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Accelerating at an Accelerating Rate Describes Global Carbon Emissions
Faster! Faster! That is the cry of a child in a go-cart picking up speed while racing down a hill or the spin instructor giving instructions to exercisers on stationary bikes. In those cases, “faster” is good. However, when the same words are used to describe the rate of global carbon emissions, it’s not so good. Of course, we have the Environmental Protection Agency, and a slew of federal, state, city, and county laws, and innumerable public service campaigns, so carbon emission rates are not our concern. Right?
Well, not so fast. Let’s face it, at times the U.S. public gets a bit complacent about “green” topics because people are bombarded on a daily basis about global warming, protecting natural resources, and carbon emissions. Perhaps, complacent is not the right word. Immune or perhaps numb are better ones. Either way it means people stop listening, when actually they should be listening more intently.
For example, China and the U.S. take top honors for being carbon emitters. That is not an honor any country wants to earn. While looking at pictures of Beijing encased in a cloud of pollution, many Americans say, “Whew, glad I don’t live there.” Yet, many Americans do live “there” because they work and play in heavily populated areas, where millions of vehicles are on the road every day, or in industrial areas.
So Much Smarter
In 2011, China was responsible for 29 percent of carbon emissions and the U.S. for 16 percent. The European Union accounted for 11 percent, India for 6 percent, Russia for 5 percent, and Japan for 4 percent. Two countries, China and the U.S., account for 45 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The urge to shout “No! No!” is irresistible upon reading these kinds of statistics. There has been a bit of good news, in that CO2 emissions have fallen in the U.S. by 13 percent since 2007, outpacing other industrial countries. They fell by 1.8 percent in 2012. Yet, as is true for most statistics, when you peak behind the curtain, the truth emerges. U.S. vehicles still get the worst gas mileage compared to vehicles in other developed countries. We still get 93 percent of our energy from non-renewable sources. And worst yet, there is a suspicion that a lot of the reduction in energy consumption and, thus, CO2 emissions is due to economics. The price of energy, and not a concern for the environment, is driving consumption down.
As a nation, we are smarter than this. Converting to natural gas is contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions, but it is not enough. It takes a concerted effort to lower emissions, like stepping up the pace of electric car R&D, developing large-scale alternative energy sources, increasing the number of LEED certified buildings, and strengthening government regulations concerning recycling, industrial pollution, and vehicle inspections.
However, let’s be perfectly clear about this: carbon emissions are not a U.S. government problem. They are a “We, the people” problem. Each person must take responsibility for their carbon footprint at home and at work. Small acts, like recycling, keeping vehicles tuned up, using alternative transportation like a bicycle, conserving electricity, and insulating the home, do count.
Make It 7 Billion
That is why Earth Day is such an important event. Celebrated this year on April 22, Earth Day activities are designed to inform and energize populations to care about their carbon footprint and their impact on the earth. The emphasis of Earth Day this year is on greening schools, promoting environmental education, accelerating the global conversation between government and consumers, and discussing economic opportunities related to green businesses. But the one we particularly like is the Billion Acts of Green because it puts the focus on you and you and you and you…and me. Each of us can contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions in our own way and in our own local environments.
So here is the question: What can you do to stop the acceleration of carbon emissions? After all, it’s your air too.
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