No one knows what tomorrow holds. We may wake to find the sun risen in the east. We might be alive long enough to see the sun setting in the west. Despite what happens at the beginning or end of our day, we wish to live in a calm and fruitful land that soothes our woes from lives fraught with trials. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem allows us to achieve this goal.
Image by Lutz Peter from Pixabay
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
There is a scent of battle permeating the air. In the comforts of our home and the midst of societal distractions, war rages across the lands. Its almost as if there is a cosmic balancing act in progress, and we are mere spectators unable to sway the scales.
Our world is a delicate ecosystem capable of sustaining millions upon millions of species of life. Our human population alone numbers in the billions and represents only one species of life on this world. Our species, named homo sapiens, however, is the most dangerous. It isn't dangerous because of the destructive potential of its actions. Instead, it is the most dangerous because it can choose to destroy or stand by and do nothing to stem the potential for destruction.
We fight a war of bliss where daily ignorance of our ecosystem pushes us towards a possible dark fate. We might become impotent in reversing harmful environmental impacts on Earth.
Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay
Welcome, fellow Steemians, to our sixth installment in the Environmental Impacts series and first contest entry in the @UpMeWhale Writing Contest. The topic for this contest is: "Global Warming and Climate Change. What can be done?"
In our Environmental Impact series, we discuss how various chemicals or activities in our world affects the environment and society. We peer into how the community interacts to mitigate environmental issues, as well as how politics plays into the scene. Our discussion on climate change is no different.
There is much passion involved with discussions on climate change. People impact it, and the adverse effects affect societies.
What wonders would the world behold, when land and man find balance in hand.
What is Climate?
Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay
The climate represents the normal state of weather across a region (Kids' Crossing). Weather, on the other hand, represents changes in the state of the atmosphere over a short time (NASA). The difference between the two is time. People forecast the weather over days on news reports. However, when discussing the climate, the intent is usually to speak about the weather for years, even decades.
Climate involves much more than the state of the atmosphere. In our article entitled,Environmental Impacts - Journey, we discussed the role Earth's natural cycles had upon climate. The hydrologic, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous cycles play a part in creating and maintaining balance within our ecosystem.
When humanity decides to perform activities in any region, it will undoubtedly cause a shift in the balance of that region.
What is Climate Change?
Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay
Where the climate is the average state of weather across the region, climate change represents the change in the climate. If we are used to areas where it snows routinely in the winter months, and we find that it didn't snow at all one year, the climate changed sufficiently enough to prevent snowfall.
There are records of significant shifts in climate dating back millions of years (Committee on Climate Change). These shifts happen naturally and outside of human control.
Climate change, therefore, is a natural shift in a region, or planet's, climate over a long period.
Earth's Natural Cycles
The Earth's natural cycles occur as a result of various processes that take place throughout all areas to one degree or another.
In the hydrologic cycle, for instance, we see that clouds pick up evaporated water and transport it to adjacent land areas. Plants and organisms use the water and release it back into the atmosphere. Rising precipitation, as a result of the release of water, leads to further rainfall and so on. The other cycles discussed in our article Environmental Impacts - Journey, follow a similar pattern.
Let's say, for instance, that we add humanity to the mix. One item essential in our journey towards becoming a Type-1 civilization is energy. We need it to fuel our progress and increase our connectivity. One way we produce that power is to burn coal.
What would happen to the hydrologic cycle, and ultimately the climate, if we added the effects of coal-burning?
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
Coal-generated electricity is arguably the dirtiest power production method out there. It currently fuels 38% of global energy needs (World Coal). The coal ash generated in the process is not only toxic, but it is also radioactive in some cases.
Its contribution to air pollution, without environmental protections, releases airborne toxins like mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides (Union of Concerned Scientists). These toxins can react with water molecules in the air and create acid rain, further polluting unaffected areas, and the life that uses the water (EPA).
Now, one coal power plant operating without restrictions won't have a global impact. Our world is quite large. However, according to end Coal's Global Coal Plant Tracker, there are currently 12,648 coal-fired power plants operating worldwide (End Coal). Coal is cheap, abundant, and the technology used to burn the fuel is widely available. It isn't going anywhere.
One fortunate part of our growing environmental awareness is that countries do realize they need to reduce their impact upon the Earth. Some are taking steps to ensure that, while they are using coal, they will implement measures to reduce its pollution to the maximum extent achievable. Shanghai's Wai Gao Qiao No. 3 power generation plant is one outstanding example (PowerMag).
If it were not for the massive green movements to reduce pollution over these past decades, the energy industry would likely proceed unhindered and without attempting to reduce their emissions.
Green movements across the Earth alerted politicians that changes were required. The pressure forced politicians to pay attention to environmental concerns and enact legislation to reduce pollution (PBS).
We shouldn't fool ourselves. Climate change will have a significant impact on how the world does business in the decades to come. The competition between scientists, corporations, and policymakers is fierce (Anderson, Sociology). While environmental group gain power and influence, politicians will clamor to gain the most popularity by touting the promise of greener energy. Politicians have control, but not that much power. They can influence when and what types of regulations go into effect, but that doesn't determine the end-state of environmental laws.
When the President of the U.S. signs a bill into law, a certain amount of time must pass before that law can go into effect. During that period, lobbyist lawyers can petition courts to amend or refine the rules given a sufficient basis. It also doesn't include the amount of lobbying done to affect a bill's development. Politicians will undoubtedly grant an ear or two to someone that donates enough. And if the politician is listening to them, they are certainly not listening to us.
In today's political climate, we must be savvy about the approach towards bill introduction and promotion. We need to attend any public hears on environmental regulation and provide educated engagement with politicians. Politicians need to know people are engaged and continue listening to the agendas discussed on environmentalism.
Today, the use of the words "climate change" appears to be available more for a political show than anything else. Candidates speak of green energy this and that, but I don't see how they could have the power to do anything in the short term. No. The people have the ability, and we must make sure we lobby and question the establishment to ensure the companies at least follow the regulations.
Technology improves our livelihood, connects people across the world, and brings us closer to disaster daily. In terms of climate change, power production and industry have the most significant impact. People need power, and industries continue to operate non-stop to satisfy the world's needs.
Now, for a country to supply electricity to a nation, it must have continuous use of power. No one will utilize and electrical grid if it isn't always available, especially in the more developed countries where the use of constant electricity is commonplace.
Additionally, we need to hold accountable any industry whose processes leads to a discharge of any pollutant outside of its operational area.
For instance, the use of fertilizer in agriculture seems commonplace. However, depending on the fertilizer, you may get mercury as a byproduct. Businesses then will have to dispose of the mercury since they won't need it for their operations. However, the disposal of mercury is expensive. One company in Japan got rid of it by dumping it in a river (History). The company's poor environmental practices did hurt them in the long run. What it did do, however, was contaminated surrounding water, wildlife, and people.
We need accountability and responsibility when using technology to improve upon livelihood and business operations.
Change by Nations
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay
All nations strive to bring their carbon footprint to zero. It is a realistic goal considering the trend of technology. So long as we push to minimize our environmental impacts, the goal is doable. It's difficult, appears to be impossible, but yes, it is achievable.
It should be no surprise when a non-superpower country starts to develop its infrastructure. A country like China, for instance, notified the world of its progress by building multiple power plants throughout the country. Power plant types like nuclear, coal or even hydroelectric power began to sprout throughout its countryside.
The world took notice. When China hosted the Olympics, news stations across the globe reported on the visible air pollution throughout the city. People were shocked. Politicians stood atop their pedestals, proclaiming an injustice to the environment. Their actions almost seem hypocritical since the United States suffered similar problems the Chinese are facing now. Again, fortunately for the world, concerns of clean energy stand in the face of developing countries.
Countries like China and India commit themselves to produce green energy and minimizing their use of fossil fuels. Realistically though, their commitments are only as good as their need to expedite power production and industry. If people need power, the developing country will most likely turn to coal first before generating electricity with solar or wind.
Ultimately, time and research will tell if they stand by what they state.
Image by John Hain from Pixabay
We discussed a more exact definition of weather, climate, and climate change. The importance of climate change warrants a more personal explanation.
Personally, climate change represents a change of possibility for my children. The world I expect for them becomes uncertain. The activities I would project for their adulthood is different because the state of the climate is unpredictable. I struggle to think of how I can make their future more survivable, and sometimes I will come up blank because I see how people struggle to live their own lives with interests separate from those around them.
What does climate change mean to you? Please enter your remarks below, and let's discuss them.
Thanks again, fellow Steemians, for following on with this series. We will return to our discussions on energy with our next topic covering Natural Gas. Thank you very much for reading this work. If it, at the very least, raises our awareness about the environment, then that is enough.
Special thanks to @upmewhale for creating this contest and bringing awareness to the community.
We are nearing the end of the energy series. It's been a great ride, and I've appreciated all the reviews and votes from the Steem and STEM Communities. We'll be continuing onward with our Environmental Impact series, and I'm sure there will be other categories along the way.
Each topic presented poses different challenges during research. It is essential to cite all available references for this work to ensure that all readers can validate the information presented as they desire. The goal, ultimately, is the dissemination of accurate and thoughtful information. Unfortunately, some topics are more difficult to research than others.