o-ekopplin

The crisis of climate change needs all hands on deck if it is going to be mitigated. Countries across the globe are switching to renewable resources, lowering their carbon emissions and finding ways to limit their use of fossil fuels.

The United States is far behind in this race to save the planet. While climate change has started to enter the minds of many Americans, it still does not hold the weight in Congress that it should. The United States should focus on lowering its use of fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

The United States is the third-largest country in the world, with a population of roughly 329 million. In 2014, it was estimated that the United States consumed almost 20 barrels of oil per person each day. With 80% of energy used in the United States coming from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, it is essential to try to reduce that amount.

From 2017 to 2018, the United States’ annual coal production dropped from 312 million short tons to 298 million short tons. While this is progress, it is not moving fast enough. Other countries, such as Germany, work to lower their greenhouse gas emissions at a much faster rate. Germans aim to drastically reduce their use of coal and instead use renewable sources for 65 percent of their energy by 2030.

Meanwhile, the United States has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This agreement had been put into place and agreed on by 179 countries to reduce and control greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. has the resources to focus on finding and using renewable energy sources. For example, in 2018 Nebraska had 1,972 megawatts of wind energy installed in this state. This industry also employed nearly 4,000 Nebraskans in the same year, and the use of wind industry is only growing. New Hampshire with nuclear energy, Vermont with solar energy, Idaho with hydroelectric power and Montana with its wind turbines are examples of other states leading the renewable energy charge.

The use of renewable energy also has numerous benefits to the global and national community. A few of these benefits include — but aren’t limited to — improved public health and job creation. The benefits that would come from using more renewable energy sources are so numerous that they outweigh any possible negatives.

Public health would be improved because levels of exhaust and pollution in the air would be decreased. Additionally, pollution and constriction of water resources would be reduced.

Because the creation and maintenance of renewable energy infrastructure requires more labor, more jobs will be needed to fill that demand.

In 2016, the United States solar energy industry created over 260,000 jobs, and the wind industry created 100,000 jobs. In contrast, the coal industry is on a steady decline. Renewable industries are on the rise, which means they will need more and more employees.

The biggest barrier to the United States using renewable energy is cost. The construction and maintenance of structures such as wind turbines and solar panels can be very expensive compared to the amount of energy they generate. For example, in 2017 solar panels cost roughly $2,000 per kilowatt and even more for residential systems.

However, cheaper is not always better, especially when the consequences include climate change. It is the United States’ responsibility to be mindful of its fossil fuel use, especially when it’s possible to afford alternatives.

The positives of renewable energy outweigh the negatives, and the United States has a responsibility to its people and to the rest of the world to put more time and effort into the control of pollution and the adoption of renewable resources. The United States is not the only country on this planet and needs to be held accountable for its use of fossil fuels.

Emma Kopplin is a freshman anthropology and graphic design double major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com or @DNopinion.