by Cadence Gutman, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2022 — The Federal government of the United States officially began to take an active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by passing the Inflation Reduction Act Aug. 16. Although there have been previous attempts to combat the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, none have ever been this aggressive.

In its entirety, the Inflation Reduction Act intends to lower the costs of prescription drugs, health care, and energy. According to a statement made by the White House, President Joe Biden’s promises to take “aggressive action” to tackle climate change.

“Climate report shows that unless there are immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, 1.5°C is beyond reach. However, there are options available now in all sectors to halve emissions by 2030,” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote. Photo obtained from the International Panel on Climate Change’s Instagram @ipcc.

The section of the bill regarding energy aims to modify and extend tax credits for producing electricity from renewable resources, specifically for wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, and hydropower through 2024. The bill targets larger, wealthier companies that actively put carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Analyzing the bill, Bio-Med Science Academy 10th-grade integrated mathematics instructor Melissa Cairns said, “I think that if those companies were being forced to meet those marks, then yeah, it could totally work. But you know the problem is that they keep trying to shift the blame to us, like we’re not recycling or composting, but the real criminals are industry farming and manufacturing, so if we could rein them in, that could definitely make a difference.”

Cairns has worried immensely about the lack of knowledge surrounding climate change, especially among students. “Education is like our first line of defense. It has to be spoken about in education, but there are also all these bills trying to be passed that tell teachers what they can and can’t speak about, and they turn things that aren’t political agendas into political agendas.”

Cairns plans to host a course about climate change during Bio-Med’s accelerated term, where teachers are able to offer courses that count towards students’ elective credits. Accelerated term begins after Thanksgiving break and concludes at the start of winter break.

Arguments regarding climate change have affected the amount of knowledge many students have today.

Junior Katherine Lennox shared her perspective on climate change.

“I know that solar panels are good, and I would like to believe that recycling helps, but I don’t know what it has to do with climate change,” Lennox said.

“I think any progress is progress though, right?” remarked Catherine Panchyshyn, the 10th-grade science instructor at Bio-Med Science Academy. “I think it’s good that this information is being taught more in school. I know when I was younger, I think a lot more people thought [climate change] was a hoax or something that we would never see in our lifetime. I think since a large majority of people do know what’s going on, I’m not as [concerned].”

Electric cars are built to function by connecting to a charging point and taking electricity from the grid, and they store electricity in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Photo obtained from autoevelution.com.

Panchyshyn continued, “I feel like I should be more [concerned], knowing the data…. It’s one of those things that you tend to blackout of your mind. I think being in Ohio, we are a little luckier, because we don’t have severe weather, while people in Florida are going to feel it a lot more.”

Bio-Med sophomore Nami Miller worried, “I think that I’m concerned enough [regarding climate change], but I definitely think that there are other people, especially people who still don’t believe climate change is a thing, that should be more concerned. Because it’s real, and it’s really bad.”

Cairns talked about her extreme concern with climate change in the U.S. 

“I mean we [the U.S.] are definitely one of the biggest problems when it comes to [climate change].”

Part of the movement against climate change has involved the introduction of electric cars into the general public. Electric vehicles are designed to emit fewer greenhouse gasses and air pollutants than petrol or diesel cars.

Miller expressed, “My family has an electric car, and it’s amazing. You know, even taking the lithium batteries into consideration, it’s still better for the environment when compared to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that regular cars put into the air.”

While lithium batteries are often thought to be an essential part of the future with fewer carbon emissions in the atmosphere, they can be harmful towards people and the environment. Lithium batteries contain potentially toxic nickel, copper and lead materials. Used batteries that are stored improperly and uncontrolled can become explosive, and possibly turn into an environmental disaster.

Electric vehicles may be the start, but the movement has pushed further.

The infographic above describes the several effects of climate change on the environment and society around the world. Photo obtained from Globalchange.gov.

Along with China and Russia, the U.S. has been responsible for a majority of the global greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution. While the U.S. only accounts for 4.25% of the total population of the world, they have been responsible for 30% of global energy use and 28% of carbon emissions, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)

Cairns explained, “Our lifestyle since the industrial revolution has put a lot of carbon dioxide and a lot of methane gas into the atmosphere, and some of that is necessary to keep the planet from freezing.” She later countered, “But we’ve doubled the amount that we should have in the atmosphere. So it’s kind of like a snowball effect on the entire planet.”

Transportation was most recently one of the main sources of greenhouse gasses, taking up 27% of total emissions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, between March and Dec. 2020, there was a dip in the level of gasses being produced by 4.6% due to the declining use of public transportation. However, between Jan. 2021 and Aug. 2022, greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded by 6.4%.  

Other offenders contributing to the total emissions include industry development at 24% and electric power at 25%.

Cairns explained where her concern currently lies.

“At this point it’s not just about saving the planet, but also saving ourselves.” She concluded, “The planet will be fine with us completely wiped out probably even better but it’s about saving our future generations. It’s not just about you, it’s about future generations after us, and how we are going to set them up to be successful.”

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