Climate Change in Need of Government Intervention

1681 words (7 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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 Devastation continues at a Global level in the wake of the many natural disasters that have occurred in just the past several months of this year. In the United States alone, desolation has been felt all across the country, the most recent being with Hurricane Michael. Michael nearly destroyed the panhandle of Florida killing at least 29 people (Cullinane et al., par. 6), and causing between three and five billion dollars in property damage (Riquier, par. 1). Prior to Michael, Hurricane Florence, which ravished the Carolinas killing at least 51 (Borter, par. 1) and we cannot forget the deadly wildfires that have ripped through the west coast. These fires have destroyed nearly 750,000 acres of land in California (Levenson, par. 4) not to mention the numerous homes destroyed and lives taken. The United States has not suffered alone. Off the coast of Asia, the 7.5 magnitude earthquake causing a tsunami in Indonesia killed at least 2,000 people with a possibility of thousands more missing (Jatmiko and Mason, par. 5). Also hitting near the same area was Typhoon Mangkhut in the Phillipines and Hong Kong. Hitting the area hard at the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, this typhoon killed at least 81 people in the Phillipines (Capucci, par.8). As weather phenomena continue to become more and more destructive and deadly, climate change with global warming is a serious event that needs to be addressed with the utmost haste.

 “Fixing the Climate Requires More Than Technology” subtitled, “Major transformations can happen in a generation. But not without government help” is an opinion piece written by science historians, Dr. Naomi Oreskes and Dr. Erik M. Conway, published in The New York Times on October 16, 2018.  This piece was written in response to the recent Intergovernmental Panel report on climate change. The news was not good. The report showed that a dangerous warming trend is happening faster than scientist predicted and that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions must be eliminated or the effects will be irreversible. Sharing their concerns, but showing optimism, the authors discussed the fact that history has shown that through technology, the feat can be completed in the allotted time frame as outlined in the report; going on to say that in a period of ten to thirty years, major technological transformations can occur. As was pointed out in the article, governments first signed a landmark climate treaty to reduce greenhouse emissions in 1992 under George H. W. Bush. If we would have started to transform our energy systems at that time, we could have already significantly reduced the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Although, technology alone, is not enough for this to happen; as all great technological advances in our recent history have included not only technology, but government intervention as well.

 This editorial is a particularly compelling mode of delivery and persuasion centered on a variety of factors. One of the main reasons this article is effective is due to the fact that Oreskes and Conway provide examples of past technological transformations that could not have occurred without the help of substantial government intervention and policies. First case in point was electricity. Electricity for everyone did not just come about and was not comprised of physical parts alone; governance and funding were also required. Urban areas were the first place electricity was introduced and the greatest obstacle to expansion was the ability to be profitable. In the more populated urban areas, electric companies were able to benefit monetarily, so to extend electricity to the not so populated rural communities, it took the intervening of the government with the 1936 Rural Electrification Act. Initially, the demand was not as high as anticipated. A proposal to cut rates was initiated by the Tennessee Valley Authority in hopes of raising the demand. The utility companies refused this proposal as it was a threat to their profits, so then, more government intervention was still needed. Finally agreed upon, was government appliance subsidies, these increased household utilization of electricity in the lesser populated areas. Another prime example of government intervention into the private sector that Oreskes and Conway presented in their article was the internet. Something we all know that most people cannot live without in this day and age. The creation of the internet came directly from funds administered by the government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. In 1991, Al Gore sponsored legislation making the internet public. Without this government legislation, there would be no World Wide Web which our information-driven society relies on.

A significant piece of evidence of government intervention that makes this piece compelling is the fact that Oreskes and Conway speak of the northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This is a nine state association created to encourage the development of renewable energy technology to aid in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. These nine states working together reduced emissions resulting from non-renewable sources by 39 percent since 2009. California has also joined the movement by passing a law in 2006 calling for all economic sectors to reduce emissions and have increased their renewable sources of electricity from eleven percent to thirty percent. On the downside of the legislation passed in the northeast, the reduction in emissions has been offset by the fact that some of those states have been bringing in electricity from outside power plants not using renewable energy sources. The article also speaks to the fact that the government is trying to approve new coal mining initiatives that will further undermine the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and reports on the fact that the White House and a big part of congress is still in denial in regards to the reality of climate change. Although, the authors provide good information regarding legislation that has been passed to help the efforts regarding climate change, they could have been a little more effective by going into more detail regarding the White House and other government roles and their thinking behind passing legislation that essentially circumvents what some states are trying to do by increasing renewable energy resources.

 Another reason the editorial is compelling is due to the fact that Oreskes and Conway hooks their viewers not only with the title and subtitle of the article “Fixing the Climate Requires More Than Technology… Major transformations can happen in a generation. But not without government help”, but also, with their opening remarks regarding the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These titles and opening remarks draw in the audience because it makes them appreciate the fact that there is a way to reverse what is happening to our climate and tells them what needs to be done to help the cause. More attention may be added to the article due to the fact that the authors, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway are both doctors, and science historians. Their educational status and profession expresses to the audience that this is a topic that the authors more than likely know something about. Due to the credibility of the authors, it more than likely is a more effective read for the audience. 

 Overall, the article was an enjoyable read and provides enlightening information in regards to how technology with the help of government intervention can reduce the effects of greenhouse gas emissions in the time frame outlined to us in the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Even though the authors use of some details regarding what was outlined in the report on climate change helped in setting the stage for their article, more details regarding that report could have been used to increase awareness of the issue at hand. Oreskes and Conway do a good job in providing examples showing how past technology could not have come to fruition without the help of government funding and legislation. Statistical facts and information were laid out showing how greenhouse gas emissions have already been reduced in some states and how other states are on their way to making non-renewable energy sources a thing of the past.  Due to the effectiveness of the article, the audience has more assurance that climate change can be overcome in the time we have to make it happen and may inspire them to take more of an initiative by contacting their local and state officials to support more legislation for renewable energy sources.

Works Cited

  • Borter, Gabriella. “Hurricane Florence Death Toll Rises to 51.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 2 Oct. 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-storm-florence/hurricane-florence-death-toll-rises-to-51-idUSKCN1MC2JJ. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Cappucci, Matthew. “Typhoon Mangkhut Was the Strongest Storm This Year. It Ravaged Hong Kong and the Philippines.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Sept. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2018/09/19/typhoon-mangkhut-was-strongest-storm-this-year-it-ravaged-hong-kong-philippines/?utm_term=.d6daeff983d9. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Cullinane, Susannah, et al. “One Week after Hurricane Michael, Mexico Beach Residents to Return Home.” CNN, Cable News Network, 16 Oct. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/10/16/us/hurricane-michael-wxc/index.html. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Jatmiko, Andi, and Margie Mason. “Death Toll from Earthquake and Tsunami in Indonesia Nears 2,000.” Chicagotribune.com, 8 Oct. 2018, www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-indonesia-earthquake-tsunami-deaths-20181008-story.html. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Levenson, Eric. “A Look at California’s Largest Wildfires, by the Numbers.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Aug. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/08/07/us/california-fire-numbers/index.html. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik Conway. “Fixing the Climate Requires More Than Technology.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/opinion/climate-change-warming-technology.html. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • Riquier, Andrea. “Hurricane Michael Caused as Much as $5 Billion in Insured Property Damage, CoreLogic Says.” MarketWatch, 12 Oct. 2018, www.marketwatch.com/story/hurricane-michael-caused-as-much-as-5-billion-in-insured-property-damage-corelogic-says-2018-10-12. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
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