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Strategy To Combat The Climate Crisis

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Strategy to combat the climate crisis

Introduction

Human activities are contributing to global warming by adding large amounts of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. Our fossil fuel use is the main source of these gases. Every time we drive a car, use electricity from coal-fired power plants, or heat our homes with oil or natural gas, we release carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the air. The second most important addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is related to deforestation, mainly in the tropics, as well as other land-use changes.

Global warming and its effects

The science behind global warming is often portrayed as enormously complex, but some of it is quite simple. It begins with a ray of light, shot through space from the staggering inferno of our sun. That sunbeam delivers energy to earth, giving us light and warmth and life. As some of this energy radiates back toward space as heat, a portion is absorbed by a delicate balance of heat-trapping (or "greenhouse") gases in the atmosphere that create an insulating layer.

The most abundant of the greenhouse gases is water vapor. In addition, there are other powerful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide. Each of these is a natural part of the never-ending cycle of life, death, and decomposition on Earth. But since the onset of the Industrial Revolution humans have been pumping out more and more of these and other greenhouse gases. As a result of the build up of gases, the temperature is beginning to rise.

Effects of rising temperature:

• Rising sea levels, leading to more coastal erosion, flooding during storms, and permanent inundation

• Increased drought and increased incidence of wildfires

• Severe stress on many forests, wetlands, alpine regions, and other natural ecosystems

• Impacts on human health as mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects and rodents spread diseases over larger geographical regions

• Disruption of agriculture in some parts of the world due to increased temperature, water stress, and sea-level rise in low-lying areas such as Bangladesh or the Mississippi River delta

Other projected impacts include increased intensity of hurricanes; the long-term destabilization of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, leading to much greater sea level rise; the acidification of the world's oceans; and a vastly increased rate of species extinction. Wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon could collapse under the weight of just a few more degrees. And hundreds of millions of people may be forced from their homelands as the climate shifts, creating increased political and economic instability.

Stopping global warming is urgent. We have just a few years to turn around the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst effects. The greater the magnitude and rate of warming, the greater the chances are for truly devastating - and potentially irreversible - changes in the Earth's climate system. Even by acting today to reduce our emissions from cars, power plants, land use, and other sources, we will see some degree of continued warming for a period of time because past emissions will stay in the atmosphere for decades or more. But, the window for effective action is closing fast and responding to the climate crisis will take commitment and ingenuity. The actions we take in the next several years will determine the kind of world our children and grandchildren will inherit. The good news is that we can achieve these emissions reductions with effective national policies and international treaties. We must insist that businesses and governments join individuals around the world to greatly increase energy efficiency, widely adopt renewable energy, and commit to stopping climate change.

Possible solutions that may give a light of hope

• Clean Energy Economy - Although reliance on fossil fuels has created global warming, there is the opportunity and obligation to begin a transformation towards a robust clean energy economy. This is supported by highly efficient industries, fueled by clean, renewable resources like wind, solar and geothermal energy, and based on modern infrastructure and smart transportation planning.

But, in order to fully transition to a clean energy economy, we need our elected officials to take action. Absent policies from government, the private sector may continue to invest in old-fashioned, polluting technologies. More than 70 coal plants without technology to capture carbon pollution are now being considered. If these projects go ahead, this will be billions of dollars invested in technology that is outdated and not “clean coal.”

Each of us can play a role in bringing about this much-needed transition. We can tell the businesses and elected leaders that the next generation deserves to grow up in a world powered by clean energy. We can demand our mayor that we want city planning that encourages more efficient new buildings and sidewalks and bike paths that make it easy to walk or ride a bike. The state and national officials can invest in energy grids that can deliver renewable energy to everyone. The utility companies instead of old-style coal power can provide buy solar, wind, or geothermal energy. The elected officials can also develop policies that encourage investors to make long-term commitments to clean energy.

• Personal Choices - In order to create the kind of large-scale change required to halt climate change, we need elected leaders to implement policies and pass laws that promote renewable energy and support energy efficiency. We need companies to publicly support these policies and improve their business operations and product offerings.

In addition to making our voices heard, we can each make climate-friendly choices in our personal lives, whether by buying energy efficient appliances, switching to electricity generated by renewable energy, or taking public transportation. By taking these actions and by talking to our friends about the climate crisis, we are not only reducing our personal contribution to global warming, we're building support for additional progress at the local, state, national, and international level.

• Adoption

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