Facing global warming

It’s time to take a stand



By Ana Pietrewicz, Collegian Columnist

On the evening of Feb. 5, I sat down to watch President Trump deliver the State of the Union address. I have to be honest, I didn’t expect much. But somehow, what was delivered managed to underwhelm my already low standards. As I listened to what the president had to say, I hoped for a discussion surrounding climate change in the wake of the grim findings released by Trump’s own administration. But this conversation never came. Here’s why it should have:

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world today. There are most likely more imminent problems on the minds of world leaders, but conversations surrounding global climate change should be unavoidable. Since global temperature observation began in 1880, the world temperature has increased by 1.4° Fahrenheit. That number may not seem significant, but it has very serious implications. Single-degree changes can be enough to plunge the world into an ice age. And yet, it seems like we rarely hear about this dangerous situation in the mainstream news cycle. When we do hear about it, it’s usually because our president is denying the scientific research behind global warming. But limited news coverage and deniers of science can’t change the fact that our planet is dying and, if our planet dies, then we do too.

So, what are we supposed to do about it?

It seems like a lot of pressure to fix global warming and pollution falls on the individual. There are taxes at stores for using plastic bags, and even plastic bag bans in places like South Hadley. People everywhere are strongly encouraged to recycle their used plastic goods and more recently, there was a surge in the movement to promote reusable straws. However, these individual efforts might not be as effective as they are made out to be. Only 9 percent of the estimated yearly 300 million tons of “recycled” plastic is actually recycled, according to this 2017 report from Science Advances. The rest is incinerated, contributing to air pollution or worse, winds up in landfills. There’s only so much that the general population can do to reduce plastic waste, let alone air pollution and pollution on the whole.

Since 1988, 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have come from just 100 companies. This is unacceptable. With all of the clean energy technology available today, there is no reason for businesses to continue operating with fossil fuels and producing dangerous emissions which pollute the air.

To their credit, some big businesses have made attempts to reduce their waste production. Starbucks recently made the move to eliminate plastic straws globally by the year 2020. But how far does this initiative really go? Think of the rest of the plastic that Starbucks uses – cups, lids, stirrers and so on. This article from The Guardian explains that the Starbucks straw ban might actually do more harm than good.

Rather than making small steps in order to seemingly preserve their image rather than preserve the planet, companies should follow in the footsteps of giants like Apple, Facebook and Google. As a part of the RE100 initiative, 162 major companies have pledged to use fully clean energy going forward. This is highly important, as it not only sets an example for other smaller companies to follow, but helps to reduce emissions and pollution on a massive scale.

Progress toward a cleaner planet should start from the top down. As a society, we need to move toward more effective methods of keeping our carbon footprint relatively small – and we have a long way to go. Big businesses and factories need to take accountability for their waste production and pollution. Restaurants should start moving away from plastic containers and toward compostable materials. Clean energy should be made more accessible to both corporations and the public.

Yes, solutions for climate change will take time, and yes, not all of them are immediately feasible logistically or financially, but with real effort they can become a reality. It’s not always the easiest thing to avoid plastic, but efforts can be made every day to reduce waste, both on an individual scale and on a worldwide one. Whatever we do, we must act quickly. Lawmakers must put regulations into place to help create a healthier Earth. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got. There is no Planet B.

Ana Pietrewicz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]