Imagine a world plagued by hurricanes, floods, drought, and wildfires. This world has no clean air or water and is filled with disease and death. This world, once filled with magnificent cities and lavish forests, has been drowned by water.This ghastly world could be our home because of global warming.
Since 1880, the average temperature of the Earth has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius and is still increasing. While this may seem like an insubstantial amount, the increase will have devastating effects on our economy, weather, environment, cities, and daily life. The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, surpassed only by China. However, China has agreed as a part of the Paris agreement to cut its emissions by 60% by 2030 and has emerged as a leader in the fight against global warming. But what have we done as the 2nd largest contributor to global warming to fight against it?
The answer is very little. In actuality, the United States has recently pulled out and repealed many of the attempts by the Obama Administration to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The most recent of these included repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP was an act passed by the Obama administration that was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and coal industries, which contribute to a third of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions. As of this moment, the Repealment has been halted by the Supreme Court. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, worked to repeal the Clean Power Plan on the basis that this “would also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources.” The question is: are the supposed positive effects of the repealment justifiable in the face of the long term consequences that this will have not only on our environment, but also on our society and the world?
The main positive business impact of repealing the CPP will be on the coal industry. Coal production fell by 29% during the Obama Administration, and conservative groups estimated that the CPP would cost a quarter million in jobs and shrink the industry by half. They also estimated that repealing the CPP would save $33 billion due to avoided compliance costs. However, these estimates are being challenged by environmental groups and others. Also, as of 2014, the coal industry employs approximately 76,572 people. This estimate is less than half of the number of people employed by car washes. Even Arby’s employs more people than the coal industry does. So even if Trump were to increase the size of the coal industry, it’s likely that the size of the industry will still be less than the number of people employed by retail shoe companies and therefore the impact on our country and world would be minimum.
On the other hand, the Clean Power Plan ensured a large amount of positive change. Power plants contribute to 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. The CPP set targets for states to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by shifting away from coal-fueled power. The long term impact of the CPP was to help reduce the United States’ impact on global warming, the severity of which is often underestimated. Global warming is a force to be reckoned with and should not be disregarded.
Perhaps one of the most well known impacts global warming has had on our climate is an increase in temperatures and climate disasters- including wildfires, hurricanes, severe storms, drought, and flooding. Between 2011 and 2015, the annual average cost for natural disasters was $10.8 billion. An increase in natural calamities could cost us billions more. Not only this, but the changing climate could result in a spike in morbidity rates in the United States and around the world. Global warming will cause some areas to become extremely hot and dry, and others much warmer and wetter. Extreme heat kills more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning combined, and more humid and hot weather helps the spread of foodborne and waterborne diseases. It also aids in spreading insect borne diseases such as ebola. Wetter weather leads to the contamination of water and air, and promotes mold. Global warming is also linked to higher wildlife and marine life extinction rates. It causes more acidic oceans, which impacts the seafood industry. As the world’s ice sheets melt, the rising water levels threaten to drown entire island nations and cities. By 2100, cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Mumbai, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro could be facing extreme danger.
With all of this in mind, it is tragic that the United States, as the 2nd largest contributor to global warming, has decided that the best course of action against this threat is to repeal the CPP and other similar plans that hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the basis that it will supposedly help the coal industry and also help the economy grow, the EPA has decided that the Clean Power Plan is unbeneficial to our world. The United States will ultimately suffer greatly because of this. I encourage all of those who made and support this decision to ask themselves: was it worth it?
– Anika Sanyal
Categories: JMM Opinions