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Who will help fight climate change?

There are many questions when it comes to climate change, but only one definitive answer – it affects everyone.

The effects of climate change come in varying forms throughout the United States. What may be extreme drought in one part of the country could manifest itself as extreme rains or blizzard in another. Debates across the nation have and will continue to ensue about the right way to go about solving these issues, however, immediate action may be necessary to reduce carbon emissions and limit the severe weather patterns that have become all too frequent for United States citizens.

Limiting carbon emissions
While it is no secret, one of the biggest culprits of climate change is fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels is responsible for massive amounts of CO2 emissions, and while many people are aware of this, not many realize how much CO2 fossil fuels are actually responsible for.

According to the International Energy Agency, 2012 hit a record high in the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere with 31.6 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions. Other figures, according to the Environment Protection Agency, indicate that 57 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions came from the burning of fossil fuels. With this growing body of evidence, more and more people are realizing that something needs to be done to curb carbon emissions.

But the question now becomes, who?

State environment plans
Many states throughout the country have enacted various "Climate Change Action Plans" to address the issue of carbon emissions. An executive order from 2009 in New York made the commitment to reduce carbon emission to 80 percent below 1990 levels come 2050. In neighboring New Jersey, a 2007 law requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels come 2020. Similar reduction plans have taken shape across many states in the region including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware.

These pieces of legislation are extremely important for preserving the beautiful landscapes these states are known for. It is tough to imagine what the Garden State would look like if extreme weather prevented flowers from growing, while Massachusetts' Bay State nickname might become all too literal if something is not done soon.

It is important that governments have enacted these types of legislation but it is the people within these states that define them. Because of this, the residents and small business owners who have brought the environmental movement into the mainstream are pushing for cleaner energy to enter the United States power grid.

Renewable energy options
Solar energy is quickly becoming a viable form of energy generation for home and small business owners throughout the country. In Massachusetts, for example, Governor Deval Patrick set out a plan in 2007 to expand the solar capacity of Massachusetts from 3.5 megawatts to 250 megawatts by 2017. After six years, the program has already met its goal for solar installations, four years ahead of schedule.

Throughout the United States, residential solar installations increased by 53 percent from the first fiscal quarter of last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This is because solar energy is saving the environment and driving down energy costs for consumers.

This expansion continues to grow as states offer more initiatives to expand solar and installation companies create flexible financing options for residents and business owners to install solar energy. So to answer the question of who will lead the charge away from carbon emitting power sources to clean energy, the answer is everyone. Climate change is effecting everyone, from people in government, to energy providers, to residents and small business owners, and because of this, a countrywide effort will be necessary to protect the environment and combat climate change.

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