Climate change is one of the biggest issues of discussion in the world today and is already affecting societies around the globe. North America, being one of the most influential areas of the planet, has the added pressure of setting the proper example in preparing its society to adjust for the possible changes to be made in regards to climate change. Given the economic power that North America holds over various countries worldwide, the decisions and actions that are taken are going to have a direct impact on the other nations as well. The US is put in a place of control when it comes to the matter of climate change, and as a result, if the US continues to deny the changes that are occurring in the world of today, other countries will continue to suffer and will not be able to take the necessary actions in order to prevent the downfall of their own societies. Actions are starting to be taken by both the government and non-governmental organizations, who are trying to inform the general public on what the current situation is with climate change and the possible outcomes. There is a clear effort being made to help slow down, or even prevent climate change from making a large impact on society, but if there is a major impact, unfortunately society will not be able to cope accordingly. The programs to prepare society for the worst to come exist, but there is not enough focus on these programs to get the message across. If this information is not distributed around the world, and if this subject is not taken seriously, human civilization could very well already be on its way to downfall. North America is taking steps in order to prepare its population for change in order to deal with climate change and make sure that society is affected as little as possible. In order for the world to be able to tackle the subject of climate change, all nations will have to come together and educate their own people on the dangers and potential problematic outcomes of this ongoing shift in the world's climate, starting with the United States.
The governments of North America have programs which are made to inform the general public about the current situation of climate change; however, there is not enough emphasis put on these programs to convey this message to societies. It is a known fact that climate change is one of the main issues of discussion in the world today, and that it is going to take a global effort in order to get results. North America is one of the leading polluters of today, and therefore it is extremely important for the US to be aware of what is happening in terms of climate change. The United States government has programs that are specifically designed to inform the general public about what is going on with climate change and what can be done to prevent it, cope with it, and prepare for the worst. "This is despite the fact that the reports of several governmental agencies in the United States and around the world cite human activity as one of, if not the primary driver of global climate change," (Nagel et al, 2008). The programs exist, the government is aware of what needs to be done, but there is simply not enough focus on these programs. For example, on June 16th, 2009, the White House helped launch the Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States report, which is a representation of thirteen agencies that, in the course of a year and a half, focused on potential climate change impacts on the United States. Yet, a large group of the United States public is completely unaware of the fact that this report was written. Sadly, the government knows this and even takes it into account, as stated in the document "Responses to climate change impacts in the United States will almost certainly evolve over timeâ€¦ Implementing these response strategies will require careful planning and continual feedback on the impacts of policies for government, industry, and society," (Waple, 2009). Non-governmental organizations are the ones at the front lines, informing the general public one person at a time, letting people know what steps need to be taken in order to cope with, or even prevent climate change. Even though these organizations are putting in the hours of effort to inform the public, the majority of people shy away from the NGO's and choose to not take them seriously and not regard this as a real problem that will eventually have an impact on the world.
In order for the human race to respond appropriately to the results that climate change will have on society, people have to be made aware of the expected outcomes. As stated by the National Assessment Synthesis Team in Washington, D.C. "Climate change will affect different segments of society differently because of their varying exposures and adaptive capacities" (NAST, 2000). There are many different environmental issues that the world is being faced with. Some are local, where others will have an impact on a global scale. Environmental issues are comprised of social interactions and natural phenomena, "in this sense, they are hybrid issues of society and the environment," (Giddens, 2009). Due to the amplification of social awareness dealing with environmental problems in the 1970s, sociology has focused part of its reasearch on global climate change, known as environmental sociology. Environmental sociologists study the complex and versatile relationship between human beings and their natural environments, which also covers the question of why social systems have a tendency to exceed their ecological carrying capability.
The report done on understanding climate change suggests that there are certain areas of research that scientists must take as a priority. These areas include "1) human activities that alter the earth's environment; 2) forces that drive these activities; 3) consequences of environmental changes for societies and economies; and 4) how humans respond to these changes," (Nagel et al, 2008).The main issues that the world has to deal with are pollution and waste, resource depletion, genetic modification of food, and global warming. Air pollution clearly has a global influence, and is mainly caused by 'outdoor pollution', produced mainly by industrial pollutants, and 'indoor pollution', causes by burning fuels at home such as heating. Human societies depend on natural resources from the planet - wood, water, plant life, animals. These are mainly classified as renewable resources, however, if there is no balance between consumption and reproduction, there is a risk that there will be no more left. Rapid population and economic growth in the arid and semi-arid regions of Southern California, the central valley of California, and the front range of the Rocky Mountains has radically increased exposure to water shortages (NAST, 2000). Along with consumption rates, "population shifts and development choices are making more Americans vulnerable to the expected impacts of climate change," (NAST, 2000). North America being one of the more heavily populated areas in the world also raises the vulnerability of the specific regions that are densly populated. "The four most populous states in 2000 - California, Texas, Florida, and New York - accounted for 38 percent of the total growth in U.S. population during that time, and share significant vulnerability to coastal storms, severe drought, sea-level rise, air pollution, and urban heat island effectsâ€¦Over 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in urban areas, which are among the most rapidly changing environments on Earth," (NAST, 2000).
In some cases the negative outcomes of climate change do not directly affect North America, but the nations that supply North America with their export. Which in turn also has a negative affect on North America. The main component of climate change, which is global warming, has the most noticeable impact on societies, "scientists have recently estimated that global warming kills about 160,000 people every year" (Giddens, 2009). In general, the groups of people that are going to be affected the most are the youth, the elderly, and the economically disadvantaged (NAST, 2000). This is due to the fact that people who are at a disadvantage, socially and monetarily, are unable to acquire the resources necessary in order to cope with these changes. The rise in global temperatures during the summer and the fall of temperatures during the winter are at an all time high and low, respectively, and human beings are not prepared to the best of their abilities, and consequently human beings are the ones who are losing the battle against the shift in climate.
Another problem area that is beginning to arise is that of health and the mutation of pre-existing disease and viruses, "public health researchers have begun to note variations in seasonal diseases, like the flu, and the geographic spread of malaria and diarrheal diseases resulting from ill-equipped sanitation services and a lack of access to clean, fresh water," (Nagel et al, 2008).Yet, with these facts, there is still no drastic change or effort being made to prevent this from happening; and there is further research that must be done before scientists will be able to estimate how much these changes will result in negative societial outcomes.
Other areas of the world are also making an effort to inform the general public about climate change and the potential changes that will have to be made in order to prevent negative outcomes. The Kyoto Protocol was created in 1997, in Kyoto, Japan and was put into action in February 2005, and since then 187 states have signed the protocol. The Kyoto protocol is a convention that was created in an attempt to fight global warming and lower greenhouse gas emissions by restricting countries gas emission percentages. Ironically enough, the United States is the only nation that has not signed and has no intention to ratify the protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was created when George W. Bush was still president of the US, and he was of the firm opinion that climate change not only was not a problem, but did not even exist as an important global issue. As a result, the US has been put far behind the rest of the world in terms of acknowledging and acting on this matter. This is a set-back to the global effort in fighting climate change and will continue to create problems, in the long run, if there is no agreement reached on this subject shortly.
If information about climate change does not reach the majority part of the planet's population or the subject is not kept in mind with the main events that are yet to come, human civilization may as well accept the steady downfall of our planet's wellbeing. With North America continuing to play its role in the world regarding the issues of climate change, noticeable actions need to be taken for the prevention of climate change, from a societal perspective. The reactions to the impacts of climate change in North America will transform over time as people learn more about what they are dealing with, and the extent to which it will affect the population. In addition, there have to be more comparative studies of the political dynamics of climate change across multiple nations.
Evidently, this is not left up to the hand full of people in a position of power in the world to do; there are other factors that can also contribute to this evolution. Cultural habits, religion, and personal norms and values are able to influence the majority, if not, everything from population growth to beliefs about the environment as a whole. There has to be a better understanding of how and where these social groups stand, in terms of the global movement, towards a better environment, and how the general public, political powers, and non-governmental organizations can work together to effectively improve it. North America has huge potential to deal with these issues, compared to other countries in the world, however their methods of informing the population and the advice that they give to their people as a means of being able to improve their situations is not yet at its best.
"Although North America has considerable adaptive capacity, actual practices have not always protected people and property from adverse impacts of climate variability and extreme weather events," (Parry et al, 2007). There is still much that must be shared between people of power and people who belong to those societies. Climate change is a real issue that will eventually affect the entire world, and measures must soon be taken, on a serious level, if societies worldwide are to try and overcome this new life threatening obstacle.