Nature | Photo by Grace Ramsdell | The Wright State Guardian
Among the plethora of problems facing the world today, climate change is among the most ominous. Rising sea levels, droughts and more natural disasters will continue to happen if there is no change in the near future. The issue, however, can only be solved with cooperation among many.
What is the cause?
“In a first-of-its-kind study, NASA has calculated the individual driving forces of recent climate change through direct satellite observations. And consistent with what climate models have shown for decades, greenhouse gases and suspended pollution particles in the atmosphere, called aerosols, from the burning of fossil fuels are responsible for the lion’s share of modern warming. In other words, NASA has proven what is driving climate change through direct observations — a gold standard in scientific research,” Jeff Berardelli from CBS News said in a recent article.
The proof through direct observation further solidifies the role of humans in climate change.
“The greenhouse effect is the way in which heat is trapped close to the surface of the Earth by ‘greenhouse gases.’ These heat-trapping gases can be thought of as a blanket wrapped around the Earth, which keeps it toastier than it would be without them. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides,” according to the NASA website.
As humans continue to burn more fossil fuels, the amount of greenhouse gases increases. The easy solution seems to be ceasing the use of fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels are an integral part of industrialized society.
Who is to blame?
According to USA Today, China contributes the most CO2 emissions with 9,838.8 million metric tons emitted, while the United States is a close second with 5,269.5 million metric tons of CO2 emitted.
“The United States was the world’s largest national CO2 emitter until 2006, when China surpassed U.S. emissions that year of 6,019 million metric tons of CO2. And while U.S. emissions have declined since, China’s emissions have steadily increased,” Thomas C. Frohlich and Liz Blossom of USA Today said in a recent article.
The third largest contributor of C02 emissions, India, contributed 2,466.8 million metric tons of CO2; this is notable as the third largest contributor on the list only produces approximately half of its superior.
“Mitigation – reducing climate change – involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, either by reducing sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil),” according to the NASA website.
NASA cites the other response to climate change as adaptation.
“Adaptation – adapting to life in a changing climate – involves adjusting to actual or expected future climate. The goal is to reduce our vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change (like sea-level encroachment, more intense extreme weather events or food insecurity). It also encompasses making the most of any potential beneficial opportunities associated with climate change (for example, longer growing seasons or increased yields in some regions),” said NASA.
The shift away from fossil fuels, at least a substantial shift, must be done relatively soon. The transition to electric vehicles and alternative energy sources will help, but the changes need to be global. Without strong action from the United States and China, among other CO2 emitting giants, the efforts of smaller countries may be futile. Climate change is already happening; the next step is stopping further impacts of climate change on the environment.
Wright State alumna Paige McCain is worried about the current state of the Earth and how it will be once we’re gone.
“When I think about landfills or the fact that 90% of plastic isn’t actually recycled, that polar bears are on their way to becoming the new dodo and that our projected grand finale isn’t that far out — I am comforted by the knowledge that once the earth gets rid of us she’ll do a hard reset and go on to thrive,” McCain said.