Global Warming & the United States Politics

By Ian Teñido

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Global Warming and politics are two inseparable concepts that are even more relevant today than a decade ago. With the proof of the ever increasing global temperatures, the political atmosphere has totally gotten engulfed in the discussions of global warming with an ever increasing tone of wanting to find a solution. Since the formation of UNFCCC and later on the commitment of industrialized nations to combating global warming through the instrument of the Kyoto Protocol, the world turned its focus on big countries such as the US to provide a leading strategy in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This was not the case as the US refused to commit itself citing economic sabotage as the main reason.

Just what is global warming? Global warming is a phenomenon that occurs when greenhouse gasses collect in the atmosphere forming a blanket-like effect. This blanket absorbs the solar radiation and sunlight rays that have bounced back from the earth’s surface. By trapping these rays and heat, the planet gets heated continuously and consequentially resulting to an increment in the average temperatures.

Methane is the most prevalent greenhouse gas second to Carbon Dioxide. In the US, it is also the second largest gas emitted. I think understanding the chemistry of methane can better make us appreciate the approach of climate change scientists. In 2010 alone, methane accounted for about 10.6% of the entire greenhouse gases that were emitted in the US. The source of methane gas is natural such as from wetlands as well as from human activities such as a leakage from the natural gas pipes or from livestock refuse. Natural processes both on the surface and beneath the surface of the earth actively remove methane from the atmosphere. The lifetime of methane as well is shorter than that of carbon dioxide. Over 60% of the world’s total methane emitted into the atmosphere come directly from human activities (US EPA, 2014).

It is therefore prudent to address the most significant problem and in this context, it remains Carbon Dioxide. Information and implementation overload in addressing climate change might lead to inefficiencies however, it is crystal clear that by addressing the destructive human activities both in the industries, agricultural sector and in businesses; two birds are killed with one stone, both carbon dioxide and methane gases are reduced (Herman, 2014). High amounts of water vapor is a direct impact of global warming and thus its remedy resides in reducing the global warming aspect. Therefore, by concentrating on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, in my opinion, both the methane and water vapor concerns are addressed inherently.

The United States contributes to about two billion tons of CO2 annually in its quest to satisfy the energy needs of its populace; this is followed by transportation that is estimated to produce 1.7 billion tons of carbon annually. Science has shown that the only way to reduce global warming is by curbing the greenhouse gas emissions. If these emissions are not cut back, it is projected that the average US temperatures will increase by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century alone. Extreme weather events such as flooding and highly volatile climatic conditions are being witnessed across the globe. The icebergs in the Arctic are melting and the sea-level has risen. Being the superpower of the world, the US is right at the center of both provision of solutions and controversies surrounding climate change.

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The politics of climate change and global warming started way back when President Clinton gave a window for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol which was later dropped by President Bush. President Obama’s administration revived the hopes of clean energy and the world cannot just get over the politics surrounding the US and global warming issues. Currently both the Democrats and the Republicans have locked horns in their campaigns over whose strategy for clean energy is superior. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has not considered global warming as a key issue but it is inherently addressed in all aspects of her campaign. She has addressed climate change as an “urgent challenge” and has framed herself as the natural successor of Obama’s green energy initiatives.

Bernie Sanders accord for climate change and global warming initiatives stretch back to senate. He consistently and persistently advocated for climate change in his keynote addresses and has just carried on to his presidential campaign. Sanders has cited global warming as the biggest security threat for the US. On the Republican side, Donald Trump and majority of other Republican presidential candidates do not consider climate change as a major issue for the US and believe that there are much bigger problems to deal with.

The above views mirror exactly the politics of global warming in the US. President Clinton was a democrat and was softer in his approaches towards climate change and global warming issues. When President Bush came into office (a republican), he scraped every effort that was directed towards the curbing of the global warming issues. The two opposing camps in the US thus mirror the politics and believe that they define global warming and climate change in the US.

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Reference

Herman, B. (2014). The Influence of Global Warming Science Views and Sociocultural Factors on Willingness to Mitigate Global Warming. Science Education, 99(1), 1-38.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sce.21136.

US EPA. (2016). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved from https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

Google Image. What is Global Warming [Image]. Retrieved from http://c14608526.r26.cf2.rackcdn.com/DA49F32F-F596-46F7-992C-446A9AE5784B.jpg.

Google Image (2014). Soon Politicians Won’t be Able to Avoid the Issue [Image]. Retrieved from https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/soon-politicians-wont-be-able-to-avoid-the-issue.jpg.

Google Image (2014). We are Destroying Earth[Image]. Retrieved from https://www.occupycorporatism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Orig.src_.Susanne.Posel_.Daily_.News-climate.change.deniers.propaganda.christians_occupycorporatism.jpg.

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