Current State of Affairs of US Businesses and their Relation to Climate Change: Problem Solution Essay

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Sewanee University of the South
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The business environment and its relation to climate change in the USA comprise some activities that relate to global warming, as well as political and social decisions on regulations that impact global warming. The current of affairs is that businesses are the major contributor to climate change, which is usually via greenhouse gas emissions, which subsequently cause global warming. In fact, the industry is the primary cause of air pollution because the operation of factories and businesses leads to the emission of pollutants to the atmosphere, including water vapor, methane, ozone, nitrous dioxide, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. Carbon dioxide is mainly released from businesses that burn fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas, as well as burning wood products, trees, and solid waste. Methane emanates from decaying organic wastes, and in particular, in solid waste landfills. Nitrous oxides are mainly emitted during industrial and agricultural activities, as well as the combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels (U.S. DOC, Office of Security, 2012). On the other hand, fluorinated gasses, such as hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, are synthetic and powerful greenhouse gasses that are in most instances emitted from industrial processes, as well as buildings with HVAC systems (U.S. DOC, Office of Security, 2012).

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What Are the Major Sources of Greenhouse Gasses?

The sources of the greenhouse gasses are multiple, and federal agencies classify them as scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3. For scope 1, these include direct emissions from a variety of onsite sources, such as natural gas combustion in boilers, refrigerant equipment leaks, and combustion of fuel in fleet among other sources (U.S. DOC, Office of Security, 2012). Scope 2 greenhouse sources comprise indirect emissions that are associated with the consumption of purchased electricity (U.S. DOC, Office of Security, 2012). As the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Security (2012) reports, scope three sources entail indirect emissions sources left out in Scope 2, including federal employee commuting and business travel. The sources are shown in the figure below:

Figure 1: Common sources of greenhouse gasses. Source: U.S. DOC, Office of Security (2012)

Global Heat-Trapping Gas Emissions

In essence, from a scientific perspective, climate change is mainly caused by these heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere, and they usually come from the extraction and burning of massive amounts of oil, coal, as well as the annihilation of tropical forests. One way of measuring the contribution of a business to greenhouse gas emissions that subsequently cause climate change is the carbon footprint. The carbon footprint usually measures carbon dioxide emissions expressed in metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (mt CO2). The USA has one of the largest carbon footprints. For instance, between 1940 and 2004, the U.S. was responsible for 28% of the global carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon Cycle Combustion of Fossil Fuels

However, the primary source of the carbon footprint is the combustion of fossil fuels to satisfy the growing needs for energy. These fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and gas, which are the primary energy sources for fuel in residential and commercial buildings, transportation, as well as industry, and these sectors are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the USA. For instance, Americans are increasingly driving more personal vehicle miles in sport utility vehicles, light trucks, as well as passenger cars, which lead to increased emissions. When coupled with commercial tracking and the aviation sector, the transportation sector is a major contributor to climate change. Further, residences and commercial buildings, as well as industry demand increasing amounts of energy.

How are Petroleum and Gas Affecting Climate Change?

Also, it can be noted that the major contributors of the climate change are businesses in the petroleum and gas sector, which produce 50% of the global greenhouse emissions. These include Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Duke Energy, as well as the American Electric Power company. Also, businesses in the manufacturing sector also release greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. The current state of affairs dictates that ethical businesses be very careful to minimize the release of these gasses, as well as the impact of their behavior on the environment. Besides, the government has an important role to play as it ensures that businesses are regulated. For instance, companies in most instances must apply for planning permission before they erect factory buildings or even offices on green sites. Also, grants are available so as to encourage enterprises to locate their premises on brownfield sites to run down areas that need regeneration. Besides, before setting up companies, it is required by law that an environmental impact assessment is done.

Even so, power plants are the major concentrated source of US emissions, which together, account for about one-third of all domestic emissions. Even though the country has already set the limits for arsenic, lead, and mercury, there is no rule set by the federal government that can prevent power plants from making carbon emissions. For this reason, companies, local governments, and states have led the main responsibility for cleaner electricity sources.

Paths to Climate Change Mitigation

The US is the principal nation on the globe in addressing the threat of climate change. As from 2005, the nation has reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other country. Wind power has already tripled, and it has also capitalized on energy from the sun, which has increased tenfold. President Obama has taken various steps in curbing carbon pollution, as well as the other greenhouse gasses via various initiatives that drive energy efficiency, as well as promoting clean energy, and lastly, putting in place carbon pollution standards for power plants. However, with Trump taking the presidential office in January, the future of climate change fighting is uncertain. For instance, Trump asserts that climate change is a hoax that was created by the Chinese, which is in itself a false assertion because it receives scientific backing. The following three paths can be taken by society to combat climate change.

How Do Electric Cars Help Climate Change?

Firstly, to eliminate the greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector, society needs to adopt the use of electric cars and vehicles. They do not emit any greenhouse gas, and thus, they can play a great role in the mitigation of climate change. Many fossil fuel-driven cars can subsequently be converted to use electricity. The US has an estimated capacity to support 73% lit duty vehicles. In consequence, these would impact positively on transportation as the net result would be a 27% reduction of greenhouse gasses methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxides, as well as a reduction of 31% of total nitrogen oxides, 98% reduction in carbon monoxide, and 93% of volatile organic compounds (Kintner-Meyer et al., 2010). The pros are that electric cars are quiet and quick, as well as smooth compared to conventional cars that rely on petroleum products. They have high torque, and thus, acceleration and breaking are optimum. They can be charged at home or any other place with electricity, making them convenient. They can be charged overnight, and the next day they are ready to be driven 80 miles or more depending on the model. Besides, they are cheaper to operate as they have higher efficiency compared to the conventional ones. Also, they do not have emissions, making them effective in improving air quality by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions (Brady & OMahony, 2011). However, they have limitations. They have long fuelling times like an hour of charging from a 240 volts source of electricity can only add 20-25 miles (Beresteanu & Li, 2011). For this reason, they are not advisable for use on road trips. They also have a limited range of travel of between 80 to 100 miles. They are more expensive compared to conventional petroleum is driven vehicles. Also, they are little in the market, and thus, consumers lack a variety of choices.

How Is Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Helping Reduce Climate Change?

Secondly, demand reduction can play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Cutting energy demands via conservation is crucial because it not only reduces consumption but also increases long-term flexibility (Wei et al., 2013). The pros of demand reduction are that they induce near-term reductions in energy, which offer cost-effective mitigation strategies. They also provide more flexibility in the reduction of carbon intensity in the supply sector, as well as avoiding carbon-intensive infrastructures. Also, since it happens on an individual level, emissions are reduced through changes in consumption patterns, such as driving less, mass transit, reducing food waste, and buying longer-lasting products (Wei et al., 2013). The cons, however, include lack of convenience, especially when one needs to travel alone. Longer-lasting products are usually more expensive, as well as the fact that not everyone is focused on using the strategy.

How Does Renewable Energy Reduce Climate Change?

Lastly, the use of renewable energy is paramount, including solar energy, tidal energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy is important in mitigating climate change as they reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. The main advantage is that renewable energy is replenished naturally (Klingenfeld, 2011). It also replaces conventional fossil fuels in the three areas that contribute to greenhouse gasses, such as transport fuels, power generation, space heating, and hot water. Besides, there is no water or air pollution. However, the cons include high development costs. For instance, it costs a lot to develop renewable energy stations, both from manufacturing and research perspectives (Klingenfeld, 2011). Renewable energy sources are also vulnerable to weather among other climatic occurrences, and also they are unable to generate large quantities of energy. Besides, they require large areas to produce substantial energy.

Implementation of the Adoption of Electric Vehicles

The preferred choice is the use of electric vehicles, and this can be implemented at multiple levels. These include macro/societal, meso/organizational, and micro/individual. From a macro/societal level, the government can implement the strategy by advocating a policy that supports the production of electric vehicles (EVs). The government can also support initiatives geared towards researching for better EVs that can charge for a shorter period and travel for long distances (Beresteanu & Li, 2011). Besides, the population needs to be educated on the advantages of EVs. Besides, passing a law that every car manufacturer should start fabricating EVs will also play a significant role. At the Meso/organizational level, the strategy can be implemented by supporting the initiative via grants. The organizations should support the manufacture of the EVs by investing in research and development where better EVs are manufactured, as well as providing a variety of them to the consumers so that they and have a choice depending on their preferences. Organizations should also invest in advertising and marketing EVs. Besides, it should provide information to the public regarding the importance of EVs in mitigating climate change. On a micro/individual level, the strategy can be implemented through the appreciation and preference of EVs over conventional petroleum-driven vehicles. Also, individuals should also support the use of EVs by purchasing them and doing away with petroleum-fuelled vehicles. Individuals should also be willing to pay for EVs. They need to normalize the EV technology acceptance and comfort levels.


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