Discussions about the environmental impacts of globalization would bring forth a realization that global integration is a double-edged sword. A look into studies and media reports, as well as a direct observation of the current state of the environment, would reveal that globalization has both favorable and unfavorable consequences.
Negative Impacts of Globalization on the Environment
1. Exerts Pressure on Local Environments Due to Overspecialization
One of the positive benefits of economic globalization is that it provides countries and even specific communities with a comparative advantage by enabling them to focus and specialize on their economic strengths. However, this can also result in negative environmental impacts, especially if a particular country or community overspecializes.
Some of the notable examples of overspecialization and among the more specific negative environmental impacts of globalization are overdependence on so-called profit or cash crops, and overfishing and other unsustainable practices in coastal communities.
Cash crops are agricultural products cultivated in specific areas due to their high profitability. Examples include rice, coffee, and cocoa. Focusing on these crops often leads to loss of soil quality due to depletion of soil nutrients, deforestation and soil erosion, increase in landscape fragmentation, and loss of natural habitats.
Overfishing is also a pressing environmental concern because it has resulted in a significant reduction in fish populations. To meet global demands, fisherfolks and related companies have extracted marine species at a rate greater than the marine ecology can replenish.
Another example of overspecialization is the extraction of fossil fuels in oil-rich countries and the subsequent overdependence of the world on hydrocarbons as a source of energy. Because there are countries that can provide fossil fuels to meet global energy demands, developments in alternative sources of energy have stalled.
2. Impacts of Globalization on Global Warming and Climate Emergency
Several international actors have declared that the world is in a climate emergency. A 2016 study by M. Bu, C. T. Lin, and B. Zhang applied the KOF Globalization Index in a panel data sample of 166 countries over a period spanning from 1990 to 2009 to determine the specific impacts of globalization in global warming and climate change.
Results suggested that on average, overall carbon emissions rise with higher levels of economic, social, and political globalization. However, the researchers noted that the effects varied by OECD and non-OECD country groups.
Scientists have also stressed the fact that negative environmental impacts of globalization also affect public health. The review portion of the study by M. Ashrafuzzaman and G. L. Furini noted that vector-borne diseases affecting the human population have been linked with changing weather patterns. A prime example is the rise of dengue cases.
The researchers also highlighted the fact that developing countries are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of global warming and climate change even though most of them have contributed less to the total global greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, some of the more specific offshoots of climate change center on how it would negatively affect the global economy. These include difficulty in cultivating agricultural produces and reduction in marine species, thereby affecting the food security of the world, as well as the livelihoods of local economies and communities.
It is important to reiterate that the link between globalization and climate change comes from increased consumption of fossil fuels for powering land-based, maritime, and aerial modes of transportation, as well as for powering energy-intensive industries and sectors.
3. Hyperconsumerism Resulting to Increased Exploitation of Natural Resources
Some staunch critics of modern capitalist societies have used the term “hyperconsumerism” to describe a phenomenon and consumption behavior characterized by the consumption of goods for non-functional purposes. This phenomenon is also related to conspicuous consumerism and the cradle-to-grave practices observed in modern linear economies.
Of course, because economic globalization has intensified international trade, it is also instrumental in intensifying conspicuous consumption and hyperconsumption. Businesses are essentially constantly creating global demand for their tangible products.
A noteworthy example is the smartphone market. Manufacturers are introducing new models of these consumer electronic devices even though the average product lifespan of a single smartphone is three to five years. The favorable growth of companies such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi demonstrates the hyperconsumption of smartphones.
Materials used in manufacturing these devices are mined from the earth. Some of these are rare-earth materials. Others are byproducts of the hydrocarbon industry. The energy requirements needed to produce these products are also relatively intensive.
In the United Arab Emirates, a paper by A. Kazim explained that waves of globalization have changed different aspects of Emirati culture and society. A striking phenomenon is the active consumption and utilization of goods and services by individual Emiratis to forge their own unique socio-cultural identities, thus resulting in hyperconsumption.
Findings from the study of M. Angelova, T. Dimitrova, and D. Pastarmadzhieva showed that the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the rate of hyperconsumption in the European Union. These results suggest that setbacks in the global economy dampen demand for non-essential goods.
Nevertheless, concerning the link between hyperconsumerism and its relationship with globalization, as well as the specific negative environmental impacts of globalization, note that the excessive production and resulting conspicuous consumption of non-essential goods require increasing the extraction and processing of natural resources.
Positive Impacts of Globalization on the Environment
1. Fosters International Cooperation to Resolve Environmental Issues
Remember that the process of global integration includes the process of building and strengthening international relations. Hence, one of the notable positive environmental impacts of globalization is that it has provided a mechanism for governments and other international actors to cooperate and address pressing concerns about the environment.
Several international treaties have been developed, signed, and enacted by numerous countries. For example, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in 1992, is a multilateral environmental agreement aimed to tackle climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997 and ran from 2005 to 2020, was an implemented measure under the U.N. Framework. The signatories composed of 192 countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, thereby acknowledging the scientific consensus that climate change is a result of modern human activities.
In 2015, the Paris Agreement superseded the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement covers financing, adaptation, and climate change mitigation strategies. It also included a pledge to keep the mean global temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius.
Globalization has undeniably provided an avenue for discussing and resolving environmental issues on an international stage, thereby enabling the utilization of international relations to promote environment-centric international cooperation. This cooperation has resulted in the creation of treaties, more specific policies, and standards or benchmarks.
Academicians Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor and Binyam Afewerk Demena explained that deglobalization can actually be harmful to the environment because it isolates countries, thereby making them less likely to uphold environmental accountability.
2. Corporate Social Responsibility Programs of Multinational Companies
Aside from governments and supranational government organizations, it is also important to highlight the fact that globalization has also opened doors for multinational companies to expand their corporate social responsibility programs to other countries. A number of these companies have specific sustainability projects and programs.
Consider the CSR program of Apple as an example. The company has a specific environmental strategy integrated into its operational and product strategies that revolve around resolving climate change, sustainable use of resources, and use of safer materials.
Several companies have also made investments in developing alternative energy and carbon capture solutions and technologies. As another example, apart from aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, Microsoft has contributed to projects that would help them lessen their dependence on hydrocarbons and become a green company.
Other business organizations have pronounced environmental advocacies and participated in numerous initiatives aimed at addressing environmental issues around the world. Some have remained consistent donors to environmental nonprofit organizations.
Researchers M. A. L. Agudelo, L. Jóhannsdóttir, and B. Davídsdóttir said that companies with global exposure participate in cross-border community-building initiatives to create new opportunities aimed at addressing global competition, increased reputational risks, expectations from home and host countries, and conflicting pressures.
3. Supports Research, Information Dissemination and Technology Exchange
Other noteworthy positive environmental impacts of globalization also center on advancements in science and technology, specifically the pursuits of relevant research, the dissemination of critical environment-centric information to the public, and the exchange of relevant knowledge and technological capabilities across countries.
A 2021 review study by B. Fu et al. noted that in recent decades, international scientific programs launched by governments and research institutions have been instrumental in guiding the research direction of resource and environmental sciences.
These programs include specific initiatives on sustainable development, biodiversity, climate change, and global environmental change, among others. Furthermore, aside from fostering international cooperation across the global research community, these programs have encouraged interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.
It is important to highlight that global integration has allowed governments, research institutions, academicians and students, and business organizations to access knowledge and technologies outside their local boundaries.
Developments in environmental science and other related disciplines have been fueled by these scientific and technological exchanges. Furthermore, through the help of science communicators and the media, critical knowledge and information have been disseminated to policymakers while also raising awareness across the global community.
Several concepts and models related to sustainable development have also been disseminated across the greater public. Examples include the principles of circular economy, regenerative design, upcycling, natural capitalism, and cradle-to-cradle, among others.
In addition, over the years, different research institutions and business organizations across the world have developed and deployed numerous science-based and technology-based solutions to address environmental problems. These include the CETO System that was launched in Australia, the vertical farming model, and carbon capture and storage solutions.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Afesorgbor, S. K., and Demena, B. A. 2018. “Globalization May Actually Be Better For the Environment.” The Conversation. Available online
- Agudelo, M. A. L., Jóhannsdóttir, L., and Davídsdóttir, B. 2019. “A Literature Review of the History and Evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility.” International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility. 4:1. DOI: 1186/s40991-018-0039-y
- Ashrafuzzaman, M. and Furini, G. L. 2019. “Climate Change and Human Health Linkages in the Context of Globalization: An Overview from Global to Southwestern Coastal Region of Bangladesh.” Environment International. 127: 402-411. DOI: 1016/j.envint.2019.03.020
- Bu, M, L. C. T., and Zhang, B. 2016. “Globalization and Climate Change: New Empirical Panel Data Evidence.” Journal of Economic Surveys. 30(3): 577-595. DOI: 1111/joes.12162
- Kazim, A. 2018. “The Emergence of Hyper-Consumerism in UAE Society: A Socio-Cultural Perspective.” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology. 17(4): 353-372. DOI: 1163/15691497-12341484
- Fu, B., Liu, Y., Li, Y., Wang, C., Li, C., Jiang, W., Hua, T., and Zhao, W. 2021. “The Research Priorities of Resources and Environmental Sciences.” Geography and Sustainability. 2(2): 87-94. DOI: 1016/j.geosus.2021.04.001