Editorial Feature

How is the United States Tackling Pollution?

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On June 1, 2017, the United States, under the direction of President Donald Trump, decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Since this announcement, many Americans have grown increasingly concerned about how this administration will ensure their protection against the approaching effects of climate change.

The Visible Effects of Climate Change

The continued release of greenhouse gases into the environment has led to visible effects on how climate change is affecting the world around us. From dramatic temperature increases across the globe, extreme precipitation events, a substantial reduction in glacier and snow cover size and an increased frequency of wildfires, the devastation that occurs in a warming world is overwhelmingly clear. In addition to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, changes in land-usage and continued deforestation also contribute to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that act as a driving force for warmer global surface temperatures.

Climate change has the ability to cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars each year. In fact, the economic impact of climate change led the 13 federal agencies that compiled the Fourth National Climate Assessment to estimate that a 10% reduction in the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) will ensue if the mitigation of pollution and other damaging factors does not occur soon. Furthermore, the adverse health consequences of climate change are projected to worsen if this government does not implement proactive policies and programs in the near future.

Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On October 17, 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that a 2.7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that was achieved from 2016 to 2017. This reduction has been attributed to an increase in the use of natural gas rather than coal, as well as an expansion in the development of wind and solar energy plants for electricity generation.

At the state level, various mitigation approaches have contributed to this reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating more energy-efficient processes, changing the way in which transportation vehicles are powered and promoting the use and development of renewable energy. Furthermore, numerous private companies across the nation have announced new emissions reduction targets and implemented proactive ways in which they plan to achieve these targets. Several other companies and organizations have made sustainable choices that are expected to dramatically reduce their carbon footprints.

Adaptation Actions

Implementing proactive adaptation actions is a major component of ensuring the success of a continuing risk management process, such as that which is being performed by the United States. To this end, researchers believe that mainstreaming climate adaptation into existing decision processes is an initial step to further reduce the risks of climate change. For example, numerous sectors of the government, such as the United States military, have included environmental risks into their analysis, plans, and programs. By considering climate risk as a major systemic risk to the U.S. military, government officials are able to accurately determine how climate change can affect force readiness, as well as the efficiency of their military bases and training ranges. As a result of this adjusted cost-analysis process, one branch of the U.S. Navy located in Norfolk, Virginia made the decision to replace existing piers with double-decker piers that have been proven to be more resilient to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions.

Conclusion

Overall, the success of any climate change mitigation strategy will largely depend on how critical decisions are made each day at the federal, state and local levels. By incorporating the facts of climate change into important decision-making processes by promoting the implementation of adaptation activities, researchers are hopeful that environmental damage will be reduced in a number of different sectors across the country. Additional benefits that would provide more immediate results would involve continuing to transform the energy sector, such as through the replacement of coal by natural gas and other renewable energy sources.

References and Further Reading

  1. “The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA)” – U.S. Global Change Research Program
  2. “Climate change will shrink US economy and kill thousands, government report warns” – CNN
  3. “Data Shows Decrease in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions During Trump’s First Year in Office” – The United States Environmental Protection Agency

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.

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