As world leaders convened at the UN Climate Change Summit, poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner ( from the Marshall Islands) was selected to perform her piece "Dear Matafele Peinem" (written to her daughter). The poem garnered a standing ovation, and put a personal touch to environmental issues that are often bogged down by scientific jargons and numbers. The video is a collage of the people who are most effected by climate change and those that are leading the fight against climate change. She makes the important point that those being most effected by these environmental issues often come from places and countries that we do not give much thought about. -MK
“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful, but there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas… It is a harmless gas.” –Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
My first thought when I heard Representative Bachmann say this was, ‘she must be joking.’ There are literally thousands of scrutinized and peer reviewed scientific studies showing the harmful effects of carbon dioxide. I thought, ‘is she really that ignorant? If so, how can she get away with not doing the research required for her job? Or, does she know about the studies and deny them? If so, what gives her the authority to deny scientists when she has no qualifications to debate them?’ Then I brushed it off and laughed, thinking it didn’t matter because no one would believe a word she said anyway. I was wrong. Apparently, the public hears what Bachmann and other climate change deniers have to say and blindly follow without thinking to fact-check their claims. A Pew research study shows that only 48% of Americans agree climate change is a threat. Apparently, the trend of denying climate science is catching on fast, and it’s becoming commonplace in America to think uninformed “opinions” on climate change have the same merit as scientific fact.
The detrimental outcome of this mentality is poor policy, which in turn has led to disastrous consequences felt around the globe. For example, the current bills to regulate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are, as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) stated, “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.” One bill bans scientists from advising the committee on issues ‘directly or indirectly involving their own work.’ The bill was made to stop a ‘conflict of interest,’ but as Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg puts it, “In other words, academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”
And the effects of American misunderstanding of science and opinion reach all the way to members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. While debating Obama’s proposed bill to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030, committee member Senator Larry Buschon denied that CO2 affects global temperatures (and subsequently public health) by saying, “There are public comments out there saying that question has been asked and answered, saying no.” He went on to say he could read the scientific literature on the topic, but he “doesn’t believe it.” Not only is it acceptable in America to have such an ill-informed member of Congress with no understanding of how to support claims with proper facts, but this man was appointed to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, a committee that has the potential to reject this important piece of legislation.
Unfortunately, Senator Buschon isn’t alone. Senator James Inhofe recently took control of the Environment and Public Works Committee. He wrote a book called The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. Speaker of the House John Boehner has used the argument that he’s “not qualified to debate the science over climate change” as an excuse to one, not put forth effort to learn about climate change and its effects, and two, to vote against bills protecting our planet from climate change.
As a result of American unwillingness to accept climate change, we have done next to nothing to reduce our carbon footprint (the second largest in the world) or to invest in renewable/nuclear energy. And while most of us may not notice the consequences in our daily lives, it is the vulnerable peoples and countries around the world that feel the impact of American ignorance and inaction. Bangladesh, for example, is the country hit hardest by climate change, yet it does very little to contribute to it. Because of its position at low sea level, sea level rises caused by climate change have destroyed towns, crops, and animal habitats. Typhoons and floods have also decreased agricultural production by a staggering 50% in a nation with extreme poverty and population growth.
Clearly, the effects of a misinformed public are dire. Our choices have serious consequences, and they don’t just affect us. America needs to start taking responsibility for its own inactions, and it starts with combatting the scientific illiteracy so pervasive in our society. Maybe once Americans are truly informed about the dangers of climate change, we will be able to get past arguing over the validity of climate change in Congress and start arguing about what to do about it before it’s too late.
Eco-Schools is an international environmental education program. It’s a school that gets kids involved in environmental issues. Looks like Irelands future may be more eco-aware!
Ireland has a huge problem with litter. The country has been very ineffective in dealing with the litter problem and other environmental issues like it because the government leaves implementation of environmental legislation largely to local counsels, often without money or support. -ES
Last fall in New York, the city was congested more than usual with the culmination of two large events: the People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Change Summit. Looking out into the street, I could see a wave of advocates--proudly adorning green and hosting up posters reminding the world of the urgency of climate change. In the corridors and vast chambers of the United Nations Headquarters, world leaders gathered to discuss the most prominent environmental issues of our time and their role in mitigating the effects of climate change--to lay a foundation for a new global climate-change treaty.
In attempt to garner support, Obama announced, “The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. Today I call on all countries to join us, not next year or the year that, but right now. Because no nation can meet this global threat alone”.
However, the summit also served to reveal that many countries were divided on issues like deforestation, carbon pollution and methane leaks from oil and gas production.
Lacking congressional support, the US rejected putting a price on carbon--a pledge signed by 73 nations. Similarly, Brazil refused to sign a pledge to halt deforestation by the year 2030--despite being home to the Amazon rainforest.
While Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli argued that the international community should not hold developing countries to the same standard as developing countries and allow them to emit more heat-trapping pollution. The Chinese Vice Premier raised legitimate points about whether developing countries should be held to the same accord as developed ones. Nonetheless, with President Obama claiming that "nobody gets a pass", can these two statements be reconciled?
Regardless, there were strides made in the right direction.
China being the number one carbon-polluting nation, stood in support of pricing carbon and promised to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions within the near future. Due to the tripling of China’s economic growth since 2005, China’s carbon pollution has skyrocket. In attempt to counteract these effects, China vowed to reduce its emissions by 45% from 2005 levels. In comparison to China’s previous promises, these are significant measures that China is promising to take.
In the same vein, the European Union called for increasing renewable energy usage and cut backs on greenhouse gases.
Most significant of promises made at the Summit was the deadline to end deforestation by 2030, supported by 150 countries. Those 150 countries includes U.S., Canada, and the European Union.
If the deadline was met, the UN said that its effects would be similar to removing “every car in the world off the road”. This is because forests absorb the most prominent greenhouse--carbon dioxide.
However, Brazil’s refusal to join the initiative made the effectiveness of the deadline highly questionable. In fact, it only served to affirm the criticism that is often welded against these large scale events and undermined the promises many countries were making--alluding the summit to a dog with a big bark and with little bite.
Being well into the new year, the proposal’s formulated at the summit raise serious questions about whether there will be legitimate follow through. Will 2015 usher in a new wave of environmental consciousness? With countries like Brazil refusing to join initiatives to reverse wrongs they played a large role in, is there hope for sustainable and are large scale change? Has there been too much talk and far too little action?
With that said, I leave the floor to you! What are your thoughts? Let us know below.
When you hear the word deforestation, do you automatically refer back to second grade when we read the Lorax by Dr. Seuss? Dr. Seuss focused on speaking out against the danger that corporate greed poses to nature, and unfortunately this fictional story has transcended into real life.
Over decades, deforestation has become a very large problem, especially in countries with rain forests. Forests cover about 31% of the land, but each year this percentage decreases due to the large amounts of deforestation. Recently, many big corporations destroy forests for large-scale projects, such as, mining, agriculture, logging, oil and gas development.
Why is cutting our forests so detrimental to the environment? Cutting down trees causes a loss of a home for millions of species, which is harmful because approximately 70% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and most cannot survive or thrive without the forests. Not only does deforestation take away a habitat for animals and plants, but it also drives climate change. Trees absorb greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, then produce oxygen and continue the water cycle by releasing water vapor into the air. Without trees, forests cannot thrive and will eventually become infertile. Without trees, soil erosion can become a very serious problem, because erosion can arise and clear the land and rivers. The agriculture plants that replace the trees, such as cotton, coffee, and soybeans cannot hold onto the soil and can aggravate soil erosion. Many people don’t realize that this is such a huge problem, because they don’t think of all the effects of deforestation. The effects of deforestation has become a chain reaction of issues that are extremely harmful to our environment.
What can be done to prevent or reduce deforestation? It is impossible to completely stop deforestation, but I believe it is important to preserve our wildlife, prevent climate change, and soil erosion. In order to preserve our environment and forests, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy. We also need to put pressure on companies that are destroying our forests and introduce them to zero-deforestation policies and have them use more environmental conscious methods to harvest their products. These corporations cutting down our trees either do not realize or do not care that they are destroying our wildlife, and they must be stopped. The greed and selfishness of big corporation must be ended, and should become more aware of the effects they are causing for our environment. “I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” –Dr. Seuss
Pakistan's economy dealing with electricity shortage and may soon have to deal with a water crisis. Climate Change and local waste mismanagement is leading the shortage of water. Energy experts say this electricity shortage may be difficult to solve because of this complex problem. -EB
New York Times
Sāo Paulo, Brazil deals with its worst drought in nearly a century as a water crisis rises due to deforestation, population growth, and pollution. The water system in lacking in Sāo Paulo, and water utilities say there are mega-projects being planned to reduce leakage, -EB
The article is linked here
(From Wall Street Journal)
India's smog destroyed enough crops to feed 94 million people, and CO2 emissions are projected to triple by 2030 because India isn't limiting emissions in favor of economic growth. Is our environment a necessary trade-off to the economic growth of a developing nation? Why or why not? -ES