Global environmental problems involve one or more of the following:


1.  Deforestation

2.  Desertification

3.  Rapid Population Growth

4.  Food Production and Equitable Distribution

5.  Global Warming

6.  Depletion of the Atmospheric Ozone

7.  Acid Precipitation and Air Pollution

8.  Ocean Pollution


Characteristics of International Environmental Problems:


1.  Many of the international problems involve the use of common pool resources - air, water, ocean and forests – that are owned by no one nation.


2.  Human and environmental impacts of the problems transcend the borders of any one country. Impacts of such problems as acid precipitation, ozone depletion and air pollution are not felt at only within countries where the problems are often created.

3.  International Environmental Problems require international Cooperation to resolve them


Factors Responsible for the Emergence of the Environment as a Global Issue


1.  The Multiplication and Deepening of Environmental Problems. The rapid growth in population and its effects on resource exploitation has led to the emergence of many environmental problems. Problems such as deforestation, air pollution, acid precipitation and oil spills have become a common sight. Many people have experienced the effects of human activities on the environment such as the impacts of toxic waste dumping at Love Canal, New York and the Chernobyl nuclear fall out.


2.  Improvement in Scientific Research: An increase in scientific research on environmental problems has contributed to much richer and by no means, a complete understanding of several environmental problems. The work of Rachel Carlson on DDT educated the public on the consequences of chemicals.


3.  Effective Dissemination of Information about Environmental Disasters: The advent of radio and television, e-mails and the web, book publishing and air transportation brought about very efficient way of disseminating either environmental problems occurring at far away locations or new materials (films, books and research) about environmental education.


4.  The Rise and Establishment of Grassroots Environmental Organizations: In responding to local environmental problems caused by toxic waste dumping, citing of nuclear plants or the preservation of plant and animal species, the door to door campaigns of local groups have galvanized into strong internal forces that have made environmental problems an issue in local politics and elections.


5.  The rise of National and International Environmental Political (Green) Organizations: Environmentalism has become a dominant political force in many nations. In many Western countries, environmental concern has manifested itself in the development of Green Movements and Green Political Parties to challenge the environmental management policies of established political parties. Beginning first in West Germany in the 1970’s, Green parties have sprung up all over the world including Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, Canada, Soviet Union, United States (Barry's Commoner's Citizens Party 1980) to press for solutions to global environmental problems. Candidates from Green parties have been elected into parliaments in Switzerland, (first in 1979) Finland, Belgium, Portugal, West Germany (1983), Luxembourg (1984) Austria (1986) Italy (1987), Sweden (1988), and the Netherlands (1989).

6.  Evolution in thinking about Relationships between Economic Activity and the Environment. With increased research on environmental issues and effective dissemination of such research findings, the public and some politicians have come to understand the relationship between economic activities and environmental problems.


7.  International Environmental Conferences: The meeting of world leaders at international environmental conferences have highlighted common environmental concerns and sought to galvanize local environmental groups into action.




1. 1972 Stockholm’s Conference: World Leaders met in Stockholm, Sweden for the United Nations Conference on Human Environment. The Stockholm Conference led to the establishment of UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) to negotiate environmental treaties among nations and to help implement them.


2. June 1992 Rio Conference on the Environment: the second United Nations Conference on the Human Environment - known as the Rio Earth Summit - was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 100 heads of state and thousands of public officials and more than 1,400 accredited Non-governmental Organizations (NGO's) from 178 nations met to develop plans for addressing environmental issues.


3. 2002 Johannesburg’s Conference on the Environment. The third International Conference on the environment was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in the summer of 2002.



1.  International Environmental Treaties bind only those states that agree to comply with them.


2.  There is no international police force to enforce such agreements and as such, compliance to provisions and obligations of such treaties depends on the good faith of the states being regulated by the treaties. There are generally no rewards or punishments to check compliance.


3.  Leaders of Rich and Poor countries share different perspectives on the nature of environmental problems and often fail to agree on the danger that could result from environmental disasters. For example, at the Rio Conference of 1992, Poor developing countries emphasized development and Global equity Concerns while the rich Industrialized countries emphasized issues related to International Governance of the Environment.


4.  The environmental problems and solutions that leaders of various countries choose to support or ignore depend upon environmental politics within their countries. For example, in 1992, George Bush's government did not support many of the issues on the Environment raised at the Rio Conference because the local Conservative Agenda was pro-Industry and the President could not afford to loose the Conservative Base during an impending presidential election in the US.


5.  The Politics of local environmental Issues often Conflict with that of International Politics on the Environment. a) In the less developed countries, illiteracy, poverty, hunger and internal conflicts influence and/or limit domestic perception of environmental problems. b) In the rich countries, private managers of corporations wield far-reaching powers over stakeholders and employees and therefore make decisions that affect the public without any clearly defined responsibility to the people. Corporate managers also wield a lot of influence on politicians and public policy by virtue of their ability to make political campaign contributions. Aside the campaign contributions, the powerful Corporate Managers lobby Congress and Senate to pass laws that favor Industry against the Environment.


6.  Local events and internal politics compel leaders to commit to different stands prior to such international conferences on the environment. The countries often fail to reach agreements on such pre-formulated principles without first seeking advice from home.


7.  The countries of the world have markedly different perspectives about the attention that global environmental problems must receive as against the economic and social problems at home.


8.  The rich and poor countries of the world do not agree on who must take responsibility for causing environmental problems we face today, and how the cost of addressing the environmental problems should be shared.




These countries have had more experience with environmental problems and solutions to such problems. Extensive research has revealed the seriousness of environmental problems. The widespread of television, radio and the press have ensured the dissemination of good and bad environmental problems and issues. The rich nations also have more resources and technology to spare and hence devote some to environmental priorities. Environmental activism is also more developed in the rich countries where environmental interest groups often mobilize public opinion and lobby politicians to attend to environmental problems. The rich developed countries must therefore do more to solve environmental problems. However, internal environmental policies and the commitment of leaders in the rich countries depend upon the thrust of public opinion against hard lobbying by corporations. In many cases however, industry has won and international commitment to the environment has suffered.




Leaders of the poor countries of the world seem less enthusiastic about Global Environmental governance for the following reasons:

1.  Economic development is of much higher priority for their people than the preservation of the environment. It seems polluted air and contaminated water is a price the poor countries are prepared to pay to industrialize and produce enough food to feed their people.


2.  The poor developing countries view the strong motivation of the rich nations in Environmental preservation with suspicion. The see the effort in that direction as; An excuse to cut down on development assistance to them, An attempt to prevent them from industrializing to the same level as the rich nations have achieved already (as contained in the Club of Rome's report "Limits to Growth"). An excuse for people in rich nations to continue with their luxurious life styles without making any sacrifice to save the environment while at the same time they force the poor to sacrifice their development to save the planet.


3.  The poor countries have very few resources and very low levels of technology to devote some to saving the environment.


4.  Developing countries are saddled with heavy foreign debts, weak markets for their goods and declining terms of trade that compel them to exploit more of their forests and natural resources to import essential goods (health, education, technology, food etc) needed by their people.


5.  Rapidly growing population and poor economies in these countries necessitate further exploitation of resources and hence the deepening of environmental degradation.


6.  Many of the projects that destroy the environment of poor developing countries (logging, mining, big ranch farms etc.) are carried out by corporations and with financial assistance from the rich, developed countries of the world.