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Project Three Final Draft - Climate Change

Page history last edited by mike 12 years, 6 months ago

     Do you buy a bottle of water each day? Or do you use a reusable water bottle? Do you use disposable razors? The last time a house hold appliance broke, did you attempt to fix it? Or did you just replace it? In the fast paced world we live in, many of us are raised since childhood to believe that every resource on the earth is destined for human exploitation. This has led to a sense of entitlement and the rapid depletion of resources and degradation of the environment. Climate Change is the significant, widespread, and long lasting varying change in weather patterns around the world. It is in the smoke saturated areas of urban America that we see direct consequences of our collective disregard for the environment; however, the entire earth feels the effects of environmental damage. The pollution created in heavy industry pollutes the air wherever it moves.


     The term ‘climate change’ is often mistaken for global warming. Although they do go hand-in-hand, they are different. Global warming is a phenomenon in which the temperature of the earth rises. Although the rate at which the global temperature is warming up may seem miniscule, one degree so far this century, the effects are paramount and significant. The heating of the atmosphere is caused by the trapping of greenhouses gases. Among the greenhouse gasses include methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons,  perfluorocarbons and the most notorious and abundant, carbon dioxide, also known as CO2. In certain amounts, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is required to sustain plant life and therefore maintain animal and human life. The earth is warmed by light given off by the Sun. Some of this light is absorbed by the earth and some of it is reflected back out into space. However, with too much CO2 in the atmosphere, the light is blocked by the extra gases and does reflect back out into space. Because CO­ is a gas and is suspended in air, it moves throughout the atmosphere. Combined, these two factors cause a higher than average global temperature.


     The trapping of greenhouse gasses is a driving force in climate change and there are many theories as to why they are building up in the atmosphere, but none fit as well as the theory that cites industry and activities that go along with it as a cause. Industry, in this context, includes the retrieval of raw materials, the transport of those raw materials, factories, assembly plants, and the transport and use of goods. Activities that go along with industry include the burning of fossil fuels which release CO2 into the atmosphere in processes such as electricity generation and combustion in gas and diesel engines. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is measured in a unit called ‘parts per million’ which denotes the concentration of CO2 in air. In the preindustrial period, the amount of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 250 parts per million. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is an astonishing 386 parts per million. Because the use of fossil fuels in the preindustrial age was limited to small scale coal burning and the use of kerosene lamps, the spike in carbon dioxide concentration is consistent with the information.


     The rise of the average global temperature is what gives way to climate change. Climate change is like the domino effect. The trapping of greenhouse gasses and the subsequent heating is the first of the dominos to be knocked over. From there, ice, such as sea ice in the arctic and polar ice caps, begin to melt. The release of this freshwater locked in ice into the oceans will not only raise the water level more than it already has, a half foot, in coastal cities all across the globe endangering millions of lives, homes and businesses, but also endangers aquatic life that depend on specific salinity in the water they live in. Tropical storms will be much stronger, as they have already been. This is because tropical storms gain energy when supplied warm water. Before the colossal wild fires in the southwest this past summer, the national average of destruction caused by wildfires was 10,000 square miles per year as opposed to 5000 square miles per year between 1920-1980. The wild fires in Arizona and Texas consumed a combined 494,000 acres. These two wild fires were fought by over 4,000 firefighters, caused the evacuation of at least 5,000 residence, and destroyed roughly 770 homes. The wildfires are caused by extreme drought; in this case, the worst drought in Texas history. In a poetically cruel twist, as dry areas get drier, wet areas get wetter. The frequency and severity of floods are rising for areas which are usually wet. “The number of days with more than two inches of rainfall has increased by more than 20 percent in the last century” (Politico). This deranged game of dominos and its effect on weather does not end with the superficial. Its affects run deeper; into our wallets and our lives. A report by the University of Oregon published by the Department of Ecology of the State of Washington shows that if we continue to approach climate change with a ‘business-as-usual’ attitude, by the year 2020, the increase in energy related costs would be $222 million, the decrease in food production would cost $35 million, the decrease in salmon populations would cost $531 million, the increase in wildfire costs would be $102 million, and the increase in coastal and storm damage would cost $72 million. A cost that would also contribute to climate change is the inefficient consumption of energy; an increase totaling $1.4 billion dollars. The total cost per home would be $1,250. The financial burden of climate change, if we do not act, will be devastating.


     The cost of inaction in the face of climate change is not only measured by temperature, currency, and complete social entropy, but also in human death and casualty tolls. “In 2003… extreme heat waves caused more than 20,000 deaths in Europe and more than 1,500 deaths in India” (Nature Conservancy). The health impacts of climate change can be seen in wildfire victims and hurricane survivors to outbreaks of mosquito borne illness after flooding and asthmatic patients. A study run by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco examined morbidity and mortality data –data that included expenditures for hospitalization, emergency room visits, and other medical services. The data showed that the combined outcome of a:

California wildfire in 2003 and a 2006 heat wave in the same state; the 2004 hurricane season in Florida; an outbreak of West Nile virus in Louisiana in 2002; a river flood two years ago in North Dakota; and nationwide ozone pollution between 2000 and 2002.” (Zeller)

 had “resulted in 1,689 early deaths, 8,992 hospitalizations, 21,113 emergency department visits and 734,398 outpatient visits, with estimated costs totaling more than $14 billion” (Zeller). “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change may have caused more than 150,000 deaths in the year 2000 alone…” (Nature Conservancy).


     The environment is in a catastrophic state of decline and requires immediate action. There are probably many more things that you could do to offset the harm that is being done to the environment than you think. Almost every facet of life has been replaced with an ecofriendly alternative or has one available. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose is a great philosophy to live by, however, more must be done if we are to seriously combat the climate crisis we are faced with.


     An ecofriendly initiative that has caught on as pop culture instead of an environmental effort is the streaming and downloading entertainment. Downloading and streaming music and videos through media outlets such as iTunes, Amazon.com, Hulu, and Netflix has become a great way to enjoy your favorite music and videos, but it also eliminates the need to make CDs and DVDs as well as packaging and inserts that go along with them. Getting your news online is also a way to cut down on paper waste, as many news outlets have free or subscription news online.


     Travels can also ecofriendly! Gone are the days of large SUVs and single digit fuel economy. When on my market for a vehicle, search for the most fuel efficient one possible. Ensure that your tires are optimally inflated once a month; you can improve your mileage by at least 3% and when using cruise control, your vehicle could get up to 15% better mileage. Remove excess weight, like that bowling ball, the golf clubs, and whatever non-necessities that have found their way to your trunk. The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it takes to move it. If you are lucky enough to have the option, take some form of public transportation.  Buses, subways, and carpooling are a few great ways to cut down on fuel consumption while still getting where you need to go. By far the best form of transportation is biking or walking. It requires no fuel but the calories you’d hoped to burn anyway! If you’re keeping scores, that’s you: 1, freshmen 15: 0.


     Living ecofriendly is also becoming more and more feasible. When selecting a beverage, choose a reusable coffee mug or a reusable water bottle. They will not only lessen the impact on the environment, but save you money. Fuel can be saved if you buy local, the products do not have to be driven or flown in! When purchasing cleaning products, select high efficiency, concentrated, and natural alternatives. They are less wasteful and less harmful to the environment. When not in use, unplug electronics. Even when turned off, many electronics are using electricity. Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. In most cases they use less than half of the power incandescent use.


     We, as students, members of ‘Generation Y’, and human beings, have every incentive and responsibly to live in a way that benefits ourselves, future generations, and the earth. One day we will be the ones making the decisions that impact the world. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if we did something the world had never seen? If we did something no one expected. If we did something good for the entire planet and all of its inhabitants. Wouldn’t it be great to be the deciding factor of whether we as a planet will face further environmental turmoil or smoothly transition into a post-fossil-fuel existence? “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand“(Sagan).



Work Cited:

 "Questions and Answers about Global Warming and Abrupt Climate Change." World Watch Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. Nov 2011. <http://www.worldwatch.org/node/3949

HUROWITZ, Glenn. "Scientists: Earth is still heating up." Politico. N.p., 27 11 2008. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/16036.html>.

Appenzeller, Tim, and Dennis Dimick. "Global Warming @ National Geographic Magazine." NationalGeographic.com. N.p., 2005. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0409/feature1/>.

. "Wildfire Season 2011 (Arizona and Texas Wildfires)." The New York Times. N.p., 9 2011. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/forest_and_brush_fires/index.html>.

. "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report | Summary for Policymakers." . IPCC, 2007. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf>.

. "Impacts of Climate Change on Washington's Economy." Department of Ecology | State of Washington. University of Oregan, 2 2009. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/economic_impacts.htm>.

. "Climate Change Impacts | Heat-Related Illness and Disease." The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy, 2011. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/climatechange/threatsimpacts/human-health.xml>.

Zeller, Tom. "Climate Change's Health Costs Projected To Be Enormous ." Huffington Post. N.p., 08 11 2011. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/07/health-costs-of-climate-c_n_1080473.html>.

. "Wire & Twine." Wire & Twine presents: 50 Ways to Help the Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://www.50waystohelp.com/>.

. "28 ways to make your fun ecofriendly." MSN Money. MSN, 01 11 2007. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/28WaysToMakeYourFunEcoFriendly.aspx?page=3>.

Sagan, Carl. "Carl Sagan." Wikiquote. Wikipedia, 09 11 2011. Web. 10 Nov 2011. <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan>.

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