As lakes form on the glaciers of Mt. Everest, the controversy surrounding greenhouse gases is becoming less of a controversy, and more of a critical issue — and rightly so.
In the past, world leaders have neglected global warming. Many were concerned that efforts to reduce emissions would harm their country’s economy.
According to NPR, the Bush Administration did not move forward with environmental efforts in 2007 because “there’s not enough bang for the buck. It says the pace and scale of cuts required by Kyoto would hurt the U.S. economy without providing significant environmental benefits.” This is before the measures were to take effect in 2008.
There were other irreconcilable issues.
At the Third Annual Conference of Parties, COP3, the United States initially signed the Kyoto Protocol, but later rejected it, while countries like China and India were not required to reduce their emissions. In 2012, Canada renounced it.
But the evidence that human activity has negatively affected the planet is undeniable. China’s own issues with pollution make the problem hard to conceal and deny.
Recently in China, according to CNN, “Residents… have been told stay indoors after air pollution in Beijing and neighboring regions rose to hazardous levels.”
According to the Global Carbon Atlas and CNN, “the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in 2013 were China with 28 percent and the United States with 14.5 percent.”
Public opinion is changing. A majority of Americans now not only believe that limiting greenhouse gas emissions will benefit the environment and the earth’s future, but they also believe the U.S. should commit to a “binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions…”
According to the New York Times report on a poll, “Seventy-five percent of Americans polled said that global warming was already having a serious environmental impact or would in the future.”
The New York Times article also reveals “Sixty-three percent of Americans — including a bare majority of Republicans — said they would support domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants.”
Finally, global leaders reintroduced the issue earlier this week at the 21st Annual Conference of Parties and discussed measures that would limit 200 countries’ carbon emissions, which majority of scientists believe drives global warming.
According to Scientific American, over the next couple weeks “leaders hope to emerge with a new international agreement that will keep global rising temperatures well below the 2-degree-Celsius threshold that scientists have deemed a ‘guardrail’ between dangerous and catastrophic climate change.”
More than 180 countries – rich and poor— have already submitted to reduce their emissions, and President Obama and other philanthropic leaders like Bill Gates have agreed to increase funding to help “double research and development money.” This is all in an effort to keep the momentum of reducing climate change going.
In spite of these efforts, there are detractors.
Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, has used new subpoena powers to threaten the leadership of NOAA.
He has been demanding that the federal climate and weather agency hand over all emails and other forms of correspondence between scientists to see if there has been a “grand conspiracy to alter or misrepresent the data.”
Hopefully, leaders will cease to stand in the way of environmental efforts, and find realistic solutions to help stop climate change before the damage reaches a point of no return.
Assistant opinion editor Sarah Kim is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]