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In 2015, the United States joined the landmark Paris agreement, a legally binding global treaty that seeks to achieve a 2° Celsius global average temperature reduction to pre-industrial levels. The purpose of this agreement is to eradicate the damage from global emissions that are causing rapid changes to earth’s climate through a rise in temperature. While the United States briefly left the agreement during the Trump administration, the Biden administration quickly rejoined the agreement upon taking office. This shows the unfortunate reality that for many in the United States climate change is a partisan issue. However, scientists do not focus on public opinion of the matter and have achieved a consensus that earth’s climate is warming because of emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. For the United States to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, each individual state must develop a plan and legislation to help achieve net-zero emissions.
Fossil fuels are greatly relied on as an energy source in the United States. In fact, in 2021 fossil fuels accounted for 79% of all energy production in the US. The burning of these fuels releases carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere which then acts as a greenhouse gas trapping the earth’s heat. These gasses can then remain in the atmosphere for decades to hundreds of years which has led to the increase in the average temperatures across the planet. With 76% of these emissions coming from transportation, energy production, and industrial sources, it is vitally important for states to begin to adopt planning and legislation focused on finding renewable sources of energy. This change can come from investments in areas like solar power and wind power to build a renewable power grid. States can also work to switch their own vehicle fleets over to electric, as well as provide tax credits for citizens willing to purchase electric vehicles. Another area that is emerging in the industrial world is carbon capture technology. This technology can capture more than 90%of emissions from power plants and industrial facilities.
Currently twenty-four states plus the District of Columbia have officially adopted plans for targeted reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, some of the largest emitters such as Texas (#1), Florida (#3), and Ohio (#6) have failed to adopt any sort of plan regarding emissions. In fact, Ohio has passed legislation that clarifies natural gas which is a fossil fuel as green energy. While these states are lagging behind, California (#2 in emissions) has released an ambitious plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 through programs focusing on issues such as carbon capture, and shifting to renewable energy sources. For the United States to achieve its obligation in the Paris agreement a fifty-state strategy must be created to focus on drastic emissions reductions. As citizens, we have the opportunity and responsibility to take an active role in encouraging our states to do more by raising awareness about the dangers climate change presents to society. While climate change may be a partisan issue, the threat from emissions is based in scientific fact. It is our responsibility to call for state level action on emissions reduction before it becomes too late. This includes writing to our legislators as well as getting involved with organizations dedicated to combat climate change and policy advocacy. The federal government has adopted an aggressive plan in attempting to reduce our emissions, but without state level action the reality is these goals will be unattainable.
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