For the past two decades, global warming has been a controversial issue in the United States. Although various countries have been dealing with this universal issue, the United States has been slow to set goals for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
There is evidence of the harmful effect climate change has on the world. The arctic ice is melting. Polar bears are drowning. Forest fires, heat waves, droughts, and floods are more common. Hurricanes are becoming more deadly. Glaciers are retreating, oceans are rising, deserts are advancing, corals are bleaching, and more damaging effects are overwhelming the earth.
With all this evidence of global warming, it would seem obvious that governments should be working to help the planet, but there is still not enough being done. There are examples all over the world of plants and animals dying out. Animals are fleeing their habitats because of the warmth and going places where they cannot survive. Birds are not migrating as far because it does not get cold enough in the winter.
The rise in the ocean temperature causes coral reefs to start dying out. These examples give just a small picture of the devastation happening globally.
The facts may be overwhelming, but they cannot be overlooked and action cannot be postponed. Many countries are taking steps to join together and help save the globe.
The Kyoto Protocol was going to help. In December 1997, the treaty was completed in Kyoto, Japan. It called for the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions to be 7 percent lower from what they were in 1990 by 2012. President George Bush decided to renounce the treaty.
Today, there are 169 countries that are a part of this treaty, but this still does not include the United States. Leadership is needed from Maine’s congressional delegation and from President Barack Obama.
The United States has been very slow to accept that changes need to be made to help the planet. A poll taken by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows that many fewer people in the United States saw evidence of or “believed” in global warming in 2009 than in 2008.
Many people may accept that the globe is warming, but not that it is caused by humans. One of the reasons the United States is behind on believing global warming is real is because of a scandal that has been going on since 1998.
If global warming is viewed from the mind of an oil company, it is seen as a negative influence on the company. If people cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, then they stop using as much oil. To convince people to keep buying oil, ExxonMobil advertised information suggesting that global warming is a scam.
ExxonMobil is the biggest oil company in the world. In 2006, the company spent $14.5 million on lobbying, which is the most any oil company has ever spent. It worked with the White House and the Bush administration to have influence on what the government told people. After many people criticized the company’s advertising, Exxon backed down on what they said, and instead now advertise that global warming is uncertain.
Despite the alarming consequences of global warming, there is a way individuals can help. The first step is to be aware and to accept what is happening.
A big way to help is to use less energy, which will bring down carbon dioxide emissions. We can change our driving habits. For every gallon of gasoline burned, 21 pounds of oxygen is taken from the air, and 20 pounds of carbon is released.
Changes also can be made in how people light, heat and cool buildings so as to produce less carbon dioxide. More energy efficient computers can be made, and just unplugging a computer when not being used saves a lot of energy. Biking, reducing waste, turning off lights, and refilling water bottles each in turn goes very far toward saving the planet.
There are such simple ways to stop this life-threatening problem, and they need to happen. Recognizing that the heat rise is dangerous and has horrible consequences is a significant first step in helping. Although there may be a few scientists and others trying to prove global warming false, the truth remains that there is an abundance of information supporting the facts.
It is vital that the truth is spread so global warming can be controlled and future generations can live on a life-sustaining planet.
Helena Tatgenhorst of Winterport is a junior at Hampden Academy.