Maria Mutka, YGI Staff Writer
Amid the contrasting opinions of different skeptics, scientists, world leaders, and activists on the subject of climate change, it can be hard to get to the truth about this important topic. It can be difficult to the biased stances that both climate change activists and deniers can take. Yet, the environment, and how climate change affects it, is a topic that requires discussion because many do not fully understand it.
To properly define climate change, it is necessary to describe everything involved in it. Underneath the big umbrella of climate change are global warming, issues with rising sea levels, ice melting, and more. Something that most people might not know is that global warming is not actually the same thing as climate change. It only represents one facet and consequence of the greater subject of climate change.
Scientists have been able to measure the palpable effects of these subsets
of climate change through various methods of data collection. According to NASA, in the past decade, sea levels have been rising at two times the rate it has overall in the past century. By 2100, ocean water levels are expected to rise around several feet. This, more than simple inundation, poses huge consequences for our world.
In relation to rising temperatures, data from the World Bank Group provides specific evidence of slow but steadily increasing temperatures over the last century in the United States in its data graphs. Moreover, the EPA reported that the decade of 2000 to 2010 was the hottest one on record. It doesn’t take much to see the frightening truth of this in the weather currently. I myself had a very tropical holiday season with temperatures that remained in the 70s.
Switching gears to the colder side of climate change, the EPA reported that: “The September 2015 sea ice extent was more than 900,000 square miles less than the historical 1979–2000 average for that month.” That fact clearly speaks for itself.
Furthermore, these sources are only a part of all the scientific evidence that demonstrates the reality of climate change. Thus, there is not much room for debate on whether or not climate change exists, as data clearly proves that it does.
Although some may acquiesce to the idea that there is climate change, some may not believe that humans caused it. This belief is not founded on evidence, which strongly shows that carbon emissions from man’s activities on earth are the key sources of climate change. Nearly ninety-seven percent of scientists, according to NASA, acknowledge that humanity caused many of the problems plaguing the environment. A lot of the blame does fall on us. While it can be argued that the Earth has experienced periods of fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns, current climate change is beyond stemming from natural sources. Most scientists believe that evidence points to our pollution as the cause of most major environmental issues.
Undoubtedly, carbon dioxide emissions from our technologically ever-advancing society have been the main contributions to climate change. All of these emissions have become trapped in the atmosphere, impeding heat from leaving it and subsequently causing the earth to warm up.
Other practices, such as deforestation, have also helped to exacerbate
climate change and an overall unhealthy environment. Deforestation most clearly affects climate since with the removal of trees from the earth comes more carbon dioxide emissions. Earth essentially loses waste bins for carbon dioxide. Trees are built to take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen; they are a vital part of reducing carbon emissions. Not only do they
have a large scale impact on climate change as a whole, but their loss impacts ecosystems pejoratively as well. Their roles are key to sustaining environments. And yet, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate across the world.
Climate change poses a real threat to our environment in the future. While it may not initially seem like it has a big immediate impact, it has grave consequences for posterity. If nothing is done to prevent climate change, it will definitively and permanently alter the environment, and thus the way our world works. How we treat the environment today plays an enormous role far into the future of the earth.
There is, however, a light at end of tunnel. In addition to the many vital organizations and activists working to mitigate the damaged caused by climate change, there was also recently a global conference on climate change in Paris. The leaders of many nations, large and small, discussed how to significantly reduce global carbon emissions. While the planning done is not by any means perfect or the ultimate solution, it is a crucial, exciting, and major move among nations to create real change. Hopefully, it can inspire all of us to raise awareness on this important issue, learn more about it, and become the next leaders who just might offer the right solutions to this problem.