Opinion: Take Responsibility and Help Save the Environment

Holly Fisher is a senior English and linguistics major from Elizabethtown, Ky.
Holly Fisher is a senior English and linguistics major from Elizabethtown, Ky.
Holly Fisher is a senior English and linguistics major from Elizabethtown, Ky.

This week, winter has come to a close as Kirksville residents begin to wander outside their homes to enjoy the beautiful, sunny weather, but this glorious sunshine comes with a dark cloud looming over it. We are seeing the effects of climate change, and without action, these effects will mean much more than nice, warm days during the end of winter.

During this day and age, it is impossible to deny global warming as a scientific fact. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report earlier this year revealing 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history, and 15 of the 16 hottest recorded years have occurred since 2001, according to a January 2016 NASA article. Furthermore, this January was the most “abnormally warm” month ever recorded, according to a February 2016 The Weather Channel article. Considering these records go all the way back to 1880, one thing is clear — the temperature is rising, and it’s rising fast.

Even though the existence of climate change is longer a question, the degree to which the process is natural or man-made still is debatable — but only to a certain extent. The scientific community has published a very large amount of research about the effects of increased carbon dioxide gas and other pollutants on Earth’s atmosphere. Even if there are some natural causes for the changes we see today, the information we have about fossil fuel emissions and the strong correlation between those emissions and recent climate trends make it nearly impossible to deny human responsibility.

And yet, while 63 percent of Americans believe in global warming, only 48 percent believe it is caused by human activities, according to the 2014 Yale project on climate change communication, the most recent survey data.

So there are a good number of people who accept the existence of climate change and there is an even smaller number of people who are willing to do something about it. In the news and current presidential primary elections, there have been a lot of opinions floating around but not all have a positive result. Some people admit humans are the reason for climate change, but because the rest of the world is just as much to blame, they think America shouldn’t be held responsible.

Based on the total estimated amount of green-house gas emissions, however, the United States is second only to China, according to a November 2014 World Resources Institute article. In fact, America alone was responsible for 27 percent of the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide emissions from 1851-2011, according to the same article. That’s more than a quarter of the world’s existing carbon dioxide pollution.

If we aren’t responsible, then who is?

We need to accept responsibility for our impact on the environment, and part of accepting responsibility is taking action. We need the government to start funding more alternative energy projects and other environmental policies, but the government can’t do everything. As individuals, we are just as much responsible for contributing to climate change as anyone else.

By now, the “Go Green” message is everywhere. It even seems like we’re being beaten over the head with it at times, but that is only because the message is so important. It does not take a huge amount of effort to be environmentally conscious, and therefore, there is no excuse for not being aware.

The path to becoming environmentally conscious is simple, but sometimes the simple changes seem too insignificant to really make a difference. However, when people all across America put in the effort, the numbers add up. Little things like putting an extra bin next to the trash can for recycling, turning off the lights when leaving a room or cutting down on shower times might seem trivial in the moment, but their impact is enormous. There are thousands of other ways to be environmentally conscious, too. Carpool to save gas, use double-sided printing to save paper, bring reusable bags to the grocery store to cut down on plastic waste — these are the little things that will help save the environment.

So, while it is nice we have had such a short winter and don’t have to spend the next month in three layers of clothing, there are consequences we need to be thinking about. Environmental
change is not something we need to leave for future generations. It’s affecting us here and now, and it’s our responsibility to do something about it. Take responsibility, and take action.