Can We Still Help the Earth?

I recently had the opportunity to visit and explore Venice, Italy for a few days on a family vacation around Europe.  While I was roaming the tiny streets of the historic city, one thing in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t the famous Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, or even the Grand Canal.  What I couldn’t keep my eyes away from was the Adriatic Sea, slowly creeping up the steps of buildings hundreds of years old, destroying the historic buildings. This increasing water level is one of the many destructive results of modern global warming.  Quite possibly the greatest problem with global warming is the fact that it’s entirely cause by humans, just like you and me. This is the greatest problem because it is also the only solution. The only way we can sustain the earth is if we change our lifestyles to incorporate more environmentally friendly practices.

While most of the world understands the effects of global warming, people may ask why all the sudden now is the time to start making changes.  The answer is really quite simple, we should have made changes decades ago before it got to such an aggressive level. The facts don’t lie: the five warmest years ever were all recorded after 2010, ice sheets in Antarctica are melting at 3X the speed they were 10 years ago, and the sea level rose 8” in the last century with the rate doubling in the most recent 10 years.  Pretty scary stuff, right? You can even see how this affects Venice in the image to the right, where algae is now growing on 3 levels of underwater steps that were previously above the water level.  This destruction of a great historic city is sadly a perfect example of the many costs of living a modern lifestyle.

Just like a product you buy in a store has a cost, so do your actions.  The various costs of living a luxurious, and quite wasteful, modern lifestyle are represented by climate change and global warming.  Essentially, global warming is a result of these negative costs. These costs tend to be hidden from the public since firms don’t want their customers to know the damage done in production.  The worst part is probably what you’ve already guessed, the majority of these costs are thrown on the earth and eventually the weight is too much for it to bear. At that point, the earth can’t handle the load of all these costs and thus global warming.  As stated in this article, “In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there’s a better than 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years”.  Essentially, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that, with over 95% certainty, humans are factually and scientifically proven to be responsible for global warming.  

A question that’s been proposed many times is, why is global warming just becoming a large worldwide topic of discussion when it’s been happening for decades already?  The real answer is that global warming has reached the point where human lives are directly affected and, more than anything, inconvenienced by it. This is the honest, selfish answer no one wants to talk about.  Perhaps the most alarming fact is that the United States is ranked 26 in the most environmentally friendly countries, yet it produces 25% of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning, by far the largest share of any country and only 4% of the world’s population.  According to this article, “The whole world is off course on climate change by that metric, meaning that many countries, including the United States, under-promised in Paris. The world’s commitments thus far, assuming they are realized, would lead to a warming of 3.3 degrees Celsius (5.94 degrees Fahrenheit), rather than the 2 or 1.5 degree Celsius (3.6 or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) targets of the Paris agreement”(Mooney 2).  The main problem with this is that the world’s temperature is rising at a rate that’s insustainable for the earth. If the temperature is even 2.5 degrees farenheit over the target, which it’s current on track to be, it can have horrible repercussions. Therefore, we need to start changing our way of life for the earth to survive. One of the best ways to do this is moving towards renewable energy, instead of burning fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases.  According to this article, only 11% of the United States energy is produced using renewable energy sources.  Wind energy, the fastest growing renewable sources of energy only contributes to 2.4% of that.  In order to make a change, we need to start shifting our mindset towards more environmentally friendly practices.

While global warming is an internationally recognized world problem, there is a small percentage of people that don’t agree.  As you can see, global warming is currently a very large problem and something we need to fix. It’s up to you to help save the world, so start making a difference.

 

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