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A Proposal to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint as Americans

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The Earth vs. Mankind

A Proposal that Americans should be required to recycle and reduce their waste output within their community, to lessen their carbon footprint.

Cecelia Staats

Baker College of Cadillac

November 30, 2017


Earth vs. Humanity

A Proposal that Americans should be required to recycle and reduce their waste output within their community, to lessen their carbon footprint.

By August 2, 2017, humanity used more from nature than our planet can renew in the whole year. Humans of the world use an excess of natural resources and service than the earth can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester. Counteracting an individual’s unavoidable carbon dioxide emissions is a hands-on and immediate way to take ownership in the contribution to climate change. Overall, Americans should be required to recycle and reduce their waste output within their community, to lessen their carbon footprint.

Background

Since the industrial revolution humanity has come a long way. Humanity has developed remarkable technology and learned how the natural resources around us could be used for our benefit. This has led to many inventions we use daily; like automobiles, cell phones and airplanes. It also means we have increased the consumption of natural resources and in turn released a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Modern human activity has increased the release of none naturally occurring greenhouse gasses dramatically as we have stepped up the demand for burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil.

Global warming is defined as “an increase in the earth's atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution.” (Quotation citation) Global warming is due to the immense increase in greenhouse gasses, which humanity is putting into the atmosphere (Maslin, 2002).  As sunlight hits the earth, the warmth is absorbed by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases trap heat and cause the planet to heat up gradually through a process called the greenhouse effect (Maslin, 2002).

The composition of greenhouse gases traps heat radiated from the sun, the more heat they trap the warmer earth gets; and we then begin to see and feel the effects. Rising sea levels, melting arctic ice and record high temperatures are just some of the telltale signs.

Reasons and Evidence

        40% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions are directly tied to making, moving and disposing of all things we use and throw away daily. Waste prevention and recycling are powerful ways that each of us can use less energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a healthy climate. One way to really contribute is by reducing emissions associated with the energy needed to produce and transport new products. We can achieve this decrease in emission if we use recycled products; when we waste less and choose products made with recycled materials. More energy is needed to extract, transport and process raw materials to manufacture new products rather than reusing materials. Recycling one aluminum can, for example, saves over 95% of the energy that would be required to produce a can from all new materials. Another example would be if a business with 7,000 employees were to recycle its office paper for one year, it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 570 metric tons. This is like taking 370 cars off the road for an entire year!

        According to an independent analyses done by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; in 2016 earth’s surface temperatures were the warmest documented since modern recordkeeping began in 1880. “2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said analysis Director Gavin Schmidt. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about two degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-19th century (Plummer, 2017). Which may not seem like a lot but for the oceans, glaciers and artic ice, is is very much so a problem. Most of the warming has occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record happening since 2001 (NASA & NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record, 2017). Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but from January through September, were the warmest on record for those months (NASA & NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record, 2017). If the earth keeps warming at this rapid rate we will begin to see mass devastation like sea levels rising and flooding coastal communities, an increase in the number of tropical storms and less moisture in the air and ground to sustain crops. These effects of global warming would be devastating.

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