Global Warming Issues


– National Level

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THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES’ CONTRIBUTION TO AND POLICY TOWARDS GLOBAL WARMING

The problem of Global Warming probably started during the Industrial Revolution, but only in the last few decades has it raised a lot of attention. Since the fifties, American scientists have known that burning fossil fuels leads to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air but the government has done very little to reduce emissions. Many doubted that Global Warming was actually happening; only in the last two decades has it been widely accepted that Global Warming is a real phenomenon. From the “discovery” of global warming, the policy of the United States government has aided and at the same time, hindered the movement against Global Warming.

The concept of greenhouse emissions and Global Warming was first researched in 1904 by a Swedish scientist. Sixty-one years later, the United States government wrote a report on the possible dangers of Global Warming. In 1988, NASA scientists informed Congress that the consequences of Global Warming would be felt in the near future. Two years later, George H. W. Bush passed an important law called, “The Global Research Act of 1990”. The purpose of the act was to research about Global Warming and to spread the information to American citizens and foreign countries. It was the first act to raise awareness about Global Warming. Although it did not include any immediate plans to combat Global Warming, the act was an important first step. In 1997, The United States participated in an international meeting in Kyoto, Japan.

Over 160 developed countries discussed setting goals to lower their greenhouse gas emissions over a period of time. Although the United States agreed to lower emissions by 7% of the 1990 level, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that hindered the effects of the Kyoto treaty. The Hagel -Byrd resolution stated that the Senate could not pass any treaty that did not demand the participation of developing countries, or that would hurt our economy. In 2001, George W. Bush stated once again that America would not ratify the treaty.

In 2002, George W. Bush presented an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. The President’s alternative comprised of giving businesses incentives to lower their carbon dioxide emission levels, resulting in a 4.5% national emissions decrease by 2012. This alternative was much less effective than the Kyoto treaty. In 2003, Senators Lieberman and McCain proposed a mandatory cap on emission; for many industries the vote was divided almost along party lines. The proposal was turned down 55-43 but the vote was close and seemed to signify a battle yet to come. In 2005, Senator Inhofe called Global Warming, “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” (NOW, “Global Warming in the Public Eye”). In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol went into effect without the support of the United States. The history of America’s fight against Global Warming seems to be more passive than proactive.

Today, Americans do more than their fair share of greenhouse gas emission. In fact, Americans emit the largest amount of greenhouse gases per capita than any other country. But it didn’t just start recently; America has a history of Global Warming. During the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s and 1840s, Americans found a new source of energy. The steam-powered engine was invented and used to power boats, trains, and other machines. The steam-powered engine obtained most of its energy by burning coal. Deforestation also took place in order to clear more space for the growing population and to fuel the engines. Forty years later during the Second Industrial Revolution, the internal combustion engine was invented. These new engines burned large amounts of fossil fuels. This was a turning point in America’s history because for the first time humans were significantly affecting the percentages of gases in the atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution, Americans have continued to burn fossil fuels and chop down forests. In 1990 the United States emitted 1,618 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. Since then, the amount of emissions has increased constantly by roughly 1.1% every year.

In the past, the United States has helped to further Global Warming by emitting the most greenhouse gasses per capita and refusing to commit to the Kyoto Protocol which would significantly decrease Global Warming. The past has been unproductive, but the United States can change its policy and prioritize the fight against Global Warming in the future.
– SL

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THE CURRENT SITUATION

Last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global average temperature, which considers the combined land and ocean surfaces, was the second warmest on record. 2005 ranked as the 13th warmest year on record for the United States. The area of sea ice in September was measured at 5.32 million square kilometers, which is an all-time low. The hurricane season during the year was very active and the southern Great Plains were drier than the usual conditions. These are a couple of effects global warming is having on the country.

Currently, schools in the United States are trying to lessen the effects of Global Warming. In Southern California, there are schools that are becoming more aware of their surroundings and their environment. Green schools, also known as high performance schools, are community facilities that are designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. These schools are new, but they are also trying to set a good example for future generations of how environmental quality is essential to our long-term well-being. Green schools help to protect student and teacher health, better student performance, lower operating costs, and provides a unique educational opportunity. In the same way, housing is also affected; green affordable housing benefits individuals and families by reducing energy bills and creating healthier living environments.

Also in the state of California, the Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking a stand on global warming, after considering that 76% of Americans thought that the federal government was not doing enough to address global warming. Global warming is responsible for the quickly melting glaciers and the melting ice sheets that could cause the sea levels around the world to rise as much as 13-20 feet by the end of the century. Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to help the global warming issue by requiring many industries to report the amount of greenhouse gases they emit, something that is not required now, and imposing a fee of gasoline to help pay for research into cleaner-burning fuels.

In Salt Lake City, Mayor Rocky Anderson warned that people need to realize that global warming is leading up to “the destruction of our ski industry”. The winter snowpack of the Colorado River Basin is being threatened by global warming due to its warmer winters caused by global warming. This causes a problem not only because of the ski industry, but also because the snowpack is the main source of Utah’s water supply. A warmer world is certain to be much thirstier, according to a new study by West Coast researchers who researched the impact of global warming on water supplies.

One sixth of the world’s population, including much of the industrial world and one fourth of the total global economic output, appeared vulnerable to water shortages due to climate changes. The warming effects are already beginning to show in California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack , which is the region’s main water source. Expanding populations, agricultural and industrial interests, and the need to keep streams flowing to protect vulnerable fish and other species, make the water situation even worse as the climate shifts. There are some parts of the world that rely heavily on glacier runoff during the summer months. That flow is expected to increase as the glaciers recede because of warming, but that just means the water shortage will arrive much more abruptly, with water systems going from having a lot of water to too little water in a few decades of less. Climate models always point in the same troubling direction; there will always be less water available on a plant with global warming.

All leading computer models of the global climate system indicate that natural variability is not enough to explain the changes observed, causing most observers to come to the conclusion that human activities, notably the emission of carbon and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are the culprit.
– JK

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WHAT THE UNITED STATES SHOULD DO TO COUNTERACT GLOBAL WARMING

The United States of America is statistically the wealthiest nation in the world. We do not have unlimited resources, and are extremely restricted due to our dependence on foreign oil. However, we do have enough resources to take an active role in the fight against Global Warming. ALL FOUR OF THE SOLUTIONS THAT ARE DISCUSSED BELOW ARE ENTIRELY PLAUSIBLE AND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED BY OUR COUNTRY AS STEPS TOWARD A CLEANER EARTH. Our country is already in an overwhelming amount of debt, but our government doesn’t seem to see it as a problem that warrants their attention. Therefore, since we are falling into more and more debt, the money we do spend needs to be invested in something that matters, something that will benefit us as a country and the world as a whole – stopping Global Warming. The United States of America currently emits more greenhouse gases per person into the atmosphere than any other country. These emissions are broken down into three categories: the waste we produce, the energy we use, and the transportation we use. Four fifths of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are due to transportation and energy-related burning of fossil fuels. Therefore when attempting to counteract this problem, it is essential for us – as the world’s leading contributor and cause of Global Warming – to get to the root of the problem and find a way to make ourselves less dependent on fossil fuels as our main source of energy.

As a country, we need more government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The first thing the Bush Administration should do to combat Global Warming is sign and abide by the Kyoto Protocol, and do away with its replacement ‘voluntary reduction’ policies. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, a 4.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 10 years just isn’t enough. The United States would benefit greatly by signing the Kyoto Protocol. Not only would it put needed pressure on us to reduce our ridiculous, energy-wasting habits, but it would also make a name for us in the international community as a country that is interested in doing the right thing, and in investing in the future of our planet. The United States has a history of being known as a ‘Good Samaritan’ country that fights for the underdog, lends aid in the event of natural disasters, and gives charitable donations to those in need. However, recent events such as the much-contested war in Iraq, have really hurt that image. Signing the Kyoto Agreement would remind the international community that the United States is still a country that cares about the world as a whole. Like any formal agreement, it would also improve trade relations with other countries that signed the agreement, and therefore could potentially improve our economy. If we were to attempt to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 33%, there is no question that we would be forced to find cleaner renewable energy alternatives for fossil fuel. Over 80% of our greenhouse gas emissions are due to the burning of fossil fuels. Therefore, much of our economy also depends, at least indirectly, on the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation. It has been said that oil is the Achilles heel of America. Unfortunately, that statement is absolutely true. We are so heavily dependent on foreign oil that our country would eventually shut down provided that our supply of foreign oil is depleted and not sustained. We have also been called the most powerful country in the world. These statements are seemingly contradictory – how can the most powerful country in the world allow itself to be so vulnerable? Practically our entire economy rests in the hands of the oil-rich, most of whom we have made enemies of our country. Therefore, signing the Kyoto treaty would also reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and would give us the opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy technology. If we were willing to invest the time and money needed to develop more efficient energy sources, our country’s economy would absolutely boom. Consumers would no longer be spending so much on gas money, as renewable energy sources are just that – renewable – and they would instead choose to invest their money in other industries.

We are a country of great political power. If we join a cause, many smaller countries will follow. Our agreeing to the Kyoto Protocol would have a large effect not only on the state of our globe, but also on the attitudes of other countries toward this issue. Therefore, signing the Kyoto Protocol would benefit our economy, help to reinstate our do-good image, reduce our dependence on foreign oil (thereby protecting our national security), give us the opportunity to revolutionize renewable energy research and development (creating jobs), and it would have huge implications for the preservation of our planet.

To counteract Global Warming, the second thing our nation can do is increase government funding for the research and development of new alternative energy sources. A newer, cleaner, and even renewable source of energy would open exponential possibilities for our country, regardless of our position on the Kyoto Protocol. It would reduce our incredible dependency on foreign oil, it would free up consumer dollars that are currently being spent on gasoline, and would give that money back to the American consumer to be spent elsewhere in our market, allowing for an increase in our economy. There is much concern about how this would affect car manufacturers, as the American car industry represents a large part of our economy as a whole. If the government R&D funding went to leading American car manufacturers, not only would we instantly create competition between the rival corporations to produce better, cleaner cars, but we would also ensure that they stay in business.

The third thing our government should do is stop the war in Iraq. This war, regardless of other accounts, was largely started by the United States with the purpose of gaining access to Iraqi oil. We are spending over $177 million in Iraq daily. By pulling our troops out of Iraq, we can save the lives of countless soldiers on both sides, finally give their own democratically elected government power over their own country, and save a lot of money that can be used for renewable energy R&D.

The fourth thing our country should do is push the EPA to consider carbon dioxide a harmful pollutant. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. An increased amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is already affecting the state of our planet both directly and indirectly. Like other greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, when in our atmosphere, traps the sun’s heat, preventing it from escaping. This causes the average temperature of our entire planet to rise. Warmer temperatures mean glacial melting, which is causing sea levels to rise and is exposing carbon deposits that are millions of years old. These carbon deposits are in the form of fossilized bones and other remains of animals that died long ago. When they are exposed, they are defrosted, if you will, and they start to decay, releasing more carbon dioxide. The melting of glaciers and other ice and snow will eventually result in habitat loss for many species of plants and animals, and may also cause small islands and low-lying cities to become submerged under rising sea levels if we don’t take a more active role in stopping Global Warming. Warmer ocean temperatures are already causing coral bleaching, which kills coral and indirectly kills the countless number of other organisms that are dependent upon coral as a natural habitat and source of food. Coral and other shelled organisms are in added danger due to increased levels of carbon dioxide because of the ocean’s natural ability to absorb carbon monoxide from the air. According to USA TODAY, “scientists have detected a steady increase in this absorption, corresponding to an inverse in the ‘greenhouse gases’ that hold heat in the atmosphere.” When carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, carbonic acid is produced. The added acid usually has no effect on the ocean’s pH levels, as calcium concentrations in seawater act as a buffer to regulate pH and keep it relatively steady. However, the amount of carbon dioxide now being absorbed is so incredibly high that the natural buffer is being overwhelmed, throwing the system off balance, and lowering the pH significantly. In the last 200 years, our ocean water has become 150% more acidic and 30% more corrosive, and the trend is expected to continue. More acidic oceans will weaken calcium carbonate shells and skeletons of organisms living in the seawater.

The EPA, or the United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates the production of ‘harmful pollutants’ in our country. If they recognize carbon dioxide as a ‘harmful pollutant,’ they will find it hard to ignore our ridiculous emissions levels and the extreme affects our CO2 production is having on the planet. Power plants account for roughly 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and EPA emissions standards for those power plants could potentially have an opposing effect on Global Warming.

However, regardless of what our government decides to do about Global Warming, we don’t have to waitfor government regulation. There are ways for you to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint. Start by checking out the links on the left side of this page. Education is the ultimate cure for every problem, so get abiodiesel car, use less electricity, and spread the word. The international community isn’t going to wait for our government to join them and we don’t have to either. We need to stand up for our planet, which just can’t afford to wait any longer.
– LM

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WHAT YOU CAN DO AS A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND OF THE WORLD

When presented with all of this information, it is easy to drown in the magnitude of the problem of Global Warming, but don’t worry, there are some things you can do to help. The emission of carbon dioxide is a major cause of Global Warming and here are ten simple ways that YOU can help to cut down on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere and just help the environment overall. Some of these suggestions are difficult but hopefully everyone can find something to do to help out.

Buy Energy Star appliances
It probably is not feasible for everyone to replace every single one of their appliances with new appliances labeled with the Energy Star logo. However, if you were planning on buying a new washer, dryer, blender, dishwasher, refrigerator or any other household appliance, you may want to consider purchasing one with the Energy Star logo. This logo marks certain appliances as being energy efficient, the use of which reduces the level of unnecessary carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. Another way to cut down on the problem of Global Warming is to use solar panels for energy for your home. Although they might be expensive to install, they pay for themselves in the long run. Solar panels are also good for the environment because they do not emit any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. You can learn more about Energy Star appliances at http://www.energystar.gov.

Turn down the thermostat on your water heater
Many homeowners think that their water heater thermostats must be set insanely high to get decently hot water in their showers, but the truth is that often they really do not need to be so high. In fact, for most people, if the thermostat is set at 120 degrees, the temperature is right where they want it. If you lower the temperature of your water heater, you will reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere by about 500 lbs/year for every 10 degree decrease.(1) If you live in an apartment or a similar living situation where a landlord or someone else controls the water heater in your building, talk to him or her about lowering the temperature if it is unnecessarily high. You might also want to get other concerned residents to sign a petition to convince the landlord to lower the temperature of the building’s water heater.

Get a home energy audit from your utility company
This report is usually free but you may need to pay a nominal fee to see how well insulated your home is and how efficient your energy usage is. This information is very valuable is it can show you whether you should invest in improving your home’s insulation or in caulking or weather paneling around windows and doors in your house. This audit may show you how you can stop hundreds or even thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from being released every year.

Use Biofuel For Your Diesel Car
Biofuel, or Biodiesel is a clean, renewable energy source that is almost always free and is relatively easy to use. Most types of biofuel are slightly altered forms of used cooking oil. Most restaurants are more than happy to give their used cooking oil away, so biodiesel is practically free. Biodiesel works in standard diesel engines with little or no modifications, and has virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about biofuel, click on the “Check Out Biodiesel!” link on the left side of our page.

Use a manual or electric lawn mower
While it may be much easier and faster to use a gasoline-powered lawn mower than a push mower, the push mower gives off no harmful carbon dioxide particles while in one year, one family using a power mower can put 80 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.(1) While a quality power mower may cost a few hundred dollars, manual lawn mowers often cost between $90 and $120. And while pushing that manual mower is hot, sweaty work, just remember that you are doing your part to help stop Global Warming and getting a good work out at the same time. If manual labor is not for you, consider an electric lawn mower. They are quiet, efficient, and have no greenhouse gas emissions. They’re relatively new on the market, so while they may be a little pricey now, look for those prices to drop in the near future.

Don’t use Styrofoam
Styrofoam is one of a very few substances that are not biodegradable; it will never decompose so it takes up space in landfills around the country. If you work in an office that supplies styrofoam cups for coffee, don’t use them and bring your own mug that you can wash and reuse every morning.

Recycle
Find the nearest recycling center in your community. Many of them accept paper, plastic, newsprint, glass, cardboard and metal. This will help reduce the amount of recyclable materials in landfills and will also reduce the waste produced when creating these products from scratch, without any recycled materials. Recycling drives are excellent ideas for schools, scout troops and any community organizations; especially those in states that have programs that pay for recycled materials.

Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs
Fluorescent light bulbs have the greatest effect when you replace either all of your light bulbs or at least the most-used ones. Each bulb costs about $10, which is a bit more than normal bulbs but they last for about 4 or 5 years; each bulb will end up saving you $20-$30 in energy costs. These bulbs also keep about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering Earth’s atmosphere every year.(1)

Plant a tree
In Riverside, CA, the city government guarantees residents a maximum of six free trees from participating local plant nurseries. Special rules apply. Do some research and see if any similar arrangements exist in your own community. If not, any basic fruit tree shouldn’t cost you much more than $20 and bushes and shrubs cost even less. As you know, all plants consume CO2 and release O2 into the air; therefore, if the majority of Americans just planted one tree we could significantly decrease the level of carbon dioxide in the air.

Spread the word!
Some people haven’t realized how serious the problem of Global Warming is. These people might be family members, friends, co-workers or members of your community, so tell them! Show them this blog and tell them what they can do to help. You may want to print out this page and stick it on your fridge so that your family members will be reminded of how they can help stop Global Warming. You may also want to get permission to post this list of suggestions in your workplace to spread the word even farther. A terrific way to positively affect the whole country is to write a letter or e-mail to your state’s Congressperson or to a member of your state’s legislature. If you would like suggestions or contact information for officials, please click on the link titled: “Petition Your Government!” on the left side of this page. If you do decide to send a petition, visit our Help page for suggestions on how to write a successful petition and then tell us about it and post a copy of your letter by following the link: “Share Your Petition!” on the left side of the page. Remember, we are all in this together, let’s help everyone out and stop Global Warming in its tracks!
– MK

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http://www.airphotona.com/image.asp?imageid=2254 http://www.pbs.org/now/classroom/globalwarming.html http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/Climate.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
– SL

http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/emissionsindividual.html http://globalgreen.org/greenbuilding/GreenSchools-SC.html http://infoweb.newsbank.com.iw-search/we/InfoWeb?p_action=doc
– JK

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/globalwarming/
http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/emissionsindividual.html
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/
http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/06/26/scotus.environment.ap/index.html
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/s412.htm
– LM

1 http://www.climatesolutions.org
http://www.michaelallsup.com/3ch_1.htm (Lawn mower picture)
http://www.climatetechnology.gov/vision2005/cctp.htm (Energy Star logo)
– MK
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