To put it in its simplest terms, climate change refers to the long term change in the earth’s temperature, particularly an increase in the average atmospheric temperature (Dictionary.com). Although there are some natural causes for climate change, most scientists are in agreement that humans are at least in part responsible for some of the effects we have already seen and must therefore take corrective action immediately to slow the process before it is too late and irreversible catastrophic damage has been done. The consequences of climate change, also known as global warming include extreme weather instances such as extensive drought, severe hurricanes and tornadoes, increased wild fires and melting of the polar caps (dosomething.org). In addition, there are hotter, longer lasting heat waves causing added health issues and even death, especially to the already frail elderly or those who are already sick and may be more easily susceptible to health risks (dosomething.org). Since 1870, sea levels have risen by about eight inches globally.
Coral reefs are in danger due to the warmer water temperatures and higher sea levels. The coral reefs are lacking the sun they need to thrive and are becoming diseased. Here in the United States, temperatures have risen by two degrees over the last 50 years and precipitation is up by 5% (dosometing.org). According to Motherjones.com, the 2000’s was the hottest decade on record in the US and 2012 was the hottest year ever. With the rise of sea levels, comes the loss of land across the world. Globally the average land loss is eight inches. What that means to America is we are shrinking. Those in danger are people who live closest to the shoreline. It varies storm by storm, but those living closest to the shoreline during each mega storm, such as Hurricane Sandy, are in critical danger of losing not only their personal property and their lives but the actual earth beneath their feet. Everything could all be swept away by the wind and sea. There are currently almost five million Americans living within four feet of the ocean at high tide. It is expected that over the next century, sea levels will rise by anywhere from one to four feet (Motherjones.com). Climate change affects rainfall as well and it can be devastating.
A warmer planet means the air can hold more water vapor. That means when it rains it pours. The United States has seen record precipitation and flooding “significantly above average” (Motherjones.com), especially since 1991. The Northeast alone has seen a 71% increase in precipitation since 1958 (Motherjones.com). Nowhere has climate change left its mark more so than in Alaska. Due to melting glaciers no longer insulating the land, arctic storms are battering the now unshielded coastline that used to be protected by the now steadily melting glaciers. Additionally, 80% of the state has permafrost beneath its surface and as it thaws, the ground is literally giving way causing damage to roads and infrastructure. Currently, Alaska is spending about $10 million annually in repairs due to permafrost thawing and is projecting $5.6 to 7.6 billion for infrastructure repairs by 2080 (Motherjones.com).
Extreme heat waves are becoming commonplace. Texas had one of the “hottest and driest summers on record” (Motherjones.com) in 2011 reaching over 100 degrees for 40 days in a row. It’s projected that if we continue on the same path, we could have a “once every 20 years extreme heat day” every two to three years by the year 2100 (Motherjones.com). In addition, we are feeling some of the driest conditions we’ve experienced in some 800 years. This has resulted in a loss to agriculture of as much as $10 billion in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 & 2012 (Motherjones.com). Because we have more heat and drought, we have the potential for more wildfires. We have had record setting wildfires in both 2007 and 2011. And to make matters worse, these very wildfires, as dangerous and deadly as they are also add to the climate change problem. Wildfires actually release more carbon from the ground and only make the climate problem even worse.
According to Mothorjones.com, “a single large fire in 2007 released as much carbon to the atmosphere as had been absorbed by the entire circumpolar Arctic tundra during the previous quarter century,” (Motherjones.com). There are some natural causes of climate change that we can do nothing about, but we have fast tracked global warming since the start of the industrial revolution. While volcanoes and solar patterns certainly are a small contributor to climate change, humans make a much greater impact. Due to deforestation and the massive amounts of fossil fuels consumed, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in the last 800,000 years (Dosomething.com).
Carbon dioxide is widely believed to be the most harmful of all greenhouse gasses. The US alone emits approximately 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year; 40% of which comes from power plants. As early as the 1700’s, we began emitting more and more greenhouse gasses, mainly carbon dioxide by using coal, oil and gas to run our cars, trucks and factories (Dosomething.com). It is the increasing use of fossil fuel along with deforestation that is keeping greenhouse gasses closer to the earth not allowing it to escape the atmosphere thereby raising the earth’s temperature (Dosomething.com). We can’t fix this problem overnight, but the solution begins with us. The NRDC, National Resources Defense Council suggests a five step plan to insure a longer lasting planet for our children and we must begin today.
1. Set Limits on Global Pollution
2. Invest in Green Jobs and Clean Energy
3. Drive Smarter Cars
4. Create Green Homes and Buildings
5. Build Better Communities and Transportation Networks
Some of these steps are already in place. Take for instance the Clean Air Act which established emissions and fuel economy standards for all cars. For power plants and factories, the impact could be as great as 560 million tons of carbon per year by 2026 under the Act. This is estimated to avoid anywhere from $25-60 billion in health costs (NRDC.com). Another great option is electric cars. They save on carbon emissions because they do not require gas to run. They are also cheaper to run for that very same reason. Case in point: Paul Scott from Santa Monica, CA bought an all-electric version of the Toyota Rav4 in 2002. It runs purely on sunlight and he charges the battery with the solar panels he heats his home with so essentially it costs him nothing to run. He hasn’t been to a gas station in 12 years (NRDC.com).
If you can’t afford a new electric vehicle, at least you should be driving a high-mileage vehicle to cut down on emissions. Drive only what you need. We must cut down our dependence on oil and thereby reduce our consumption of fossil fuel. We can invest in retrofitting our homes; install energy star appliances, insulation and seal leaks where cool and warm air is escaping. This can save hundreds to over a thousand dollars annually to the homeowner but if just one in five American homes were retrofitted to save energy, we could avoid the need to build 13 mid-sized power plants every year. On a national level, we could cut as much carbon pollution as taking half a million cars off the road if every house in America were energy efficient (NRDC.com). There are folks who believe global warming is a fallacy or work of fiction; people who think that because of the recent cold weather that we experienced in the Winter of 2013 and 2014, the Polar Vortex for example that global warming cannot possible be real.
These are people who have done no research or who do not have any facts. That very cold trend was a result of climate change (Climtecentral.org). There are also those that will cite “facts and myths” and counter with their own version of beliefs. They simply do not want to believe what is so vastly evident in research. Robert M. Carter, a research professor has written a myth v. fact document (globalresearch.ca) disputing the facts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; that’s what makes our country so great.
Based on my research, it is my belief that humans are in fact greatly responsible for the increase in climate change. Global warming is probably the wrong terminology and it makes perfect sense that it has been updated to climate change however there are still skeptics. There probably will always be nonbelievers. But I feel the data is undisputable. It is up to us to make the necessary changes before it is too late. We must make changes or we could face dire consequences. There are so many ways each individual can make small changes. Every one of us must do our part and we must begin today!
Your new America (observed temperature changes over the last 22 years). National Climate Assessment. Source: Motherjones.com, National Climate Assessment
1. Multiple sources. (date unavail.). 11 Facts About Global Warming. www.DoSomething.Org. Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-global-warming 2. Carter, Robert N. (2009, Dec. 9). www.Globalresearch.org. Global Warming: Ten Facts and 10 Myths on Climate Change. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/copenhagen-and-global-warming-ten-facts-and-ten-myths-on-climate-change/16467 3. Mooney, Chris. (2014, May 6).