Our world is an ever-changing place. With each passing moment, lives are lost, and new life enters the world. A place that was once beautiful may become a wasteland, or a vast and empty space may transform into an environment that is bursting with life. We simply cannot deny the changes that we are inflicting on this planet that we call home — but that is precisely what some people, including college students, are doing.
Global warming, as put simply by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the “recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface.” This change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and is triggered by people. The effects can be felt in the intense summers and the frigid, unforgiving winters.
A new report by the United Nations (UN) states that maintaining the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions will cause effects that are simply irreversible. A group of scientists and experts came to the startling conclusion that this climate change can cause food shortages, vast flooding of major cities and island nations, mass extinction of some plants and animals and refugee tragedies. Another potential and alarming result will occur in the climate itself; it may become physically hazardous to be outside for prolonged periods of time in the summer, says the report.
With all the frightening facts that have been emerging for years, people still disregard global warming as a myth or a ploy for money. A Pew Research Center Poll states that 35 percent of the public do not believe in, or are unsure of, the existence of global warming. Furthermore, 18 percent of those who do believe in climate change consider it to be the Earth’s natural patterns, completely unaffected by humans. This means that an overwhelming 53 percent of Americans do not regard the existence of man-made, catastrophic global warming as factual.
If global warming is not occurring or is not as catastrophic a problem as is being claimed, then why are there scientists and endless official reports screaming for our attention? Even famed mechanical engineer and actor Bill Nye, who will be speaking at Rider on April 23, stresses how this cannot be ignored. Climate change is affecting our entire planet in ways that are not simple or easy to combat. It may be easier to close our eyes and pretend that this isn’t happening, but we will one day open our eyes back up to a world entirely different from the one that we know today. This is our planet, our home. This is not the time to turn a blind eye to its needs.
Next month, international delegates from around the world will convene in Lima, Peru, to discuss a global strategy for reducing emissions. They are tasked with discovering how to prevent our planet from warming any more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and how to reduce the emissions released by burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. These delegates are now burdened by this new report from the U.N. However, they are not the only ones.
We are immense contributors to the carbon emissions that are destroying our environment. Every decision we make, from how often we drive to how much energy we use, plays a small but definitive role in the destruction of our atmosphere. Our carbon footprints are the amounts of greenhouse gases that we in our daily lives unknowingly contribute to climate change.
Covering your tracks
This is no longer an issue of who believes what. Now, it is crucial to take responsibility by reducing our carbon footprints. According to carbonfund.org, carpooling once a week saves 20 percent of our emissions. Biking or walking also prevents pollution from your car and are excellent ways to stay in shape. When at home or in your dorm, be sure to unplug electronics that you are not using and turn off the lights when you leave the room.
Even here at Rider, the importance of reducing our carbon footprint is stressed. According to Sustainability Manager Melissa Greenberg, the new Trigen plant on campus runs on natural gas, and is used to produce electricity, as well as heat and cool water for the academic buildings. This saves over 8.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity that would otherwise have been produced by coal and oil, reducing our carbon emissions by 6.3 million pounds annually.
Another effort by Rider, according to Greenberg, is in the form of a new Bio-Digester, located in Daly’s. This machine takes the food waste from Daly’s and Cranberry’s and converts it to water for plumbing, reducing emissions by eliminating the old waste system of transporting the food to a recycling plant.
While Rider has acknowledged the problem and is working to become carbon neatural by 2050, there must be a larger, global push to end this phenomenon.
Climate change is no longer a threat that lingers on the horizon. It has arrived and our world is feeling the effects. However, we can truly alter the fate of our planet if we open up our eyes and face this terrifying reality. We are not too small or too insignificant to create an impact. Improving our planet doesn’t only begin with the U.N. or a group of politicians; it starts with us.
-The weekly editorial expresses the
majority opinion of The Rider News.
This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 11/05/14 issue.