From Rail to Global Warming: A Crisis in Perspective

Global Warming

May 10, 1869, marks the completion of the first transcontinental railroad of the United States. The end of this project was a milestone accomplishment in the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th century. The newly-finished railway allowed travel that once took months to take mere days, providing safer travel and more efficient use of a person’s time. This milestone is also an important factor in what is now a large problem. According to the most recent climate report, our world is in trouble. This crisis is not new for the many scientists who study the relationship of rail and other pollution and how, from this, global warming is evolving.

The climate report, officially called the National Climate Assessment, is a compilation of environmental information, concerns and predictions of where the current climate trend will lead Americans. According to many scientists and informational graphs, the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of man-made climate trends. Starting about the time that the last spike was hammered into the transcontinental railway, carbon dioxide’s (CO2) measurable levels have risen gradually to levels significantly higher than those seen before humans. Human-induced climate change has been widely disputed, lobbied against and denied for years. The recent National Climate Assessment officially states that the past thirty years of extreme climate patterns are no coincidence, but indeed a serious problem caused by human activity, and that global warming is indeed a problem of the present.

The National Climate Assessment has acquired the attention of news stations, legislators, scientists and Americans. The steady rise in CO2 levels is currently having and will continue to have a mass effect on all aspects of life. Ecosystems, air and water quality, food production and availability, habitats, and overall quality of life will be drastically altered by the time Generation Y has grandchildren. Some experts warn that changing the negative trend is not possible and adaptation is the only option left.

Industrialization did not happen instantly, but gradually and calculated. The development of the transcontinental railway, or any early industrial invention, was not maliciously devised. The railway was an incredible and useful change of lifestyle for those who had prior ventured the United States by foot or horse-drawn carriage. Not many are known to have predicted the negative changes CO2 emissions would have on the atmosphere. One scientist in the 19th century, John Tyndall, publicly stated that CO2 emissions from industrialization may have an effect on the climate, but no one predicted that rail and other developments would progress into a crisis, nor that this new perspective would conclude that Americans may be in grave danger.

Extreme hurricanes, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and melting arctic ice are only the beginning, according to the National Climate Assessment. These current global warming issues will become unbearable and more severe issues will ensue. Adaptation planning is underway, though drastic action or preparation is yet to be announced or implemented. The National Climate Assessment does acknowledge that adaptation will be necessary, though not the only option for approaching the current crisis.

Mitigation is entirely possible, and indeed necessary, according to the assessment. Cleaner energy must be massively implemented and humans must drastically alter current lifestyles. Lowering emissions is necessary and could be done under a proposed limiting of CO2 emissions per ton for years to come. The climate assessment may seem daunting and its demands impossible; however, industrialization did not happen immediately, and neither will the reversal of the effects of industrialization. The assessment offers many mitigating and adaptive ideas that will be implemented slowly and, presumably, efficiently. The railroads were a symbol of a promising and optimistic perspective while global warming is a symbol of mistakes and over-indulgence. The present is time for turning the current trials of the climate into new perspectives and, in turn, action for a better future.

Opinion by Courtney Heitter

The Green Optimist
The National Climate Assessment 2014

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