation
results from commerce in international wood products, clearing of land for
cattle pastures, clearing for plantation agriculture, and for settlement
E. Deserts and Grasslands: one-third of Earth is true desert; arid and semiarid
climates pole-ward of tropics; grasslands may be prairies (longer denser
grasslands) or steppes (shorter, less dense grasslands); desertification refers to
the biophysical process that result in expansion of desertscauses include
climatic fluctuations and human misuse
F. Mediterranean Shrubs and Woodlands: found in five areas of world
around Mediterranean Sea, parts of South Africa, Australia, Chile, and south-
west coast of United States; characterized by prolonged summer-season
drought; landscape consists of grasslands, low drought-resistant shrubs (called
chaparral in Spain and California; maquis in southern France), and oak, pine
woodlands
G. Temperate Deciduous Forests: temperate climates with year-road
precipitation, warm summers, cold winters; characterized by deciduous trees
especially maple, oak, elm, ash, and beech; these are hardwoods, which
contrast with softwoodsevergreen, needle-leaf trees

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H. Evergreen Forests: colder climates; temperatures often below freezing;


dominated by evergreen, needle-leaf treesfir, pine, spruce; also mixed with
some deciduous, including aspen and alder; in Canada and Alaska, forests are
termed boreal; in Russia, known as taiga; in North America, struggle between
timber harvesting and environmental groups; global issue, with China and
Japan demanding more timber supplies
I. Tundra: two versions: the expansive arctic tundra of far northern
hemisphere; and alpine tundra found at high elevations in mountainous
regions; in both regions, landscape is primarily treeless because of short
growing season and limited moisture; bioregion consists primarily of low
shrubs, reindeer moss, sedge, and grasses; region stores vast amounts of
methane

Summary

The arrangement of tectonic plates on Earth is responsible for diverse global landscapes,
as well as earthquake and volcanic hazards that threaten the well-being of millions of
people, particularly in the large cities of North America, Asia, and South America.

Climate change and global warming, resulting from pollution of the atmosphere by
greenhouse gases, is a by-product of industrialization, both past and present. A major
facet of this problem is the burning of fossils fuels which releases carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere. Historically, Europe and North America were major sources of GHGs; the
developing economies, eg.China and India, have become major polluters.

Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource because of limited natural freshwater,


the pollution of available supplies, and political and economic complexities that limit
access to water.

Plants and animals face an extinction crisis because of habitat destruction from varied
human activities. Tropical forests are a focus of these problems because they contain the
most plant and animal species of any bioregion, yet they are threatened by numerous
forces, including the worlds demands for wood products, cattle ranching for beef
production, and resettlement away from cities of fast-growing populations.

Globalization is both a help and a hindrance to world environmental problems. As a


positive force, globalization is central to sharing information and increasing public
awareness of environmental issues. In addition, many people argue that globalization
facilitates a new willingness of countries to work together under the umbrella of
international agreements to resolve environmental problems. Such cooperation has led to
international treaties on ocean pollution, global warming, and protection of wildlife
species.

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Key Terms

adiabatic lapse rate greenhouse effect


anthropogenic insolation
bioregion maritime climate
boreal forest orographic effect
carbon inequity plate tectonics
climograph prairie
colliding plate boundary rain shadow
continentality steppe
deciduous tree subduction zone
desertification taiga
divergent plate boundary tundra
global warming water stress
For Thought and Discussion

This section provides questions and topics that can be used to initiate classroom
discussion

1. Look at the map of world climate regions. In which climate region do you live? In which
bioregion do you live? Can you explain how the climate of your region influences the
type of vegetation found?

2. Study the distribution of tectonic plates, earthquakes, and volcanoes. What areas are not
prone to these geologic hazards? What reasons can you provide to explain this pattern?

Exercise/Activity

This section provides exercises and activities that the instructor can integrate into
their classroom lectures.

1. Do some outside readings on global warming. What evidence is used to support the
argument that anthropogenic effects are contributing to global warming? What evidence
is used to refute this argument?

Review Questions

1. What are the three kinds of tectonic plate boundaries?

There are three types of boundaries. Convergent plate boundaries exist where two or more plates
come togetherthese are also known as subduction zones. Divergent plate boundaries exist
where two or more plates are moving apart. Transform plate boundaries exist where two plates
are sliding past one-another.

2. What drives tectonic plate movement?

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According to plate tectonics theory, large convection cells in the Earths mantle circulate molten
rock in different directions; near the crust, the slow movement of the cells drags tectonic plates
away from mid-oceanic ridges, resulting in the collision of plates along convergent plate
boundaries.

3. Where are most of the worlds earthquakes and volcanoes?

Why are they located where they are? Most earthquakes are located along all three types of plate
boundaries; this seismic activity results from the moving away, coming together, or moving past
of two or more plates. Most volcanoes are located along either subduction zones or divergent
plate boundaries.

4. What is the difference between insolation and reradiation?

Insolation refers to incoming solar radiation whereas reradiation refers to out-going radiation
after it has entered into the Earths atmosphere.

5. How and why has the natural greenhouse effect been changed by human activities?

The natural effect has been affected because human activities have added additional greenhouse
gases, such as carbon dioxide, ozone, and methane, to the Earths atmosphere. These additional
GHGs have, in part, come from increased consumption of oil and petroleum products, the
clearing and burning of forests, and the growth of cattle- and sheep ranching.

6. What are the differences between continental and maritime climates? What causes these
differences?

In general, continental climates have hot summers and cold winters; they exhibit stark
temperature extremes; and there is often a distinct seasonality to precipitation patterns. Maritime
climates are generally milder, with less temperature extremes. The cause is primarily due to the
continentality of the formerthese areas are located far beyond the moderating influences of the
ocean.

7. What issues are hindering international efforts to reduce carbon emissions?

The major issue hindering efforts to reduce carbon emissions is the argument that any reductions
or restrictions on industriesa primarily contributor of carbon emissionswould result in
barriers to economic growth. Another issue lie in the argument as to whether all governments
should take an equitable approach to reducing emissionsor only those most responsible, i.e. the
more developed, industrialized countries.

8. How much water is there on Earth, and how available is it for human usage? Use the
concept in your answer that Earths water budget is just 100 liters.

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If we assumed that the total amount of water on the Earth is 100 liters, only about 3 liters would
be freshwater and thus readily usable; of that, only a mere 0.003 liters is available for human use.

9. What are the three major issues that cause water stress?

The three major issues that cause water stress are scarcity, sanitation, and access. The uneven
distribution of water across the Earths surface imparts a scarcity for many areas; pollution
contributes to the unsanitary conditions associated with some water supplies; and many people,
because of economic impoverishment or conflict, have little to no access to regular, dependable
water supplies.

10. How and why do the three tropical bioregions differ?

The difference between tropical rainforests, tropical seasonal forests, and tropical savanna is
largely a matter of precipitation. Although all three regions are located within the tropics, and all
have fairly high and constant temperatures, they differ in the seasonality and amount of
precipitation. Tropical rainforests receive abundant rainfall year-round; tropical seasonal
bioregions have a distinct dry season; and tropical savannas received considerably less rainfall.

11. What are the causes of tropical forest deforestation?

There are many causes, including the clearing of forests for agricultural use; the clearing of
forests for a global commercial timber industry; the clearing of forests for human settlement; and
the clearing of forests for transportation (e.g. roads).

12. What is desertification?

Desertification refers to the expansion of desert areas into former grasslands. It is caused both by
climate change and by human misuse. This latter cause includes both improper irrigation
techniques and over-grazing of live-stock.

13. Why are some trees deciduous?

Deciduous trees, such as maple, oak, elm, ash, and beech, lose their leaves during the autumn
and winter in order to slow their metabolic activity. During these periods, when sunlight is scarce
and temperatures are too cold for the trees nutrient circulation system, trees drop their leaves in
order to conserve energy.

Thinking Geographically

1. Working in a small group, discuss what natural hazards your part of the country might
experience. Then contact public agencies to see what sort of disaster preparation plans

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are in place to get local people ready for such an event and to help them after disaster
strikes. Finally, evaluate those plans and put together a document with suggestions as to
how they might be improved.

Answers will vary. Throughout the Great Plains of the United States, for example, tornadoes are
a major hazard; along the south and eastern coasts, hurricanes are especially troublesome. Along
the west coast, earthquakes and fires are extremely hazardous. Different regions will also have
different warning systems and plans in place. Tornado-prone areas, for example, will often have
siren-systems and shelters set up. For earthquake-prone area, there are no warning systems;
these regions, however, have public educational campaigns to inform people what to do in an
emergency.

2. Write a short paper researching your local weather and climate. What climate region are
you in? What are the major weather and climate problems faced in your area? How do
people adjust and adapt to those problems? What are the major sources of global
warming emissions in your area?

Answers will vary. In the mid-west, for example, continental climates dominate; specific
problems include tornadoes severe thunderstorms in the spring and summer; ice-storms,
blizzards, and generally heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures are hazards in the winter.
There are numerous public adaptations, including warning systems and storm shelters
established; but there are other, more personal adaptations, including efforts to winterize ones
home. For global warming emissions, major causes will include any type of industry, vehicular
use, backyard grilling, and agriculture.

3. Working with a small group, put together a debate on the issue of carbon inequity
specifically, on whether developing countries should be held to the same emission
reduction targets as developed countries.

Responses and arguments will vary. Students should consider the (1) amount and rates of
emissions; (2) the inequalities of the global economy; and (3) the history of resource exploitation
of the developing world by developing countries.

4. Research a part of the world that has water stress problems, answering these questions:
What is the climate of the area, and what is the natural availability of water? Which is
used primarily, surface or groundwater? Then discuss in detail the causes of water stress.
Is it because the supply is contaminated? Are the access problems? Is the water being
monopolized by a powerful person, agency, or firm?

Answers will vary. Some locations, such as Washington State or Oregon might have (in general)
ample supplies of water. Other locations, such as desert or semi-arid regions, may naturally have
little water. Other locations, such as Singapore, may have to purchase much of their water. The
causes of water stress may include pollution problems; other causes may include the misuse, or

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over-use of water supplies, such as through irrigation. Access issues may be related to inadequate
infrastructure, conflict, poverty, or a combination.

5. How has the vegetation in your area been changed by human activities in the past 100
years? Have these changes caused any plants or animals to become extinct or to be
placed on the endangered species list? If so, what is being done to protect them or restore
their habitat?

Answers will vary. In many parts of the United States, deforestation has been a major contributor
to vegetation change. Deforestation may have been caused by logging, agriculture, or settlement
expansion (or a combination). Many plants and animals have become extinctor threatenedin
the United States; these may have resulted from habitat loss or over-hunting. Different attempts
have been made to reestablish threatened wildlife, for example, including breeding programs.
Students should be encouraged to contact local museums, conservation areas, or zoos for
additional information.
6. Study the globalization of wood products by acquainting yourself with the source areas
for different items, such as building lumber, paper, furniture, or other items found in a
local import store. More specifically, does the lumber used in construction in your area
come from Canada or the United States? Which items in local stores come from tropical
forests?

Answers will vary. Students will identify that different products originate from different regions;
paper products in the United States may originate either in Canada or the United States, while
many furniture products originate from northern Europe or Southeast Asia, depending on the
type of wood used. Teak furniture, for example, will mostly originate in Southeast Asia.

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