The Importance of Combating Climate Change and Air Pollution

What will exactly happen if we don`t pay attention about the increasing problem of climate change and air pollution?

I`d like to begin my conversation by addressing the prominence of the climate change and air pollution and the reasons why we need to figure out how to solve these problems.

Air pollution definitely changes our planet`s climate. There are various types of air pollution; some of them cause global warming to speed up, some of them cause global warming to slow down with a temporary cooling effect for a few days or weeks. To begin with, air pollution is refers to the contamination of the atmosphere by harmful chemicals or biological materials. There are two of the worst pollution problems in the world are urban air quality and indoor air pollution. Additionally, air pollution consists of Green gases; mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), one of these is carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases trap heat from the Sun in the Earth`s atmosphere. The amount of Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere has increased over time because of car exhaust and pollutants released from smokestacks at factories and power plants. This is the cause of most of the global warming that happened over the past century.

Furthermore, Greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for years. Rising temperature makes air pollution even worse. Air pollution can cause long-term and short-term health effects. Basically, the elderly and young children are more affected by air pollution.

When we go out, we are always at risk for irritated lungs, eyes, noses and throat; headaches, allergic reactions and upper respiratory infections. Some long-term health effects are lung cancer, brain damage, liver damage, kidney damage, heart disease, and respiratory disease. It is really dangerous for those who have respiratory diseases like asthma or allergies to be exposed to increased pollution. This situation heightens sensitivity to allergens, impairs lungs, and triggers asthma attacks. For example, the American Lung Association estimated that about 23 million Americans suffered from asthma in 2010.

I believe that local and international communities must take steps to improve air quality, but everyone should be aware of the risks that climate change causes and learn how to best protect themselves. One of the most frequent recommendations would be developing or strengthening nationwide air monitoring programs.

Not just only people are affected, air pollution causes many risks to animals, forests, crops and water. Air pollution damages the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the UV rays. Moreover, air pollution has a negative effect in the formation of acid rain, which harms soils, rivers, wildlife and trees.

Specifically, human activities have been indicated as the main causes of air pollution. The human life predominantly is based on energy production, domestic heating, aircrafts, vehicles, transportation, and industries. So, what has happened so far? It resulted negatively in the emission of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. For instance, fossil fuel burning in industry, motor vehicles and buildings emit pollutants cause local and regional pollution.

Fossil fuels are natural resources such as coal, oil (including gasoline and diesel fuel) and natural gas. They are formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life. Fossil fuel burning powers our vehicles and industries, heats and cools our buildings, and runs appliances. It also produces electricity that we use for all sorts of purposes.

What are some ways we can help keep the air clean and conserve energy?

  • We need to conserve energy, because sources of energy like electricity, diesel, gasoline, and wood would contribute to air pollution.
  • Rather than driving a car or riding a motorcycle, we can ride a bicycle or walk.
  • We can try to reduce trips and use public transportation.
  • We can avoid gas-powered garden equipment as well as the burning of trash, leaves, and other materials.
  • We can take care of regular car maintenance and engine tune ups, replacing the car’s air filter and oil on a regular basis.
  • We can keep the heat down while sleeping or being out.
  • We should turn off lights when we don`t need them.
  • Trees help clean the air from air pollution and, in particular, carbon dioxide.

  • We can make our kids ecologically conscious
  • We must reduce Greenhouse gas emission.

We can educate or encourage people to use other sources of energy, called “clean and renewable energy”, such as bio-energy, geothermal energy, run-of-the-river, solar energy and wind power.

We should also try to figure out the way how we conserve energy in more efficient ways. Most of our electricity is generated by dams, instead of the fossil fuels, we can try to use Hydroelectricity, which is a clean source of energy in terms of air quality, but it does have other environmental impacts.

Air pollution and climate change policies must be integrated to achieve sustainable development and a low carbon society.

• Integrating climate and air pollution control programmes may lead to significant cost savings and important benefits to human health and the environment.

• The greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Air pollution, in the form of aerosols, is reflecting enough sunlight to mask this committed global warming.

• Necessary air pollution policies should be required to reduce aerosols to protect human health and the environment..

• We need to produce strategies to reduce the relatively short-lived black carbon, ozone and methane, which will have immediate climate benefits, as well as providing important air quality benefits.

  • We need to develop a global consensus
  • We should implement strategies to reduce emissions of air pollutants
  • Globally, we have to develop win-win strategies
  • We should implement new rules to curb carbon pollution by placing limits on future power plants as we all know that the catastrophic consequences of climate change are continually on the rise.
  • We have to acknowledge the need to regulate carbon pollution by creating new standards for polluters,
  • the environmentally-conscious communities need to be formed.
  • Energy efficiency should be improved, and renewable energy needs to be increased.
  • An environmentally safe carbon geological storage policy needs to be developed.
  • The sustainable transport and energy and environmental technologies need to be promoted.

The impacts of climate change are evident. Our world is suffering from extreme weather, floods, wildfires, a rapidly melting arctic, increased acidification of the ocean, crop failures, and many more catastrophic consequences.

It is our responsibility to immediately put in place comprehensive rules to limit existing and future polluters from creating more damage. The organizations with the support of communities and governments need to spread of green technologies worldwide.

Humanitarian aid, economic development and environmental improvement may be developed for the global community to bolster its resilience to 21st-century challenge. Fortunately, a few simple changes to our lifestyle can significantly reduce our environmental impact.

By simply trying the following steps, we can make a difference. Setting out more concrete steps to limit the effects of climate is not difficult task. We can reduce the risk of massive and irreversible disruptions of the air pollution and climate change to the planet.

What other things do we have to do to address for these problems?

  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans.
  • Keep woodstoves and fireplaces well maintained.
  • Buy green electricity-produced by low-or even zero-pollution facilities.
  • Connect your outdoor lights to a timer or use solar lighting.
  • Wash clothes with warm or cold water instead of hot.
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120F.
  • Buy energy-efficient products, including energy efficient lighting and appliances.
  • Choose efficient, low-polluting models of vehicles.
  • Choose products that have less packaging and are reusable.
  • Shop with a canvas bag instead of using paper and plastic bags.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned.
  • In the summertime, fill gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation.
  • Avoid waiting in long drive-thru lines
  • When possible, use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike.
  • Use energy-conserving (EC) grade motor oil.
  • Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency.
  • Remove indoor asthma triggers from your home and avoid outdoor triggers in order to effectively control your asthma.
  • Minimize your sun exposure. Wear sun block and UV protection sunglasses.

I`d like to mention about the news article published in the New York Times. The news article is about students in Minneapolis, trying to find out some steps to cut atmospheric carbon levels to 350 parts per million. I think that those students tried to use their imaginations to imagine what can possibly done to save our planet and future. The consequences of climate change and air pollution will be universal. If it affects the people living in Norway, it will also affect negatively the people living in New Zeland.

It is most obvious that students were aware of the potential risks of climate change and air pollution, and they wanted to articulate and demonstrate their commonsense and interest about the problems. They all know that some regulations and energy use policies need to be promoted and improved. I`m talking about more than 7 billion people living in the Earth. If we don`t care, if people don`t care what students or scientists do or contribute; who will care and take steps to save our planet?

Let me talk about Edmund Burke, a British statesman and philosopher. Burke’s writings and speeches may be described as a defense of sound constitutional statesmanship against prevailing abuse and misgovernment. Burke had vast knowledge of political affairs, a glowing imagination, passionate sympathies, and an inexhaustible wealth of powerful and cultured expression. His stated that social institutions are highly complex and often reflect the accumulated, but tacit wisdom of long experience. He also indicated that radical change should be met with skepticism, because they will frequently have unintended and undesirable consequences.

So, those unintended and undesirable consequences, such as climate change or global warming or air pollution make human life even more worse with depressions and hopelessness.

Do you think that those environmental problems cause “Spiritual Bankruptcy”?

Are we surrounded by the feelings of depression, shame, self-alienation, loneliness, resentment, hopelessness, despair, self-sabotage, relationship dysfunctions, serial relationships, addictions, eating disorders, compulsive behavior manifesting itself in sexing, workaholism, gambling, shopping, and exercising?

If the answer is YES, you need to think about your real values in your life. This process is referred to Spiritual Bankruptcy, is what erodes your emotional and spiritual well-being. Because Spiritual Bankruptcy is a disease of the mind, body, and soul, the totality of your being is affected. As a dis-ease of the mind, it distorts your perceptions of the circumstances in your life. Spiritual bankruptcy not only distorts your viewpoint of the world, but it warps the relationships you have with the people in your life.

Consequently, you invoke your `self-will` rather than surrender to your higher power. Rather than gaining mastery over yourself and the circumstances of your life by connecting with your spiritual center, you rely upon control and self-will to accumulate power and control over yourself, the people in your life, and the circumstances of your life.

The problem is that this unfolding drama of power and control creates a profound paradox. The more you forsake surrendering to your higher power as the legitimate means to regain control over the habits, substances, and acting out behaviors that have gained control over you, the less control you actually have over those substances, attitudes and habits.

In order to free yourself from the shadow of spiritual bankruptcy, you must be in a process whose major aim is to empower you to uncover and take ownership of the `Truth` of your inner and outer existence.

Even though the Truth of your being is present and revealed within you at all times, you do not usually experience this Truth, know this Truth, or speak this Truth. You have to first get at it, and then you have to live in it. Thus, the work of this path is to uncover, experience, speak, and live the Truth of your existence.

We need to find out the `ideal` ways that best improve the quality of our lives, relationships, health, spiritual center and real values; the boundaries of Self and higher power.

Related to the main discussion about climate change and air pollution, I also want to talk about R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983),   architect and philosopher. Essentially, he also had a significant statements and remarks about the Earth we live in, ideals of human being and capacity of human imagination. I`d love to mention about his book, Operating Manuel for Spaceship Earth, was published in 1968.

Fuller states that people must operate exclusively on their vast daily energy income from the powers of wind, tide, water, and the direct Sun radiation energy. His book basically relates Earth to a spaceship flying through space.

 “The spaceship has a finite amount of resources and cannot be resupplied”.

 “We are all astronauts”

R. Buckminster Fuller

     His book sets up the idea that the earth is a spaceship, with the sun as our energy supplier.  The idea of the earth is as a mechanical vehicle that requires maintenance, and  if you do not keep it in good order, it will cease to function.

“How big can we think?”

Last but not least, as one of the most remarkable writers, I really need to mention about Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), poet and short-story writer, argues that magic realism and exploration of universal truths had come at the cost of responsibility and seriousness in the face of society`s problems.

The story tells how this book came into a fictional version of Borges himself, and of how he ultimately disposed of it. This Book has no beginning or end; its pages are infinite. Each page is numbered, apparently but in no discernible pattern. The bookseller indicates that he acquired the book in exchange for a handful of rupees and a Bible, from an owner who did not know how to read.

Borges ultimately proves no more able to live with the terrifying book than was the salesman. He considers destroying the book by fire, but decides against this after reasoning that such a fire would release infinite amounts of smoke, and  asphyxiate the entire world. He felt that destroying his book by fire might cause a condition of severely deficient supply of oxygen to the world.

The great question of the class:

“How are we going to figure out a way to create a viable and oxygenated future given the challenges we have?”

Make what you can image for the human future, for your life.

The Related Article for the Discussion:

“To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios”

Stephen Maturen for The New York Times

Students in Minneapolis, seeking steps to cut atmospheric carbon levels to 350 parts per million, known as the safe level.

By 
Published: December 4, 2012

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

Stephen Maturen for The New York Times

Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate for carbon reduction, is on a national tour to build support for the divestment campaign.

Associated Press

Demonstrators in 1978, protesting Harvard’s refusal to divest itself of stocks owned in companies operating in South Africa.

As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coaloil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid.

A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has alreadyvoted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policythat is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks.

“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators. “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.”

But at colleges with large endowments, many administrators are viewing the demand skeptically, saying it would undermine their goal of maximum returns in support of education. Fossil fuel companies represent a significant portion of the stock market, comprising nearly 10 percent of the value of the Russell 3000, a broad index of 3,000 American companies.

No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. At Harvard, which holds the largest endowment in the country at $31 billion, the student body recently voted to ask the school to do so. With roughly half the undergraduates voting, 72 percent of them supported the demand.

“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said by e-mail.

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization, 350.org, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies. Many of the students attending said they were inspired to do so by an article he wrote over the summer in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

Speaking recently to an audience at the University of Vermont, Mr. McKibben painted the fossil fuel industry as an enemy that must be defeated, arguing that it had used money and political influence to block climate action in Washington. “This is no different than the tobacco industry — for years, they lied about the dangers of their industry,” Mr. McKibben said.

Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that continued use of fossil fuels was essential for the country’s economy, but that energy companies were investing heavily in ways to emit less carbon dioxide.

In an interview, Mr. McKibben said he recognized that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be exceedingly difficult. But he said strong government policies to limit emissions were long overdue, and were being blocked in part by the political power of the incumbent industry.

Mr. McKibben’s goal is to make owning the stocks of these companies disreputable, in the way that owning tobacco stocks has become disreputable in many quarters. Many colleges will not buy them, for instance.

Mr. McKibben has laid out a series of demands that would get the fuel companies off350.org’s blacklist. He wants them to stop exploring for new fossil fuels, given that they have already booked reserves about five times as large as scientists say society can afford to burn. He wants them to stop lobbying against emission policies in Washington. And he wants them to help devise a transition plan that will leave most of their reserves in the ground while encouraging lower-carbon energy sources.

“They need more incentive to make the transition that they must know they need to make, from fossil fuel companies to energy companies,” Mr. McKibben said.

Most college administrations, at the urging of their students, have been taking global warming seriously for years, spending money on steps like cutting energy consumption and installing solar panels.

The divestment demand is so new that most administrators are just beginning to grapple with it. Several of them, in interviews, said that even though they tended to agree with students on the seriousness of the problem, they feared divisive boardroom debates on divestment.

That was certainly the case in the 1980s, when the South African divestment campaign caused bitter arguments across the nation.

The issue then was whether divestment, potentially costly, would have much real effect on companies doing business in South Africa. Even today, historians differ on whether it did. But the campaign required prominent people to grapple with the morality of apartheid, altering the politics of the issue. Economic pressure from many countries ultimately helped to force the whites-only South African government to the bargaining table.

Mr. Lawrence, the Swarthmore senior, said that many of today’s students found that campaign inspirational because it “transformed what was seemingly an intractable problem.”

Swarthmore, a liberal arts college southwest of Philadelphia, is a small school with a substantial endowment, about $1.5 billion. The trustees acceded to divestment demands during that campaign, in 1986, but only after a series of confrontational tactics by students, including brief occupations of the president’s office.

The board later adopted a policy stating that it would be unlikely to take such a step again.

“The college’s policy is that the endowment is not to be invested for social purposes” beyond the obvious one of educating students, said Suzanne P. Welsh, vice president for finance at the school. “To use the endowment in support of other missions is not appropriate. It’s not what our donors have given money for.”

About a dozen Swarthmore students came up with the divestment tactic two years ago after working against the strip mining of coal atop mountains in Appalachia, asking the school to divest itself of investments in a short list of energy companies nicknamed theSordid 16.

So far, the students have avoided confrontation. The campaign has featured a petition signed by nearly half the student body, small demonstrations and quirky art installations. The college president, a theologian named Rebecca Chopp, has expressed support for their goals but not their means.

Matters could escalate in coming months, with Swarthmore scheduled to host a February meeting — the students call it a “convergence” — of 150 students from other colleges who are working on divestment.

Students said they were well aware that the South Africa campaign succeeded only after on-campus actions like hunger strikes, sit-ins and the seizure of buildings. Some of them are already having talks with their parents about how far to go.

“When it comes down to it, the members of the board are not the ones who are inheriting the climate problem,” said Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa, a Swarthmore senior from Portland, Ore. “We are.”

References: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/business/energy-environment/to-fight-climate-change-college-students-take-aim-at-the-endowment-portfolio.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/24si.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/international/priorities-cc.html

http://forcechange.com/24820/strengthen-carbon-pollution-standards-to-combat-climate-change/

http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/26/climate-change-global-wto-opinions-contributors-james-bacchus.html

http://www.economist.com/node/21550241

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/energy/european_energy_policy/l28188_en.htm

http://www.epa.gov/airquality/peg_caa/reduce.html

http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/airpollution.asp

http://www.sei-international.org/mediamanager/documents/Publications/Climate/air_pollution_climate_change_policy.pdf

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