The problem is Global Warming; the cause is lack of energy conservation efforts and the solution is a mitigation plan. Energy conservation is probably not the first thing that pops into your head when thinking about global warming, but it is the number one cause and the answer to some very serious side affects of global warming. Because efforts have not yet been implemented concerning Green House Gases (GHG) the affects can be seen and felt all over the globe. What are Green House Gases? Green House Gases are emissions let into our atmosphere from three major sources or “drivers”.
There are positive, negative and neutral drivers: positive drivers come from things like emissions from cars and power plants or an increase in the amount of radiation the sun emits; negative drivers come from volcanic events and man made pollutants that inject sunlight-reflecting aerosols into the atmosphere and lower the temperature. Natural drivers are the third category and it includes things such as the sun’s energy output, aerosols from pollution and soot particles (Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), 2009). Why does all of this even matter?
Drivers, emissions, conservation; how do we even know that global warming is even a real thing and how do scientists even know if humanity had anything to do with it? Very good questions and very good questions deserve very good answers. The Panel on Climate Change produced a report in 2001 that stated, “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributed to human activities”. There is also evidence that was produced after measurements were taken that show that the global temperature has risen 1.
4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years and that most of it had happened within the last 30 years (Clean Energy, 2009) They were able to deduce from their numbers that most of the warming was caused by heat-trapping emissions from human activities. They also stated that heat-trapping emissions are driving the climate about three times more strongly now than they were in the 1950’s and that the spatial pattern of where this warming is occurring around the globe indicates human induced causes.
Global warming is generally associated with the atmosphere and this is true in the sense that this is where the “force field” is but Global warming affects the entire Earth and results can be seen in every conceivable part. For example, there is a list that was compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shows the various areas that global warming can be seen and felt.
Some examples are: glaciers, Antarctic sea ice and permafrost are melting; sea levels are rising due to the melting; coral reefs are dying due to the rise in water temperatures; droughts, floods, and heat waves are more frequent; lakes and rivers are freezing and thawing earlier which affects the tree flowering and insect emergence cycles and is even causing plants and animals to shift their ranges towards the poles. Humanities’ “fingerprints” on the Earth are undeniable and cannot be explained by any other sources.
The Ocean waters are one example of how humanity has negatively affected our planets resources; the ocean waters have absorbed 20 times as much heat as the atmosphere over the past half century which has lead to higher temperatures in all levels of water which has resulted in the death of coral reefs. This phenomenon cannot be explained through natural climate variations (USC. org, 2009). Another example of humanity’s influence is the 80% rise of the tropopause. The tropopause is the layer between the Troposphere and the Stratosphere. Weather is contained within the troposphere and so this rise greatly influences the weather patterns.
The influence of humans on the Earth is far reaching in distance and time. Carbon Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide can last for 100 or more years in the atmosphere. It isn’t the end of the road though. With aggressive emission reductions and a mindset towards flexibility in adaptation to the changes we cannot avoid, there is still time to avoid the truly dangerous warming trends and will allow us the comfort of knowing that our future generations are provided with a sustainable world but we must act fast to reduce heat-trapping emissions by increasing energy efficiency and expanding our use of renewable energy resources.
If we choose not to act the climate change will only increase and the more the temperature increases the more the damage that will be done to our planets’ resources. Climate change will create more frequent and intense weather and this in turn will affect our vulnerable natural systems. If the natural systems are affected this could be catastrophic due to the increased risk of extinction of already threatened species thus risking loss to the planets’ biodiversity.
Poor or developing countries will also feel the weight of climate change and therefore putting humans in harms way. The solutions are necessary, albeit not easy; they can be achieved through collaboration on all levels of the socio-economic groups. Poor and rich; blue collar and white collar; government and non-government must all work together to manage our natural resources. There are numerous ways to reduce GHG emissions but in order to begin we must start by rethinking our economic development strategies.
In order to accomplish this there will need to be major policy changes to develop alternative energy sources. One example of an alternative strategy that is already technologically possible can be found in an article by David Friedman, Jason Mark, Patricia Monahan, and the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled Drilling in Detroit, it states have done a report that is based on existing technologies that combined “conservative economic assessments with sound computer models to investigate the impacts of significant fuel economy improvements through out the year 2020”.
They have shown that by gradually increasing the fuel economy of new cars to 40 miles per gallon (mpg) by the year 2012 and then to 55 mpg by 2020 one can “yield significant benefits to consumers, the economy, and the environment without sacrificing passenger safety during a collision”. This is almost a 75% increase in fuel economy compared to today’s standards. They also state that the improvements would create a 3-5,000 dollar savings over the life of a vehicle and that this savings more than makes up for the improvements made to the fuel economy.
Another fact that is brought out in this article is that if one relied on a hybrid electric vehicle which gets as much as 55mpg then this would “save the consumers between $3,500 and $6,500 in fuel costs”. They go on to say that if you “simultaneous[ly] move to fuel cell vehicles” that this could lead to tripling of the fuel economy of family cars”. The conclusion is that right now the technology is available to target a major point in energy conservation and GHG emission control. If these goals are met, and it is very feasible, then imagine the reduction in oil usage.
To maintain today’s oil standards throughout this process, the predicted oil savings is around 5 million barrels of oil a day after 18 years! This alone can make an amazing difference in the GHG emissions and make huge strides to conserve energy. All of this wonderful to know but it is only one step to making Renewable Energy Sources (RES) a “normal” part of an everyday life for the average person in America. Because the United States is one of the most economically powerful nations in the world it is a shame to say that we are also the “single greatest greenhouse gas emitter” (ucs. org, 2009).
It is left to us to be the role models in this venture and because the technology already exists there is no reason that it is not already in place. Other options that need to be researched and implemented include the use of solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cell technology. Biomass fuels are another sustainable resource well worth placing more emphasis on. Renewable energy sources “are essential contributors to the energy supply portfolio as they contribute to world energy supply security, reducing dependency on fossil fuel resources” (Towards the Use of Renewable Energy Sources in the Home, 2008).
It is essential that everyone does their part to minimize GHG emissions by conserving energy. This is made easier due to the fact that, according to epa. gov most local utility offices usually write in costs to provide interest subsidies for highly efficient household appliances. In order to make strides towards this goal a proposed time line is in order. One way to raise awareness is by creating a mitigation plan for the community one’s local community. The mitigation strategy for Georgetown, Texas is as follows: Research of Green House Gas emissions needs to be studied and compiled into a workable portfolio.
This could be accomplished realistically within 6 months to 1 year. Once this is complete research on biomass and alternative fuels solutions needs to be studied and compiled as well, this should take no more than 3-6 months. Alternative building material solutions needs to be researched in order to help prevent deforestation and should take 3-6 months. Once material is gathered it needs to be compiled into a readable and comprehendible format which includes everyday ways to conserve energy for the average consumer and submitted to the surrounding community in order to raise awareness in the area, this could take as much as 6 months.
Once the information has had time to infiltrate the community a poll should be taken to get feed back from the community to better understand their thoughts concerning energy conservation and its applicability to everyday life and what suggestions are mentioned as to how this could be overcome, this should take about 6 months. This information needs to be compiled and submitted to government officials along with a petition to increase the research and monies towards sustainable living; this could take 6-8 months depending on the amount of communal support.
Calls to the local water department and electric department will give an idea of what is being done already in the community to work towards sustainable living. Changing appliances and light bulbs to more energy efficient ones will help the environment on a more personal level. Becoming active in the community and the Home Owners Association will give the opportunity for awareness solutions to be heard and explained. It is a global effort and the government must be made aware of the community’s desire for change.
The people have a voice it just needs to be heard. Because most global warming emissions remain in The atmosphere for decade or centuries, the energy Choices we make today greatly influence the Climate our children and grandchildren inherit. We Have the technology to increase energy efficiency, Significantly reduce these emissions from our Energy and land use, and secure a quality of life For future generations. We must act now to reduce Dangerous consequences (UCS. org, 2009). References: Epa. gov/greenkit/q5_energy. htm Drilling in Detroit (2009).
http://www. ucsusa. org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/drill_detroit. pdf Fingerprints on Earth’s Climate (2008). http://www. ucsusa. org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/global-warming-human. html. Time to unleash the power of a green economy. By: Smith, Michael; Hargroves, Karlson. Ecos, Dec2008/Jan2009 Issue 146, p26-27 Towards the Use of Renewable Energy Sources in the Home. By: Alexandru, Adriana; Jitaru, Elena; Mayer, Rayner. Proceedings of World Academy of Science: Engineering & Technology, Sep2008, Vol. 33, p34-38
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