Climate change is an urgent issue for the present world that we have yet to stop. Global temperatures are slowly increasing with no signs of stopping and weather patterns are fluctuating precariously with disastrous consequences on surrounding life. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if drastic measures are not taken to prevent global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius by 2030, it will lead to catastrophic consequences to the planet and life as we know it (“How We Can Combat Climate Change”). This rise in global temperatures began when countries starting going through Industrial Revolutions in the 1760s. The use of fossil fuels such as coal skyrocketed, resulting in a huge increase in greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) that even the planet’s vast oceans and plants could not completely absorb. As a result, the remaining gas went up into the atmosphere. Our atmosphere acts as an insulating blanket, where “greenhouse gas molecules trap some of the heat [from the sun], and the rest escapes into space” (Nunez), keeping our planet warm and liveable. Without it, “the Earth’s surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) cooler” (Nunez). The only problem is, “the more greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, the more heat gets locked up in the molecules” (Nunez), and as more heat gets trapped, consequently, the Earth also starts to warm up. However, since this only raises the global temperatures by a couple of degrees, it may not sound like that big of a deal, but these “changes that have historically taken thousands of years are now happening over the course of decades” (Nunez), and wildlife cannot adapt fast enough, which is leading to a potential mass extinction. In terms of humans, climate change affects minority groups a great deal more, as these groups are a lot more likely to live in areas more severely impacted by climate change.
For more information on climate change in general, go to this paper.
Is the World Doomed? Climate Change History from the Industrial Revolution – Now:
Climate change is a global crisis. It did not suddenly start at one time and place, but began when countries started to industrialize in the 1760s, using coal as their primary source of power. The US started to contribute to the issue in the 1790s, when Samuel Slater “opened the first industrial mill in the United States in 1790 with a design that borrowed heavily from a British model” (“Economic Growth and Early Industrial Revolution”). With the usage of coal as the main energy source, toxic gases like mercury and lead were released in the air, causing acid rainfall and health issues ranging from asthma to brain damage (“Coal Power Impacts”). But the main impact of coal burning was the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and as the levels of carbon dioxide climbed higher and higher, the temperature of our planet slowly climbed with it (“Coal Power Impacts”).
For more information on the history of this crisis, you can refer to this paper.
What You Need to Know:
Most people are familiar with the most common problems climate change causes: the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, long droughts, rising global temperatures, increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters, and more. But the effects of climate change on minority groups are much less well known. African Americans make up 13% of the total US population, and of that percentage, “68 percent [of people of color] live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant” and “breathe in 40% more polluted air than white communities” (Rysavy and Floyd), which can be especially dangerous for people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma (Astor). Due to rising temperatures slowly destroying the marine ecosystem and melting permafrost, some Alaskan Native communities are unable to continue hunting and fishing for food, and “many Alaskan natives may have to relocate entire villages” to cope with the changing climate (Rysavy and Floyd). In farming communities, Latino farmers in particular are suffering from long droughts and heat waves affecting crop turnout (Rysavy and Floyd). And when natural disasters such as hurricanes strike, people of color typically are the most heavily impacted, as they usually can’t “afford to evacuate or [have] nowhere to go” (Astor), but get less attention and don’t receive the federal help they need to rebuild their lives (Astor).
Luckily, many climate activists such as Greta Thunberg and organizations such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and GreenPeace are fighting against climate change. Just last year, I participated in a climate change protest in San Francisco that attracted thousands of students. CCL is currently pushing for the Carbon Fee and Dividend policy to be passed in Congress, which would tax carbon and bring down carbon emissions in the US (“Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy”). A resolution was passed by a “local government in Pennsylvania, the third-largest greenhouse-gas emitter” in 2017, recognizing that something needed to be done to reduce carbon emissions in the state and calling for carbon neutrality (having no carbon footprint) (“How We Can Combat Climate Change”). Complete Streets policies are being implemented to make roads more accessible to bikes and pedestrians, encouraging people to participate in less polluting forms of transportation (“How We Can Combat Climate Change”).
For more information on the present state of climate change and what is being done to combat it, see this paper.
To confront this social injustice problem, I recommend our society as well as individuals to consider these solutions to climate change:
- One of the main causes of climate change is our carbon emissions, so to reduce the amount of carbon we produce, we should put a price on carbon and implement a policy that taxes the amount of carbon companies put into the atmosphere such as the Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy.
- Another solution would be to get rid of fossil fuels altogether by converting from oil, coal, and natural gas to using the sun or other renewable resources for energy. Wind turbines, hydropower facilities, and new technologies such as a cheap solar film resembling plant leaves are some examples of machinery that use renewable resources to create energy, and in terms of policies, the Green New Deal is a great example, as it aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero and completely convert to renewable energy sources by 2030.
- Another large issue is that deforestation is causing less of the carbon in our atmosphere to be able to be converted into oxygen as well as destroying ecosystems and putting animals and plants at risk. To stop the cutting down of trees, companies can implement “zero-deforestation” policies that ensure that wood used in their products come from sustainable sources, such as been recycled or reused.
- Every time you drive a gas-powered car, you are contributing to the carbon humans are pumping into the atmosphere. To diminish that impact as an individual, if affordable, you can get an electric car to reduce the pollution your car is producing. Walking, biking, carpooling, and taking public transit also save energy and carbon emissions.
- When you use commercial electricity, it typically comes from a carbon or toxin producing source such as a nuclear or coal powered plant. To help minimize carbon pollution and toxicnuclear waste, install solar panels such as these Tesla solar panels on your roof to produce your own electricity. Try to “eat a plant-based diet, avoid air travel, live car-free, and [have a] smaller family” (“The Most Effective Climate Change Solutions Are Rarely Discussed”).
- To help out plants with their important job of transforming carbon into oxygen, you can plant your own garden without using artificial growth supplements or fertilizer, and also try to purchase products that utilize recycled or reused materials and woods, so that more trees are not cut down to make those products.
- If we want to help slow the progression of climate change, education is a key component of the solution. This NASA webpage has a lot of information on the adverse effects of climate change, as well as many links to information on what is being done to stop it and what you can do to prepare the issues that will arise from climate change. If this kind of information is not taught to everyone, people won’t know how they can take action and reduce their carbon footprint, and a united effort is needed to solve this problem.
Request for Feedback:
I am eager to know if you have any thoughts on other solutions that would specifically help people of color who are disproportionately effected by climate change and the problems it creates and enhances.
You can access my sources here.