Humanity faces tons of problems nowadays. Overpopulation, poverty, hunger, natural calamities, water shortages, animal extinction, pollution, diseases… these are just some of the challenges we come across—which are, in one way or another, related to global warming. It is time we should act now and stop being part of the problem but part of the solution.
Global warming begins when the sun’s energy, in the form of light and heat, enters the Earth. However, it rises up, escapes the earth’s atmosphere, and returns to space in the form of infrared waves. Due to the presence of greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, most of this radiation is trapped in the atmosphere. This is nature’s way of keeping the Earth at a comfortable temperature; without it, this planet would be too cold to even live in (Gore 26).
Global Warming causes imbalance in nature, which would not only destroy our planet, but also the lives of everyone living in it. Mother Nature has provided us with the perfect place to live in. But then, what are we, humans doing to it in return?! We have gone way too far beyond our limits and ruined the delicate balance of Earth. We have greatly increased the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) along with other greenhouse gases, thereby thickening the atmosphere—trapping more heat and bringing up the Earth’s average temperature dangerously warmer (Gore 27).
The total greenhouse gas emissions comprises of 80% carbon dioxide (Gore 28) which comes from burning of materials containing carbon such as wood, foods, and fossil fuels—oil, natural gas, petroleum, and coal; decomposition or rotting of carbonates also contribute to it (Funk & Wagnalls. Volume 5. 294); several industrial production processes emit CO2 as well—mineral production, metal production, chemical production (Carbon dioxide)…
Trees sequester about a ton of CO2 throughout its life time. However, when it is cut down and used as firewood or when it dies and decomposes naturally, it will release most of the gases it stored and return it back to the atmosphere (de Rothschild 82).
Landfills, livestock farming, fossil-fuel burning, wastewater treatment, and other industries contribute to 60% of the methane currently found in the Earth’s atmosphere. Seventeen percent of nitrous oxide has also been added to the atmosphere by humans from fertilizers, fossil fuels, and the burning of forests and crop residues. There are even several greenhouse gases which are produced solely by human activity: sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), perfluorocarbon (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs), and chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) (Gore 28).
Never was there a point in the last 650,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, that the concentrations of CO2 on Earth went above 300 parts per million (ppm) (Gore 66). Formerly, there were only 280ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere before the preindustrial era. Now that humans have advanced in technology, CO2 emissions weren’t left behind. It is estimated that the present CO2 concentrations have now increased to 380ppm (de Rothschild 8).
Due to the increase of greenhouse gases, we are raising temperatures worldwide. We’ve just invited more trouble. Climate change is highly evident all over the world—glaciers are melting; some experience drought, some storms; sea levels are rising; the Arctic and Antarctic are both shrinking; desertification is increasing; permafrost which were referred to as permanently frozen, are starting to thaw; more and more species are threatened by climate change; rainforests, coral reefs, as well as other habitats are dying; appearance of algae blooms fed by pollution increases therefore adding more dead zones; disease vectors have been increasing thereby new diseases arise (Gore 48, 114, 186, 126, 118, 133, 163, 164, 170, 172).
We should all join hands in helping to solve this crisis and restore Earth’s natural balance. We’ve brought it to this mess and now we have to fix it—bring it back to how it used to be because that’s how it ought to be. These may all seem too difficult to probably be fixed but all this chaos we’ve brought to our planet also seemed too bad to be true in the first place. If we have ended up like this, I’m sure we could put things back to its natural rhythm. There are lots of ways we could help correct our mistakes. If we work together, even the simplest actions when accumulated can make a huge impact on this planet. Everything- from the choice of appliances to energy consumption, travelling to food, and even the trash we create; all these may affect global warming.
First of all, although the burning of fossil fuels is a non-renewable source of energy, more than 85% of the energy we use today comes from the burning of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. And since the burning of fossil fuels emits CO2, it means that by wasting electricity or travelling too much you are contributing lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. About 21.3 billion tons of CO2is produced yearly; combustion of fossil fuels also produces other air pollutants and harmful substances (Fossil Fuel).
Luckily, there are renewable sources of energy such as photovoltaic, which uses solar panels to convert sunlight to electricity; solar thermal electricity, where the heat of the sun is focused by means of mirrors which in turn powers a generator; wind power, where large turbines are directly moved by the wind are used to generate electricity; geothermal energy, which uses the Earth’s internal heat; hydroelectric power, which uses the flow of water to turn turbines which then generates electricity; biomass, which uses biological material as a source of energy either directly or by first converting it to biofuel. By using these renewable resources, the carbon emissions would be lessened and we are one step closer to saving this planet (de Rothschild 41).
Saving energy is a good way for anyone to help in reducing their carbon footprints. Since most of the energy sources nowadays come from fossil fuels which emit CO2 into the atmosphere, reducing in energy consumption is a simple step for us to help solve this problem. Go change an incandescent bulb into a compact fluorescent (CFL) and you’ve saved 500 pounds of coal from being combusted over the life of the bulb (de Rothschild 18). Phantom electricity, another culprit for wasted energy, is the consumption of electricity by appliances when they are “off” or in standby mode. Billions of dollars are wasted each year in industrial countries alone, just for the phantom electrical load; not only that, 75 million tons of CO2 is just being thrown to the atmosphere (de Rothschild 32).
Choosing the right appliances also affects your CO2 emissions. Say a television, a 42” plasma screen could consume 400 watts. It could even use more electricity than a refrigerator. But it is not just about appliances alone, even houses and vehicles. The bigger, the more greenhouse gases it produces (de Rothschild 22).
Travelling also accounts for plenty of CO2 in the air because of the burning of fossil fuels to keep the engines running. If ever possible, it is better to use a bike for short distances or trains for long distances instead of cars or planes. Or better yet, just skip it; if one million passengers skipped one five-hour flight, a million tons of CO2would be eliminated (de Rothschild 26). Also, using smaller cars reduces your carbon footprint rather if you use an SUV. It’s not just about the fuel consumption; the manufacturing of SUVs creates more greenhouse gases than a smaller car (de Rothschild 22).
But, it isn’t just about you travelling… your food does too! A typical meal has to travel roughly 22,000 miles just to reach your plate—from where it is grown, to where it’s packaged, to where it’s sold, and finally ends up in your stomach. Well, of course in order to be transported, it burns up fuel and contributes to your carbon footprint. Support your local farmers and eat locally grown food; this way you could also help the Earth (de Rothschild 62).
Another culprit of global warming is all the trash we dump to the land, ocean, and air. Styrofoam, plastic, paper… these are just a few of the garbage humans produce. These all need great amounts of energy to manufacture and we just throw them out. Some could take years to decompose and others could still bring harm to the environment and the animals living in it.
Segregate your trash: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. For the biodegradable trash you have, you could make compost and use it as fertilizer. However it produces CO2, but that’s better instead of methane which is 23 times worse (de Rothschild 38).
A perfect rule is to use the 3R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. First of all, reduce the products you buy. Avoid buying unnecessary stuff whenever possible. If it really is that important, you should at least find a way on how to reuse it. Let it have another purpose before reaching the end of its life. For example, you could reuse your newspapers instead of recycling it (paper can only be recycled up to 3-5 times); use it for protecting fragile packages instead of using styrofoam or bubble wrap, use it to keep the shape of your shoes while acting as a deodorant at the same time, use it to make compost, wrap a gift, or even make a piñata (de Rothschild 88-89). When it comes to choosing the right bag, which is really more earth-friendly? Paper or plastic? Well, actually, it isn’t any of them. Seventeen trees need to be cut and sacrificed just to create a ton of paper bags while a ton of plastic bags needs 11 barrels of crude oil. Plastics need 5 to 1000 years to decompose but paper only needs a month but due to poor landfill design, it decomposes nearly at the same rate as plastic. The right choice is to use a reusable bag (de Rothschild 81). Finally, when it really cannot be reused anymore because it’s worn out, that’s the time for you to recycle! This way, we could reduce the trash that we have in this world and make this place a better one for the generations to come.
Trees… they’ve been our friends since the beginning of time. Without them, life wouldn’t even exist. Then why are we, people killing what life depends on? Trees sequester CO2 and give off oxygen. They reduce soil erosion, prevent floods, serve as the habitat of wildlife, and beautify our surroundings (Puno 7). Over the lifetime of a single tree, it can absorb more than a ton of CO2 (de Rothschild 82). Imagine how much trees have lessened while the cities and other developments grew. The advancements in technology have increased greenhouse gases and the trees have been cut down. So what is the fate of this pitiful Earth and all the creatures living in it? We are risking our own lives and affecting so much other lives.
Why wait for everything to get worse? We have brought ourselves into this mess but it is time for us to conquer it and move on. We cannot just stay like this forever and just leave our descendants with an awful world greeting them the very moment they’re born and bidding them goodbye on their death. As William Ernest Henley said, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Fighting global warming may be a very difficult task, but we should all join hands in saving our only home. If we really put ourselves into it, if we all have the desire to save Earth, it wouldn’t be impossible. Alone, it might be; but together, we can make a difference.
de Rothschild, David. The Global Warming Survival Handbook.Rodale. United Kingdom.
Dioxide, carbon. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/co2_human.html
Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Volume 5. Funk & Wagnalls, Inc. United States of
Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth. Rodale. New York. 2006.
Puno, Alicia T. “30 Reasons to Plant Trees”. S&T Digest. Volume 12, No. 3. September –