The Issue of Carbon Emissions in the United States

As in life, when protecting our environment and trying to maintain the standards of living that we have become accustomed to in this day and age, there will always be tradeoffs. In order to effectively lower our carbon dioxide emissions thus slowing global warming and ultimatelyreversing the affects everyone will need to put their personal comfort aside and makes somesacrifices. The sad thing is that in today's society people can be so short sighted that they scoff at
the idea of giving up their precious third computers and cars, and continue to emit and very high levels while setting a bad example for developing nations. Many of the developing nations arebeginning to have less expensive access to technology and obviously are thrilled, and want to utilize it. This is only heightening the severity of the carbon problem. As a world leader, and those who inhabit it, we need to stand together and set an example for the developing nations that we can make sacrifices too, otherwise there is no initiative for them not to use these technologies while America's people emit with no thought or care. Carbon dioxide emissions have created a huge problem for tomorrow's generation, and we cannot turn a blind eye to this massive elephant in the room. We need to be responsible for our home and take control of this situation while it is still possible, before it can spiral further out of control and becomes irreversible.

The United States is second in the world in carbon emissions at 16.2 %, only behind China who is responsible for over 21% of the world carbon emissions and the ranking of second does not take into account how many fewer people the United State's emissions come from (Germanwatch). There are three many factors that enables the United State's to be such a potent emitter at our relatively minimal population. The first being electricity, the “necessity” that we
take full advantage of. There is a side of electricity not seen by the common person when they simply flip the light switch, there is a combustion of fossil fuels which creates electricity. This process is the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the nation, leading to about 38% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 32% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. The type of fossil fuel used to generate electricity will emit different amounts of CO2 (EPA). The second primary cause of carbon emissions in the United States is transportation. Transportation has become a huge part of American culture as the world has greatly shrunk and people commute further and further more easily. The use of planes, trains and automobiles is responsible for 31% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 26% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 (EPA). The final large factor into the United State's considerable CO2 emissions is industry. Industry is responsible for 14% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 12% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, and that is not including the electricity used by the industries. Although there are numerous benefits of these emitters, it is essential that we lower our usage of these factors, until a cleaner energy service can carry as heavy a load as fossil fuels have since the industrial revolution.

The aforementioned three main causes of CO2 emissions in the United States, industry, transportation and electricity all are huge factors in our present day culture. Our affluenzic society needs more; they crave the next best thing. This obsession with technology needs to be controlled because the immense usage of cars, computers and many other things, when used as inefficiently as we do, with our current very unclean energy source, is hugely dangerous. As a
society and a member of those who are guests of planet earth need to starting thinking green and planning efficient ways to lower our personal usage of these technologies and then spreading the word to help encourage our peers to do the same. This generation of adults needs to understand the situation at hand and realize their role in history, they have to be the people who limited the damage, giving a chance for the people who will solve the energy crisis to grow up in a world that will hopefully still be savable. In order to limit the damage there are several techniques that we as a nation can try and employ. The first being increasing energy efficiency, methods of doing this includes improving insulation of buildings, the use of more fuel efficient cars electrical appliances. Another way to help is to increase energy conservation. This can be done through reducing personal energy use by turning off lights and electronics when not in use. 

Additionally the use of “fuel switching” is also helpful, this is when you use energy from a more renewable source that has lower carbon content. These are all ways that we can help lower the carbon emissions and it is important that after addressing your own usage you encourage your peers to do the same (EPA). Although these are all effective ways of lowering emissions, clean energy companies are exploring strategies to lower the current CO2 count. A very interesting carbon reducing strategy being explored by clean energy companies is the concept of carbon capture and sequestration. Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and sequestration is a new technology that can greatly reduce CO2 emissions from industrial power plants. It is a three step process that includes the capture of CO2 from power plants or industrial processes, transport of the captured and compressed CO2 and then injects the compressed CO2 into deep underground rock formations. These formations are often a mile or more beneath the surface and consist of porous rock that holds the CO2. Overlying these formations are impermeable, non porous layers of rock that trap the CO2 and prevent it from migrating upward (EPA 2). This is a very interesting option to limiting the damages that the use of fossil fuel burning power plants due until a cleaner source of energy can be developed and utilized.

Some people who are very ignorant to the serious situation that we have at hand believe that we can just carry on with our CO2 emissions where they are. However, if we do that the end results can be even more catastrophic than the carbon related disasters we have already had, like hurricane Katrina and super storm Sandy. Studies have shown that over the past 150 years temperatures have already risen .7 degrees Celsius and that rate is only accelerating due to the increased melting of the polar ice caps. Due to this acceleration if nothing is done temperatures will continue to rise. If it gets to the 2 degree mark, increased severe storms and there will be unimaginable flooding in some areas and droughts in others. This would greatly increase the acidity of the ocean destroying coral and plankton and greatly upsetting the food chain. If the temperature continued up to the 3 degree mark it will be a huge struggle for the majority of ecosystems to survive. The scariest part about these facts: scientists have predicted reaching up to 6 degrees Celsius increase within this century if nothing is done to curb carbon emissions. Not only is this going to destroy the habitats and way of life for animals, which have nothing to do with the human destruction of the earth, it will also make many parts of the world unlivable for humans. Coastlines are retreating and areas will be destroyed by flooding and droughts (WWF). These effects should be enough motivation for people to get their act together and be accountable for their energy usage. Although it may not seem like it every little bit helps and your belief in the cause will help encourage others to do the same thing.

The biggest problem for Americans when trying to solve this problem is the apparent futility of our leaders. It is not going to be easy for Americans to make these sacrifices when our congressmen, the people we elect, allow themselves to be bought off by oil companies. The lack of accountability starts at the top and leaves plenty of room for excuses from everyone else, “if the leaders don't care it clearly isn't that big of an issue", is all too common of a thought process.
The oil companies offer “campaign money” a glorified bribe in exchange for votes in one way or another in congress. This is the reason that many legislations that try to restrict fossil fuels or help the environment get shut down, because it was interfere with the massive profits the oil companies make annually. In fact many politicians actually hold investments with the oil companies too, so when they make money the politicians make money. Research shows that almost 30 members of congressional committees who are specifically in charge of overseeing oil and gas companies, held personal assets in the industry totaling $9 million to $14.5 million late last year. That included up to nearly $1 million in the three companies at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling disaster (Washington Post).

In order to preserve our earth for our predecessors we need to begin to address this issue with a sense of urgency. It is no longer time to make fun of Al Gore or the idea of global warming, saying “I don't like cold weather anyway!” It is time for change, it needs to happen our future depends on it. In order to effectively change the world and truly accomplish the results we so desperately need, we need to address the issues that are causing carbon emissions and try and figure out how we can solve them as individuals while encouraging others to do the same. On the next level, large companies need to do their part to keep their offices as green as possible and for the clean energy companies to work as fast and efficiently as possible so within 20 years we can begin to reverse these affects. However, the highest responsibility falls in the politicians that have let oil and coal companies run rampant over the constitution leaving gaping loopholes to do as they please. It is time for individual accountability, we need to address these issues and lower the CO2 in our atmosphere before it is too late.

Works Cited

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  3.  EPA 2. "Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration | Climate Change | US EPA." US
  4. Environmental Protection Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
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  8. Germanwatch. "• Largest emitters of CO2 worldwide 2012 | Statistic." • Statista - The Statistics Portal for Market Data, Market Research and Market Studies. N.p., n.d. Web.
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