2016 alone had fifteen events that cost the United States 46 billion dollars making it the year with the “2nd highest annual number of U.S. billion-dollar disasters”(Smith). Greenhouse gas emissions have been at the root of these events, causing the world’s weather and conditions to dramatically change over the years. This is called climate change. Climate change is considered “a national security threat” for the U.S. because it can cause extreme natural disasters, making it a very relevant problem(Climate Change in the United States). If we don’t act now we could make this dangerous problem even worse.
I personally have been interested in climate change and global warming since we first learned about it in elementary school. We did a research project on renewable energy sources, and I chose to study wind energy. At first thought I remember thinking “Why doesn’t everyone switch to wind energy if it is so clean and efficient?” After further research I found out the complications and restrictions of wind energy. I found that the wind turbines needed a lot of space and a lot of wind to power them and that they often killed a lot of birds and were putting certain species at risk. Looking at the pros and cons of these renewable energy sources made me very intrigued by climate change because it made me realize it is an ongoing problem that will need a complex solution to help stop it.
It is impossible for scientists to say exactly what time climate change began because when looking at temperature data, the scientists can not tell what are just “Natural fluctuations in the climate” versus global warming (Pidcock). Scientists think that climate change started around the 1830s but they are unsure of what caused the climate to change from the 1830s up until the late 19th century (Pidcock). However, they do know that industrialization and greenhouse gas emissions have been causing the climate to change since then (Pidcock). Industrialization was a time in American history where the economy changed from being primarily agricultural to primarily industrial and urban (The Rise of Industrial America, 1877-1900). The switch meant that there were a lot more factories which released greenhouse gases, causing the warming.
There were many acts and groups founded following the first step towards environmental protection, the creation of the first US National Park, that helped kickstart the United States’ combat against climate change. In 1872 the first national park, Yellowstone National Park, opened (Richards). The creation of this national park was one of the first ways that the United States government showed its interest in protecting the environment and therefore preventing climate change. In 1955 the Air Pollution Control Act was created, becoming the first act against polluting the air (Richards). Air pollution is a major contribution towards climate change so this was another crucial step. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 to “protect humans and the environment from any risks, enforce regulations and work towards solving environmental problems”(Richards). The EPA is in charge of making laws to help protect the environment (Richards). This was a huge effort towards regulating the climate because it is an agency whose specific purpose is to create laws to help conserve the environment. In 1990 The National Environmental Education Act was established (Richards). The purpose of this act was to “educate students and teachers about the environment”(Richards). Educating the public about environmental issues will ensure that they will continue to make efforts to stop global warming. In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in the United States to ban plastic bags in grocery stores (Richards). Plastic bags are a huge contributor to the landfills in the United States causing a lot of greenhouse gases to go into the atmosphere. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “Target gives away enough plastic bags a year to wrap around the earth 7 times”(Single-use Plastic Bag Facts). If one company alone can produce this much waste, then banning plastic bags in grocery stores across the United States will significantly lower the amount of greenhouse gases released in the landfill, helping prevent climate change. Although the first steps were great first efforts at combating global warming there is still a lot of work to be done to protect the earth’s environment.
The next major event in the history of climate change in the United States was the Paris Climate Conference and Obama’s Climate Action following the Conference. The conference was held in Paris where representatives from many countries all over the world met to discuss climate change. There were 6 main goals decided during the conference. The first was to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” (Davenport et. al). The next was to limit deforestation and forest degradation which will in turn lower emissions (Davenport et. al). The third goal was to have “Developed” countries “take the lead” in funding and supporting efforts towards combating climate change(Davenport et. al). Another goal was to “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” (Davenport et. al). The second to last main goal was to concentrate on loss and damage and prevent it (Davenport et. al). The very last of the main goals was to have “Five Year Contributions” (Davenport et. al). These “Five Year Contributions” meant that every country should report what they did in those 5 years to help combat climate change. In response to the conference, Obama came up with a “Climate Action Plan”(Park). The goals of this plan were to limit carbon emissions, make sure the United States is ready for the impacts of climate change, and have the United States lead the other countries in the efforts to help the environment (Park). Written in President Obama’s Climate Action plan is: “Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally” justifying Obama’s reasoning (The President’s Climate Action Plan). The Paris conference and the Obama administration came as close to solving climate change as ever before, yet its policies will begin to be dismantled in the next chapter of the history of climate change
In the year that Trump has been President of the United States, he and his administration have said that they want to undo some of the efforts to combat climate change, and in some cases, they have been successful in undoing them. The Trump administration has stated that they want to cut Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 72 percent (A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). This is publicly making a statement that the administration is not looking to conserve which sends the message to the public that they do not need to either. The Trump Administration “enacted [the] 2017 budget of $2.04 billion to $575.5 million” (A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). This is a huge cut to the budget, showing that they are not prioritizing global warming efforts. The Trump Administration has also gotten rid of the “once in, always in (OIAI), a Clinton-era EPA policy”(A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). The mission of the policy was to limit air pollution coming from industrial sources (A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). Since Trump has been elected websites run by the government have been changed “to cut mentions of climate change”(A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). Some websites have even been deleted completely(A Running List of How Trump is Changing the Environment). This means that the websites run by the government won’t be educating people about climate change so it will be harder to gain support for policies trying to combat it in the future. Scott Pruitt, appointed by Donald Trump, has signed to repeal Barack Obama’s efforts in cutting carbon emissions (Friedman and Plumer). This is an example of direct opposition to Obama’s Climate Action Plan that was supposed to be the biggest effort from the United States to combat climate change. Throughout the United States’ history, increasing efforts have been made to stop climate change and the efforts may now come to a halt with the new US president and his administration, making the problem of global warming even harder to solve.
The solution to the problem of climate change in the United States is to raise awareness and create legislature which in turn will lower emissions. In order to change this shifting in the climate, we need to reduce emissions. To reduce emissions, we must spread awareness in schools and in the general public so that people will know about all the little ways they can make a difference. For example, reducing the amount of trash they throw away by composting and recycling, using less electricity by switching to LED bulbs and turning off the lights, and also carpooling and using public transportation whenever possible. In addition to raising awareness, other solutions include creating more laws around limiting the emissions cars and factories are allowed to produce and creating more public transportation options. More public transportation options would allow people to get places without needing to use their car.
Call to Action
Now that you’ve read through my website, your probably wondering, “What can I do to make a difference and prevent climate change?” There are quite a few things you can do to help the environment. Here are 4 simple everyday changes that will reduce your carbon footprint:
- Change your light bulbs to LED: Next time your light bulbs are in need of a change, invest in LED bulbs which are more efficient.
- Recycle and Compost: Keep two extra bins near your trash, one for recycling and one for compost. Once you finish your can of soda toss it in the recycling, and if you have any unfinished food make sure you put it into the compost bin.
- Turn of the lights: Turn off the lights during the day and instead open up the curtains and let the sunshine light your room. Also, make sure you turn off any lights when you leave the house.
- Use less water: This is as simple as turning off the tap when you are brushing your teeth, washing your hands, or scrubbing the dishes. Every drop counts.
Take this quiz to see how environmentally conscious you are already:
Now that you have looked at my webpage please take this short survey to let me know your thoughts and how I can improve: