The debate over the earth’s future is finally beginning to heat up. (pun intended!) With rising levels of CO2 literally looming overhead, people are starting to realize the enormous repercussions of everyday decisions and actions. Even so, many people still remain unconvinced and uninterested in the cold hard facts of global warming. After all, recognition of a deadly problem would require people to make drastic changes, and the world looks so much easier and attractive when your head is buried in the sand.
In the past decade, society has made a trend of using extremely large amounts of carbon from the earth. As a result, the concentration of carbon is shifting. Carbon was once found mainly in the earth’s surface, but since the arrival of heavy fossil fuel emitters, the atmosphere is simply being forced to collect all the excess CO2 that humankind is producing. It is kind of like a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos where society keeps tossing more marbles out onto the playing field, and the atmosphere must always scoop them up. But there has to come a point when the hippo has had its fill of food and can take in no more. And that point of complete atmospheric fullness is waiting just around the corner. The environment has been force-fed carbon for quite awhile now and is ready to burst.
In order to prevent carbon’s growing trend, people must realize what is causing the CO2 concentration to rise. Human activities such as burning coal and natural gas, clearing forests, and many industrial practices contribute to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels. While the natural environment contributes about 95% of the atmospheric carbon, the rise in human contribution is upsetting the natural balance of the earth. Natural methods of neutralizing and eliminating CO2 exist in the environment, but they are only able to handle the CO2 that the natural environment emits. So even though humans only contribute around 5% of the atmospheric carbon, it only takes a small amount to upset the happy medium of our delicate environment.
With all the previous numbers laid out in the open, society faces the inevitable question of “So what?” Are there really any consequences of a rise in CO2 concentration? To put it simply, the answer is yes. Changes would occur on both ecological and societal levels. Ecosystems near coastlines would be ruined and animals would be forced to move inward as the ocean rises. On a more down-to-earth front, the food industry of our society could be dramatically changed. A rise in global temperature would hurt agriculture by decreasing soil moisture in the summertime and increasing soil moisture and runoff in the wintertime. Since agriculture needs to operate in a very precise manner, little events such as local droughts or flooding can cause shortages of necessary foods. Now imagine if the drought or flood was occurring nationally instead of just on a local scale. The results would be devastating.
With all of this in mind, the question changes from “So what?” to “So what can we do?”, yet this answer is not as simple. The most drastic action would be to stop using gasoline-powered cars, buses, lawnmowers, and heating altogether. A step down, and probably a more realistic goal, would be to find a new method of “going green” every month. Focus your efforts on one action a month, and you will find what works the best. Consider trying things like collecting recyclables that would have been thrown away or unplugging appliances that are not in use. While these small steps may seem inconsequential, they will produce results, and more importantly, they may influence others to join you in your crusade for change. Actions like raising awareness and changing on an individual scale are surefire ways of relieving the problem, but unless individual people act in a collective manner, the result will only be temporary. So it may be better to put in a little work now than to sweat the consequences later on.