Monday, November 30, 2015

China Announces Record Smog Levels

This picture taken on 8 November 2015 shows a residential block shrouded in smog in Shenyang, Liaoning province

China issued an orange alert to warn of high smog levels. This alert warned people to stay indoors and ordered many factories to close down. China’s AQI was measured at 568, earning it a spot in the “beyond index” category (CNN) and making it about 17 times more than WHO deems healthy. 
Coincidentally, there is also a climate summit convening right now in Paris. This conference gathers together many of the world’s leaders and discusses goals and plans to help control climate change. China, the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, has set goals to decrease their dependence on and usage of coal.

Should the US get involved in the global battle against climate change?
Do you think, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders mentioned in one of the Democratic debates, that climate change is the biggest threat to national security?
Do you have any ideas for solutions?



Charles Cao said...

I think it's pretty clear that climate change is a pressing issue in our society today. However, you see this type of comment all over this blog and in public opinion. The problem is, it's hard to take action because our society is generally indifferent on actually doing something about the issue. According to this really interesting article A vast majority of Americans surveyed in 2014 by a coalition of the New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future believe that Climate Change is happening and 83% believe global warming will be a problem in the future if left unaddressed. This is reflective of our class's general opinion as well. However, of these same Americans polled, they rank Climate Change at the bottom of our nation's most important issues; with jobs, economy, and health care overwhelmingly at the top. The article also explains that one of Climate Change's biggest weaknesses is the fact that there hasn't been an immediate crisis to point to. I think the general consensus is that we as a society recognize climate change as a growing problem, however it also feels like a problem of the future; something we don't need to worry about today. I think time will tell if this sentiment is dangerous or not.

Nick Jadallah said...

This is more or less a copy and paste of another comment of mine but it fits here too, so:

Everyday people need contribute to the fight against climate change in small ways, and the more people start doing this, the more energy-conscious people will become. The more energy-conscious people become, the more of a REAL issue climate change will become in national politics. Like Charles said, people think it is a problem, but people also come up with a list of 10,000 problems more important, so when it comes to actually doing something, nothing happens. People becoming energy-conscious is essential because in terms of long-term goals that will mean substantial steps towards a cleaner future, governments need to be involved. And not just any governments, but the big ones, namely the U.S., China, Russia, India, etc.... Inter-governmental cooperation is the ONLY way to come up with a REAL SOLUTION to mitigate the brunt of damage climate change will inevitably cause in the future.
People don't realize how important of an issue climate change is because most people are not affected by it...yet (at least in the US). Because people are not affected by it, they have little reason to really push for serious legislation regarding the issue. Then there are the oil and coal industries who obviously would be against many climate change measure, because ultimately, ANY SERIOUS climate change agreement will need to create a path that moves slowly away from dirty fossil fuels towards cleaner renewable energy like solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. This would be bad for business, but it is a necessary step. Will people in West Virginia be upset? Yes. Do they have the right to be upset? Yes. Why? Because in places like West Virginia, coal mining and processing is huge industry, and when people start talking about renewable energy, the traditional, industrial-era energy companies will oppose it because their product will either be more expensive to produce due to new restrictions or less profitable due to new, alternative energy sources. Economically, it is damaging for them BUT what is more important, The coal companies economic woes or the world the next generation is going to inherit? If we wait until climate change starts to affect people, then we are way too late. If we act now, we will not repair anything. We are past that point. We still need to act now in order to prevent the "really bad stuff" from happening.
For the world to create a serious plan, everyone is going to need to make sacrifices. The big oil companies, the car companies, state governments, city governments, and ordinary people like you and me. Countries like Germany are on the right track. States like California are vastly improving. There are practical ways to achieve this goal; they require governments and large corporations, as well as ordinary people to bite the bullet because it will be worth it in the long run. Obama made a great point in his speech today. He mentioned how it is difficult to pass a comprehensive plan because WE probably won't see the effects of any climate legislation we pass. We probably won't notice any difference. The next generation may notice a difference, but it won't be anything dramatic. The reason climate change is an important issue is NOT because we are going to reverse the damage already done, like many people assume. The reason we need an agreement is to PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE, more catastrophic damage from happening in the future.
Not to self-promote my article, but "Jerry Brown and His Climate Change Diplomacy..." contains, among other things, an overview of some of the steps California has taken in order to combat climate change. Some of it is pretty interesting.
Thanks and good article.

Christopher Griffis said...

As the other comments say climate change is definitely a major issue nationally and globally. However I disagree with Sanders about his claim that it is the greatest threat as terrorist groups can do a lot more damage in a lot less time. Nevertheless I do believe that the US should play a major role in the fight against climate change. As the US is a major super power which many countries will follow suit if the US makes a big push against climate change. As for a solution the answer is obviously cleaner energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and even nuclear power. Although there are many dangers with nuclear energy, there have not been any great technological developments for nuclear energy and if the countries can unite their efforts I believe that it is possible to have much safer means in using nuclear energy. Although, even with the push for clean energy I think it is already too late and we must wait for the climate to return to its normal state.

Jeffrey Song said...

Though I feel that the US should take a central role in leading global reductions of CO2, I don't think we can have much of an impact on China's emissions policy. The issue of heavy smog and pollution has been a rampant issue for some time now; my dad's currently in China right now actually visiting family, and the pictures of Beijing's streets and historic landmarks are covered by disturbingly heavy levels of smog and visible pollution. A simple google search of "china smog" on google images presents just a peek into what life is like for those living in the industrial centers of China: One thing you might notice in the pictures is people wearing face-masks, a now-popular way of defending yourself from the harmful effects of taking too much toxic pollution into your system.

I definitely don't think that climate change is the biggest threat to national security; it's undoubtedly a notably contentious issue worldwide right now, but the sad truth is that there is very little initiative in developed countries world-wide to combat climate change because the benefit of such massive initiatives for developed countries is not worth the cost (disregarding the obvious benefit provided to future generations, I'm talking about for us right now). In fact, the impact of climate change disproportionately affects developing countries as opposed to developed countries, (ex. fatalities / severe economic damage from natural disasters caused by climate change/pollution) see these articles for more information if you're interested:

I don't think the issue is that there are a lack of viable solutions ATM, (many of the solutions mentioned above are perfectly doable such as the renewable energy sources that Chris mentioned) it's simply that there is not a compelling enough reason in the present to implement many of those solutions en masse. I feel that we vote and pick our leaders based on what they can offer us, not what they might offer for the world or for our grandchildren. Until climate change begins to seriously affect the way we live/consume, I don't think there's much that will be done by those that are in a position of power to enact change.

Lea Tan said...

People often admit that climate change is a problem and we need to do something about it, but don't actually do anything to help solve the problem. However, although each individual can do little things to help, this won't solve the overall climate change issue. Both China and the US should create emissions policies to decrease C02 emissions because it's the major industrialization that has affected the climate the most. A Pew Research survey of 40 nations concluded that the countries with the highest overall carbon dioxide emissions, which is the US and China, are the least concerned about climate change, whereas Latin American countries with lower carbon emissions, such as Brazil, are the most concerned. It is countries like China and the US that need to do the most in order to help climate change, so I do believe that the US should get involved in the battle against climate change.

I don't think climate change is the biggest threat to national security. I agree with Chris that terrorist attacks are a much bigger threat. However, I do think climate change is overall a huge threat to the nation as a whole such as the economy. It's hard to come up with solutions when we've already done so much to damage our planet, but I don't think it's ever too late to start. If countries band together and all pass emissions policies, we can potentially make climate change more gradual.

Juliana Stahr said...

Nice post Emma! I strongly agree with Nick's comment that climate change CAN be a central issue once the public begins to take action and became more aware of our deteriorating surroundings. I believe the only way we as a country can get involved in a global battle against climate change is when the people in the U.S. begin to take measures to improve our individual communities. Once Americans begin to take action, other countries will hopefully follow. I cannot make the assertion that climate change is the most prevalant issue in the U.S. simply because I do not know much about the subject, however, I do think there are benefits to spreading more awareness on the issue. Clearly Bernie Sanders believes climate change to be more of a threat to national security than the war on terror and he must have reasons to back up those claims. I do believe, however, that with everything going on in France, that we should really focus on the war against terror and find methods to better our relations with Isis.

Europeans are much more conscious of global warming and have gone as far as to implement regulations to create a more sustainable environment. Germany has become the so-called "green leader" for Europe and now, other European countries are beginning to follow Germany's footsteps. In order to reduce the threats of global warming, we need to spread awareness of this current issue. We can do this by incorporating lessons in public school curriculums that highlight the threats of climate change. Hopefully this will incentivize the young to take actions in making communities more earth friendly.

Juliana Stahr said...

Sorry I forgot to include my sources: