Why it’s time to start taking responsibility and action on the environment

By Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu

It’s time to move on. Time to move past the political rhetoric on the subject of the environment, especially climate change. Time to start listening a little more to science.

The vast majority of the scientific community is in agreement that global warming is being rapidly accelerated by human activity. Yet, somehow we still manage to make it a political debate. There is no room for politics to get in the way of science in what could be the single biggest threat to the existence of mankind.

Scientists have also largely come to a consensus that we must keep the earth from heating more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100 to avoid catastrophic climate change. According to an M.I.T. report, with no change in global policies, we are on pace to heat up more than 7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Sweating yet?

The claim of “job-killing regulations” and the idea that strong policies on carbon emissions will hurt the economy are outdated as well. To quote the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.” It’s time to invest more in alternatives and end the subsidies handed out to already rich oil companies.

The issue of climate change has been universally accepted. America is the only country that still has a significant portion of political elites that deny the earth is heating up. It’s time to move past this silliness. And it’s time for all of us to start taking action. It’s our duty, even, as inhabitants of this earth.

Americans have an especially heavy burden to play in helping slow global warming. Per capita, we are the biggest polluters in the world. We also consume the most resources. The United States makes up 5 percent of the world’s population yet consumes 30 percent of the world’s resources. In 2009, we emitted 17.8 percent of total global carbon emissions and 18 tons of carbon per person, highest among countries with large economies.

Global warming plays a big part in the lives of the poor, especially in third world countries, however sadly ironic it is since they have nothing to do with this affair. Nonetheless, they suffer from the industrialized world’s actions. The recent drought in the Horn of Africa was linked to global warming and left thirteen million Africans starving. As more extreme weather events occur, it becomes more difficult to grow food, especially in the third world countries that do not have access to modern farming technologies.

Speaking of extreme weather, 2011 was by far the worst on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 14 extreme weather events caused more than $1 billion each in damage, totaling $200 billion. Right here in the Ohio Valley we had 300 times the average amount of precipitation, causing historic flooding in the Mississippi River Valley.

To be blunt, if we don’t start changing our ways, we’re in for a dire future. It’s high time we started taking responsibility for our actions and working together to change them.

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