Climate change has been a hotly debated topic of discussion on the global stage in recent memory. A collaborative international effort has been made on scientific endeavors to gain a better understanding of this topic. Today, the majority of political leaders have expressed grave concern on this issue and believe that civilization must take steps to prevent human-driven climate change factors. Regardless, there is still strong opposition to climate change science and differing opinions on government’s role on the issue. The following paper will analyze competing viewpoints on climate change and describe the role of environmental justice.
SCI/362 Alternative Energy and Justice Paper
Consider the government’s role in alternative energy.
Create this assignment as a 700- to 1,050-word paper
Address the following:
- Alternative Viewpoints: Explain at least two viewpoints on climate change, including the debate over anthropogenic and natural causes.
- Energy sources: Identify five types of energy sources (both fossil fuels and alternative) and their relative abundance and environmental impact, including climate change.
- Environmental justice: Describe the environmental justice and economic justice issues (including impact on the poor and the economy overall) associated with CO2 regulation within the United States, including a carbon tax, EPA regulations on coal, and a $1/gallon fuel tax.
- Explain and justify, briefly, your own viewpoint on the issue of climate change and the economic, environmental, and social justice aspects of CO2 regulation.
Alternative Viewpoints on Climate Change
The most popular viewpoint on climate change in society is that it is a human caused phenomenon that is mostly caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. This viewpoint relies on scientific discoveries that shows atmospheric CO2 is at an all time high. (NASA, 2014). Those who support this viewpoint believe that the government must take steps to regulate industries and products that produce and burn fossil fuels.
The primary opposing viewpoint in the climate change debate agrees that change is occurring, but that it is natural and not a major concern. Temperatures and sea levels have changed regularly throughout measurable history and they argue that the current situation is no different. This group is opposed to regulation on CO2 emissions and believes that government will use this as a false pretext to gain control over private industry.
There are many different sources of energy available to humans for meeting economic demands. The most commonly used fossil fuel by the average American is gasoline. We use gasoline as the main fuel for cars, recreational boats, and powered garden tools. Most Americans are keenly aware of gas prices and make regular purchases at gas stations. The excessive burning of gasoline contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gasses into the environment. A second important fossil fuel is natural gas, which is used for home heating and electrical generation. Natural gas sources been discovered in large quantities in the United States in recent years, which is making it an attractive alternative to coal and crude oil. Extracting natural gas from the environment often requires hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has become a controversial topic due to contamination of nearby ground water. However, burning natural gas for electricity has far fewer carbon emissions, which could help climate change (Inman, 2012).
Solar is an alternative energy source that is already being implemented on a large scale. It is only capable of generating electricity during daytime hours and must be aligned towards direct sunlight for optimal output. Solar does not produce any carbon emissions and sunlight is an energy source with a practically unlimited capacity. Another alternative energy source is wind power, which uses large turbines to generate electricity. The turbines require a steady wind flow to generate electricity and their presence is considered unsightly by most people. Like solar, they are powered by an energy source that is limited only by the amount of space they can take up.
Most regulations that impose taxes, such as the $1 per gallon fuel tax, will end up hurting poor and middle class consumers. Corporations will simply pass these taxes down in the form of higher prices at the pump. Most people rely on fuel to commute to work and higher prices will not impact consumption significantly. A better alternative would be to break up the big oil cartel, create incubation programs for alternative energy startups, and increase tax incentives for poor and middle class individuals who switch to alternative energy. These changes would create a competitive and vibrant market that would experience rapid economic growth.
Some government regulations are effective at controlling CO2 emissions, such as EPA regulations on burning coal. Making it too expensive to burn coal will cause power plants to adjust their business model towards less “dirty” fuel sources, such as natural gas and alternatives. However, the big businesses behind these operations have significant influence in the legislative process in the United States, thus making regulation a political issue as opposed to an ethical issue.
My Own Viewpoint on Climate Change
At this point in time, I take a neutral stance on climate change. The science behind the issue definitely points towards change, but there are still many unanswered questions. Regardless of climate change, it is still important for humans to use resources responsibly and make every effort possible to protect the environment. If fossil fuels become fully depleted, the developed world will be forced to undergo major lifestyle changes. Our food sources are made possible for fossil fuel energy, which makes this issue a concern for long-term survival and population growth. In summary, the climate change debate has educated many people on the importance of environmental sustainability and will improve humanity’s relationship with nature in the future.
Inman, M. (2012). Natural Gas a Weak Weapon Against Climate Change, New Study Asserts
NASA. (2014). Climate Change: How to we Know?