Around the globe, seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. And meanwhile, our planet must still supply us, and all living things, with air, water, food and safe places to live. The majority of the world agrees that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show rising temperatures in various regions and increasing extremes in weather patterns. If we don’t act now, climate change will rapidly alter the lands and waters we all depend upon for survival, leaving our children and grandchildren with a very different world.
As of March 2015, President Barack Obama pledged to cut total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. At the same time, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China will stop its emissions from growing by 2030. This is the first commitment from China, the world’s biggest polluter, regarding emission reduction. Obama called the agreement a major milestone in the US–China relationship.
“By making this announcement today, together, we hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious — all countries, developing and developed — to work across some of the old divides so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year,” he said.
To achieve its goal, the United States will need to double the pace of its emissions cuts. It had pledged a decrease of 1.2 percent per year during the 2005–20 period. Now, the country is committed to further cuts of 2.3 to 2.8 percent per year between 2020 and 2025. “This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal,” Obama said.
In the United States, Obama’s existing proposals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants and enact new standards for vehicle fuel-efficiency and energy efficiency are expected to help the country to meet its climate commitment. Carbon capture and storage could also play a part, but that technology is still in development. With Obama finishing his second, and last, term in January 2017, it remains unknown whether the next U.S. president will choose to continue Obama’s environment-friendly course.
We can begin to help the United States reach this goal in our own dorms. If you turn off the lights whenever you leave a room, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.15 pounds per hour. If everyone at Rider turned off one light, for one hour a day, for one year, we could save 733,475 kilowatt-hours per year, the equivalent of removing 97 cars (or 1,161,000 pounds of CO2) from the road for an entire year. An energy reduction of 20 percent can easily be achieved by turning off computers and unplugging “phantom” devices like printers, iPods, phone chargers and external hard drives. Use a “smart” power strip that will automatically switch these devices off when your computer is turned off.
We, at Rider, play a vital role in achieving our country’s sustainability goals.
Printed in the 04/15/15 issue.