Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is the Fate of the Earth Irreversible?

Global warming has been a topic of concern that continues to pose a problem for the current and future state of the Earth. As populations continue to increase and areas of the world work towards becoming more industrialized countries are contributing a greater ecological footprint with significant consequences on global climate. The greenhouse gas effect enables the Earth to maintain a steady balance of temperature within ranges that are suitable for life on Earth (Lallanilla, 2015). However, human resources in developing and developed countries continue to contribute to emissions and further progress an unequal balance of these natural occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. For example, power plants are guilty of burning fossil fuels such as coal to generate electricity to power vehicles yet many are unaware that these efforts release significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere offsetting the natural balance (Bckibben, 2016). Bill Bckibben refers to the issue of climate change as a world war that we are losing because of our refusal to ignore the warnings and take preventative action (2016).

 NASA released alarming data that the Earth’s surface in 2016 was on record the warmest temperatures in history affirming that we cannot afford to continue to live in denial (Cabbage & McCarthy, 2017). Some environmentalists believe that the state of the Earth is past the point of no return. While preventative efforts are no longer possible we are now faced with a choice; will we continue to excel rates of climate change or will we implement lifestyle changes to slow Earth’s degradation? Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as politics play an integral role in the solution.  Last December the world took steps in the right direction agreeing to sign the Climate Accord in Paris (Cabbage & McCarthy, 2017). In signing this accord Government leaders agreed that change would not happen overnight however, if the world made climate change a priority steps could be taken to reduce emission and limit global temperature rise (Cabbage & McCarthy, 2017). Through this agreement all nations unite under a common cause in order to fight climate change with a mission to keep global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius (United Nations, 2014). Unfortunately, much can happen in a presidential term and Trumps presidency is doing no favors for positive environmental changes. One country’s actions do not make or break the state of the Earth however, because the United States is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases if environmental concerns are placed on the back burner for an entire presidential term it will have drastically negative effects on the Earth (Sneed, 2017). Not only is the United States recent election putting a damper on climate change, but recently China’s actions have done no favors for global warming as China surpasses the United States contributing twice the amount of greenhouse gasses (United Nations, 2014) Even more unfortunate, while environmental improvements are far from the Trump administrations radar climate rules that would actually increase U.S emissions are being considered including removing restrictions on production of oil and natural gases (Sneed, 2017). Even if Trump administration were to retain its current emissions-reducing policies, it is possible that the United States may still emit an excess of 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide over its Paris target in 2025 that would have severe repercussions for climate change (Sneed, 2017).
 Fig. 1 Global temperature data averaged; this graph shows the Earth’s escalating temperatures over time. This graph shows the trend toward continual increase and seems that drastic actions must be taken if we want to see a future for the Earth.     

Although the United States current presidential inauguration appears to put a damper on the global outlook of the Earth, not all hope is lost as other areas of the World are devoting efforts towards utilizing techniques and implementing systems to reduce emissions.
Lauri Myllyvirta, a researcher for Greenpeace in Beijing, remarked that although China has contributed substantially to global warming it is working towards taking the necessary steps in the right direction to eliminate their contributions to greenhouse gases (Forsythe, 2017). Recently China’s National Energy Administration announced that plans to build 103 coal-fired power plants are being cancelled. This is extremely helpful for the environment as energy generated from coal is perhaps the greatest source of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming (Forsythe, 2017). Other positive efforts include the latest discoveries from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s regarding new ways that farmers can reduce excess nitrogen produced from farmers. Nitrogen gas remains a large contributor to greenhouse warming however, researchers claim that these potent gases can be bypassed in soil and fertilizers and broken down into non-reactive products removing large amounts of excess nitrogen that farming creates (Malquist, 2017). India, the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases has also developed a carbon offset plan, which involves increasing its energy efficiently (Moore, 2014). Because India is a developing nation it cannot completely reduce carbon emissions because it will drastically impact its citizens however, the country will incorporate emissions reducing projects and earn credits it can sell to industrialized nations (Moore, 2014)
Climate change can be a rather daunting topic of conversation if we choose to look at the negative aspects such as human contributions to greenhouse gases. It is extremely sad that issues that really matter such as the state of the Earth are ignored so that government leaders can focus on problems that man created such as conflicts that arise from individual differences as well as money affairs. Perhaps the greatest problem related to environmental issues lies in man’s misconception that we have time and that these concerns can be dealt with at a later time (Bckibben, 2016). However, the joke is on mankind because if we continue to ignore environmental warnings such as increased temperatures there will be no Earth for man to engage in the insignificant issues that we so highly value. Although it may seem that the future of the Earth lies in the hands of the political leaders of the world, it does not mean we throw in the towel and accept the lamentable fate of the Earth. Although small steps will not transform the Earth over night, individual contributions ca n make a substantial difference. As individuals we can take it upon ourselves to do everything in our own power to salvage the destruction we have created through simple strides such as recycling or reducing the amount of electricity we use. Countries and organizations that create advances in technology such as China and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science restore hope and provide motivation to work towards a better, healthier Earth.
Fig. 2

Cabbage, M., & McCarthy, L. (2017). NASA , NOAA data show 2016 warmest year on record globally. NASA. Retrieved from http://climate.nasa.gov/news/2537/nasa-noaa-data-show-2016-warmest-year-on-record-globally/
Forsythe, M. (2017). China cancels 103 coal plants, mindful of smog and wasted capacity. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/world/asia/china-coal-power-plants pollution.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FGlobal%20Warming&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=collection
Lallanilla, M. (2015). Greenhouse gas emissions: causes and sources. Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/37821-greenhouse-gases.html
Malquist, D. (2017). Researchers discover greenhouse bypass for nitrogen. Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170118163725.htm
Mckibben. B. (2016). A world at war. New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/135684/declare-war-climate-change-mobilize-wwii
Sneed, A. (2017). Trump day 1: global warming’s fate. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-day-1-global-warmings-fate/
Moore, S. (2014) India’s role in the international climate negotiations. Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/planetpolicy/2014/11/26/indias-role-in-the-international-climate-negotiations/
(2014). The Paris Agreement. United Nations. Received from http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

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