Can We Do Something About It?
Right now, the world is debating whether global warming exists or not. Whether or not global warming is happening, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere could not hurt anyone. Several countries have done things to try to reduce their carbon footprint, but some of the countries that emit the most carbon dioxide are not helping as much.
Iceland was ranked as the greenest country in the world in 2011 based on the Environmental Performance Index, a study conducted by Yale University. Iceland is small, but it has managed to harness the tectonic energy that has both helped and harmed the country by getting energy from their volcanoes, hot springs, and steam fields. In the 1970s, Iceland generated 75% of its energy from coal and now has cut this number to 16%. 82% of Iceland’s energy comes from geothermal and hydro power.
Switzerland has now claimed first place because of a number of reasons, but a big one is that the country greatly encourages biking. They have bike paths, bike lanes, and traffic signals for bikes. Their hotels also encourage the use of hybrid cars by giving out discounts. Some of those hotels (and schools) get their heating and cooling from nearby lakes. Switzerland also has fines when people litter.
Costa Rica currently ranks fifth. 90% of the energy used there comes from renewable sources, with hydroelectricity accounting for 78% of the energy used. Costa Rica also has an advantage because its temperatures never get very low. People in Costa Rica don’t have to worry about heating their buildings. Costa Rica did have a hard time because of deforestation. But Costa Ricans decided that they wanted to help the environment and planted 5 million trees in 2008. If all the countries could have as much determination, we would be set.
The US is a well developed country, so it is kind of disappointing that we are 61st on the list. However, although we have not done anything nationally, many cities and states have decided to do something for themselves. Portland, Oregon is supposed to be one of the greenest cities in the US. It is ranked so highly partly because it has so many bike paths so that there is almost no need for gas-powered transportation.
The examples of these countries show us that that we can reduce our carbon emissions in relatively easy steps. From just encouraging biking to using alternative energy to power buildings, countries are taking it on themselves to help the environment. If every country decided to take these measures, we would have a significant impact on the carbon emissions.