Friday, December 7, 2007

Sources for Step Eight

Works Cited

"Cars and Trucks and Global Warming." Clean Vehicles. 10 Oct. 2005. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Fackler, Martin. "Toyota Reports Record Profits and Sales." New York Times 7 Feb. 2007. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Gore, Albert. An Inconvenient Truth. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale, 2006.

"Kyoto Protocol." Environmental Literacy Council. 16 May 2007. Environmental Literacy Council. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Mello, Tara B. "Hybrid Popularity Skyrockets." Edmunds. 17 May 2006. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Monbiot, George. Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End P, 2007.

Moore Odell, Anne. "Working for the Earth: Green Companies and Green Jobs Attract Employees." Social Funds. 9 Oct. 2007. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Princiotta, Frank. "Mitigating Global Climate Change Through Power-Generation Technology." Chemical Engineering Progress (2007): 24-32.

"Top Ten CO2 Producing Nations." Solcomhouse. Oak Ridge Laboratory. 2 Dec. 2007 .

"What You Can Do About Car Emissions." National Safety Council. 6 Mar. 2006. National Safety Council. 2 Dec. 2007 .

Step Eight... Global Warming Mediation

Global warming is a serious issue that could have severe long-term implications if it is not addressed immediately. The human race could be faced with extreme potable water shortages, lowered food production, and increased danger from storms and infectious diseases in the near future (Princiotta). Who is responsible, however, for the necessary reduction of emissions that is needed to combat climate change? Does the responsibility lay in the private sector, which includes individuals, small businesses, and multinational corporations, or the public sector? Compelling arguments can be made for either side. The best option, however, is the cooperation of the individual, businesses, and the governments of the world. As stated by George Monbiot in his book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, “No one can make all the necessary changes by themselves: you can’t switch to public transportation, for example, if the public transportation system has been dismantled. Nor, for that matter, can a government act unless its citizens are demanding that it do so.”

Large corporations, such as oil and electric companies, are often seen as a primary target for environmentalists focusing on climate change. After all, the level of carbon dioxide emissions released by manufacturing, electric, oil, and other industry-based companies is staggering. Yet, there are benefits for these companies to invest in research, development, and application of environmentally-friendly technology. If companies in either of these industries invest in green technology now, they will be ahead of their competition if and when the government passes more strict emission regulations. Also, companies that are invested in the welfare of the environment have distinct Human Resource advantages. Research shows that companies with clear corporate responsibility programs have higher rates of employee satisfaction and retention. Also, companies with an environmental conscience attract more college graduates. In fact, a recent survey shows that 80% of graduates say that they are more interested in jobs with a positive environmental impact (Odell).

Automobile manufacturers could see immense profits if they start engineering cars with higher mile per gallon ratings. The popularity of hybrid cars, or those that run on a mixture of gasoline and battery power, has grown exponentially in the past few years. In 2000, there were just over 9,000 hybrids sold worldwide. In 2006, that number increased to over 200,000 (Mello). Toyota, due in part to its popular hybrid, the Prius, is expected to become the world’s largest automobile maker this year, when its profits exceed that of General Motors (Fackler).

American car companies have been slow to make environmentally-friendly vehicles. In fact, the United States pales in comparison to other countries in terms of mileage standards. Japan, Canada, Australia, and most European nations have laws regarding the mileage of automobiles (Gore 273). Even China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide (Oak Ridge National Laboratory,) has higher emissions standards. This means that most American cars cannot be sold in any of the aforementioned countries (Gore 273). Thus, in American automobile manufacturers’ attempts to save money by not developing environmentally friendly cars, they have only hurt themselves.

It is easy to dismiss the effects of the individual on climate change. After all, there are over six billion people living on this planet. How can one person affect the world’s climate? The truth is that the actions of one individual influence climate change very minutely. The actions of many individuals, such as the population of the United States, however, can have a large impact on global climate. In fact, the United States, while only holding 5% of the world’s population, is responsible for 25% of the world’s emissions (Gore 305). This is why the general population needs to be educated about harmful activities, such as using an inefficient automobile, leaving appliances on when they are not in use, etc.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, one quarter of the Untied State’s total carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to automobiles. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that driving cars is the single most harmful thing that a person can do to the environment. Yet, it is unrealistic to think that a person could simply ignore gasoline-based transportation methods. Thus, there are several alternatives. Public transportation is one answer. A 40 foot bus filled to capacity takes 58 cars off the road (National Safety Council). For short distance travel, a person can walk or ride a bicycle. For those times that a personal automobile is necessary, one can choose to drive a smaller, more fuel efficient car instead of a Sports Utility Vehicle.

Other actions could reduce energy usage significantly. This includes, but is not limited to, turning of appliances (such as the television, lights, cell phone chargers) when not in use, buying locally grown fruits and vegetables, lowering the thermostat a few degrees in the winter, etc. All of these actions are, at most, minor inconveniences. If adapted by enough people, however, there is potential to greatly reduce emissions. In addition to benefiting the environment, these practices also save the consumer money.

There are those who think it is unrealistic, however, that climate change can be averted by the actions of only the companies and individuals that are environmentally conscious. They believe that the majority of the population will continue leaving their lives in the same manner until they are forced to change. These persons advocate government regulation of emissions or tax incentives for companies that reduce emissions. Since climate change is a worldwide problem, however, national climate change policies would be useless other countries adopted similar policies. This is the basis behind the most prominent treaty based on the science of climate change, the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, which has been ratified by over 160 countries, was introduced in 1997. Its goal is to substantially reduce the emissions of the countries involved by 2012 (Environmental Literacy Council). The United States Senate, however, unanimously decided against the ratification of this treaty. Other treaties and groups concerned with climate change include the European Climate Change Program, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership.

There are those who support personal and corporate responsibility to combat global warming. They are opposed by those who believe that the government should be the first to act. How can this debate be mediated? The solution is simpler than other popular political debates, as both sides are arguing to achieve the same end result.

The first step in this issue is education. The average American citizen has undoubtedly heard the terms “global warming” and “climate change,” whether in a newspaper, on the radio, or on television. Not many, however, are educated on the dangers and immediacy of the problem. If the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remain growing at the current rate, by the year 2030 ecosystems will reverse. This means, instead of taking in carbon dioxide, they will release it (Monbiot xi). At this point, human technology cannot stop global warming. Citizens, such as journalists, scientists, and authors, have been releasing this type of information, although it has mostly fallen upon deaf ears. Thus, the government needs to enact a public education plan. This should be in mediums that the average citizen can see, such as public service announcements on radio and television, as well as billboards and advertising sections on public transportation. If the average citizen is made aware of staggering facts, such as the one presented above, they will be more likely to act.

The United States Senate did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol because the rapidly expanding countries of India and China did not. The Senate felt that the United States would not have adequate means to compete with these nations if American companies were forced to reduce emissions. This problem could be solved by the government’s investment in renewable energy (such as nuclear power,) or increased diplomatic pressure on the resistant countries. It is clear, however, that the United States needs to ratify a document like the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible. The welfare of the environment cannot wait for the world’s second highest carbon dioxide emitter to pass necessary legislation for very much longer.

The two aforementioned steps require government involvement. Yet it is clear through the inability to ratify the Kyoto Protocol that the government is hesitant to act. This is where individual involvement is necessary. Those that have knowledge and are concerned about climate change must form groups whose aim is to elect officials that will introduce and vote for strict emissions regulations. After all, it is the role of politicians to vote for bills that the people whom elected them support. These individuals must also act in an environmentally conscious manner, and attempt to persuade others to do so as well. The solution to the issue of global warming must be initiated with these educated persons.

Climate change is a serious issue that is being ignored by an overwhelming number of individuals and corporations. The Unites States government has also been slow to act. There are, however, a growing number of citizens and corporations that have taken measures to reduce their emission levels. It is up to them to provide the initial push towards the reduction of emissions. From that point, the government must take control of the issue by educating the general public and passing laws to reduce emissions. Global warming will not be solved by either the public or private sectors alone, but rather both sides working together.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mediation Brief

In recent years, scientists have almost unanimously accepted that the world’s climate is changing. This “global warming,” as it is commonly known, poses serious threats to the welfare of many of the earth’s species, including the human race. But who is responsible for reversing this trend? Some think that individuals and companies should take responsibility. Yet, many are unwilling to change their ways. That leads to the other side of the argument: government needs to pass laws to regulate emissions. Both sides have valid arguments, thus, I will mediate between the two sides.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brief (revised)

As global warming is detrimental to all human life, it is up to the individual to take action against it. It is also imperative that corporations take action in their factories and transportation methods to combat global warming. I will support my argument by demonstrating the inability of politicians to pass adequate legislation to mandate the reduction of emissions, such as the Kyoto Protocol. I will explore the reasons behind this lack of political action. I will also show how even the smallest actions, such as using public transportation, buying local goods, and using energy-saving appliances, can impact climate while minimizing inconvenience. I will finish my argument by looking at environmentally responsible companies- their motives for “going green” and the effects (both financially and economically.)

Reason: The political arena has been unable to pass proper legislation that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Evidence: The Kyoto Protocol, which would only cut emissions by 5.2% of the necessary 94% for the U.S, was not ratified by the Senate (George Monbiot's Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning.)

Reason: Small actions on the part of the individual can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Evidence: One liter of gasoline will fuel a car for 4 to 5.5 miles. The same amount of gasoline can power a bus full of 40 people for 31 miles and a train of 300 passengers for 34 miles. A five minute shower, as opposed to a bath, can save 400 liters of water (and the energy needed to heat the water) per week. If your car tired are properly inflated, your gas mileage will improve by at least 3%. This is important, considering every gallon of gasoline burned releases 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Reason: Being environmentally-friendly has many benefits for a company.

Evidence: Becoming more fuel-efficient has benefits for the company and the environment. Continental Airlines has invested billions of dollars into more fuel-efficient aircraft and aircraft accessories. For example, a winglet on Continental's Boeing 737 and 757 airplanes reduce emissions by 5%, while saving the company on fuel (Fortune magazine's website.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Global Warming

The world is warming at alarming rates. This is due to unprecedented amounts of CO2 and other gases being emitted into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. While there is a certain amount of gas that needs to be present in the atmosphere to sustain life(greenhouse gases,) these additional emissions are flooding the atmosphere. The result is the atmosphere trapping too much sunlight, thus raising the global temperature.

In recent years, the theory of global warming has been almost unanimously accepted by the scientific community (there are, however, still politicians and government-backed scientists that resist the very existence of global warming.) Thus, the reality of global warming is not being contested. My argument is this: as global warming is detrimental to all human life, it is up to the individual to take action against it.