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What can the United States do to meet climate change goals?

Discussion Leader: 
HDIAC Staff
Posted Date: 12/14/2015

Nearly 200 countries came together to strike a deal regarding the effects of climate change. The goal of this deal is to slow global warming by focusing on using renewable energy sources and lessen the reliance on fossil fuels. 

Plant coming through dry ground (photo credit: Adobe Stock)

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Comments

The US can imposed higher taxes and restrictions on the use of fossil fuels and sources of energy that emit significant quantities of CO2. However, that is a highly political course of action that meets with strong resistance. One way to decrease the carbon contribution of the US is for all citizens to make some small changes to decrease personal energy useage. This can be as simple as changing incandescent bulbs out for CFLs or LEDs, carpooling to reduce gas useage, keeping the thermostat 2 degrees higher or lower, and many other small changes to reduce your own carbon footprint.

The United States is one of the leading nations in its commitment to climate change. One of the biggest emissions of carbon pollution is from power plants, which emit one-third of the greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. [1] By implementing the Clean Power Plan and working towards new carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, the United States is one step closer to making an impact on global warming reduction.

[1] Climate Change and President Obama's Action Plan. (2015). The White House. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change

I agree with both of the above statements. Climate change can only be combatted with significant work on multiple fronts. From the individual standpoint, people need to be more aware of their energy consumption and lowering carbon pollution via power plants is essential. But, we also need to continue our focus on developing new alternative energy technologies. 

A major roadblock for reducing carbon emissions in the United States is the car culture. The convenience and independence of cars far outweigh the limited public transportation options, especially in more rural areas. Additionally, while some states, such as California, have strict emission standards for vehicles, this is not a federal standard. Considering that transportation makes up a significant portion of American greenhouse gas emissions,[1] efforts in reducing these emissions will cause a major reduction in our carbon footprint.

[1] (2015). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/transportation.html

As a nation, the United States has taken great strides to improve energy efficiency and avoid the future consequences of climate change. For example, the Clean Power Plan standards, established to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% by 2030, is just one of the many requirements/memorandums the United States has put in place to ensure industries, federal associations, etc. are being environmentally conscious. 

Climate change is a global issue that must be resolved on an international scale; therefore the United States must continue to pursue international acceptance of environmental concerns. The United States' goal is to be a leader by example, by putting standards in place others may follow, but also by participating in global efforts on climate change. An example of one of these global efforts was seen recently at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called COP21, which focused on a universal agreement on climate change. 

Another key area the United States must invest in is research. There are many research projects, including in biofuel fuels, developing greener processes/techniques, expanding on alternative/renewable energy technology (such as solar photovoltaics) that have much potential to affect the rate of climate change.

If we as a nation want to meet climate change goals, it will need to come as a personal goal. Personal responsibility to reduce the fossil fuels in our everyday lives will go a long way to change how we as a culture view climate change as an issue. Carpooling, energy efficient appliances, and a general awareness of energy consumption can go a long way to fight climate change.