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global Warming: Is Obama Doing Enough?

Imagine that you are in New York, the weather is clear, not a single cloud in the sky, and you are walking on the sidewalk between two tall, glass and metal skyscrapers. There are shops everywhere you look. You smell sweet tarts from a French bakery. You are carrying the many bags of shopping you just bought. Suddenly you see a white wall of water heading towards you. You feel droplets that are ice cold, and the hair on the back of your neck raises. You can’t move, paralyzed by fear. After a few seconds, you start to run to a building with everyone else, pushing and shoving to be first. No one cares who is getting trampled; everyone lets their instincts take them to safety. You run up the stairs pushing people in front to go faster. The water touches your leg you cry out more in fear and surprise than in pain. You get to the tenth floor and the water follows…

Global warming is the increase of the global average temperature, caused by the increase of green house gases, such as CO2, created by human activities, such as burning fossil fuel and cutting forests down. The consequences if we do not act will be the melting of ice caps, the flooding of cities, the spreading of deserts and changing of weather, leaving places that need water without it and leaving many people to starve. This brings an important question. Is the Obama administration doing enough to stop global warming?

What can be done? The choices are mitigation, adaptation, and geoengineering. Mitigation is the reduction of carbon dioxide to stop global warming, but it does not reverse the effects quickly. Adaptation reduces the vulnerability of the natural and human systems. Lastly, geoengineering lowers CO2 emissions directly, using the science of carbon dioxide air capture.

Recently, the Obama administration has been doing mitigation. They have introduced the clunker program, a program set up by the government to give people money if they get rid of the old gas guzzling cars for newer, more eco-friendly cars. But is the clunker program worth it? Some believe yes. Others believe it’s not worth the trouble when you have working cars that are being destroyed in factories that are not eco-friendly. I think it’s worth it in the long run because the better cars emit less carbon emissions, outweighing the damage done by the factories.

A second initiative Obama has taken is setting up new emission standards for vehicles. This increase in fuel-efficient standards is the first in about thirty years. The increases call for raising the average fuel economy from 27.5 mpg for cars and 22 mpg for trucks to 35 mpg for the whole fleet by 2020. In the previous years, the Bush administration was reluctant to change the emission standards, causing the U.S to fall behind all the other major countries. For example, the emission standards of Europe in 2011 will be 48 mpg when those of the U.S. will be about 28 mpg, barely changed from now. This shows that if the government had started earlier, when Bush was president we would have higher standards than we do now, and we would be contributing more to solving the problem of global warming.

Obama is also trying to get people to use alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, so that less of the energy the U.S. uses is made from fossil fuel, and more of it is clean energy. Many do not want to use cleaner energy because then a lot of people will lose their jobs. However, solar panels need people to make and fix them, and wind power needs people to do annual check ups to see what needs to be fixed, again providing jobs. Obama’s energy secretary says it is better to have a nuclear power plant than a coal plant because even though the nuclear power plant pollutes, it gives more energy, and the pollution is not adding to global warming.

Although Obama may be doing many things to lower and stop carbon emissions, he is not focusing on another type of gas, hydrofluorocarbons. These gasses are used in cooling devices in cars and refrigerators, and if it is not stopped, by 2050 they will have the same effect on global warming as carbon emissions. I understand that Obama is busy with many things, but he should be getting some trained scientists to figure out a way to change what we are using to cool down cars so we don’t have the same trouble later on.

I took a survey to find out if people thought that the Obama administration was doing enough to stop global warming. The general answer was no. A middle school student in Massachusetts explained, “He is doing as much as he can.” Another student said “Not at All.” A teacher at their school told me “ he is trying, but it is too little too late.” I agree with them that President Obama is trying his best, but has started too late.

While the above survey was hardly scientific, I believe that the answer to the question of whether the Obama administration has done enough is, sadly, no. However, it has acknowledged the problem, and it is doing a lot more than the previous administration. Individuals could significantly further this effort by taking simple measures in their daily lives. For example, turning off lights and appliances that are not being used, walking when possible, climbing stairs instead of using the elevator, when added up can have a significant impact.

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