In 2012, “The levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high,” according to BBC News.Greenhouse gases, global warming, melting glaciers, rising temperatures; these are all buzzwords you’ve probably heard (and then quickly dismissed) in the news. And of course you would dismiss them, because who can make sense of any of it? It’s time somebody decoded the scientific jargon and explained why it all matters to you.

CO2, or carbon dioxide, is the most significant of the greenhouse gases that control the temperature of our atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, CO2 emissions have been rising rapidly and causing negative effects on climate and other aspects of our Earth. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened. In order to prevent severe and damaging warming of the Earth due to too much CO2 in the atmosphere, humans must change their ways — and quickly. The path CO2 emissions follow in the next 15 years will determine the global climate for generations to come.

According to David Archer, author of "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast," “emission reductions of at least 80 percent are needed by 2050.” CO2 emissions must be reduced by not only redesigning our energy usage, but by holding citizens of the world accountable for their negative contributions through a carbon tax.

It’s easy to say what needs to be done for our planet, but when it’s time to put a plan into action, the next move comes down to who will foot the bill. According to data collected in 2009 from David Archer’s research, the three countries with the highest carbon release per dollar gross domestic product (GDP) were China, India and the United States. But the truth of the matter is that the entire world is to blame in one way or another, since there is no country or individual that doesn’t emit CO2. It’s time to stop playing the blame game and instead, spend the precious time we have left to save our planet mitigating the negative effects human actions have caused our environment.

All inhabitants of this planet inherit the same ecological responsibility. Utah’s own Cache Valley has realized its responsibility in this endeavor and has taken steps toward cleaner air for all. According to Ordinance 2013-14, titled Implementation of a Vehicle Emissions and Maintenance Program in Cache County, all vehicles according to their model year are subject to either physical or visual emissions inspections to be conducted by private firms. A fee is assessed to all vehicle owners who wish to be registered in Cache County, which is then divided between the firm providing the inspection and the Bear River District Board of Health. This ordinance will improve the air quality in Cache Valley by ensuring all vehicles emit no more than the maximum emissions level. Cache Valley’s actions should serve as a model for the rest of the United States.

I don’t deny that a carbon tax wouldn’t be a financial burden on Americans in these trying times, but it is crucial that the U.S. government implements this tax for households, businesses and utilities. Many Americans will object to the tax, but the truth is you cannot put a price on the health of Earth. According to an article from the Energy Collective, “Should the U.S. Implement a Carbon Tax?” recent legislations have arrived on a tax between $10 and $35 per metric ton (MT) of carbon.

For residents, this tax works out to be only $52 per year at $20/MT. We as Americans should focus on the good that the tax will do for our country and planet through subsidization of environmental programs and issuance of rebates. The cost is a small price to pay for cleaner air and a planet that will provide a stable atmosphere for generations to come, wouldn’t you say?

Amber Driggs is studying marketing and Spanish at Utah State University. Her interest in global warming and ecological responsibility stemmed from Lawrence Hipps, a professor at USU's college of agriculture and applied sciences.