Politics and Global Warming in America

We all look to our political figures and government to help solve the many problems that consume the United States. We look to our government in times of war, we look to our government to help keep peaceful relations with other countries, we even turn to our government to make decisions on gay marriage. Yet, many of our political figures are in denial about one of the biggest problems not only the United States faces, but that the world faces as well. This problem is global warming.

Global warming has become a serious threat to the health and way of living for many people in the world. According to Nasa, Earth’s global temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.  That number does not seem that significant, but in reality it is. Many animals have become extinct or will become extinct in the next couple of decades due to Earth becoming uninhabitable for many organisms. For example, the polar bears in Antarctica are going to have a hard time finding a place to live because all the ice that they currently live on is melting away. If they are unable to find a new home or adapt to the changes, they could become extinct. Global warming is a phenomenon that is caused by many factors, but mainly the increase in GreenHouse Gases, especially CO2. According to Nasa CO2 has increased by 400.06 parts per million. With trends  like these coupled with  extreme weather, both of which are clear indicators that global warming is occurring. Why are so many politicians still in denial?

 In the video below, Senator James Inhofe, a republican from Oklahoma brings a snowball to a Senator convention. He proceeds to talk about how 2014 was the warmest weather the United States has ever had. Yet, he says global warming cannot exist because of snow. In his talk he claims that 67 places in the United States have experienced record lows. Unfortunately, he does not understand that global warming is linked to extreme weather.  Senator James is not the only political figure who doesn’t understand how global warming works. An astounding 56 percent of all Congressional Republicans do not believe in global warming. Some believe that global warming is not a major concern and some believe that global warming is a natural phenomenon that does not occur due to human activity. In the article below there are many quotes by Senators and Representatives who do not believe in global warming.

 Global warming is a major issue in the world. Almost 97 percent of the science behind global warming says that it is natural but is occurring at a faster rate due to human activity.  Yet, the people that virtually run our country are in denial. How can we expect people’s habits to change if those who we turn to for answers are in denial about the issue? Can we make change and hopefully influence our government to change? I believe that if we have enough people and enough power behind the movement, anything can happen, just look at the push for gay marriage. It may have taken a long time, but here we are now as a nation, arguing for the right for people to marry whomever they please, and that is why I believe that we can change people’s views on global warming and begin to make a difference.

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/02/inhofe-snowball-climate-change(click on link and scroll to video)

http://climate.nasa.gov/

http://billmoyers.com/2015/02/03/congress-climate-deniers/

Nuclear Power Plants

Do you know an alternative energy source that when functioning and used correctly is a great alternative to solving our energy crisis? However does that energy source have multiple side effects such as explosiveness, radiation, and death? Yes, incase you have not figured out, I am writing to all of you about nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants are one of the many alternatives that the Earth can use to generate clean energy without doing much harm to the environment.

However, nuclear power plants, although a great alternative energy source can be dangerous and deadly. In 1986, in Ukraine, the nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl exploded. Towards the end of the night, Reactor 4 was preparing for a routine test to supply energy to the main power lines. Due to mishandling by a worker, the test did not go as planned and the reactor exploded. Immediately following the accident, over 100,000 people were evacuated within the surrounding areas, due to the high amounts of radiation.

ukraine map

Along with many health effects caused by the explosion, there were many environmental effects. Many of the surrounding areas were evacuated due to the excess radiation. Along with the health impacts there were many agricultural impacts.Many agricultural products, meats, and milks were contaminated in areas around Chernobyl including the countries Belarus, Russia, and many other places. However, years after the accident, the radiation levels in agricultural plants and animals began to decrease due to the decay. Since the accident, according to the article,about 4000 cases of thyroid cancer had been diagnosed in exposed children by 2000. That study took place many years after the accident. What would the number be at now? Would it continue to increase or would it plateau out?

path_of_exposure

Although nuclear energy is a good alternative energy source that would help solve the Earth’s downward spiral. Is it really worth it? I don’t think so. What if one day you had to evacuate your home and only bring things you could carry on your back? That is the risk that you run whenever you generate energy from such a dangerous energy source.

 

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/VOA_Markosian_-_Chernobyl02.jpg

CO2 Emissions

We live in a world that thrives off the burning of different fossil fuels and the constant use of electricity.Through the burning of fossil fuels and use of electricity, CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. This means that we basically live in a world that thrives off the emission of CO2.   It’s a sad reality that is unfortunately true.  Everyday, people are emitting ton CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere without realizing the negative effect the emissions have on human and animal lives. CO2 is already present in the Earth’s atmosphere,which raises the question as to why it can and does have so many negative effects on human and animals, if the organisms have already adapted to its effects. Have you ever heard the phrase, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing? That is precisely what is happening with the amount of CO2 present in Earth’s atmosphere. Through human activities, the amount of CO2 present in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased greatly.

In 2012, 82% of all greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, in the United States was CO2 emitted through human activity. One main source of CO2 emission is through the use of electricity. Electricity is used to power homes, commercial buildings, and everyday appliances. The amount of energy that we as humans use in a day is ridiculous. We use electricity to charge our phones, to charge our laptops, to power our lights, and many other things to help our lives function smoothly. Electricity is generally generated through the combustion of fossil fuels especially the burning of coal. The burning of coal then emits CO2 into the atmosphere and in the U.S. the amount emitted was 38%. Another way that we as humans emit CO2 into the atmosphere is through transportation. By driving your car to the doctor or taking the train to the town square, you are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Through the burning of gasoline and diesel both of which are fossil fuels, more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. Transportation accounts for about 32% of all CO2 emissions in the United States.

The effects that CO2 has on organisms at times can be deadly. The increase in CO2 emissions is one of the main reasons global warming is occurring. The rate at which CO2 is being emitted into the atmosphere, will eventually cause  the Earth to be too hot to live on. It will also cause the Earth to experience extremer weather conditions. Due to the climate the change and increase in temperature infectious disease will be able to spread faster. This is because the disease will be able to live and thrive longer in warmer temperatures. Another effect is that there has been an increase in acid rain that affects mainly marine animals. The pH level in oceans is rising as CO2 emissions increase. As the pH level increases, the harder it will be for organisms to adapt to the new environment and some if not most will die out.

co2

global warmin

So the question that I seek to answer is why are we as humans still emitting these gases into the air if we know that they are harming animals and us.

 

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html\

http://www.uniglobetravel.mu/AccessCorporateTravel/GreenTravel/CO2EmissionsEffects.aspx

http://www.who.int/globalchange/environment/en/chapter6.pdf

Organic Farming

Many countries in this day and age are moving towards organic agriculture or organic farming. This means that many countries in the world are trying to make the food they produce healthier and more sustainable for the environment. In order to understand what is going on around the world, one must understand what organic farming is. According to the website, Introduction to Organic Farming,  organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves the choice to not use pesticides, fertilizers, GMO’s, antibiotics, and growth hormones. However according to the Canadian Organic Standards organic farming is so much more than making certain choices. Organic farming is also protecting the environment by minimizing soil erosion, decrease the production of pollution, and many other things. There are many reasons as to why organic farming is beneficial. Not only is the products you buy healthier for you, you are also protecting the environment by improving conditions in which these plants or animals grow.

The United States has begun the transition to more organic farming, however it still has a long way to go. However I am going to focus on Canada and the progress that the country has made towards making the transition to a more sustainable food production process. The movement towards organic farming came about in the 1950’s, however not much was done until the 1970’s. The first “organic farm” came about in 1974 at the McGill University and the universities development of the Ecological Agriculture Projects program. This University not only set up the first organic farm it also became the clearinghouse for the entire country if Canada. In 1980, the creation of certification bodies was developed along with an increase in government involvement regarding the environment. This means that farmers who want to become an organic farm and be able to sell to the public must be certified in order to do so. Since 2003, the number of organic farmers in Canada is about 1.3% or 3,100 organic farmers. However instead of the number of farmers increasing, the number has actually been constant. The same can be said for consumers. There was an increase in consuming towards the beginning of the movement but now the number has remained constant. This is because organic food production does not alway mean it is healthier. Also the price to buy organic products is a lot more expensive than buying conventional food.

organic farming

 

However I think that organic farming is great. There have been studies that prove that there are environmental  benefits to organic farming and given our current environmental crisis, I think that the world should be doing anything it can to help protect the environment.

http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/LOP/ResearchPublications/prb0029-e.htm

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/09-077.htm

Energiwende

Since the 1970’s Germany has tried to be a leader in the global energy transition. With an economy that is ranked fifth in the world and with one of the largest populations in the world, becoming a leader does not seem that hard. In 2010 the German government published a document that outlined the main components of Energiewende(energy transition). The document stated, “ by 2025, Germany aims to produce 40%-45% of its electricity from renewable sources, rising to at least 80% by 2050.” The government hopes to achieve these goals by reducing the number of fossil fuels, transitioning energy usage to renewable energy such as wind and solar. Since the beginning of the project Germany has succeeded thus far in achieving its goals.OG-AC406_ENERGI_G_20140826190004

However since 2011, when the German government passed the bill for Energiewende to begin, more and more local and international companies have casted their doubts on the project. The major concern for many of the local and international companies is the rising costs in energy. The locals fear that Germany will lose its competitiveness as one of the leading economic countries. The projects itself would cost about $1.4 trillion which is almost half of Germany’s GDP. Internationally the fear is that the cost of energy is too much and money will be lost. What have international companies done to express their concerns? What does the government promise to do?

Many international companies and a few local companies have reduced their investments in Germany because of the high energy costs. BASF which has one of its main plants located in Germany has decided to cut investments to just 1/4th of its 20 billion euros global investment over the course of the next five years. This is a significant reduction because BASF used to invest ⅓ of its global investments in its German plant. Now BASF is going to invest the extra money in its Asian and American plants. Local company SGL Carbon decided to invest $200 million to its plant in Washington instead of investing the usual $100 million in its home base in Germany. Thus far, the only international companies that have benefited are those who install devices that create renewable energy.

Although there are many concerns the federal government of Germany has continued to push the project due to its numerous benefits. The government claims the country will be a leader in green technology and that in the future the economy will reap in the benefits of renewable energy. The government also claims that the energy costs will decrease as soon as the renewable infrastructure is complete.

I wonder though if the government is thinking of the now. How does the government not realize that it’s spending most of its money on energy. Does the government not realize that many people are going to lose jobs?

P1-BR135A_ENERG_G_20140826173603

How much money Germany is spending in Euro’s on energy.

So I ask, What should Germany do? Should America follow Germany’s movement?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/germanys-expensive-gamble-on-renewable-energy-1409106602

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gm.html

Nutrients and Coral Reefs

Figure 1:

Coral reefs are some of the most beautiful and one of the most complex ecosystems in the ocean. Coral reefs are made up of a wide variety of different organisms such as marine life, algae, and plant life. Due to all the biodiversity that is present in the reefs, the amount of nutrients that is present in the reefs is abundant. Coral reefs are so successful in containing biodiversity because they “tightly recycle nutrients, and all the plants and animals live in symbiosis.” However according to the article, some of the nutrients are limited in amount but also abundant in amount. So how can something that is so essential to life be limited but also be successful at the same time? I think coral reefs are so successful in being able to provide nutrients in order for it to strive because it has many different ways of gaining the nutrients it needs.

One way that coral reefs are able to gain carbon is through the symbiotic relationship between coral and the algae (zooxanthellae). The algae live inside the host coral, and garn its energy from the sun and are able to “fix carbon” through the process of photosynthesis. Thus, the algae provide energy for their host and in return gain nitrogen and phosphorus waste from its host. The nitrogen and phosphorus waste fertilize the algae, causing more algae to grow at a rapid pace. Meaning that more fixed carbon and more nitrogen and phosphorus waste. However, coral reefs significantly lack in the amount of fixed nitrogen. The algae to host relationship is symbiotic which allows those organisms not to lose fixed nitrogen but within the coral reef, fixed nitrogen is passed back and forth between plants and animals through the process of ingestion. Which means that if there is a lack of plants or a lack of animals many organisms would become deprived of fixed nitrogen which is essential in creating proteins and nucleic acid. Due to the lack of fixed nitrogen available, corals have to garn energy from a different source. Through the process of ingestion, corals ingest zooplankton or bacteria that come in contact with their mucus layer. Corals can also uptake fixed nitrogen when the water is low in ambient levels. These types of foods are not consistently available so the easiest form of fixed nitrogen that is available is in the form of ammonia. The ammonia becomes available to the corals because fish in the area are constantly excreting ammonia.

Another way that coral reefs gain nutrients is through a relationship called the mangrove-seagrass-coral reef. The mangroves which are located at the shoreline in which they provide many organisms with shelter and because of that they are very nutrient rich. At the mangroves a lot of denitrification takes place. The same happens with segrass. Although the process of denitrification occurs, seagrass provides shelter for many of the terrestrial animals that provide nutrients for the coral reefs. Due to the shelter they provide, fish are able to survive and provide coral reefs with solid nutrients rather than liquid nutrients through its feces.

Figure 2

With all this nutrients coming in, when is there to much nutrients and what are some of the side-affects. According to Olivieri, “With excess nutrients the zooxanthellae population grows uncontrolled and the balance of the nitrogen-carbon fluxes between the coral host and zooxanthellae is disrupted, resulting in a reduction of calcification and weakening of the coral calcareous skeleton.” (Olivieri, 1997).  In 1994, Hoegh-Guldberg conducted a study based on the population dynamics of symbiotic zooxanthellae in an area that was exposed to high levels of ammonia. He found that, “The calculated growth rates of zooxanthellae exposed to 20 µM or 50 µM NH4Cl were higher than those representative of zooxanthellae living in control corals.” (Hoegh-Guldberg, 1994). This supports his theory that the population of the zooxanthllae can become toxic when the amount of NH4CL in the sea water reaches 50 µM NH4Cl. If the amount of nutrients becomes too toxic for the ecosystem, all the nutrient cycles would be affected and many organisms that serve important roles in the cycles will begin to die out and eventually the coral reefs will begin to die themselves.

I think that coral reefs are successful in maintaining a nutrient efficient ecosystem because they are able to keep levels from becoming toxic even when there are loads of nutrients coming in from different sources. I think that we as humans also help keep them successful through the process of fishing.

Sources:

Fig. 1: http://www.noaa.gov/features/economic_0708/coralreefs.html

Fig. 2: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/t0708e/t0708e03.htm

http://www.fisherycrisis.com/coral3.html

Hoegh-Guldberg, 1994

Olivier 1997

Adapt, Migrate, or go Extinct

The extinction of polar bears and other animals alike is going to occur if these animals do not adapt to their new surroundings or if they do not migrate to a new area. Since the beginning of the 21st century the Earth has been experiencing a massive climate change, global warming. “Global warming is the increase of Earth’s average surface temperature due to the effect of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.” The most common greenhouse though is water vapor, however this gas in not responsible for the increase in temperature. Unlike many of the green house gases, water vapor can easily condenses and adapt to changes in the environment, CO2 on the other hand cannot. Meaning, a slight change in the concentration of any greenhouse gas can cause the temperature to increase dramatically. How does this happen in such a short span of time?

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This has happened due to the increase in CO2 caused by humans. CO2 is not like water vapor, it cannot easily adapt to changes. CO2 tends to stay in the atmosphere longer, causing more harm than good. With the increased production of CO2 by humans, (30%), and the combustion of fossil fuels, conditions on Earth will reach CO2 concentrations that have been unseen in over 50 million years.

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The increase in CO2 is caused by things people do every day. Driving to and from work, deforestation, etc. CO2 tends to stay longer in the troposphere. This is the atmospheric layer closes to Earth. This is also the atmospheric layer that holds the most gas and is the densest layer. In this layer, weather and climate occur. With the increase in CO2 production, the weather and climate alike have both increased in temperature.

How does this affect organism such as polar bears? This effects polar bears greatly. Polar bears are dependent on ice in order to survive. Since the onset of global warming the amount of ice present in the Artic has decreased. This sets off a chain reaction of devastation for the polar bears. Due to the increase in temperatures and melting of ice, the primal prey for polar bears has decreased and the amount of space they use for resting has decreased. Polar bears main source of food is the ringed seal. Ringed seals poke their heads through ice which is how polar bears are able to catch them. Since there is limited ice and there is a limit in seals causing the polar bears to exert more energy than necessary to try and catch food. This means that polar bears are exerting much more energy to catch food and are having way less energy to try and reproduce. If the sea ice continues to melt at such rapid paces, the sea ice will eventually all melt and the polar bears will become extinct. According to a report from the Geological Service in 2007 stated, “Today’s population of about 22,000 polar bears would decrease by two-thirds by the year 2050.”

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Sea Turtles along with polar bears are struggling to survive due to the increase in temperatures. The increase in temperatures causes the Earth’s sea level to rise. This is occurring because the ocean is warming. In class we learned that an increase in temperature causes things to rise, this is what is occurring in the ocean. The increase in temperature of the ocean is causing itself to rise. This change in sea level is greatly affecting the reproduction of sea turtles. The rise in sea level will affect the nesting habits of certain turtles. The increase in temperature will change the sand temperature and whether or not the eggs will be able to incubate there is the question. And, rising temperatures could affect the sex ratio of the turtles during the incubation period. In a Florida area, 90% of the turtles being produced are females. The global warming crises has already caused 6 species of sea turtles to be put on the endangered species list: green turtles, hawksbills, loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, Olive ridleys, and leatherbacks.

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The effects of global warming are affecting every organism not just humans. With the increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans, it seems instead of decreasing temperatures, we will continue to see increasing temperatures. The troposphere will continue to hold the CO2 for longer periods of time and animals such as polar bears and sea turtles will continue their fight to survive as the Earth continues to warm.

http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/climate_change/effects_on_ocean_animals.php

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/

http://www.nmsea.org/Curriculum/Primer/Global_Warming/fossil_fuels_and_global_warming.htm