On August 17th, 2017, Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana as a category four hurricane which took the title as the wettest hurricane in US history dumping over 50 inches of rain over 17 days (Mann). Texas experienced $125 billion in damages which comes in second as the most costly hurricanes in history as well as 39 deaths (Hurricane). Just 13 days later, Hurricane Irma hit the south coast of Florida as well as Costa Rica and Barbuda a category five hurricane that was recorded as the most powerful hurricane in the open Atlantic Ocean in history (Mann). Irma resulted in $50 billion in damages. As if two devastating hurricanes were not enough, Hurricane Maria hit Costa Rica and the US Virgin Islands as a category five hurricane on September 20th. This destructive hurricane also resulted in 64 more deaths (Kishore). What caused these three horrendous hurricanes to form within just weeks of each other and hit within such close distances? Climate change (Mann). More extreme weather has resulted due to increased global temperatures, increased moisture in the air, and rising sea levels.
More powerful and increased amounts of hurricanes are just one example of the many negative effects that occur because of climate change. We as humans can all agree that these changes are a result of our climate-affecting activities since the industrial revolution, most importantly, the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere known as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have been the key-defining factor of technology since the 1800s. They release harmful gases into the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide which all increase the greenhouse effect which results in global warming. Change needs to happen fast and soon. With the introduction to solar, wind, nuclear, and many other energy-efficient strategies in the past few years, we can be hopeful about the future if we act fast. Clean and renewable green sources of energy hold the solution to reducing the upcoming effects we will experience due to climate change. Technology is the key to these more efficient and cleaner sources of energy and will save our Earth from our destruction. We as a country need to look to technological solutions to reduce our carbon footprint. While the switch to these renewable sources of energy may be expensive, it does not compare to the amount of money we as a world will spend on the future effects of climate change if we do not change our ways.
Solar energy is one very possible solution to helping solve and ways reduce climate change. For many years, coal-fired sources of energy took over the world after the industrial revolution. Many did not consider the consequences of burning coal into the air and turned it into a global industry. At first, it seems like a plentiful and reliable resource for many different industries. In recent years, we have come to find out that relying on burning coal as a source of energy has had devastating consequences on our environment and atmosphere. Coal combustion releases gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide which can harm the human body as well as add to the greenhouse effect. In recent years we have searched for more sustainable sources of energy to replace inefficient and unsustainable sources such as coal combustion. Solar energy is one of them. Converting to solar energy proves to have much more potential in terms of saving resources and lowering emissions. The fact that solar energy bases itself off of the sun which in itself is an unlimited source of energy, distinct it from other sources. Andrew Blakers, a credible professor who specializes in solar energy claims that it “is vast, ubiquitous, and indefinitely sustainable” (324).
Another major factor of climate change that accounts for 14% of greenhouse emissions is transportation (Dobbins 75). Motor vehicles have taken over the age of transportation since their introduction during the industrial revolution. Ever since, a great percentage of them rely on fossil fuels such as oil, fuel, and coal which are all finite resources. The most popular source of transportation today are cars. Most cars rely on the combustion of fuel to function. Many people do not consider what comes out of their exhaust when the fuel combusts and the resulting gases are released into the air. The released gasses such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide get released into the atmosphere and each has its range of negative effects. Millions of people use cars every single day as the main source of daily transport which increases the greenhouse effect greatly. However, with advances in technology, we can reduce the overall emissions created by cars through different strategies. Since cars account for a large number of emissions, reducing their global impact could greatly reduce global emissions one step at a time. One possible strategy is to increase the number of miles a car can go with each gallon of gas (Sachs 39). Cars have continuously improved over-time to be more gas efficient. An example of this is hybrid cars. Hybrid cars effectively use fuel-powered engines combined with a motor powered by batteries. Overall, they save large amounts in gas, emit less pollution, and save the driver money. Hybrid cars pose as a great example of how technology can be innovatively used to reduce emissions. Trains have also evolved alongside cars in terms of efficiency. For many years, steam engine trains were powered purely by coal combustion and played a huge role in transportation throughout the 1800s and 1900s.
China should be looked at as an example by the entire world in terms of reducing its impact on climate change. China has done a great job in implementing more efficient systems and more sustainable strategies while becoming successful in reducing emissions as well as maintaining a successful economy. They have made progress by reducing their air pollution which has already increased the air quality in multiple major cities across the country (Crane 11). Keith Crane is the director for the Environment, Energy, and Economic Development Program at the RAND Corporation who does global research on different issues. Crane states that they did this by cutting emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides through multiple strategies (11). China has had success in reducing emissions in many different ways. They substituted residential and commercial use of coal with more efficient gases such as natural gas and propane (Crane 11). They installed pollution-controlled machines and equipment in places that had large pollution emissions as well as shut down places where this equipment couldn’t be stopped (Crane 11). They also enforced the installation of pollution-control equipment on new motor vehicles and retiring older ones (Crane 11). All of these measures make it obvious that China has success with these implementations to reducing emissions or else they would not have continued making an effort to do so. Crane also examines the fact that natural gas and propane emit almost no sulfur dioxide which could replace coal, biomass, and plastic as sources of energy throughout homes in China (12). China currently tiples the US in population and also has the largest population in the world; however, as of 2015, China emits less in terms of sulfur dioxide than the US (Crane 14). This shows that China has implemented pollution-control equipment that is very successful in reducing emissions.
The carbon market holds potential as another solution with many benefits to help cut emissions globally. The carbon market follows a ‘cap-and-trade’ system in which polluters are given pollution restrictions and they have to meet the targeted goal (Victor 70). This opens up a market by causing a demand for anti-pollutant technology which would also benefit economies. The carbon market poses a valuable solution because it reduced emissions by creating restrictions and opens up markets that could have the potential for trade. It also gives these companies an incentive to apply emission-lowering technologies (Victor 70). By opening such markets, it teaches the United States how to function in these markets that lower emissions and encourage the innovation of more low-carbon energy systems (Victor 70). While internationally debating whether these markets should be implemented, it was agreed that there should be international treaties to work together and that it is a global issue (Victor 71). These markets would only work on an international level. Overall, these markets are a great way to significantly reduce the amount of carbon used globally. Not only does this policy lower-emissions, but it also sets incentives for industries as well as improving the economy.
To have a significant change in climate change to reverse it as much as possible, we cannot wait any longer to implement these solutions many different solutions. Climate change faces America as well as the world with many large obstacles because of our past mistakes as our world begins to show signs of the consequences. Rather than learning our lesson and dealing with the harsh consequences climate change will bring upon us, we as humans need to work together to secure a safe future. While there may be negative and positive effects on the global economy by switching to more sustainable measures, it will not compare to the amount of damage that will be caused by worsening climate patterns in future years. The whole world needs to work together to recognize and reduce our global impact. We have been presented with the proper solutions and more sustainable approaches through technology to make the correct decisions to save our future.
- Blakers, Andrew. “Sustainable Energy Options.” Learning from Fukushima: Nuclear Power in East Asia, edited by PETER VAN NESS and MEL GURTOV, by ANDREW BLAKERS et al., ANU Press, Australia, 2017, pp. 319–348. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ws7wjm.19.
- Crane, Keith, and Zhimin Mao. “Costs of Selected Policies to Address Air Pollution in China.” 2015, doi:10.7249/rr861.
- “Environment, Climate Change and Solar Energy.” Following the Sun: The Pioneering Years of Solar Energy Research at The Australian National University 1970—2005, by Robin Tennant-Wood, ANU Press, 2012, pp. 59–68. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h968.12.
- “Hurricane Costs.” Hurricane Costs, coast.noaa.gov/states/fast-facts/hurricane-costs.html.
- Issa, Anindita, et al. “Deaths Related to Hurricane Irma - Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, September 4-October 10, 2017.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Aug. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6072056/.
- Kishore, Nishant, et al. “Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 25 Oct. 2018, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1803972.
- Mann, Michael E., et al. 'Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real.' Washington Post, 8 Sept. 2017. Gale In Context: Global Issues, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A503804731/GIC?u=mlin_c_assumpt&sid=GIC&xid=deb199e9. Accessed 11 Dec. 2019.
- Sachs, Jeffrey D. “The Road to Clean Energy Starts Here.” Scientific American, vol. 296, no. 5, 2007, pp. 39–39., doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0507-39.
- “Solutions.” Costs of Selected Policies to Address Air Pollution in China, by Keith Crane and Zhimin Mao, RAND Corporation, 2015, pp. 11–17. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt14bs468.10.
- VICTOR, DAVID G., and DANNY CULLENWARD. “Making CARBON MARKETS Work.” Scientific American, vol. 297, no. 6, 2007, pp. 70–77. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26069591.