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/

A New Culprit?

The earthquake that hit Nepal is hardly news anymore. The 7.8 magnitude quake on April 25 caused enormous damage and even killed 19 on Mount Everest. If that wasn’t enough, the 6.3 magnitude aftershock the following day just rubs salt on the wound. Does anyone recall how earthquakes happen? The earth underground is made up of tectonic plates, which are like chunks of rock pressed and held together. When rocks slip past each other violently, break, or somehow make a jerky movement, the earth aboveground feels the tremors of those plates suddenly setting into a new place.

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Seems like everything underground is out of our control, doesn’t it? The most we do to the earth is drill it and no one seems to think those can cause an earthquake. Maybe not drilling, but Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava claims that global warming can cause an earthquake and undoubtedly has caused the one in Nepal. But how does heat in the atmosphere affect the earth beneath us? Well, it’s a chain reaction in this case. With the global temperature rising, ice and permafrost in the Arctic melts and raises sea levels. And perhaps a few centimeters of extra water wouldn’t be too bad, but sea levels have been on the rise for a while and are projected to rise by another 1 or 2 meters by 2100. Of course, coastal cities will be hit hardest, but this also means that there will be an extra 1 or 2 meters of water weight sitting all over the globe, adding much extra weight on the earth’s crust. Higher pressure on the earth’s crust causes the greater stress between the tectonic plates beneath us and therefore jerks much more violently into place.

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The connection seems plausible, and of course no one is pointing fingers. But will we be in the near future? It’s been repeated over and over again that humans are the greatest cause of global warming and that we would come to regret our inaction gravely in the future. But could this be that future? Collapsing food chains, heat waves, rising seas, we’re observing and hearing about them all. But some people in the world might be paying for the fury of global warming right now. I’m aware that, I’m using the word “might”. Are we still going to take that chance?

Fishes in the Boston Common?

fish Boston is a beautiful city. It is rich with 400 years’ worth of history and culture. Toward the end this century, this historic city will be underwater. However, what is the cause? You guessed it, global warming. It is predicted that within a few decades, globally, oceans will increase somewhere between two and six feet. [*] For coastal cities like Boston, this means big trouble, or in other words: fishes swimming in the Boston Common. The photos below show how as little as 5ft and as much as 25 feet of water can affect the look of the Boston area. [*] Based on the past trends of consistent sea level rise in the Boston area, it is very possible that Boston will be under water sooner than we think. [*]

This picture shows what Harvard's Campus would look like with 5 feet in sea level rise.

This picture shows what Harvard’s Campus would look like with 5 feet in sea level rise. *

This picture shows what Harvard's Campus would look like with 25 feet in sea level rise.
This picture shows what Harvard’s Campus would look like with 25 feet in sea level rise.*
This picture shows the increasing trend of sea level rise in the Boston area.

This picture shows the increasing trend of sea level rise in the Boston area.*

Where’s the Evidence? (That it’s actually global warming) Global warming is the phenomenon in which the temperature of the earth is increasing. Global warming is caused by many factors, but primarily it is the increase of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and deterioration of important atmospheric layers. It is back by strong evidence that human activities has contributed greatly to many of the factors that cause global warming.  Some human activities that contribute to the global warming crisis are pollution and the burning of fossil fuels.

This diagram shows how global warming works.

This diagram shows how global warming works.*

Having the temperature of the earth change has serious impacts on environment. This rapid change in climate temperature causes drastic weather conditions such extremely hot summers, heavy rainfall, and fridge winters. [*]  Additionally, an increase in global temperature causes the ice from the north and south poles to melt. When there is more ice melting, this leads to rises in sea levels because there is more water being released into the oceans. Rising sea levels means that in near future, cities like Boston will be partially underwater. Solutions Due to the serious threat of dramatic sea level rises, Boston has started to rethink ways to build infrastructure or modify existing structures. As of recently, the city has made it mandatory that departments consider sea level rise during planning decisions. [*]  Nonprofits like the Urban Land Institute want to turn Boston into the Amsterdam or Venice of North America by replacing streets with canals so water can flow through. [*]

This is a picture of what the new layout of Boston would like with canals in place. This a solution to the rising sea level problem.

This is a picture of what the new layout of Boston would like with canals in place. This is  a solution to the rising sea level problem. *

However, I think there is an easier and simpler solution; let’s stop global warming. Maybe instead of trying to build dams or canals, we should change our habits so that the world’s temperature does not continue to rise.  Tackling global warming as our main issue will save us money and heartache down the line. The only way that we can keep fishes out of the Boston Common is to change the way we interact with our world. The first step is to use less or more efficient forms of energy.

We Need to Steer in the Right Direction, towards Electric Vehicles

The number of cars on the roads worldwide has surpassed one billion, with the U.S. having the largest car population at about 239.8 million cars. It is estimated that by 2050 the worldwide car population will reach 2.5 billion. This would require a production of 120 million barrels of oil per day, which is 37 million more that we require today. Since transportation currently accounts for 23% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, increasing transportation will only make global warming increasingly worse. In order to compete with these rising emissions, we need to move towards alternative energy vehicles.

An excellent alternative to the regular “gas-guzzling” cars are the All-Electric Vehicles (EVs). EVs run on electricity only and are powered by rechargeable batteries that propel the electric motors in the car, allowing it to move. EVs are much more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, require less maintenance, have better performance, and have reduced energy dependence over vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs); which are the cars that require gasoline. EVs are very energy efficient in terms of how much energy they convert from their source to power the wheels. EVs convert about 59%-62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power the car, while ICE only convert 17%-21% of the energy from gasoline to power the car. EVs are much more environmentally friendly than ICEs because they emit no tailpipe pollutants and if the electricity is from nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, or wind power plants there are also no air pollutants. EV’s energy costs are also less than ICE’s energy costs. The cost to drive an EV 100 miles is significantly less than the cost to drive an ICE 100 miles (Figure 1.).

Additionally, as a bonus, EV’s motors are very quiet, have stronger accelerations, and require less maintenance than ICEs.

Yet, of course, there are some downsides to the EVs. Two of the main downsides that most people would worry about if deciding to buy an EV is it’s driving range abilities and recharge time. Most EVs can go only about 100-200 miles before needing to be recharged, while ICEs can drive for over 300 miles without needing to be refueled with gasoline. Also, fully recharging the battery can take from 4-8 hours. EVs can either be charged at the house or at a charging station (Figure 2.).

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Figure 2. shows an example of an EV at a charging station.

There are also other downsides to EVs, which are the high cost to replace a car battery (which may need to be replaced) and the heavy weight and consuming size of the battery packs.

As usual, whenever there is a technology that is an alternative to help save energy, there are usually downsides. Yet, with EVs, there aren’t downsides that are un-manageable or “not worth it.” I believe EVs are rare, but exciting, because they truly benefit the community, and more importantly, the environment. With technology advancing everyday, the small issues of the driving range, recharging time, and battery weight, size, and cost will eventually become irrelevant, and soon enough All-Electric Vehicles will be the obvious choice, not that they aren’t already!

Ask Not What Plants Can Do for You but what You Can Do For Plants

tree_canopy

It has been long-established that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a driving force behind the change in Earth’s temperature that has been observed in the past few centuries. A feasible solution to rising global temperatures, however, has not been established, but scientists are getting close.

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee recently conducted a study in which they found that plants may absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than previously thought. In fact, they claim that many widely-accepted climate models for future generations are not entirely accurate because of their underestimation of how much atmospheric carbon dioxide is soaked up by Earth’s plant life. The reason behind these miscalculations is the fact that most climate models do not account for the way carbon dioxide diffuses inside the mesophyll tissue of a plant’s leaf. This has caused models to misjudge the total intake of carbon dioxide by plants by as much as 16%.

Figure 1 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/standard/biology/world_of_plants/making_food/revision/3/)3b74df700f6b37803298234ddb3deff0d24aa41e

Figure 1 shows the anatomy of a plant leaf, which is an essential component in the process of photosynthesis. The palisade mesophyll towards the epidermis of the leaf contains many chloroplasts that are tall and closely packed to absorb maximum light. The spongy mesophyll towards the center of the leaf also captures light, but mainly serves to produce glucose and oxygen. The cells in the spongy mesophyll are relatively spread out, which allows for the diffusion of more carbon dioxide within plants.

Environmental scientists are currently trying to determine whether this 16% discrepancy is enough to slow down climate change and give humans enough time to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. While most news coverage and commentary has optimistically suggested that it might, many prominent scientists brush the newfound study off as meaningless from a big-picture perspective. Of these scientists is Oak Ridge Laboratory’s own Lianhong Gu, who asserts that, “…it (the 16% discrepancy) would not reduce the urgency of reducing (carbon dioxide) emissions. The climate change associated with fossil fuel use is much bigger than the response of plants to carbon dioxide.” Gu supports this claim by citing that the extra carbon dioxide stored in plants will follow the carbon cycle and eventually return to the atmosphere when the extra biomass dies. Martin Heimann, director of biogeochemical systems research at Germany’s Max Planck Biogeochemistry Institute makes a similar criticism by stating that, “…for the atmospheric carbon dioxide, only the net (land and ocean) uptake matters. If the land uptake is increased by a certain fraction, the land carbon release through respiration (the decay of dead biomass) will also increase.” Earth would need to at least double its land vegetation to keep up with carbon dioxide emissions, researchers say.

“Regardless of how much CO2 they soak up,” Gu says, “wild plants are a key ally in our quest to make civilization sustainable.” Scientists should concentrate their efforts on protecting plants rather than relying on them to protect the Earth. While it might not save the planet from global warming, Earth’s plant life will certainly soften the blow of climate change and provides many other ecosystem-related services beyond absorbing carbon dioxide. These services include the release of atmosphere cooling aerosols, the removal of toxic fumes from the air, and the production of life-saving medicines.

Sources consulted:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/17/plants-climate-change_n_6004656.html?utm_hp_ref=climate-change

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/standard/biology/world_of_plants/making_food/revision/4/

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/blogs/how-much-are-plants-helping-us-fight-climate-change

Disrupting the Carbon Cycle is not the only thing Deforestation is Responsible for…

Africa supports approximately 30% of the forests in the world, with a large amount of these forests located in Upper Guinea and Lower Guinea (Congo). Yet, these forests have been subject to an immense amount of deforestation. Although deforestation provides people with goods and resources, it is terrible for the balance of the Carbon Cycle and our atmospheric layers. Trees have large amounts of Carbon in their wood, and therefore when they are cut or burned, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Unless there are enough trees planted or grown to recapture the lost carbon, the exchange between trees and the atmosphere of CO2 is put out of balance, which is a cause of global warming.

Although global warming is a very popular and conversational topic, there is one topic that is stealing everyone’s attention. You guessed it, Ebola. Ebola is one of the most dangerous viruses in the world today, causing many symptoms, one being internal bleeding, and is most likely by followed death. Now, you may be asking, “What does Ebola have to do with deforestation in Guinea?” Well, this latest Ebola epidemic is believed to have started in one of the small towns in Guinea, and has now spread all over West Africa (See Figure 1.).

Map of Africa depicting Ebola Cases

Figure 1: This map of Africa Depicts what areas Ebola cases have been confirmed or suspected. The highlighted areas in red show where confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been found. The tan highlighted areas show where suspected cases of Ebola are. As shown in the map, a lot of these highlighted areas are in the Guinea region, where the Ebola epidemic is believed to have started.

People in West Africa commonly eat Fruit Bats in stew, yet bats are known to be carriers of the Ebola Virus. Due to deforestation, many animals’ habitats are being destroyed, including bats. With bat’s habitats destroyed and human’s have moved into prior forest areas, the interactions between bats and people in West Africa has increased greatly. This increased interaction between humans and bats has also greatly increased the chance that one of the fruit bats that are eaten contained the virus Ebola, and sadly this event did occur. Yet, it did not just effect a few people in Guinea, it has spread all over West Africa, taking thousands of people’s lives, and is now spreading into other continents, such as the United States. While the CDC and other organizations are attempting to contain and control this outbreak, it has not had much effect, and the virus continues to spread rapidly.

Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, has already claimed AT LEAST 4,493 lives, and the number is increasing. Yet, what played a major role in this epidemic? It was human’s impact on the environment. Deforestation has claimed not only a vast amount of the forest biomes in West Africa since 1955, it has also claimed thousands of people’s lives. (displayed in Figure 2.),

West Africa Deforestation from 1955 to 1988

Figure 2. Shows West Africa in 1955 in the top picture and West Africa in 1988 in the bottom picture. The green represents where “closed forest cover,” or full forest, is, the dark yellow represents ‘Fragmented forest,” and the light yellow represents where deforestation has taken place. These two photos show how drastic deforestation has struck West Africa and therefore gives you an idea of how many animal habitats were destroyed and taken over by humans. The full picture of Africa on the bottom right also shows this by using the red areas to depict where deforestation has taken place. This also refers back to Figure 1. and shows how greatly West Africa and specifically Guinea was affected by deforestation.

While global warming did become a large controversy, hopefully this deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus that has ignited immense fear and panic can express to the public what serious effects humans have on the environment, and how what we do to the environment, can strike back on us.

Eat Less Meat to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Cows

I only know a few people who do not appreciate a good hamburger. However, did you know that eating meat constantly worsens the health of the earth? Global warming is caused by a surplus of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Each day with more and more greenhouses gases being released, the temperature of the earth continues to rise. Global warming is severely affecting the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect makes sure that the earth maintains a manageable temperature by blocking some UV rays. (See Image Below) There will be serious consequences if humans do not limit the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Due to global warming, the earth’s temperature has started to rise rapidly. One source of the problem is meat production. [2] Since there are a lot of nonrenewable resources used to produce meat, greenhouse gases are increased. Essentially, humans’ meat consumption heavily contributes to the global warming issue.

This image shows how the Greenhouse Effect works. When there is a surplus of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or methane, this causes the earth to get hotter.

This image shows how the Greenhouse Effect works. When there is a surplus of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or methane, this causes the earth to get hotter.

.                When growing crops to feed cows and other animals, most conventional farmers use fertilizers; these fertilizers release nitrous oxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere[4]. Not only do these fertilizers increase greenhouse gases, according to the UN Environmental Program, fertilizers also threaten human health.[5] Additionally, manure is another source of the problem. Mass producing animals means that there is lot of poop. Unfortunately, manure releases the greenhouse gas methane. With steadily increasing demands for meat, methane and nitrous oxide continue to fuel global warming.

In a study published in the Environmental Research Letters warns there will need to be drastic changes in food production in order to stop a disastrous global warming.[6] Developed countries are the main sources of the issue. In many first world countries, eating meat is expected at every meal; according to Eric Davidson, director of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts says that eating meat,”… is part of our culture right now.”[7] This new study suggests that countries like the US would have to cut consumption by 50% to avoid horrific environmental problems by 2050.[8] Also, according to Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts, developed countries will have to reduce fertilizer use to 50% as well.[9]

In conclusion to help stop global warming, people have to stop eating so much meat. I have fully committed myself to the cause by becoming a vegetarian to help the earth keep its cool. Global warming could easily be solved if developed countries were not so in love with their hamburgers and steak dinners. What will you choose to eat next?

 hamburger

Works Cited

Clarke-Billings, Lucy. “‘Stop Eating Meat and Save the Planet’ Says United Nations.” Express. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/378484/Stop-eating-meat-and-save-the-planet-says-United-Nations&gt;.

Cows. America Aljazeera. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://america.aljazeera.com/content/ajam/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2013/10/6/waste-from-thousandsofcowscreatesenergyforanentiredairyfarm/_jcr_content/blog/mainpar/adaptiveimage/src.adapt.480.low.jpg&gt;.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Eat Less Meat to Prevent Climate Disaster, Study Warns.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/13/less-meat-prevent-climate-change&gt;.

Greenhouse Effect. Zhibocc. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.zhibocc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/greenhouse-effect-definition.jpg&gt;.

Hamburger. Wikimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/NCI_Visuals_Food_Hamburger.jpg&gt;.