Ice glaciers are finally awakening, sea levels are rising, forests are dying, and the fate of wildlife becomes the first consequence of earth’s changing climate – and it’s become inevitably evident that humans are the root cause of the past century’s warming through continuous industrialization and technological advancements to generate our everyday lives of driving, working, and consuming energy; and just within the past century, the planet’s average surface temperature has risen since the late 19th century.
Heat trapping gases are formed and supply what has become most commonly known as the “greenhouse effect”, which in turn, as defined by NASA, means: “warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.
” Most of the outgoing heat is absorbed by greenhouse gas molecules and redistributed in all directions, warming the surface of the Earth. The gases that contribute to the greenhouse are: Water vapor (which is the most ample of the gases), Nitrous Oxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Methane.
The result is called global warming – “which is a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increase levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants”(Google Definition) – and it is setting into motion a series of changes to the Earth’s climate. Every day, “the new heat swirls with it, picking up moisture over the oceans, rising here, settling there. It’s changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon” (National Geographic).
The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human’s daily activities and practices in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
The EPA tracks total U.S. emissions by publishing the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. This annual report approximates the total national greenhouse gas emissions with human activities across the United States. The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are: “Transportation (nearly 28.5 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, which includes gasoline and diesel; Electricity production (28.4 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – Electricity production generates the second largest share of greenhouse gas emissions.
Approximately 68 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas; Industry (22 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials; Commercial and Residential (11 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from businesses and homes arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases, and the handling of waste; Agriculture (9 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production; Land Use and Forestry (offset of 11 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions) – Land areas can act as a sink (absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere) or a source of greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, since 1990, managed forests and other lands have absorbed more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit” (EPA).
Most undeviating emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels for energy. A smaller portion derives from leaks from natural gas and petroleum systems, the use of fuels in production such as petroleum products used to create plastics, “and chemical reactions during the production of chemicals, iron and steel, and cement.
Except for the minuscule amount of plastics derived from plant-based feedstocks, plastics are made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, which release toxic emissions when extracted from the earth. Drilling puts pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, ozone and others into the air. Methane gas can leak during production, which causes even worse greenhouse effects than carbon dioxide.
Plastic manufacturing is estimated to use 8 percent of yearly global oil production. The EPA estimates as many as five ounces of carbon dioxide are emitted for each ounce of polyethylene (PET) produced—the type of plastic most commonly used for beverage bottles. The burning of fossil fuels is how the United States, China and other developed countries industrialized, and it follows they would be the second and first worst contributors to climate change, respectively. And when they reached a certain level of industrialization, massive amounts of disposable plastics began flowing into their economies—water bottles, bags, to-go containers and utensils—items that earmark a consumer culture.”
This therefore means that more disposable and single use plastics are coming, in the parts of the world where they can do the most damage—”newly industrialized countries with infrastructures that lag behind their population’s consumerism. We see evidence of this on the beaches of places like Manila Bay, the rivers of Bangladesh, the streets of Ghana.”
Thus, the effects of plastic lead to even greater problems citizens are unaware and can prevent through the use of single plastic to not only prevent the rising climate, but the loss of wildlife and habitats through the reduction of damaging plastics. The Pacific Garbage Patch attests to humans bad habits of littering and single use plastics. As if comparable to a cycle, the type of everyday lives people lead will return to them through the weather, through their food, and living.
Politically within the country, the relevance of global warming “ has become a major focus for environmental groups in recent years. This issue has pitted environmentalists against other interest groups to a much greater degree than in the past. Environmentalists often find themselves in opposition to economic interests representing industries that promote warming by releasing “greenhouse” gases into the atmosphere. Indeed, the reaction against environmentalism has been strong enough in such coal – oriented states as West Virginia to transform them politically. Once a Democratic bastion, West Virginia now usually supports Republicans in presidential contests.” Essentially, the core of American democracy, so to speak, paves the way for how global warming is combatted through legislation and policies as interest groups and other various individuals who share the common objective of actively attempting to influence this issue shape those unaware around them.
The furthering of climate change’s effect may also govern the manner in which not only American citizens but global individuals tackle interest groups or groups similar to so with the changing of land and the weather. Human consumption and practices of burning fossil fuels, deforestation for farming and agriculture, and using stationary sources and mobile sources, will all ultimately have to be traded off for better and more sustainable means as purposive incentives for world’s large population becomes a disaster free earth. Efforts made by entities like the United Nations with the Paris Agreement make strides towards a cleaner world through consciousness of temperatures, finance, differentiation, emissions objectives, burden sharing, review mechanisms, and preventing and recognizing climate damage; Taking effect from 2020, the nations partaking in the agreement collectively strive to work together in creating rapid reductions and helping underdeveloped countries become resourceful with the tools necessary to battle climate change. Figures like Donald Trump on the other hand alter the continuation towards sustainable living and practices with removal of policies and treaties in favor of the coal industry and business.
The Paris Agreement follows the “Convention” and for a historical and pivotal moment brings all developed nations into a “common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.”
The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping warming below 2 degrees and continue all efforts to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees celsius. Financially, rich countries are aimed to provide 100 billion dollars from 2020 as a “floor”. Internationally, developed countries must continue to “take the lead” in the reduction of greenhouse gases, such as the United States and China. Developing nations are also encouraged to “enhance their efforts” and move time to cuts. Unfortunately for the United States and what our efforts for climate change ensure, President Trump made the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty”, commenting that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” He also said that the United States could try to join the agreement under “more favourable terms or work to establish an entirely new transaction.” With one of the largest and most powerful countries avoiding an agreement to take further steps towards a healthier climate, it consequently sets us back in the positive program of changing the climate for the good rather than for the worse.
Furthermore, many of the policies implemented by former President Obama such as the Climate Action Plan, the Executive Order on Climate Change, the Clean Power Plan, and the Moratorium on Federal Coal Program are presently being re-evaluated by President Trump as many of them manifestly do not suit his agenda. In the 2016 election race between Senator Clinton and Senator Trump, after being elected, oil, gas and coal interests together poured millions of dollars into Trump’s inaugural fund and revamped their federal government lobbying efforts during the 2017’s first three months.
All in all, oil, gas and coal companies and other higher-ups “contributed more than $1 out of every $10 raised for Trump’s inauguration, for which he raised nearly $107 million overall.” But increased oil and gas industry lobbying is also presumably a sign the many big name oil and coal industries expect the Trump administration to act on matters or policies that could affect their companies’ future income for the good. In other research, it was also speculated that many of the executives of the industries that funded President Trump dissuade him from agreeing to the Paris Climate Agreement as it would inadvertently alter his plans to overturn many of former President Obama’s executive orders.
During his first 200 days in office as President, Trump and the Republican dominated Congress have overturned many prior restrictions made by President Obama on coal, oil and gas companies. Many policies of which included: “Rescinding the Stream Protection Rule that banned dumping toxic heavy metals into waterways during the coal mining process, expediting the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, two projects that had failed to win approval from the Obama administration. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan, which sets standards for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, limits oil and gas extraction on federal land and establishes a moratorium on new coal leasing Repealing a requirement that energy companies disclose payments to foreign governments. Requiring a review of national monuments created by the Antiquities Act, potentially opening up protected lands to drilling and mining interests. Mandating a review of offshore drilling regulations that could roll back safety standards put in place after the death of 11 people during the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The review could also open up marine sanctuaries to commercial drilling.”
Evidently, interest groups and political parties tie into the agendas and executive order set by someone in power like President Trump as he can influence policies ensured that will benefit the profit of big oil and coal industries. With better efforts towards sustainable and environmentally ethical practices, our oceans, ice caps, weather can be restored to the state in which is well intended and practical for human living – especially as global warming is said to affect the poor the most, but will ultimately and in fact affect all in the end if changes aren’t ensued or continuously rolled over for the sake of profits rather than life. With constant reforms made to move forward to a better and healthier climated world, President Trump’s ongoing efforts to roll back orders that don’t satisfy his political ideologies and pocket, rather than for the good of the nation, big oil and coal companies will continue to be major contributor to being a pollutant and other policies on drilling and vehicles will dramatically affect all humans in the long run.
Like a network, or domino effect so to speak, while one aspect of the earth is altered and tried by the effects of global warming, as is everything else. With melting ice caps and retreating ice sheets, the ocean levels begin to rise, and the vast white of snow is no longer present to reflect that of the heat and light of the sun’s rays, thus allowing the dark of the ocean to absorb that heat and warm its waters. Aquatic plants, like land plants, also absorb carbon dioxide, meaning as the plants continue to flourish within the warm rising waters, more CO2 engulfs the sea, thus making it acidic for wildlife and coral reefs. The effect on fish then harms our fishing industries.
The rising of sea levels can also cause shore lines to change, thus causing migration and disputes amongst countries of whom won’t allow entry. With many more factors that play into how climate change can alter the whole world’s global economy, one can also hope it doesn’t lead to war with, abiding the struggle of migration from shifting shorelines, and changing landscapes. What we do today is like a cycle, because all that humans, the American citizens, do today, will incidentally be the result of what the world will endure and suffer through later.
The United State’s ultimate denial of being part of the Paris agreement consequently affects measures needed to be made in order to combat the large scare of pollution we create as one of the biggest nations and contributors in the world. While looked down upon, political agendas and selfish tendencies overshadow necessary efforts to be a better and cleaner earth for the generations to come and follow.