There is overwhelming evidence that global warming is actually occurring and is no longer just an academic concern. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is more concerned with the occurrence of global warming than ever before. “The importance of the issue was most forcefully brought to the public’s attention with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Their unusual severity, being among the strongest ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, reminded a number of network newscasters of recent scientific reports predicting an increase in hurricane severity” (Jordan). The Stern Review: the Economics of Climate Change released in 2007 insists that there is still time to make an impact and change the effects of global warming. Failure to do so would result in “climate change (that) will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and costal floodings as the world warms” (“The Stern Review”). Europe and the United States do not always agree on policies and procedures that would move in the direction towards slowing the process of global warming. It is comforting to find that although Europe and the United States do not always agree on policies they are both taking different approaches to help slow the process of global warming.
In recent news “a European Commission proposal to slash greenhouse-gas emissions by the end of the next decade” and has put a plan into action to ensure this occurs” (“Climate Trumps Terror in” A01).
“The European Union is currently committed to cutting a basket of six greenhouse gases by 8 percent by 2010, compared with 1990 figures. The commission says its new goal can be reached if member states improve energy efficiency, accept competition between national energy suppliers, agree to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020 and ensure that 10 percent of gasoline consumed is made from biofuels by the same date”(“Climate Trumps Terror in” A01).
Fortunately this is a realistic plan, with set goals, and perceived improvements analyzed. European nations are taking the threat of global warming seriously. Twenty seven of the countries in the European Union have joined forces and in 1997 signed the KYOTO treaty to prevent global warming. It also hopeful that
“the 27-member-nation European Union which as a block is one of the largest global warming polluters is likely to meet its collective goal (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions). This is due in large part to Eastern European states having shut down or modernized heavy polluting Soviet-era industries during the 1990s. Also helping the EU effort is the United Kingdom, which is on track to meet its goals, thanks mostly to a switch from coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning natural gas”(“Earth Talk: Which Countries”).
The European Union has set and accepted strict standards to reduce the threat of global warming.
In the United States the burning of fossil fuels is scene as the countries largest contributor to global warming. The cost of gas in America is significantly lower than other places in the world. America also has the largest vehicles on the road, and in turn use more fossil fuels that any other nation in the world.
“The increase in observed temperatures worldwide began to attract serious scientific and political attention in the 1980s and 1990s. Human-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions had increased markedly, especially during the latter part of the twentieth century, and many scientists believed there was a causal connection between increased GHG emissions and global warming or global climate change. The cause of this warming is still debated, but most scientists and governments believe it to be the result of human activities, particularly those involving the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels provide roughly eighty-five percent of the world’s commercial energy, and the automobile industry–the world’s leading industry –is highly dependent on the oil industry–a close global second to the auto industry. Seven of the ten largest industrial corporations in the United States are either oil or auto companies. A substantial percentage of carbon dioxide emissions come from motor vehicle exhaust” (Mayer).
In retrospect Americans use more fossil fuels than any other nation and therefore submit more emissions into the atmosphere causing global warming one a large scale. By abusing the resources available to them Americans are social irresponsible when it comes to auto mobiles and the use of fossil fuels. With the two greatest contributors to global warming being well known and publicized so that Americans can help slow global warming simply by driving more environmental conscious vehicles. This is currently the most effective way America is fighting global warming. As a note America and Australia do not have to meet KYOTO requirements because they refused to sign the treaty in 1997, “even though together the two major industrial powers account for 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions”(Earthtalks; Which Countries”).
The effects of global warming are being felt worldwide. “Global warming and the melting of polar ice cover is predicted to raise ocean levels worldwide, directly impacting on island nations who plead most strongly for restraint of fossil fuel consumption by industrialized nations” (Mayer). Some alternative fuel methods have been tried and found to be very successful. “Another strategy for reducing fossil fuel emissions from vehicles is to shift to alternate fueled vehicles. Various choices include electric, natural gas, methane, and fuel cell vehicles” (Mayer). In the United States there are some environmentally conscious states have started to support energy efficient vehicles. “The federal government has provided some limited support for the development of alternate fueled vehicles, while California has mandated that companies selling vehicles there market a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles, or ZEVs”(Mayer).
The energy consumption of the people of the United States is of great concern to the world’s environmental health. The United States Congress is well aware of their countries contributions to global warming. In 2002 the Senate passed legislation that “would raise average fuel efficiency standards to 36 mpg by 2015, a standard that would classify minivans and SUV’s as passenger vehicles rather than light trucks” (Mayer). In less than ten years the classification will have an effect on the people on the United States. This amount of time is crucial when we consider the state of ozone layer and the steady increase of global warming. Becoming aware of the staggering usage of gasoline may help sway some Americans to switch to alternative methods of transportation;
“Since the Earth Summit in 1992, U.S. gasoline use has increased markedly. In essence, the U.S. public is consuming more and more, generating more and more GHG emissions and the transportation sector leads the way. An Energy Department report in 1997 indicated that the United States, with less than one twentieth of the world’s population, accounted for almost one fourth of all greenhouse gases; U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide from transportation had grown 8.5 percent since 1990. The number of vehicles worldwide multiplied by a factor of eight from 1950 to 1989, and by 1999, the transportation sector globally was responsible for twenty-one percent of worldwide carbon emissions. If current trends continue, the global automobile population could double in as little as twenty-five to fifty years. Moreover, regulatory controls on motor vehicle emissions have focused on carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and ozone, and highway emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases “remain largely unaddressed.” In both the European Community and the United States, the transportation sector was responsible for the largest increases in carbon dioxide emissions after the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. Thus, if the United States and European nations are to reduce GHG emissions, doing so in the transportation sector seems mandatory” (Mayer).
With the creation of the KYOTO treaty the hope was the all nations of the world could work together and make the right choice and consciously choose to support the health of the environment, the very source that sustains us.
To make changes we need to specifically “explore the complex interactions and mutual influences of philosophy, evolutionary biology, ethics–conceptual enterprises all–and our primary interactions and encounters with humans and nature in everyday life”(Donnelley). By switching to hybrid vehicles or alternative energy vehicles, making sure all vehicles on the road pass emissions tests, and discontinue driving oversized vehicles that take more fossil fuel and because more emissions to be released Americans can contribute to slowing global warming…
“American conservatives tend not to take global warming seriously and fail to see why those who do find the U.S. unwillingness to tax energy infuriating. This perhaps more than any other act cemented in the mind of many Europeans the image of George Bush as a self-serving unilateralist” (Fukuyama 143). Although the environment has not been a factor regularly addressed by the Bush administration there are huge American corporations, such as “Boeing, IBM, John Hancock and Whirlpool — (who) have publicly endorsed the notion that climate change is real by joining a business council organized by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change”(Lynch). The Pew Center is an international organization that brings together business leaders, scientists, policy makers and other experts to address controversial issues (“Working together because”). The idea behind this thinking can in fact be construed as a financial investment.
“A clear sign that climate concerns have moved into the financial mainstream is the growing activism of institutional shareholders. Over the past few years, investors have become increasingly worried about insufficient disclosure about the risks companies face from global warming. Under existing regulations, publicly traded companies are required to disclose to investors any information that could have a “material” impact on their financial results. There are no additional requirements governing climate-change issues. A changing climate threatens companies throughout the economy with costs from future regulations, the physical effects of a changing landscape, even the danger of massive lawsuits”(Lynch).
Although the reasons for supporting the fight against global warming by American corporations are may be financially based, these corporations are large enough that collectively they can make a huge impact and ideally smaller companies will follow in their footsteps.
“Many previous threats posed clear and present danger; global warming is far more subtle, warning us not with roaring tanks or burning rivers but with invisible gases, slow changes in our surroundings, increasingly severe climatic disruptions that, thank God, have not yet hit home for most Americans. But make no mistake. The problem is real. And if we do not change our course now, the consequences sooner or later will be destructive for America and for the world” (Johansen 13). Knowing this the all nations need to collaborate and take a stand by making changes now, not ten years from now. England has been encouraging the United States to take action since 1997. At that time British Prime Minister of Environment, Michael Meacher, urged Americans to take action. He said “it is now time for the Americans to show greater leadership (in environmental policies)” (Johansen 48).
England is taking a conscious step encouraging residents to purchase eco-friendly cars. “London council has announced it is to give drivers of eco-friendly cars free residents’ parking permits” saving citizens over 110 pounds a year (“Free parking for”). America needs to follow in the footsteps of the British and offer incentives, fringe benefits so to say, to owners of eco-friendly cars. This will help us take one step closer to claiming our social responsibility as individuals and a nation.
With the state of global warming increasing at a danger rate all people should make an effort to use less fossil fuel and create less pollution. Many people have the view that one person can not make a difference, this is not true. Americans and Europeans for the most part have been ignoring their social responsibility. A fine balance needs to be found between human beings and nature. “Humans and nature” problems press in upon us from all sides. We are all becoming–or should be becoming–more cognizant of global warming; ecologically unsustainable cities and agricultural practices; the overuse of antibiotics in our health care systems and on our factory farms; the global crash of ocean fisheries; a human population and use of natural resources that is squeezing out other forms of life; the pollution and degradation of our air, soil, and water” (Donnelley). Now all of these points need to be taken into consideration and changed as a whole, but the first step is for Americans and Europeans, together, to accept their responsibility to the environment and change the way they effect global warming. By adapting the vehicles we use we can slow down the burning of fossil fuels by taking a few small steps.
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