Wait, Climate Change is Real?

A wise man once said, “I don’t believe in climate change.” Unfortunately for the inhabitants of planet Earth, however, beliefs are sometimes disproved by facts. Sorry, wise man.

For a general rundown regarding climate change by the great Bill Nye:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rising temperatures, the shifting of snow and rainfall patterns, and extreme climate events like heavy rainstorms or unusually high temperatures all indicate that the climate is changing. Specific indicators of climate change are found in further exploration of greenhouse gases, the weather and climate, oceans, snow and ice, health and society, and ecosystems on Earth. These indicators prove that the changing climate is not just a myth.

Human-produced greenhouse gases are the most significant cause of climate change in modern society. Climate change indicators found from greenhouse gases encompass increased concentrations of those gases in the atmosphere. While it might be surprising to the Johnson County teenager that a Range Rover could do any harm, transportation (also known as cars) is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., only second to electricity generation. Worldwide, carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 42 percent and the total warming effect from human-generated greenhouse gases have increased by 37 percent since 1990.

Climate, defined by average temperature, precipitation, and frequency and intensity of weather events, and weather, the state of the atmosphere in a specific location at a specific time, are both reliable indicators of climate change. Over the past decade, extreme temperature conditions have become more common; in fact, eight of the top 10 warmest years for the U.S. have occurred in years post-1998. Over the past two decades, tropical cyclone activity has increased in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean areas. Precipitation patterns have also changed, and while this may come as a surprise to some wise men, the southwest portion of the U.S. is currently suffering a multiple-year-long drought. It is a crazy notion, but all these factors seem to point toward the reality of climate change.

Studying the changes that occur within specific ecosystems can also accurately indicate a changing climate. In the North and West of the U.S., leaf growth and flower blooms have happened earlier than previously recorded. Marine animals like the American lobster and black sea bass have moved farther north. Birds, too, have moved farther north during the wintertime. Wildfires have become more frequent, with the largest increases observed in western states.

The beach is a wonderful place to obtain the cheeto-dusted tan many can only dream to achieve, but the ocean, itself, is the true oyster (and wonderful indicator of climate change). Atmosphere carbon dioxide dissolves in ocean water, and with the increase in carbon dioxide levels, oceans have become more acidic over the past few decades. This higher acidity affected the many marine animals who inhabit oceanic waters.

Just like they did in Ice Age: The Meltdown, the Arctic sea ice and glaciers that used to blanket the Earth are melting. Since 1960, the rate of melting observed in glaciers has accelerated and contributed to the rise in sea level. Sea ice, as a light-reflecting substance, helps maintain to cool temperatures in polar regions by creating a barrier between the cold air above and the warmer water below. Due to its temperature-maintenance properties, the loss of sea ice could also create a feedback loop, during which the warming of ocean waters by solar energy leads to further melting and thinning of seas ice and thus, further warming. This indeed happened, and from 1980 to 2015, the Arctic sea ice extent decreased approximately one million square miles. What about the polar bears and walruses? Well, they may be out of luck, seeing as they depend on sea ice to breed, hunt, and migrate. While not all people are animal-enthusiasts, most do seem to dream of a white Christmas; sadly enough, those dreamers may encounter a cruel reality check when they hear the average snow coverage experienced in North America has decreased at an approximate rate of 3,300 square miles per year and the depth of snow on the ground has decreased by an average of 23 percent since the late 1900s.

If all the ice melted:

Ok, so climate change is real. It affects polar bears, walruses, the ocean, a variety of ecosystems. So what? It does not affect mankind, right?

Wrong.

The effects of climate change on human life may be indirect, but they are still very real. Since 1979, more than 9,000 American people died as a result of heat-related illnesses, and as discussed earlier, high temperatures correlate with a changing climate. To the people sipping a glass of ice cold lemonade in an air-conditioned room, well played, but I do have one question: can air conditioning prevent the contraction of Lyme Disease or West Nile virus? These illnesses spread through ticks (Lyme Disease) and mosquitoes (West Nile virus), both of which conveniently thrive in warm climates. However, the most deadly ailment of them all-allergies-may be the defining indicator of climate change. Due to warmer temperatures, ragweed plants are able to produce pollen in a longer period of time, prolonging the dreaded “allergy season” for many folks.

How climate change is real in the Sunflower State, itself: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/climate-change-ks.pdf

While I may seem slightly sadistic at this point in time, I do not plan to leave you wondering what you can do to help the changing climate. Personal research and education is of the utmost importance, and just browsing through websites and organizations dedicated to the preservation of Earth can inspire one to “go green” and help the planet.

The EPA recommends replacing the bulbs in the most used light fixtures in your house with ENERGY STAR labeled products to increase the energy-efficiency of your home. Small actions like repairing toilet and faucet leaks in a timely manner can make a big difference in the successful conservation of water, which also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as three percent of the nation’s energy is used in the treatment of water. Recycle your paper and plastic products and utilize the art of composting to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Purchasing green power to generate electricity or installing solar panels can also make for a greener home and a reduction in your carbon footprint. As cliche as it may sound, each person has the ability to make a difference and contribute to a collective effort in conserving the environment. And while a wise man may believe that climate change does not exist and no action needs to be taken, I know that a shared conscientious mindset in regard to alleviating climate change will bring long-term benefits to all inhabitants of Earth.

Other resources and organizations related to climate change:

Sources:

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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