Upper Primary, Secondary & JC Level – Bukit Panjang

SMS, WhatsApp:
+65 9457 6550


Free General Paper (GP) Sample Essay: Assess the view that attempts to control climate change can never be truly effective. (A-Levels 2019)

Climate change is destroying our planet. This is a common existential threat that environmentalists are claiming and spreading through media channels. As news constantly reports depressing news caused by climate change, people are becoming fatigued. We are sick and tired of being constantly bombarded by news that warn us of the dire consequences that have arrived or are about to arrive. In addition, news of regional treaties failing are also concerning and does not provide much needed optimism and encouragement that the people need. As of writing, I am of the view that attempts to control climate change are presently ineffective. However, I would not go far as to agree that controlling climate change can never be truly effective as I believe that are steps that can be taken to change the course of our future.

Firstly, allow me to start the discussion by putting forth the pertinent example of the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty was created in 1997. It is a treaty that places heavy emphasis on developed nations to decrease carbon emissions and only developed nations are required to decrease emissions. Realistic targets to reduce emissions by 5% from 1990s levels are set. However, no specific time frames are attached to these targets. There are many inherent challenges when regional treaties come into effect. First of all, it is challenging for countries to enforce legal clauses in the treaties for fear of political backlash. Without proper incentives and penalties, governments are not motivated to hit preset targets. Secondly, participants may become “free riders” as they aim to exploit the sharing of funds and technology. They do so by acquiring loans at attractive interest rates and gain access to technology shared by developed nations and yet fail to meet their green targets. Due to such challenges, the Kyoto Protocol has largely been deemed a failure.

The regional treaty approach was recently revived through the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed in November 2016. Recognizing the drawbacks of the previous treaties, the new agreement now aims to involve all countries. Under this treaty, countries are required to review their targets every 5 years. The main goal of the treaty is to bring down global temperatures. A clearer system is provided so that all nations can provide transparent reporting. There is also a greater emphasis on sharing of resources and technology. However, despite the revisions, I still believe that many countries are not fully committed to hitting goals due to reasons that may not be made apparent during a climate treaty meeting.

Admittedly, countries are concerned that their economies may be adversely affected as they aim to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, it is not unusual for industries that are threatened to protest and fight back strongly in order to protect their livelihoods and justify their existence. When our Ozone Layer was damaged, many attributed the cause to a chemical known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFC is used to produce refrigerants. Refrigerant is ubiquitous as it can be found in many consumer products such as refrigerators and air-conditioners. With such pervasive use of CFCs, experts are concerned that irreversible damage will be done to our Ozone Layer. Hence, the Montreal Protocol was established in 1989 to tackle this problem. It is a known fact that the Montreal Protocol is a successful attempt at prohibiting the use of CFCs. Why does a regional treaty such as the Montreal Protocol succeed while the Kyoto Protocol fails? I believe the answer lies in stakeholders taking up responsibility. The entire sector recognizes the harm done by CFCs. Instead of resisting, industry leaders took it upon themselves to come up with alternative solutions. In addition, the Montreal Protocol also provides clear incentives to all participants. Those who join the treaty gain market share as they are included in trade agreements. While the Paris Agreement mimics the Montreal Protocol, I have yet to see compelling evidence of countries taking up full responsibility for carbon emissions in a convincing manner. For instance, while the United States publicly declares that it aims to attain Net Zero emission status by the year 2050, the prime minister of India announces that India aims to attain the same goal only by year 2070. I shudder to think about the state of this planet if temperature continues to rise till 2070! Obviously, different countries are marching to their own drum beats and a consensus has not been reached.

While we rely heavily on our leaders to bring about dramatic change to the climate, there is also increasing evidence that there is heightened awareness of global warming amid the population. Stakeholders such as celebrities who are not usually involved in climate change are starting to speak up. An evident example would be Mr. Arnold, a prominent international film star who starred in numerous Hollywood action movies. In his recent speeches, he was visibly angered by how little politicians have achieved during the past decade and he wanted to encourage people to take action and not rely fully on political leaders to effect climate change. Young activists such as Greta Thunberg are also becoming more and more outspoken and have taken to the media to voice their opinions courageously.

I am also of the view that more can be done to speed up the progress of climate change. Firstly, countries will need to commit to active monitoring to track their progress. A quick visit to government websites reveals that many countries such as Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand have taken steps to educate their citizens about environmental concerns. They have also set aside funds that either encourage companies to go green or take up green projects that are beneficial to the environment in the long run. A clear standard will need to be set and observed by all countries to minimize false or inaccurate reporting of carbon emissions. Instead of waiting for governments to put regulations in place, private companies should act swiftly to conduct studies that help improve efficiency and reduce wastage. Finally, governments should work towards creating new jobs so as to minimize job losses and disruptions.

In conclusion, the message to everyone has never been clearer. We cannot achieve lofty climate change goals alone. We need to take ownership of the problems that we have created, perhaps due to excessive consumption, and assume full responsibility. While I observe that that has not happened presently, I refuse to accept that all our attempts to revert global warming are destined to fail. As shown by the success of the Montreal Protocol, it is clearly possible that as a race, we are perfectly capable of directing our futures and changing our fortunes. While some tacky challenges remained, I adopt the sanguine view that in time, some of our attempts will succeed. A successful attempt can inspire future generations and pave the way for future successes. My only hope is that success comes soon enough before we cross the line of no return and it is too late.

(1168 words)

This Essay is written based on the research framework taught by Mr. Chow.

If you are keen to sign up for GP lessons, simply send a whatsapp messsage to +65 9457 6550

Thank you for your interest!

Gentle reminder: Please note that this essay is a demonstration of the end result once students acquire the necessary GP skills. Do not just copy the essay blindly. Plagiarism is inadvisable!