Everyone can help with climate change

Dire predictions in a report released last week concerning global warming shouldn’t come as a surprise. What remains to be seen is if these findings translate into any American leadership to address this global problem.

The report, issued by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that warming in the past 50 years is “very likely” the result of human activity. It goes on to predict an increase in sea levels of 7-23 inches by the end of this century along with worse heat waves, droughts and more powerful storms, all of which could mean detrimental consequences for Florida.

Although I am concerned that these types of reports gain headlines mainly due to their fear element, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. The mere fact that more than 2,500 scientists from 113 nations agree with “90 percent certainty that climate change is caused by people” should invoke a global response to seek ways to reverse detrimental greenhouse emissions.

Not surprisingly, the debate over the extent of and ways to combat global warming in this country gets quite heated. Politicians, sensing this political minefield, understand that it is easier to make a vague reference to cutting our dependence on fossil fuels than to increase fuel taxes or make oversized SUVs prohibitively expensive to own.

There is certainly plenty of blame to go around for the lack of American leadership on the issue of global warming. For a country that accounts for about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, more could be done. The federal government needs to get out of the business of censoring scientists that put “global” and “warming” in the same sentence and put forward tough legislation to force Americans to change their habits. But the deep pockets of energy company lobbyists are most likely preventing this from happening.

As much as the federal government and the current administration are to blame for not putting enough emphasis on the problem, global warming will never be solved until we realize that it is caused by the individual actions of everyone.

To reverse some of the negative impacts of global warming, it must first be seen as a local issue. The lack of efficient public transportation in Tampa contributes to the problem just as those students who feel the need to drive minimal distances around campus do.

Sure, it’s easy to point the blame at the politicians in city hall, Tallahassee or Washington, D.C., but everybody makes personal decisions on a daily basis that have either a positive or negative impact on the problem.

Kudos and support should be given to corporations and municipalities that have recognized the threat of global warming and are taking action to reduce harmful emissions. Examples of this leadership abound, including Timberland’s “product information label that details aspects of the company’s environmental and community footprint” as well as Portland, Oregon, the first city in the nation to create a strategy to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

Still, it would seem that the release of this report last week will most likely do little to really change the actions of many Americans. Collectively, Americans seem fine pursuing overindulgent lifestyles, and many have an utter disdain for ideas that challenge the status quo. Unfortunately, for far too many people, global warming is a problem left to individuals on another continent to address.

While surely scientists could be dead wrong on some of their assertions in this most recent climate report, the true harm is really in doing nothing in response. The scary reality is that inaction today to such possibilities only helps to blunt reaction to the next climate study – a response that could indeed be dire for us all.

Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.