Reducing Emissions: A ‘Smarter’ Choice than You Realize

On the record, President Trump has stated that he does not believe that climate change is man-made, but it sure would be a lot ‘cooler’ if he did believe such a scientifically-backed notion. The common theory among scientists is that current agricultural and industrial tactics are emitting greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. With renewable energy sources comprising only a tenth of America’s energy consumption, climate change is heavily affecting America through more frequent natural disasters, falling crop yields, and the spread of disease-carrying bugs.

The harm that emitting greenhouse gases create on nature and physical well-being is heavily documented. Sea levels, which have risen by almost twenty-one centimeters since the beginning of the 20th century, may increase by another metre by the end of the century, causing an estimated $1 trillion worth of damages in coastal property. In a seemingly positive note, wildfires will be less destructive by 2090 than they are today, but that is only because many forests prone to fires will have already burned to a crisp. When all is said and done, greenhouse gas emissions could pare the United States’ GDP by 10% this century.

However, one lesser known impact of greenhouse gases is its impact on human intelligence when individuals breathe in polluted air. This was studied at Beijing Normal University in China due to the country’s long battle with extreme pollution. The study found that continued exposure to air pollution decreases human intelligence, and these effects become more noticeable as people age. The quality of life in polluted areas has been devastated by air pollution, and it causes individuals to be unconsciously afflicted by diseases as well.

After testing tens of thousands of people in polluted Chinese areas, the relationship between verbal and mathematics test scores and air pollution exposure became abundantly clear. Both test scores decreased with increasing cumulative air pollution exposure, with a steeper decline for verbal scores than math scores. The findings about the damaging effects of air pollution on cognition, particularly on how age magnifies this damage, imply that the indirect effect of pollution on social welfare could be much larger than governments previously thought.

To help abate these effects, many people can simply look inward at their daily car or plane usage in order to make a change. However, while it is important for everyone to do their part, it should be noted that just one hundred companies are responsible for a whopping 71% of global emissions! Oil-heavy companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron are some of the highest emitting investor-owned companies, so a single person can only do so much. In order to avoid substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks, demanding change from these companies is truly the most effective way to save the environment to the greatest scale!

Sources: World Economic Forum, The Hill, The Economist