Studies have shown that millions of species would likely be obliterated by 2100, and many others are currently facing extinction threats; forests that supply us a good fraction of our daily oxygen are charring away. The path to take is clear: we have take steps to control climate change before it ultimately determines our fate.
But how cheap is talk? Our verbal commitments are as costly as how much we know of the issues stopping us from completely erasing the footprints of carbon.
The issues with reducing our carbon footprints are multidimensional; from the overdependence on fossil fuels to political bottlenecks. Former president Obama faced them when he promised to reduce CO2 emissions by 17% within 2005—2020 as his strategy to fight climate change. Countries with oil-dependent economies are facing them too, as well as all the engineers and entrepreneurs searching for breakthroughs in the area of renewable energy.
In this article, we look at the reasons why it is difficult to reduce our global carbon footprint.
Overdependence on Fossil Fuels
International Energy Agency (IEA) stats show that of the total energy produced in 2013 was 5.7 x 1020 joules or 18 terawatt-hour (TWh). And of this humongous, coal accounted for 41%, Natural gas 22%, and renewable energies only made 22%. Over 75% of the world’s energy comes from burning fossil fuels.
These fuels, extracted from the decomposing organic matter under the crust of the Earth, produce the gases that pollute the atmosphere and trap heat under them—they are called greenhouse gases, and some examples are methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, CO2 and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) As we might already know, greenhouse gases like CO2 and CFCs are the main causes global warming. Now that is where the blackmail comes in: we trust fossil fuels too much and then they in turn liberally crowd our atmospheres with C02, which cause global warming.
So do we stop trusting fossil fuels—one of the most inexpensive and commonplace energy sources? Or do we stop driving cars, running companies, and burning gas? That seem like too much sacrifice; and indeed it is.
Depletion of Carbon Sinks
Forests and oceans are natural carbon sinks—they clean our carbon footprints. The plants take in CO2 during photosynthesis and the oceans dissolve some of them. Consequently they offset greenhouse gas emissions; by as much as 15% in 2010 alone according to the US EPA. But these carbon sinks are being depleted rapidly, faster than they are replenished.
One thing worthy of note is that, over all, global warming is not caused by carbon emissions alone but also by the depletion of the structures meant to wash off the carbon. Deforestation and disasters like the latest Amazon wildfires does nothing to help the situation. And the incidences of deforestation and wildfires are increasing; this poses a challenge to solution seekers to the problem of global warming.
It is not easy to get your state’s congress to agree on a climate plan, not to mention world leaders of almost 200 countries. Obama faced the difficulty with passing his plans through the EPA under the Clean Air Act, so as to bypass the bottlenecks of the US Congress. This is so in many parts of the world; it is just challenging reaching a consensus on matters of climate change.
The EPA did put regulations forward in bid to check the emissions that would come from power generating plants built in future. There is also focus on the plants operating currently producing a third of the carbon emissions. But care has to be taken because drastic measures against existing plants would attract the resistance of some utilities, and ultimately lead to a stale court case.
In recent times, Trump has liberally offered his resistance to matters about climate change, during meetings with world leaders. To solve the warming issue, the efforts must be aggregated, especially the efforts of the densest economies. International politics must be set aside; but at the moment, that is not the case.
Low Priority is given to Climate Change
The people suffering the most from climate change induced disasters are found in developing and underdeveloped economies. They suffer El Nino, floods, heat waves, and wildfires; which are high priority issues. However, in making strategic economic plans, they relegate climate-related matters to the bottom of their lists. They look at security issues, food, employment, trade, and infrastructural projects, turning a blind eye to the fervently bleeding wound being inflicted on the Earth.
They forget that such indifference also comes with economic costs as well. This kind of perspective towards climate change makes it difficult to actively engage everyone in the fight for the survival of our world.
Economic Dependence on Fossil Fuel
Many countries in OPEC and even out of it are highly dependent on oil and petroleum products for the growth and sustenance of their economies. From Saudi Arabia to Venezuela, Iran, and Nigeria, oil is one of the biggest commodities being exported. So much so that the oil producing nations would do what they can to ensure that fossil fuel energy source remains the most used.
For a country like Nigeria, 95% of its foreign exchange earnings and 14% of its GDP comes from oil. So how would the president endorse agreements and deals that cause people to stay away from the product? It is almost impossible; the closer thing to possibility is “no subsidy”. They usually propose, at least to register interest in the idea of renewable energy, to remove every subsidy from such products—but that does not change the fact that their economy depends on it.
This is a challenge obviously, for those struggling to rid the atmosphere of carbon.
What Can We Do?
Make no mistake; the war against climate change is not a trivial one. Across the enemy lines are non-frivolous bottlenecks, cost of transitioning across energy sources, and ignorant indifferences. We must therefore take actions; whether it is by controlling our energy usage, evaluating transportation practices, using apps to keep track our carbon emissions or proper waste management, we must play a part.
As the U.N puts it, it is by taking actions “little by little” that we can hope to snatch our planet for the hungry mouths of climate change.