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The most prominent concern that affects the environmental health of the world today is global warming. Although government agencies are making significant strides in providing solutions to global warming, the ultimate solution may lay in the hands of the individual citizens. Simple things, such as the way electricity is used in homes, the production of waste, and the choice of transportation can have a positive impact on global climate change.
Merriam-Webster defines global warming as an increase in the Earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution (“Global warming”). The buildup of these greenhouse gases can cause harsh changes to the Earth’s climate resulting in dangerous effects to human health (“Climate change basics”). The majority of greenhouse gases come from the burning of fossil fuels used to produce energy; although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices emit gases into the atmosphere, as well (“Climate change basics”). The lives of future generations will depend on the choices made today regarding solutions to global warming.
Government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are just a few dedicated to solving this worldwide dilemma of global warming. They focus their time on solutions restricted to levels much higher than the average human can reach. However, the results achieved may not have as significant an impact on global warming as the results from the simple solutions individual citizens can contribute.
The Earth has gone through many cycles of temperature change during the billions of years of its existence. Volcanic eruptions, sunspots, and the natural wobble of the Earth’s
rotation cause these heating and cooling events to occur naturally and slowly over millions of years (“What causes global,” 2007). However, over the past century, the Earth’s temperature is rising faster than ever and cannot be tied to any naturally occurring event. Scientific data indicates that the current rise of temperature is directly related to the human-created emission of greenhouse gases (“What causes global,” 2007). The EPA informs that “greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer” and “human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years” (2012). The burning of fossil fuels for energy is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from man-made activities. The chart shows how electricity production, transportation, industry, commercial businesses, residential homes, agriculture, land use and forestry make up this source (“Sources of greenhouse,” 2012).
Whether on a government or personal level, discovering solutions to global warming can be intimidating. So what can one person actually do to slow and reverse the effects of global warming? Actually, there are several ways humans can make a contribution; these include the way electricity is used in homes, waste production, and the use of transportation.
Greenpeace International informs, “Every household in the world today uses electricity in different ways. Within the OECD (industrialised countries), an average European household consumes 4,667 kilowatt hours (kWh), whereas a household in the U.S. consumes 11,209 kWh, and in Japan 5,945kWh of electricity per year” (“Your energy savings,” 2007). Although electricity is plentiful in most areas, an extreme amount of energy is needed for its generation, and before it ever leaves the power plant over half of it is lost as waste heat. Another 10% is lost as it travels through the transformers and along electric lines on its way into homes due to attenuation (“What you need,” 2008). On that note, humans must find ways to minimize their use of electricity! Greenpeace International makes the following suggestions: * The use of efficient lighting – compact fluorescents use four times less energy, and last eight times longer (8,000h instead of 1,000h) than incandescent light bulbs.
* Purchase energy efficient electrical appliances, which use two to ten times less electricity for the same functionality, and are mostly higher quality products that last longer than the less efficient ones. * High efficiency refrigerators consume about100 kwh/year – this is 10 times less than the average in the U.S., and four times less than the EU average. * Clothes washing machines, models with a power consumption of less than 0.9 kwh/washing cycle and can spin at 1600 or 1800 rpm are most efficient. * Clothes dryers – there are two technologies that use far less energy: the gas-fired clothes dryer and the dryer with an electric heat pump. The gas-fired dryer is the best alternative, especially for more intensive use: it uses 60 percent less energy (including the gas) and dries 40 percent faster.
However, line drying could be an option. * Dishwashers – an efficient model consumes no more than one kwh/washing cycle, compared with 1.4 kwh for an average model. * Computers – buy a laptop instead of a desktop, if practical. It consumes five times less electricity. Use one large power strip for your computer, broadband modem, scanner, printer, monitor, and speakers. Switch it off when equipment is not in use. This is a practical way to cut 200 kwh/year or more of standby losses. * Cut standby losses – most modern electric appliances consume electricity even when turned off. Household losses can reach several hundred kwh/year, all for doing nothing useful (“Your energy savings,” 2007).
The reduction of waste in the household is another simple way humans can slow climate change. SEO Specialist, Maurizio Petrone suggests the following: * Recycling – 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year can be saved by recycling half of the waste a household generates per year. * Recycle organic waste – around 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions through the methane is released by decomposing bio-degradable waste. By recycling organic waste or composting it, can help eliminate this problem. * Buy intelligently – one 1.5 liter bottle requires less energy and produces less waste than three 0.5 liter bottles. Buy recycled paper products: it takes less 70 to 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide. * Choose products that come with little packaging and buy refills when possible, this will also cut down on waste production and energy use. * Reuse shopping bags – it saves energy and waste to use a reusable bag instead of accepting a disposable one in each shop. Waste not only discharges CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, it can also pollute the air, groundwater and soil (Petrone, 2010).
Last to be discussed is the use of transportation and how using it wisely can be a major benefactor when it comes to halting the effects of global warming. The author of Global Warming Facts suggests the following when dealing with the subject of transportation: * Reduce the number of miles driven by walking, biking, carpooling or taking mass transit wherever possible, avoiding just 10 miles of driving every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
* Start a carpool with coworkers or classmates, sharing a ride with someone just 2 days a week will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,590 pounds a year. * Keep vehicles properly tuned, regular maintenance helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. When just 1% of car owners properly maintain their cars, nearly a billion pounds of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere. * When it is time for a new car, choose a more fuel efficient vehicle, this can save 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year if the new car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than the current one (Petrone, 2010).
Global warming has many dangerous side effects. As temperatures steadily rise around the world, many areas have succumbed to record heat waves, intense weather patterns, and famine. No one individual can solve this dilemma on their own; however, the choices made by each individual citizen working together can have a remarkable impact on global climate change. The way electricity is used in homes, the production of waste, and the choice of transportation are just a few ways the human race can contribute to resolve this problem. The individual citizen must take action today; there is no time to waste. The EPA suggests, even if greenhouse gas emissions were stopped today, the Earth will continue to warm over the next ten years due to the buildup of greenhouse gases currently blanketing the ozone layer.
Environmental Protection Agency, (n.d.). Climate change basics: Climate change is happening. Retrieved from Environmental Protection Agency website: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/ Environmental Protection Agency, (2012). Sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Retrieved from Environmental Protection Agency website: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html Global warming. In Merriam-webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/global warming Petrone, M. (2010, October). Global warming facts. Retrieved from http://globalwarming-facts.info/50-tips.html What causes global warming? learn the major human causes of climate change. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.acoolerclimate.com/causes-of-global-warming/ What you need to know about energy. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/reports/energy/sources.html Your energy savings. (2007, June 2). Retrieved from http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/take_action/your-energy/