Global Warming is an issue most teenagers talk about but don’t really consider in their everyday adventures. An issue that gets more detrimental as the clock ticks but we’re more concerned on what outfit we should wear today. Is this global problem really something that you and I should stop our daily activities and consider or is just something we can overlook that will eventually take care of itself?
Merriam-Webster defines global warming 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. During the past century, the Earth’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Now less than 2 degrees doesn’t seem like much of an increase but the temperature only increased about .5 degrees Fahrenheit just a century before – That’s a triple increase in just 100 years. The interesting statistic that scientist currently predict is that by the end of this century the earth’s surface will be between 35.6 and 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today! (National Wildfire Federation) But, how does this affect me? Why should I care?
Some see the fight against global warming as needless. The 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, narrated by Al Gore educated Americans and foreign nations about the drastic effects of global warming and its future harmful effects on the world. Yet some critics were skeptical. Some saw the film as “misleading”, “exaggerated”, “one-sided”, and blatantly “wrong.” Mario Lewis Jr., stated Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth never “acknowledges the environmental and health benefits of climatic warmth and ongoing rise in the air’s carbon dioxide content.” Has Mr. Lewis forgotten that humans breathe in oxygen and not carbon dioxide? With increased CO2 levels in the air, that creates decreased O2 levels and makes every breath just that much more important. Mr. Lewis also said that Gore exaggerates when he mentions that polar bears “have been drowning in significant numbers” when in actuality it has only been “four bears that have drown in one month of one year, following an abrupt storm” (Lewis). Four polar bears may have drowned in that year but number will skyrocket in the next few years. According to an article by the journal of applied ecology, “The three main threats to polar bear populations over the next 50 years were viewed as climate change, hunting and pollution…..by the year 2050 less than half of the arctic ice covering the arctic sea will be melted and the polar bear population will decrease by at least 30%, possibly 70% all due to climatic change” (Watkinson). At least a 30 – 70 percent decrease in the polar bear population? I don’t think Al Gore was exaggerating one bit. (Gore’s documentary was taken to court with accusations of having falsified information. The judge ruled that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”)
The burning of fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal, whether by factories or the car in our garages, leads to increased pollution in the environment. This air pollution, called smog creates a layer of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases included nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, acid and dust particles. This layer of gases creates a blanket over the Earth’s atmosphere, which warms up the planet by stopping the heat from the sun to escape. Think of it like a car. If you go outside on a hot day in a car with the windows rolled up, the air will soon become stifling and the seats will quickly become hot. That’s what greenhouse gases do to the earth and we are the primary factor. On December 12, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) said global warming was responsible for the deaths of 150,000 people in 2000 (Reuters). They fear that this total could double within the next thirty years. Now this is an outstanding figure here. More than a tenth of a million of people, killed in one year, due to a problem where the blame finger is pointed at us. And some say there is “no such thing as global warming.” Global warming kills people in indirect ways, ways that are overlooked by a typical teen. For example, over 3000 deaths were due to people who had diarrhea due to increased heat which caused food to become contaminated faster. Global warming caused increased rainfall in third world countries which increased the habitats of mosquitos, which carry malaria (Malaria causes one million deaths per year). If we don’t look for ways to stop or slow down global warming, then 150,000 deaths will inevitably reach millions.
Let’s look at this issue from our perspective. Although teenagers are frequently exposed to issues related to global warming, their conceptions regarding the scope and nature of this problematic phenomenon are often lacunae with scientific understandings. A study done by the Journal of Baltic Science Education, questioned a group of students, between the ages of seventeen and eighteen and taking Environmental Science, about general Global Warming and Ozone Depletion issues. The results showed that fifty-two percent of the respondents were unaware of the depletion of our ozone. In addition, fifty-one percent of the students were unaware that the ground ozone level is harming our environment; sixty-two percent did not know that it was toxic (Grima, Walter and Paul). So why do these numbers and statistics matter? People our age look towards the older and wiser to do something about things like global warming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a part of the passive statistic. Why should I have to do something, if there’s someone with more experience and knowledge on the subject? Why not just let them take care of it? I think Michael Pollan in his essay, “Why Bother,” said it best: “Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another like the care for the environment to the environmentalists” (Pollan, 213). The problem with this passive nature is that in thirty to forty years from now, this won’t be the environmentalists’ world; it will be our world. It will be us that will suffer the consequences of our current actions; not our professors, our parents, nor our coaches but us.
So the question is what should we do? How do we save the Earth? The U.S. acquires 38% of its energy from petroleum but petroleum creates a large amount of air pollution and increases greenhouse gas emissions. If the government continues to increase our electricity production via renewable energy such as wind and hydropower and reduce the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal, then we will be moving in the right direction. But what can the common folk, like you and I, do? Well for starters, you can turn off all the lights that you’re not currently using, carpool when all your friends want to go to mall instead of each of you showing off your driving skills, or even just planting a tree in your backyard. All of these things and more can help reduce our carbon emissions, which will reduce greenhouse gases emissions and ultimately “cool down” the Earth. Seems simple doesn’t it but it doesn’t take one or two people to recognize the larger issue at hand; we need a global response. In thirty years, the earth will be warmer, more ice will melt, more animal habitats will be lost, sea levels will rise and our land will be drench and houses will be become boats. Al Gore successfully put the world on edge with An Inconvenient Truth and made us aware of climate change. However, only five years after its release, Gore’s documentary seems more like an afterthought then an increased fight to save our planet. I think people need to be reeducated and reinforced with modern statistics; I’ll call it “An Inconvenient Truth: Rebirth.” Like Obama said during his 2008 campaign run, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time,” and that time is now.
Cook, John. “Is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth accurate?” Skeptical Science. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.
Environment 911.”The Melting of the Polar Ice Caps and Global Warming.” Environment 911 Organization. Web. 3 Nov. 2011
“Global Warming.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011. Web. 2 Nov. 2011
Grima, Joanne, Walter Leal Filho, and Paul Pace. “Perceived Frameworks of Young People on Global Warming and Ozone Depletion.” Journal of Baltic Science Education 9.1 (2010): 35-49. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.
Lewis, Marlo. (2007) “A Skeptic’s Guide to an Inconvenient Truth.” Competitive Enterprise Institute. Print. 4 Nov. 2011
“Malaria.” E-Med-TV. Clinaero, Incorporated, 2006-2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.
Osborn, Liz. “History of Changes in the Earth’s Temperature.” Current Results Nexus. Current Results. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.
Novi Meadows Elementary. (2002) “Protecting the Home We Live In: Environmental Issues.” Think Quest. Web. 4 Nov. 2011
Pollan, Michael. “Why Bother?” Other Words: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. David Fleming. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2009. 211-216. Print.
National Wildfire Federation. “What is Global Warming?” National Wildfire Federation. Web. 4 Nov. 2011
Reuters. “Global Warming Killing Thousands.” 11 Dec. 2003. Wired. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.
Riebeek, Holli. “Global Warming.” Earth Observatory 3 Jun. 2010. NASA. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.
Watkinson, Andrew R. “Using Expert Knowledge to Assess Uncertainties in Future Polar Bear Populations under Climate Change.” Journal of Applied Ecology 45.6 (2008): 1649-1659. Academic Search Premier. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.