In today’s world, there are many problems that need to be addressed. One of those many problems being climate change. While this issue may not be cured overnight, it can be advanced upon over time; so, that it can be resolved sooner rather than later. Have you ever visited, or seen pictures of, the Great Barrier Reef off of the Australian coast? All of the beautiful inhabitants of that wonderfully vibrant ecosystem –it is quite peaceful to think about. Well, thanks to many manmade factors -including climate change- this natural marvel may cease to exist come the year 2048 (Haro). Anthropogenic climate change is happening and its effects spell detriment for our everyday lives and natural wonders.
The topic of climate change in debate is not: “Oh, my goodness. It was sunny a minute ago; but, now, it’s overcast and looks like rain!” it is more: “I swear, these hurricanes are getting stronger every year. Pretty soon this city will be completely underwater!” This climate change is brought about by a buildup of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), that cause our atmosphere to heat up and impact the normal weather patterns (Global Warming). This term is often, understandably, confused with “global warming”; however, as “global warming” solely addresses the heating up of the atmosphere, “climate change” allows for a more comprehensive notion as to what is occurring. Albeit, “global warming” is often used more frequently -especially in informal settings- because it is more recognizable as a topic of discussion and evokes a stronger feeling.
There are many people who are not aware of how the climate is changing and there are others that refuse to believe it –denying the facts presented before them. Those who deny climate change as a valid and present danger often paint those who do believe in it as overdramatic, doomsaying kooks through propagandic mediums (Cox, and Forkum). However, we can see that climate change is occurring because the EPA states that U.S. emissions have dropped approximately 7% since 2005; therefore, in the nation reducing their emissions, it shows that a problem was recognized and deemed worrisome enough to be treated (Global Warming). Otherwise, why make the effort to reduce emissions at all? Also, according to The Consensus Project, 97% of papers pertaining to -and claiming a stance on- the topic of climate change agree that it is happening and that humans are the cause (Scientific Consensus). Yet, there is another large producer of greenhouse gases that many fail to acknowledge altogether.
While previously thought that transportation was the chief source of emissions, it has more recently been gathered that the industry of animal agriculture is a larger contributor, supplying nearly one-fifth of the greenhouse gases (Koneswaran and Nierenberg): CO2 through respiration, and CH4 and N2O due to manure and feed fermentation (Italy). Approximately 56 billion animals per year -a number expected to double by 2050- are bred and slaughtered, with such high figures directly correlating to how much of the greenhouse gases they are producing –as these livestock (in)directly are the cause of the emissions. Also, expending the fossil fuels needed to produce fertilizers for the livestock’s feed, approximately 41 million metric tons of CO2 are emitted per year. In addition, the fossil fuels, and their emissions therein, vary depending on the species and product being made. For example, 1 kg of beef made will have produced 36.4 kg of CO2 (Koneswaran and Nierenberg).
As earlier stated, climate change is caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere; but, it is also contributed to by mass deforestation. In elementary science, we are taught that trees intake carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Consequently, by destroying the very things that could balance out the excessive levels of gases -such as carbon dioxide- and provide fresh and clean air, we are destroying our chances of ever reversing climate change (Global Warming). Deforestation in the livestock industry accounts for 34% of their addition to emissions (Italy). In emitting 2.4 billion metric tons of CO2 per year, the industry of animal agriculture covers one-third of our Earth’s surface (Koneswaran and Nierenberg).
Yet, little is being done, in terms of reducing the impacts and effects on climate change. The U.S. alone is responsible for 20% of the world’s emissions; yet, out of the 174 countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol (legislation that would call for a reduction in emissions and provide for a penal system to appropriately reprimand those who exceeded the limit), the U.S. was not one of them (Global Warming). Also, not much can be done when, as of early 2013, there are conservative billionaires who have funded many anti-climate change groups -who create propaganda and cast doubt upon the validity of climate change- nearly $120 million (Goldenberg). We will not be able to fix the problem while there are those who vehemently work to diminish, and cannot recognize, the serious relevance of the problem.
During the time in which the temperatures of the oceans rise, there will be more hurricanes and storms of increased frequency and strength. Also, it will lead to the melting of the ice caps; which, in turn, will cause the sea levels to rise and flooding to ensue (Global Warming). Ice is the surface that is most capable of reflecting solar radiation, while water absorbs more of it and retains more heat than ice would; for this reason, with melting ice caps and less solar radiation being reflected, the oceans are absorbing the radiation and the Earth is, therefore, retaining more heat. The result of increased atmospheric temperatures will be harsher heat waves, causing wildfires and droughts –which will lead to extinction of many plant and animal species (Global Warming). Those that will be most devastated by this are the impoverished and the peoples of developing countries, as they are not so prepared to cope with such drastic events (Italy). With these dire ramifications to come, in terms of climate, there are also significantly negative impacts for our health.
During the time in which temperatures and instances of flooding increase, so do the ideal conditions for malaria carrying mosquitos. By creating more and more marsh-like territory for the insects, 65% of the world will be put at risk of catching this deadly disease. Furthermore, simply due to the increased heat, this phenomenon will lead to a predicted 145% surge in cases of heat stroke –this data referring to the population of New York City alone. Also, as agriculture is impacted by drought, a predicted 300 million people will fall victim to malnutrition and starvation and food prices will skyrocket (Ravi). In addition, the ongoing environmental degradation has been named a catalyst for conflicts in Darfur and other Sudanese areas, as climate change and its effects have led to unsustainable circumstances (Koneswaran and Nierenberg).
There are many consequences of pollution, animal agriculture, and deforestation that could drastically affect our daily lives. In the process of humans causing climate change, while contributing to the ostentatious cover-up and denial of such an abominable occurrence, things such as marine life and polar bears could cease to exist –lest we actively undertake the task of minimizing and (ideally) reversing the effects and impacts of climate change. Little things, like recycling and planting enough trees to replace the ones destroyed, have the potential to greatly and positively effect the necessary changes. Saplings absorb more amounts of greenhouse gases than mature trees as they take in nutrients, in efforts to grow; thusly, in planting more trees, more of the harmful gases will be absorbed (and more fresh air will be produced) and the atmosphere will not retain as much heat. Moreover, in going vegan, the animal agriculture industry will diminish as a result of supply-and-demand and the animals, previously being eaten, will not have to be treated so cruelly unto their death. Of course, this will not reverse climate change in its entirety; yet, it is a tremendous start in addressing the tremendous problem at hand. No matter the cause, one person can make a difference.
Go vegan to protect the planet.
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Italy. United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization. Livestock’s Long Shadow. By Henning Steinfeld, Pierre Gerber, Tom Wassenaar, Vincent Castel, Mauricio Rosales, and Cees De Haan. Rome: FAO, 2006. Print.
Koneswaran, Gowri, and Danielle Nierenberg. “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and Mitigating Climate Change.” Environmental Health Perspectives May 116.5 (2008): 579-81. Print.
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