The school year ended a few days ago, and I’ve been reduced to a congested mess. Without stressful routines, I guess my immune system decided that now was prime time to relax as well. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I figured it’d be unwise to start a post from scratch, so here’s a modified version of one of my favorite essays I turned into my english teacher this year.
In light of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, I dedicate this post to the issue of global warming. It is a serious issue, and it is our duty to find solutions. This post will not rant on Trump’s decision, but rather a long standing competition between man and nature. On balance, the US has contributed a large bulk of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. This is, in part, due to the nature of our economy; it focuses on the consumer. But our political decisions remain just as culpable.
***Washington Post: The U.S. has caused more global warming than any other country…***
Globally, the world struggles to find a balance between societal needs with a healthy environment. Since the world mainly runs on nonrenewable resources, it encounters two problems: the deleterious carbon byproducts and the ever-shrinking supply of available fossil fuels. These problems create an unhealthy environment and an unstable energy source for the future. A successful country, in terms of energy stability, would have found solutions to address both problems. In addressing the oncoming global warming and energy crises, many European countries, including Iceland, have better prepared their economies than America.
Serving as the impetus to transitioning the world to an innovative society, the industrial revolution resulted in not only encouraged investment in new technology but also the increase in exploitation of carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The aftermath equated to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses, which drown the atmosphere and cause the global warming effect. According to NASA, global warming has a number of negative outcomes, such as “rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and major changes in weather patterns.” Population displacement and damage to natural resources exemplify a few of the effects rising temperatures would have on humans. While climate change poses a threat to the Earth’s invaluable ecosystems, another challenge presented to the planet is the eventual exhaustion of nonrenewable resources. The availability of fossil fuels shrinks with every effort to extract them. In fact, in “How Long Will Fossil Fuels Last?”, Siddharth Singh analyzes just how much time the world has to find a solution: “… at current rates of production, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110.” Humanity has tangled itself in an unstable web, but Europe has seen success in taking the initiative to address both problems with a single solution: promoting clean and renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy offers a simple solution to two very complex problems. While being a source of energy that reduces carbon emissions, it also addresses the oncoming fossil fuel shortage. Many forms of renewable energy exist, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric. Critics claim it may take a while to transition, which highlights the urgency of the situation; the world should begin converting itself as soon as possible. In response to the issue at hand, The European Union has become a figure for the world to follow, as the continent has significantly increased its renewable consumption.
In recent years, many European countries have begun to use cleaner, more stable energy sources. For example, according to Halla Hrund Logadóttir from the UN Chronicle, Iceland has seized several renewable energy opportunities, namely their hydroelectric and geothermal sources. With exception of using fossil fuels in transportation, the island country claims to run completely off of renewable energy, and they haven’t even tapped into the abundance of wind potential available to them. Iceland provides a model for other European nations and is followed by other leading countries. Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania provides that, in terms of renewable energy, “Denmark is producing 43% of its energy from renewables… and it aims for 70% by 2020. Germany, [will be] at 30% soon and is going for 45% clean power by 2025, 60% by 2035, and an incredible 80% by 2050.” Europe, as a continent, continues to take energy consumption policy to the next level; the European Union has implemented the Renewable Energy Directive, which “creates binding obligations to all of its members with the aim of reaching the EU target of consuming 20% of its energy in form of renewables by 2020.” Europe’s leadership in the transition to clean energy emphasizes the importance of finding solutions to the impending climate and nonrenewable catastrophes. Through the promotion of renewable energy resources, Europe is appropriately preparing for the future.
***Eurostat: Graph shows percent of renewable energy used in consumption (2014 vs 2020 projection)***
In contrast, Wharton also cites that America lags in renewable energy production at barely 13%, with most coming from hydroelectric dams and wind energy. The United States still heavily relies on fossil fuels for powering communities and has not implemented a federal policy to initiate a national transition to clean energy; only federal carbon emissions regulations and varying degrees of State government legislation exist. Though over half of the states have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards (which require local energy producers to supply a certain percent of renewable energy), Stephanie Heerwig notes that only six states have set renewable consumption goals: “Standards vary from as much as 33 percent of electricity provided from renewables by 2020 (California) to an average 7 percent in Massachusetts by 2020.” These state approaches, however, are not enough to boost America to the same standard as the European Union. The US lacks the unified incentive to convert itself to rely on more renewable energy that the EU has used to encourage its members and is remains unprepared to address the global warming and energy shortage issues.
“We stand now where two roads diverge… The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
-Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
The world is warming while simultaneously running out of fuel. Our world is at its peak in creative engineering, and Europe is solving both aforementioned problems by investing in the sustainable energy industry. Without a national initiative, America has fallen behind many European countries. Pulling out of the Paris agreement not only affects our country, but also the actions of other countries. If the US, a “great super power,” dismisses the urgency of climate change, then what does that say to other countries in the agreement? The United States has the potential to lead the world in clean energy technology, but it must first wean itself off of fossil fuels as it contributes to the problem, and it must recognize the significance of the Paris Accord; America must prepare for the future. Since the industrial revolution, we have become a global society of innovation, obsessed with producing new technology. America should assume its leading role in the move towards renewable energy by organizing
(or joining *cough cough* Paris Accord *cough cough*) a national incentive.