During his presidency, Donald Trump has been extremely vocal in his support for traditional fossil fuel energy sources, with a particular emphasis on coal. And, due to the fact that the United States is the second largest polluter in the world, policies that are in favor of fossil fuels have a significant impact on climate change. Aside from a general idea, most college students aren’t aware of the damage climate change could inflict on our lives within a few decades. However, climate change will soon endanger the very lifeblood of college campuses worldwide: coffee.
One of the cornerstones of the America First Energy plan is to revitalize the coal industry. However, coal remains one of the most polluting fossil fuels, in 2015 the total US carbon dioxide output in the electric power industry due to coal was 1,385,781,816 metric tonnes, over double that of natural gas, the next largest polluter. To put that in perspective, the average car in the US releases only 4.7 metric tonnes annually. It’s here that trouble starts brewing, because carbon emissions are already straining the biosphere, and any increases will undoubtedly push the global climate closer to the magic two degree Celsius mark, which will result in a host of environmental problems such as large sea level increases and increased droughts.
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, contributing over 3.3 million metric tonnes of coffee between 2016 and 2017. However, due to climate change, the increased frequency of Brazil's droughts have been much like its coffee, both hotter and stronger, with estimates stating that by 2050 the suitable land for growing could be cut in half. In Ethiopia, another huge coffee producer, rainfall has decreased by 40 inches since the 1950’s, with projections estimating that Ethiopia could eventually lose up to 59% of its coffee growing land by 2100. And due to the fact that the majority of farmers in both locations run small scale plantations, most don’t have the resources to invest in new technology or move to a new location, meaning they often prefer to switch to a different crop that is more sustainable than coffee. Furthermore, since climate change is a global phenomenon, other coffee exporting nations such as Colombia or Honduras will face similar struggles; meaning unless preventive steps are taken, your morning Starbucks will be a thing of the past.
Climate change is real and humans are a large part of it. There is simply no getting around that fact. The only way to avert crisis is to cut emissions and focus our efforts on building greener, sustainable sources of energy. Without doing this, we risk everyday aspects of our life being changed, like coffee. Coffee is not water, it's not critical to human existence, though most college students during finals week could definitely take issue with that. But it is a valued commodity that, if we continue on our current path, it could be lost within our lifetimes. The America First Energy plan is a step in the wrong direction, because it increases our use of fossil fuels and our carbon footprint, pushing us ever closer to that two-degree Celsius mark. The window before the point of no return is closing, and unless we take action now, we’ll be in for a rude awakening, with no coffee to help.
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