Off the Cuff with Jacob Fulton: Recent study shows need for international action to prevent global warming

October 23, 2018

The world is ending. Or, at least, it’s in the process of doing so. And global warming is to blame.


Global warming, also known as climate change, is the warming of the Earth’s surface due to consumption of fossil fuels, which include coal, oil and natural gas. The usage of these energy sources creates greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which increase the temperature of the planet as they are added to the atmosphere.


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the global surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius. And according to a report released by the United Nations (UN) on Oct. 8, it is predicted to pass 1.5 degrees by 2040—indicating exponential growth in the past century. The UN, however, is calling for all countries to work toward capping all global warming permanently at that 1.5 degree mark. 


At the current pace the world is warming, it is predicted that global warming will hover somewhere around 3 degrees by the end of the century—twice the proposed figure from the UN. If the world continues at this rate, there will be catastrophic consequences, such as rising sea levels, increased amounts of tropical storms, flood and drought, according to USA Today. This would cause irreversible damage to the planet, and cannot be allowed to happen. 


Since the release of this report, there has been an outpouring on social media of activists encouraging those around them to do their part to make the world cleaner and minimize emissions. To make a difference, many are suggesting eliminating meat from one’s diet, joining the zero waste movement and purchasing organic foods. The problem is that this logic is completely flawed. 


No one person is going to single-handedly save the world. It’s important to be aware of how one is contributing to global warming, but corporations need to be the ones making major changes. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, 100 companies have been responsible for 71 percent of global emissions since 1988—and some of the highest emission rates come from countries themselves, such as China, who is responsible for 14.32 percent of the world’s emissions during that time period. Responsible decisions with the intent to reduce a person’s carbon footprint may help to an extent, but any difference they make pales in comparison to the impact of these corporations. 


Because of this, it is essential that countries do everything in their power to minimize their environmental impact. This includes putting limits on emissions for businesses within their borders, working to decrease their own effects and joining groups such as the Paris Agreement to hold themselves and others accountable for their actions. And this is especially important for the United States to remember.


When it comes to the aforementioned Paris Agreement, the United States is a member, but not for long. The country is required to be a member until Nov. 4, 2020, at which point it can leave whenever it wants. And President Donald Trump has made it very clear that he intends to do so. This decision is completely counterintuitive, seeing as America is regarded as a global leader. If the country still wants to be respected, it must remain a part of the Agreement and lead the way when it comes to minimizing environmental impact. 


The main concern of many opponents of the Agreement is the effect it will have on businesses. While this is a valid concern, as alternative sources of energy are more expensive than fossil fuels, it is important to remember that if global warming continues at the rate it has been, there may not be any businesses to protect. 


In order to save the planet, major corporate and political leaders need to step up and follow through with their promises. It’s easy to point to citizens and ask them to make changes in their lives, but the real impact will come from people in power working to solve this problem. There’s only one Earth, so it is imperative that everybody works to save it. 

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