While the cause of global warming and climate change is widely known and accepted to be the over production of greenhouse gases (GHG) due to the increased burning of fossil fuels, the direct human activity portion of the problem is easily overlooked. Yes, industrialization is to blame; mass production requires a lot of energy and factories produce high quantities of fossil fuel emissions to keep up with demands. But why is there such a demand? At the heart of the problem, Dr. Masato Nakamura isolates the heart of the matter when discussing climate change, which is local human accountability for global human activity impact.
Psychology plays a major role in our ability to effectively combat environmental pollution and ultimately climate change. Civilians are in dire need of taking responsibility for our environment on an individual level, especially since “between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption“.
It is clear to see that energy consumption is responsible for 83% of greenhouse gas emissions. These “anthropogenic GHGs accumulate” (Akpan, 2012) are a “direct consequence of human activity.” The problem with our psychology, as Suzanne Jacobs explains in her article “Consumerism Plays a role in climate change”, is that we like to blame others, mainly government and big business, instead of monitoring our own actions. Even industrial activity does produce a significant amount of GHGs, we are the ones increasing the demand for more of the “knick knacks” that cause big businesses to output more products. Furthermore, products account for 20 percent (over 51 million tons) of municipal solid wastes and packaging, the largest piece of the MSW pie is at 29.7 percent, or over 77 million tons, according to the 2015 EPA “Facts and Figures” report.
There are efforts being made by dedicated leaders, to grow awareness about the causes of climate change through the encouragement of reduced energy consumption and waste management. For example, former Irish president Mary Robinson who currently leads an energy saving lifestyle and advocates against greenhouse gas production. But even Robinson once had her doubts about the individual impact on the environment, admitting that she used to think, “Well, what can one individual do anyway?” and “It’s not my problem”. While Mary Robinson’s life and experience is inspirational, her initial attitude was one most of us have held.
While on an individual level, most people might not be concerned with how they consume and the waste that they produce, those who should be concerned are sweeping climate change issues under the rug. Earlier this year the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement established in 2015, which 20 states, 110 U.S. cities and 1,400 U.S. business were to participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the administration fails to believe that climate change and global warming are the effect of human activities. A similar sentiment was once held by NASA’s new administrator Jim Bridenstine who at one time “expressed doubt about human-caused climate change”. As of May 2018 however Bridenstine has been singing a different tune and urging us to take responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases, urging that global warming “is absolutely happening, and we are responsible for it”.