Thejesh R. Kalatturu
Expository Writing 4th Hour
6 December 2017
Change Isn’t Always Good
Don’t you hate it when the ice cubes in your cup melt and take away the flavor of your drink? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening on our planet. The glaciers around the north and south poles are melting away and dripping into the ocean as you’re reading this. The temperatures are slowly but definitely rising over the years. At this point, you’re probably wondering why exactly is this shift occurring. To be simple and blunt, we as humans are responsible for it. The extent of the lasting effect humans have on this planet is unexplainable by any one person. Of all of our mistakes, however, this one stands out to be the most devastating. So much so that it could end human life altogether. Because of fossil fuels being burned up, trees getting chopped down, and a multitude of other human activities, a very real and deadly natural phenomenon, called climate change, is occuring on our planet, yet we don’t seem to be doing much about it.
One of the biggest causes of climate change is emissions. Around the 1880’s, something brilliant was invented, a car. Little did these inventors know, their incredible creations would lead to being one of the biggest problems mankind has ever been faced with. These days, a car is almost a necessity in the everyday life of an individual. Infact, many families have more than just one car to get to their everyday commute. The downside about the luxury of personal transportation is how the more cars there are, the more fuel that is needed to make those cars function. More fuel is definitely not a good thing, because according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (n.d.), one gallon of gas can pollute the air with approximately 24 pounds of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) right out of the car’s tailpipe (Cars and Global Warming section, para. 2). All of this CO2 is going into the air as soot. While some of this soot is in the air that we breathe, which could lead to health problems, most of it rises into the atmosphere, where the real damage is occurring. But why is the soot bad?
All of the pollution we are releasing rises into the atmosphere and begins to build up. As the heat from the sun is released, it travels to the Earth to warm up our planet and allow life to prosper. Of the large amount of heat the sun sends towards us, only some is absorbed down to the surface while the rest is reflected. The heat that makes it down to the surface is later reflected back into space to keep the temperature of the Earth stable. With all of the build up of pollution in the atmosphere, however, this heat cannot escape back out of the Earth’s atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the main reason climate change is occuring. The normal temperature of the Earth’s surface is rising with all of the new heat being trapped inside the atmosphere. All of our emissions are essentially creating a blanket over our planet, which is acting to continuously heat up the planet. If the amount of emissions that we are releasing continues at this rate, drastic changes would occur in the environment of our planet. A rise in temperature is the least problematic effect of climate change. More threatening effects include changes in precipitation, a change in ocean currents, more intense heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and other damaging weather phenomenon.
Why or how does that affect you? The catastrophic things that occur due to the greenhouse effect is something you and everyone on this planet will feel. As Bell (2006) writes, “shifting precipitation patterns and ocean currents could change where and how food crops grow,” (para. 1). With this, the whole agricultural game gets changed, causing economic turmoil. Food would slowly start to become scarce all over the world. Farmers would not be able to make a living. Agricultural land would be rendered useless. The prices of food would skyrocket, which would raise the levels of poverty. However, food isn’t the only issue. People living amongst the coast would have even more to worry about. With the icebergs at the north and south poles slowly melting into the oceans, the water level of the oceans would rise. The rising of the water level combined with the changes in the ocean currents would cause natural disasters such as tsunamis to occur frequently. Deziel (2017) explained that tsunamis can cause damage that could take several decades to fix (A Wave of Destruction section, para. 1). Coastal areas all around the planet would be destroyed or flooded several miles inland due to these tsunamis. Cities such as Miami, Florida would be completely underwater. This loss of a home would force people to move inland, again causing sudden economic shifts due to the rise in the prices of land and property.
In an effort to prevent this potential catastrophe, there is a large push to increase the efficiency of anything that gives off CO2 emissions. The cars of today are build to minimize harm as much as possible to help out the environment. Brinson (2012) found that “25% of all the cars in use right now cause 90% of the total air pollution done by cars,” (para. 7). Very old and inefficient cars make up that 25%. This shows how much we have improved our ways to try to limit the amount of pollution we are releasing. Another way we are trying to reduce the problem is to make the gasoline itself cleaner. What most people don’t realize is that gasoline isn’t pure at all. There are so many added chemicals and other impurities that causes further harm to the environment, because it’s cheaper for companies to sell the dirty gasoline rather than refining and selling pure gasoline. A study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists (n.d.) found the following:
Some fuels—such as those made from cellulosic biofuels—can reduce emissions by 80 percent compared to gasoline. And better regulations would help prevent the gasoline we do use from getting any dirtier (Solutions Are Here section, para. 2).
The car company Tesla has lead the way in showing that electric cars very well may be the future, leaving gas cars in the past. Even though the electricity needed to charge these cars comes from coal burning plants, the emission to product ratio of a coal burning plant is way better than that of gasoline. This technology is relatively new and is quickly proving to be a glimpse of what the future of transportation is going to look like.
The burning of fossil fuels isn’t the only culprit for the huge amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Second on that list would be the wood industry. Looking from the perspective of the large production companies, wood is fairly easy to obtain. Wood also has a plethora of uses, such as sturdy furniture, the structure of a house, or to fuel a fire. This combination of relatively easy access due to the vast availability of the resource and the many different uses one trunk of wood has makes the lumber industry very eye-catching. All around the planet, large sections of trees are being cut down for more of this resource. Research conducted by the Rainforest Action Network (2016) found the following:
Approximately 7 million hectares of forest is cut down every single year. A hectare is equivalent to 10,000 square meters, which means that this adds up to an average of anywhere between 3.5 billion to 7 billion trees cut down each year. These numbers come from records taken in the year of 2013 (How many trees? section, para. 1).
Knowing the fact that the number has been increasing every year since this research was conducted shows just how devastating this truly is. All this cutting down of trees, whether you realize it or not, makes an enormous difference in our planet, because trees play a vital role in the idea of climate change.
Trees are the opposite of humans. For the cells in our bodies to function, we breathe in Oxygen (O2). After we use up the O2, we release CO2 as a waste product. This process is called cellular respiration. Trees, on the other hand, perform a process called photosynthesis to survive. In photosynthesis, CO2 is absorbed by the tree. The tree uses CO2 to convert the light energy from the sun to chemical energy such as glucose. During this process, the waste product released by the tree is O2. So tress are doing humans and every living animal a favor by existing. While making more O2 for us to breathe in and live off of, trees are absorbing and putting to use the excess CO2 that we are dumping into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. They are quite literally built to fix the mistake that we are making. The greedy eyes of large companies, however, are cutting down these trees as much as they can get their hands on because their only goal is revenue.
To fix this problem, many organizations are functioning around the planet. Large and greedy companies are often very difficult to fight against due to their legal power. It’s almost impossible for a small, non-profit organization to win in a legal battle against a strong, settled company. So instead of trying to prevent the initial cutting down of the trees, these organizations are performing tasks such as replanting new trees and spreading the message of the importance of trees. One such organization, which is the oldest and most well known around the country, is called American Forests. This non-profit organization works in 49 states in the United States and works internationally in 16 other countries (American Releaf, n.d., para. 1). This is just one of the many different organizations worldwide working to make a difference. Without support from the government, however, these organizations can only accomplish so much.
There are obviously many different strategies that can be taken to slow down and treat the issue at hand, but there is a lack of initiative around the world. A paper by Bell (2006) stated the following:
Climate change remains low on the list of most countries’ foreign policy concerns and has yet to be treated as a subject for serious, sustained action. Part of the problem is that the threat still feels abstract. Despite accumulating evidence, the full impact of climate change has not yet been felt; for now, it can only be modeled and forecast (para. 2).
Since nothing like this has ever happened before, governments everywhere don’t exactly know how to approach and resolve this issue. The abstract understanding makes many government officials dismiss the issue in hopes of not sounding illegitimate. This can be vividly seen in the current U.S. government. The president at the time of writing this paper, Donald Trump, made enormous budget cuts from various departments, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The EPA is responsible for creating, enforcing, and regulating various efficiency tests and guidelines that companies have to pass to function. Without the budget to enforce them, companies would take advantage of their greater freedom by seeking to maximize revenue while not actively trying to minimize pollution. NASA, on the other hand, is vital for collecting and analyzing various forms of data regarding climate change. This loss of budget takes away from our ability to further understand and protect against the issue at hand (Hirji, 2017, para. 5).
A source of confusion in the understanding of climate change is the drawn out nature of it. The effects are not immediately noticeable, making people question whether it exists or not. Researchers at NASA, Callery and Shaftel (2017), have collected and provided data in the form of a graph showing how CO2 emissions have significantly increased since the 1950’s. The levels they are currently at are levels that have never been reached by the Earth in the past 400,000 years. The graph also makes visible how the threat has done nothing but increase from the 1950’s to the present. This shows just how drastically humans have affected this planet in their relatively short time of existence. This also rules out the argument that climate change is occuring naturally, since humans are the only source of the massive amounts of CO2 found in the atmosphere.
With all of this new information, you’re probably wondering what’s next. Are all of the efforts being made enough? Could we overcome the issue in the near future? Is it still avoidable at this point? Sadly, the answer to all of those questions is no. Some of the weather events recorded in the year of 2017 have been the most devastating ever recorded, showing just how close we may be to causing our own extinction (Hansen, 2005, para. 3). We are still burning up too much fuel and cutting down too many trees for the planet to handel. The damage we are doing is dwarfing the efforts being taken to lessen it. Furthermore, the partial withdrawal of governments from across the world from tackling this issue shows just how hopeless the situation is. While there might not be a right answer, we have to put forth our best effort as a collective group of people to stay here for as long as possible. So, while your drink may be watered down, be thankful for and enjoy what little flavor there is left in it.
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Retrieved December 18, 2017, from https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/Tags: Okemos High School