Over eight years ago, my third grade teacher at Unionville Elementary School, Mrs. Oldenski, assigned my class to write a persuasive piece of writing. My eight year old self wrote an outstanding exposé about why carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were pushing polar bears to extinction. Well, not really. It was ﬁve sentences. But, surprisingly, it was published in the Kennett paper. And, while several response articles disagreed with my speculation about the future of the “poalr” (sic) bears,
seventeen-year-old me agrees that the world’s environmental future is in more danger than I previously thought.
The ﬁrst response article challenged the notion that CO2 emissions are detrimental to the atmosphere and responsible for rising temperatures. After all, isn’t CO2 consumed by plants? Well, yes, but the story doesn’t end there. The scientiﬁc community’s problem with carbon dioxide is not its existence, but the astronomical rates at which it is being created by burning fossil fuels. And while plants and the writer of this response article, love CO2, current emissions are simply too much of a good thing. Since the rate of pollution far exceeds the rate of consumption, most of our CO2 remains at the top of our troposphere and blocks out heat from leaving, exacerbating the infamous “greenhouse eﬀect.”
But, whether or not current CO2 levels are good or bad for humans is more of a red herring than a hill to die on. My third grade self had no idea that there were any environmental problems besides “bad gasses” that are CO2 emissions. But after years of further education, especially in my AP Environmental Science class, I was exposed to much more than the tip of this unfortunate iceberg.
In the class, my peers and I learned about a laundry list of pollutants that are also leading to global climate change. Even though CO2 is the most discussed greenhouse gas, numerous others are just as prevalent. A polluter much less discussed than carbon dioxide is its formidable friend, nitrous oxide. A by-product of cars, coal ﬁred power plants, and most processes in the commercialized agricultural industry,
NO2 is 298 times more eﬀective than CO2 at trapping heat.
The combination of the increasing emissions of these detrimental gases often seem irrelevant to our daily lives. Unfortunately, the impacts are dangerous and widespread. Climate scientists internationally agree that the newest bout of ﬂoods, ﬁres, and heat waves across the globe is undoubtedly connected to rising temperatures. With more water vapor being held in the atmosphere, heavier and more severe rain storms and ﬂoods globally.
So, what can we do about this? Even if you aren’t convinced that climate change is real, going green is crucial because natural resources like oil and coal are ﬁnite, and running out fast. Fortunately, energy alternatives that are
environmentally-friendly and sustainable are increasingly viable. Indeed, wind and solar energy as power sources are inherently preferable to fossil fuels, as we will not run out of sun or wind for the next 4-5 billion years. The public beneﬁts of renewable energy are endless: it produces far less waste, creates stable energy prices, and provides more jobs because there is a high demand for workers in maintenance, operation, and development sectors. This is exactly why these investments in green energy create three times the amount of jobs the same investment in a fossil fuel industry would create. More importantly, generating 80% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources would reduce emissions by 81%, moving us away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards a sustainable and healthier future. And while I can’t necessarily speak on behalf of the polar bears, or even the next generations of humans, I bet they all prefer this clean energy as well.
While I would like to believe those who tell me that the polar bears “will be ﬁne,” the harsh reality is that we all have to adapt to our deﬁnitively changing world. Let’s embrace the challenge.
Noelle Lambert is a student at Unionville High School.