Earth Day 2012 has come and gone, taking with it any ounce of care that most people have for the environment. This may sound harsh but it’s true. I’m not simply talking about recycling; I’m talking about that old friend of Al Gore: climate change.
For those of you who still do not believe that climate change is a reality, I am here to prove you wrong. “Weather” is the state of the atmosphere at a given time. “Climate” is the statistical average of weather, and is determined by broad factors. If the climate were not warming, then the number of record highs and record lows would be even. This is not the case. From January 1, 2000 to September 30, 2009, the United States set 291,237 record highs, and 142,420 record lows. This is a two to one ratio, clearly indicating that there is climate change, and that temperatures are increasing.
During the past few months the northern hemisphere has experienced the 13th warmest winter on record. However, while it was the 13th warmest on record, it was also the 4th coldest since 2000.
Globally, 2012 was the 14th warmest December-January-February period on record; March was the hottest March in recorded history. So far, in in 2012 we have shattered a whopping 15,272 warm temperature weather records. Relatedly, in March there were 143 more tornadoes than average, reported in the US — these tornadoes caused roughly $1.5 billion in damage.
Another casualty of climate change was Washington, D.C.'s annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Running from March 20to April 27,the festival attracts many people to D.C., and rakes in tourism revenue. This year the trees peaked on, or before, the first day of the festival.
Even while the trees are blossoming weeks early outside their windows, the Obama Administration has done nothing positive for our climate. President Obama has not made the case for action, nor presented the consequences of inaction to the American people.
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the limit for ground-level ozone, a huge hazard, at 75 parts per billion (ppb). This was not as low as the EPA recommended (60 to 70 ppb). The American Lung Association sued saying that the regulations were not strict enough. When Obama took office, the head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, vowed that the administration would tighten the regulations. However, many were up in arms saying that tighter regulations could hurt the economy. Eventually, White House Regulatory Chief, Cass Sunstein, told Jackson to reconsider the new ozone regulations. Our environment has not been spared by the Obama administration.
While Obama has done nothing, Mitt Romney has flipped-flopped. In his book No Apology, Romney states that climate change is occurring, and that humans are contributing to it. He also imposed restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions as govenor of Massachusetts. However, at a recent Pittsburgh fundraiser (in the heart of coal country), Romney said the following:
“My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
Come on Governor Romney. There was $1.5 billion in damage caused by warmer weather in March. Don’t you think that spending some preventative money would be a good idea?
Note that money is not the only issue here. The World Health Organization, and a board member for the National Council for Science and the Environment, stated that climate change can, and will, claim 150,000 lives a year if we continue on our current course.
There is also the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is an international environmental treaty with the goal of the"[stabilizing] of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate sytem." The only nations that did not sign the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are Afghanistan, Sudan, and the United States (Canada has since withdrawn.)
Hold on, what?
Don’t you think that if 192 countries are taking part in something this important, it would be a good idea if we did too? How is it that Iran and North Korea want to help our environment but we don’t?
Though it seems that many have been making the same desperate cry for action since An Inconvenient Truth, it’s time to wake up, America. The Kyoto Protocol expires this year on December 31: We have eight months to get our ducks in a row. Yes, of course we have numerous crises on our hands in American politics, but as a millennial, I really don't feel like living in a world with worsening environmental issues. Action must be taken now.
What do you think our country needs to do to help our environment?