The Environmental Protection Agency plans to roll back an Obama-era regulation concerning methane gas emissions, introducing a proposal that doubles the amount of time oil and gas drilling companies have to inspect and repair equipment. If equipment malfunctions during this window, methane — approximately 25 times more effective at trapping heat than other greenhouse gases — will enter our atmosphere in larger quantities for longer periods at a time when the world needs to be more cautious of its emissions outputs than ever before.
Climate scientists say that by the year 2020, the world could reach a tipping point at which climate change will no longer be able to be controlled or predicted. Nations are being urged to find alternatives to fossil fuels and to reduce dependence on oil, coal and other pollutants, but the United States — already one of the largest contributors to emissions — seems to be heading in the opposite direction. For college students, this issue can seem overwhelming. If environmental factors are set to spiral out of control before many of us graduate, can we actually do anything to combat climate change?
Actually, yes. Ithaca has a history of individuals successfully fighting against the environmental harm caused by the oil and drilling industries. Sandra Steingraber, an environmental activist and distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, fought against underground drilling in Tompkins County and sparked one of the largest grassroots movements in New York State, which eventually led to a 2014 statewide ban of fracking. Brad Rappa, associate professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies, has dedicated his career to producing media projects about environmental issues and sustainability solutions. Cornell University professor Robert Howarth received a grant from the Roy H. Park Foundation and produced the first research that challenged the idea that natural gas is cleaner than coal. Cornell has also become one of the leading academic challengers of fracking and drilling.
For students not involved in environmental research, lifestyle changes can go a long way toward helping the environment. Unplug electronics like chargers, coffeemakers and televisions when they aren’t in use. When it’s time to do laundry, do a full load to conserve water, and wash clothes in cold water to reduce energy use by approximately 90 percent. At meals, try to completely eliminate food waste and choose to participate in Meatless Monday, which has enormous environmental benefits. The Natural Resource Defense Council lists lifestyle changes, news articles and campaigns to help individuals become informed about and prevent climate change, while Climate Neutral Now allows you to calculate and offset your climate footprint. Vote for candidates who support protecting the environment. Small choices produce large changes, and it’s never too late to start making a difference.