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18 August 2008 @ 10:29 pm
Background Information  
Everyone talks about climate change and what a huge issue it is. Many, however, are still unclear about what exactly global warming is, what role we play in it, and the effects it can cause. If you would lack background information on global warming, please click here for a PDF I created about the issue. If the PDF does not work, please click on the cut to see the information in text form.

The atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding the Earth that serves as natural insulation. Some of the gases in the atmosphere are heat-trapping gases (such as carbon dioxide), which trap solar heat and warm the planet’s surface. This creates a habitable environment and allows all forms of life to thrive. Throughout the past century, however, humans have upset the balance of heat-trapping gases. By cutting down forests, burning fossil fuels for energy, and taking advantage of our natural resources, we have released a large amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. As a result, the atmosphere traps more heat and temperatures rise. Global warming is this process.

The most direct effect of global warming is rising temperatures. Because of warmer temperatures, glaciers are melting at rapid rates. Ice in the Arctic region is disappearing quickly, causing further consequences for the wildlife that resides there. With is habitat diminishing, the polar bear faces extinction. Numerous other animals and plants have been forced from their habitats as a result of global warming. The rising temperatures play a large role in changing weather patterns, as well. Because ice is melting at such a fast pace, sea levels are rising, leading to more floods in coastal regions as well as erosion. Drought is also becoming more common, and has been attributed to the increased amount of wildfires in recent years. Hurricanes have become stronger. This extreme weather has affected agriculture and has also led to a wider spread of diseases borne through mosquitoes and rodents.  These consequences have severe repercussions for humans. The economic cost of rebuilding towns that have been damaged by floods and other catastrophes is large, and will continue to increase. Global warming affects where we live and how we live.

Our way of life is the prime contributor to the global warming crisis. Our increased dependence on fossil fuels and our carelessness with conserving energy has led to numerous consequences. Every person emits a ‘carbon footprint.’ This signifies our individual carbon emissions. We emit these emissions when driving our cars, heating our homes, and leaving appliances on when we are not using them, among other things. Every person’s carbon footprint varies, but many of ours are surprisingly high. Despite knowing that global warming is occurring, many of us do not attempt to reduce our emissions. Every single person plays a role in climate change. With over six billion populating the Earth, the potential to worsen the situation is enormous.

The United States, India, and China are the world’s three biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, none have made significant progress in committing to combating global warming. The United States, in particular, has passed no bills to combat growing emissions, nor taken a significant role in or committed to the requirements of the Kyoto treaty (though individual states are making an effort).  While there are nations that are willing to commit to reducing emissions, there is not enough of a global force driving every nation to do so. There has been a remarkable lack of laws and leadership when it comes to climate change. That is why it is necessary for the public to make sure its voice is heard. Only with enough demand and pressure by constituents will government representatives listen. With federal changes in place, we can fight global warming.

It is crucial to attack the issue of climate change immediately, before further damage occurs. The most effective way of doing so is to reduce our emissions. Individually, as a nation, and as a global community, we must commit to reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. We must commit to using renewable energy sources.  The ‘We Can Solve It’ campaign has issued a challenge to the United States to ensure that 100% of electricity from energy sources has zero carbon emissions within ten years. To accomplish this, major revamps are required in energy sources. The United States will have to take advantage of wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy (electricity provided from underground hot rocks), and solar photovoltaics (solar panels). Combined, these alternative sources can provide electricity to a large amount of the population and can greatly reduce our carbon emissions as a nation. We, as individuals, must combine our efforts and put enough pressure on our representatives and governments to meet these challenges within a decent time frame. It will take a national effort to convert energy sources. Additionally, there are many steps we can take individually to combat climate change. There will be another file for those!.