Global Warming a Global Responsibility

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Introduction

A famous scientist, Bill Nye, made a glaring statement: ”Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us” Climate change or global warming is a serious and undeniable issue that is plaguing the planet. Global warming is a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere usually connected to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants. Ten of the last thirteen years were the hottest on record.

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If the dangerous patterns of global warming continue to occur, environmental, economic, and health risks will increase. This dramatic increase in temperature is not only threatening wildlife and the environment, but also the lives of humans.

Even though humans are negatively impacted by climate change, they are also the main contributors to it. The United States is the second leader in global warming pollution behind China and makes up about sixteen percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. Protecting the planet and the environment is an important value because it is home to all living things and nature plays a key role in human health and well being. Humans are the most powerful and dangerous inhabitants of this world and they have a duty to protect it. International governments must take immediate action against global warming and find alternative energy sources to reduce the negative effects of global warming on the planet. Protecting the planet and the environment is an important ideal that must be enforced and upheld.

Human activities are greatly contributing to global warming as they release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are natural gases in the atmosphere that trap heat. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. The trapping of heat in Earth’s atmosphere is known as the greenhouse effect, and is necessary to support life. However, an excess amount of these gases in the atmosphere, such as what is currently occurring, can cause a great deal of harm. According to National Geographic, deforestation is also another cause of global warming, and as more humans cut down trees for construction and agricultural purposes, more carbon dioxide is being released into the air since trees absorb greenhouse gases. Research has proven that “one day’s deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York.” (Global Warming). As more trees and forests are being cut down for human benefit, more greenhouse gases are entering the atmosphere and fueling global warming.

The effects of global warming are very grave and cause serious problems for present and future generations. These effects don’t only impact animals and plants and their environments, but humans as well. Global warming triggers droughts and heat waves as temperatures climb. These periods of dryness and heat can lead to wildfires, like the ones we have been experiencing in California, that are leading to mass destruction and ruining the homes of many humans and animals. Global warming can also cause a rise of sea level in the ocean. Evidence has shown that as “ air and water temperatures rise, ice caps and glaciers will melt, causing sea level to rise as well” (Global Warming).

As more and more ice caps and glaciers melt due to higher temperatures, the water is seeping into the oceans and causing the sea level rise, which could lead to more floods in coastal areas. Many plants and animals could also go extinct as a result of climate change since many species cannot handle and adapt to these changes. This would result in a loss of biodiversity, which is a serious price to pay for the burning of fossil fuels and human induced causes of global warming since plants and animals are such precious and necessary attributes to the planet. Another dire effect of global warming is the spreading of diseases since the warmer temperatures are more suitable for organisms like mosquitoes that carry viruses. According to Justin Gillis, a New York Times environmental reporter, “global warming is likely to increase the range and speed of the life cycle of the particular mosquitoes carrying these viruses, encouraging their spread deeper into temperate countries like the United States” (Gillis). Evidence has demonstrated that the warmer the temperature is the faster these mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects can develop from egg to adult and the faster they can “incubate viruses” (Monaghan). Global warming negatively impacts the planet and its inhabitants in a variety of ways that all inflict harm and danger. However, there are solutions that national governments can implement to help reduce the severity of these negative impacts on the planet.

Coal is a very expensive source of power which many developing countries are struggling to obtain, so if wind energy prices kept on decreasing it would attract many consumers towards it and away from coal . Wind is also a very available and easily attainable element unlike carbon which must be excavated. This could save money in the future since it would eliminate the need to buy the tools needed to provide this coal or oil.

Solar energy is an affordable and reliable energy source that can reduce the effects of global warming on the planet. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics, take light energy from the sun and convert it to electricity: “PV [photovoltaic] ability to generate electricity while producing no atmospheric emissions or greenhouse gases marks it as a technology of choice…Over the course of a year, it saves about the same amount of carbon dioxide that a car emits during that period” (Glenn Hamer). This renewable energy source is very beneficial since it paves a way for a clean environment. Solar energy is one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels since the sun is a natural source of energy that can be exploited for the benefit of humans, while also protecting the planet from harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

There is not an unlimited amount of coal in the environment, while the sun is always available and energy from it is extremely dependable and reliable. Excavating and extracting coal also requires a lot of man power, while solar panel manufacturing and maintenance does not exude the same level of work and destruction. Brown claimed that “In industrial nations, most installations reduce the consumer’s dependence on grid-supplied electricity, much of it originating from coal….” (Brown). This also supports that a transition to this renewable energy source will help decrease the detrimental effects of global warming since it removes the necessity and use of coal and natural gases which harms the atmosphere. Harming the atmosphere goes against human morals and values of protecting the environment and planet. If national governments implement a more strict policy to utilize solar energy, people will quickly become more accustomed to it and grow less dependent on coal to perform the same job that a clean energy source does.

Providing tax benefits and credits on clean energy sources like solar energy will also encourage people to make the transition, if not for saving the environment then for saving more money. According to Glenn Hamer, the former executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, “A 2.5 kW system (enough to power a typical home) covers less than 400 square feet of rooftop” (Hamer). Solar energy is also very suitable because it provides clean and safe energy and does not take up much space. Many people may worry about the design of solar panels and the aesthetic since having a sheek, modern home is desired during this time period; but if it could help save the environment, a small amount of space on the roof is a small price to pay. People worry about the beauty of their homes, but the planet is also their home, and if measures are not taken to prevent its pollution, its beauty will be destroyed as well. Advances in technology are developing rapidly in this time period, allowing for more ways that could be developed to modify the solar panels to make them more efficient, inexpensive, and desirable.

Reducing the effects of global warming can also be easily accomplished by switching to hybrid cars, instead of cars that run on gasoline. Hybrid cars have a gasoline and an electric motor and conserve more gas than regular cars. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline for transportation purposes is the second largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions (Overview of Greenhouse Gases). Driving cars with alternative sources of fuel that emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, like hybrid cars, will extremely protect the environment against global warming. Research has shown that “In the United States, if all motorists shifted to cars with hybrid engines, such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight, gasoline use could be cut in half” (Brown). Hybrid cars have both a gasoline powered motor and an electric motor. This allows for a higher gas mileage than most other cars at around forty eight to sixty miles per gallon. Although hybrid cars may cost more initially, the amount of money saved on gas will pay off in the end. Better transmissions and engines will immensely benefit the environment and if more and more people switch to hybrid cars, the carbon footprint that gasoline- powered cars leave on the planet will begin to diminish. The problem with hybrid cars is that people prefer to have cars that are more powerful and have a better and modern design.

Although these desirable cars may look nice, they are very harmful to the planet and are contributing to the negative aspects of climate change. If national governments were to offer some sort of benefit or reward to the people that purchase hybrid cars, it may encourage more people to do so. If that tactic proves to be weak and inefficient, national government may have to look at a more forceful approach to implementing the use of hybrid cars instead of gasoline powered ones. Also, lowering the price of hybrid cars would make them more attainable and desirable Most families own more than one car, so if one of those cars was a hybrid, that would be a great start to making a full transition to these clean and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Developed countries must bear the responsibility of taking the lead in reducing the effects of global warming and finding alternative energy sources. Developed and powerful countries like the United States and many European countries have the resources, technologies, and capabilities of making a monumental difference in preventing the planet from reaching an unrecoverable state with global warming. Curtis Doebbler, an international human rights lawyer declared, “Developed countries contribute very little to the enormous costs of mitigation and adaptation, and their representatives in climate talks refuse to extend and strengthen emissions limits, contrary to those of developing countries” (Doebbler). Even though they have the most power to make a change, these developed countries are the ones most resistant to performing the actions needed to fight global warming. To take it a step further, richer countries believe it is the responsibility of the developing countries to take action.

Most developing countries are on board with the drastic changes needed to be made. Since these countries do not have as many resources, they will be the ones most harmed by global warming. Mass deforestation is also apparent in developing nations, as these countries must free space in order to build factories to produce the items that people in developed countries buy every day. As stated before, deforestation is a major contributor to carbon emissions since trees absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and regulate the flow of water. Developing countries have already experienced loss of biodiversity, contamination, and the other negative effects of global warming, and taking on any more of the burden will place them in a condition that is much more dangerous than their current one. “There is a difference between the emissions of developing countries which are “survival” emissions and those of developed countries which are in the nature of “lifestyle” emissions” (Saran). The emissions of the developing countries are somewhat justified because they are for survival purposes and there is nothing else they can do while developing countries have other options and a healthy portion of their emissions are for selfish and unnecessary reasons. For this reasons, the core countries must take the burden of tremendously reducing their emissions and finding other energy sources that will reduce global warming and provide these solutions to developing countries. Developed countries who will have the least to lose must take action to save the people of their country and the countries that are not strong enough to take action.

There are several cities and countries that have already taken steps to find alternative energy sources to improve the destructive outcomes of global warming. Portland, Oregon is a very environmentally friendly city and has taken many measures to utilize clean and safe energy sources. This green city was the first United States city to create a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and has “aggressively pushed green building initiative’s” (Green Cities). Portland also employs an effective transportation system of buses and many bike lanes to help keep cars off the road. In addition, “Portlanders recycle 63 percent of their waste, which is one of the highest rates in the U.S.”(Travel Portland). This demonstrates that it is possible to convert to more “green” ways that protect the environment, and try to eliminate as much of carbon emissions as possible.

This way of life is accepted and encouraged by the population of Portland, and if this city can make such changes, so can the rest of American cities in order to make an immense difference. Another city that implements a clean way of life is Curitiba, Brazil. Mark Holston, a journalist on Latin American topics, proclaimed, “The success of the surface transportation system has taken thousands of personal vehicles off the street, reducing congestion and dramatically cutting air pollution” (Holston). Curitiba is the greenest city in Brazil, and has many parks that also serve as stormwater management facilities. Unlike Cubatao, Curitiba has an efficient transport system that plays a critical role in reducing the carbon emissions caused by the flood of cars on the streets. Reykjavik, Iceland is another example of a city that uses different methods to reach a healthy and safe condition. Investigations of the city’s energy sources demonstrated that “…like the rest of the country, its heat and electricity come entirely from geothermal and hydropower sources and it’s determined to become fossil-fuel-free by 2050” (Green Cities). This illustrates that there are several places that have actually taken a stand against global warming and made a lasting change on their environment. It is possible to take these measures, hopefully, these cities will set an example and encourage others around the world, like the U.S., to also make a change. Many United States citizens believe that they are immune to the effects of global warming, but that is obviously not true. However, if America follows in the footsteps of these cities and countries and makes drastic changes, the destructive effects of global warming will lessen.

Conclusion

Admittedly, many people may argue that renewable energy sources, like solar energy, are not suitable solutions to global warming. Howard C. Hayden, the editor of The Energy Advocates, claims “Most people cannot afford to cover even part, let alone the entire south-facing roof with solar collectors” (Hayden). He argues that solar energy is too expensive and that many people will not be able to afford it, thus making it inaccessible and a poor alternative to fossil fuels. Glenn Hamer provides a different viewpoint and declares, “As the industry has grown over the past 25 years, the cost of PV has declined by several orders of magnitude. The PV industry estimates that the system price paid by the end user will be $3-4 per watt in 2010” (Hamer). The price for solar panels has decreased over the years, and will continue to decrease in the future and be available to all countries. It is the responsibility of the developed countries to provide solar panels to those countries and people who cannot afford it, or to lower the overall cost of solar panels. In the end, solar and wind energy prove to be cleaner and safer than fossil fuels and the price to pay for these renewable energy sources is much less than the price of the harmful consequences of global warming.

Protecting the planet is a value and a mission that must be upheld and carried out, and if not, the duty as humans and civilians living on this planet will not be executed. Rich, developed countries must take responsibility and respond to global warming before it reaches a level where it can no longer be fixed. Countries must work together to find ways to target all aspects contributing to global warming and use the advanced technology that continues to be modified today to eliminate these harmful factors. Each individual can play a part in fighting the threatening conditions of global warming. Their roles can be as small as switching to reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones, using CFL or LED light bulbs instead of traditional incandescent ones, and using public transportation systems. If no action is taken, the problem will continue to progress and become even more severe, endangering future generations.  

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