Respond to climate change now before it's too late

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Climate change is a topic that has been both addressed and ignored. This topic has been addressed partially by the Paris Conference Agreement. However, this topic has also been thrown aside by people in Congress, including James Inhofe, as well as by the media, particularly Fox News. Both people in Congress and Fox News claim that climate change is a hoax. After watching the documentary “Before the Flood,” I know this to be entirely false. Climate change is happening right now through carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the disappearance of wildlife and marine life, the melting of ice, and the rise in sea level. Thankfully, we can reverse the effects of climate change by converting to electric vehicles.

Our everyday actions contribute to climate change. For instance, we burn coal, oil, and wood, which releases a large amount of carbon emissions into Earth’s atmosphere. Coal powers most of our electricity and oil powers most of the transportation sector. In Indonesia, forest fires are intentionally set to create palm oil plantations. Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and when there are forest fires, massive carbon emissions are released back into the atmosphere. Also, cows produce methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Gidon Eshel, Ph.D, is a research professor for environmental physics at Bard College. He has noted, “Every molecule of methane is equivalent to twenty three molecules of carbon dioxide.” This proves the damage that can be done by methane emissions alone. About ten to twelve percent of the total U.S. emissions is due to beef.

Direct results of climate change are the depletion of wildlife and marine life populations, the melting of ice, and rising sea levels. The Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is the last place on Earth that still has elephants, rhinos, orangutans, and tigers together in the wild. Elephants and rhinos are killed for their ivory and orangutans and tigers are losing their homes due to the creation of palm oil plantations. One billion people depend on fisheries from coral reefs for virtually all of their protein. In the last thirty years, fifty percent of all coral has been lost. Oceans help reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere by absorbing about a third of it, but they can’t do their job fast enough to keep up with all of these emissions. For the most part, ice is melting in Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. Dr. Enric Sala, who is an explorer-in-residence for National Geographic, claims, “We’ll be able to sail over the North Pole by the year 2040 with no sea ice left.” This loss of ice negatively impacts the chances of survival for polar bears, penguins, and seals. Rising sea levels has caused sunny day flooding in Florida. As a result, the mayor of Miami, Philip Levine, has called for raised roads and electric pumps to combat this flooding.

We can take action in response to climate change through the use of electric vehicles. According to Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, “The sooner we can take action, the less harm will result.” Musk has also mentioned that in order to transition the whole world to sustainable energy, it would take one hundred gigafactories. The Tesla Gigafactory is where lithium ion batteries are produced. These batteries help power Tesla’s line of electric vehicles. These vehicles are manufactured in the Tesla Factory with help from state-of-the art robots. Currently, Tesla has a gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada and a factory in Fremont, California. Tesla has made a sedan called the Tesla Model S and an SUV called the Tesla Model X. The Tesla Model 3 is the most affordable Tesla so far, with its base price of thirty five thousand dollars. Production of the Tesla Model 3 will begin in the middle of next year. By driving Teslas instead of non-electric vehicles, we will reduce carbon emissions by about fifty percent. To further discourage the use of non-electric vehicles, Musk has proposed a carbon tax to nudge people away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.

We must urge the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to advocate for the use of electric vehicles to tackle the issue of climate change. Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 359 (SB 359) on September 28, 2013, which provides forty eight million dollars worth of funding towards hybrid and zero-emission vehicles. Of this money, twenty million dollars funds the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, ten million dollars funds the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, ten million dollars funds the Heavy-Duty Vehicle Air Quality Loan Program, and eight million dollars funds the enhanced fleet modernization program, which is California’s vehicle retirement program. California currently has two hundred fifty thousand registered plug-in electric vehicles. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, in 2014, thirty seven percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California came from the transportation sector and twenty four percent of greenhouse gas emissions resulted from industrial sources. Carbon emissions accounted for 84.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions with forty two percent derived from the transportation sector and twenty three percent coming from the industrial sector. Nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 came from methane. Livestock produce methane through digestion in a process called enteric fermentation. This accounted for thirty percent of methane emissions. Twenty six percent of methane emissions arose from manure management.        

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