Starting Dec. 7, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will begin in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is an incredibly important conference on climate change that will hopefully set goals for reductions in carbon emissions around the world. Many people are optimistic about the potential this conference has in shifting global environmental policy, but the chances of this happening are slim to none. Countries seem to be slowly realizing that there is a major power struggle between the United States, India and China. Although the United States Senate hearing on the current climate bill that could possibly remake our energy economy is heating up, the United States will never agree to international standards for carbon emissions until India and China do the same.
Currently, these countries produce more carbon emissions than the United States. However, because the United States has over the past 200 years produced more carbon emissions then any other country in the world, China and India argue that they have the right to produce an equal amount as they industrialize and develop their economies.
This sort of political power play will always get in the way of strong, uniform international environmental standards, which is why domestic strategies to help combat climate change must come first. Governments around the world need to first implement domestic standards and to seriously invest in alternative energy solutions. These solutions include solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity and any other new technologies that are discovered in the future. An often-used saying is “think globally, act locally.” Citizens — especially in higher income countries — will need to change their lifestyles in order to ensure that resources are available for future generations. One method is to buy locally grown food — a move that would drastically reduce one’s carbon footprint. Another easy lifestyle change that helps reduce carbon emissions is to eat less meat, as meat production produces high emissions. Finally, just walk or bike around campus or places near where you live — there is no need to drive a car somewhere when it will take you 15 minutes to walk there.
The upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen is a step in the right direction, but I fear that nothing will come of it. This is a real shame considering that pollution and climate change are international issues. For example, 30 percent of Los Angeles air pollution comes from Chinese coal-fired power plants. Climate change is one instance in which history has to be forgotten in order to actively pursue a solution that will guarantee an improvement in our climate. Until this happens, individuals need to think about their environment and ways to reduce their individual carbon footprint.
Doing this would demonstrate that the American people are concerned about climate change and would put pressure on governments to introduce legislation and work toward a climate solution.
I realize that we all know ways to cut down on carbon emissions, and in light of China’s and India’s emissions, it may seem that these individual efforts are futile; however, the only way to convince our government that the American people are willing to set strict limits on carbon emissions is to do so on our own.
E-mail Ben Arancibia at firstname.lastname@example.org.