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Did You Know? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Did you know that if the polar ice caps keep melting at their current rate, parts of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the United States will be submerged in the not-too-distant future? You would think Americans would do everything to stop this from happening, yet many of us only have a vague idea of what the greenhouse effect is and what it is causing. Global warming is presenting many problems and I believe Americans must step up to the plate and aid in preserving the planet.

This is not a situation to take lightly because global warming is affecting us now. Since our highly industrial society constantly releases gases including methane and carbon dioxide into the air, more of the sun’s energy is being trapped in our atmosphere instead of radiating into space. As a result, the earth’s overall temperature is increasing and now the ice caps are melting. This has upset the weather system, making already deadly natural disasters like forest fires, mud slides, and hurricanes even stronger and more frequent. In 2005, three storms strengthened to category five in the Atlantic basin for the first time in a single season and an unprecedented 27 named tropical storms formed, more than half of which became hurricanes.

The National Climatic Data Center reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record, continuing the trend of warming. Climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel says, “When you look at temperatures across the globe, every year since 1993 has been in the top 20 warmest years on record.” Unless we want more hurricanes like Katrina, we need to do something.

The worldwide temperature increase is not just affecting humans but animals, too. The ice caps, which are 40 percent thinner than in the 1960s, are what Arctic animals like polar bears and penguins call home. If the ice continues to melt, they face extinction within 100 years! Polar bears today are significantly more emaciated and less vigorous, and scientists blame global warming. Bears also stop hibernating three weeks earlier than 30 years ago. Certain species of fish have changed their migratory paths in search of cooler waters.

Although some people may not be compelled to change habits because of animals, you may feel more compassionate toward your own species. According to the Hadley Centre of Climate Prediction and Research, most of the earth’s forests will start to die by the year 2040! Also, the rain that falls on the Great Plains, our country’s breadbasket, may shift farther north where plants cannot grow. Is it fair to leave our descendants a world with less vegetation and, as a result, less oxygen? Should we make them live in a smog-filled world just because we are lazy?

We need electricity but it does not have to come from coal-fired power plants. I visited one, and the dust and soot were overwhelming. My hands turned black just from touching the stair railing! That same filth is released into the air we breathe.

There are many forms of alternative energy. Wind energy is a clean source of electricity that requires no fuel and produces no pollution, and it could easily replace some coal power plants. In fact, a wind farm has recently been constructed in my area. Solar heat is becoming more common in the West. I think people should be required to use the sun’s energy in states like Arizona and New Mexico.

Also, more Americans should buy hybrid cars. As teens, we are beginning to drive and purchase cars, so why not choose a hybrid? Currently, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Lexus, and Mercury all offer hybrid models that get increased gas mileage. There are tax advantages too, and in some states, hybrid drivers can use special lanes normally reserved for carpools. So, hybrids can save time and money!

There are a few easy things that everyone can incorporate into their daily lives to help the planet. First, we can walk or ride bikes, which will allow us to enjoy nature, exercise, and save money. We could also carpool or use mass transit. Additionally, everyone should recycle and buy products made from recycled materials. We can unplug electronic devices when not using them, and switch from incandescent to fluorescent bulbs (which use one-fourth less electricity and last ten times as long). This idea has recently been proposed as law in California!

The issue of global warming must be taken seriously, and everyone needs to help. We do not have time to wait. By 2050, as much as 37 percent of the earth’s species could be extinct! Although the United States is only five percent of the world’s population, it emits 25 percent of the pollution contributing to global warming. Think of the animals, the disasters, your children, even yourself! It’s time for teens to make a difference to save our future.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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