Make a Change to Prevent the (Climate) Change

North+America+could+look+like+this+in+the+future+if+sea+levels+keep+rising.+%28From+National+Geographic%29
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Make a Change to Prevent the (Climate) Change

North America could look like this in the future if sea levels keep rising. (From National Geographic)

North America could look like this in the future if sea levels keep rising. (From National Geographic)

North America could look like this in the future if sea levels keep rising. (From National Geographic)

North America could look like this in the future if sea levels keep rising. (From National Geographic)

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It is useless to deny that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are up: it is a proven fact. CO2 directly causes climate change and global warming. One would think that, consequently, huge efforts should be made to lower atmospheric CO2 levels and slow or stop the impact of global warming. Yet many Americans are still denying that climate change is an issue to be addressed; some believe it does not exist at all.

Some background information is necessary, in case Community High School students have forgotten what they learned in the second semester of ninth grade science. CO2 is a gas that blocks heat from escaping the Earth. Temperatures rise when more heat is trapped at the Earth. This is called the Greenhouse Effect [5].

Natural amounts of CO2 do occur in the atmosphere; the maximum level of CO2 at which there would not be major environmental problems is 350 parts per million (ppm) [1]. For hundreds and thousands of years, levels never once exceeded 350 ppm, or even came particularly close [2]. Yet in 1988, CO2 levels averaged over 350 ppm for the first time [3]. The growth did not stop there—CO2 levels are, in fact, increasing exponentially. As of October 2013, there were 393.66 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere [1]. This means that CO2 levels have risen at least 12% in the last twenty-five years. This is a tremendous change, and there is no reason to believe this spike of CO2 levels will come to a natural halt.

97% of scientists agree that the the spike in CO2 levels is caused by humans [4]. The burning of fossil fuels — which are primarily coal, oil, and gases — releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of the technological advances since the Industrial Revolution began have involved fossil fuels in some way or another. Not coincidentally, the Industrial Revolution is when CO2 levels began to rise.

Despite all of this evidence, global warming is a controversial issue among Americans and members of Congress. It’s not entirely a “liberals versus conservatives” squabble — Mitt Romney has stated the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. stressed that the Republican Party cannot become the “anti-science party” [6]. However, large numbers of Republicans in Congress have either denied the existence of global warming, or have made it clear that they do not want to spend any money to stop it. In a nation that is increasingly divided politically, people who are uneducated about climate change are most likely to side with whichever party they already trust on the matter. As a result, polls indicate that the average American thinks that only about half of all scientists agree that global warming is caused by humans [4] — despite overwhelming evidence that it is. I believe that those who do not think climate change is a problem worth doing something about are uninformed on the matter, and that it is the job of the informed to be the educators.

Many statements expressing disbelief in climate change can be easily disproved. “But it’s so cold out!” is one of them — it will take a lot of warming to turn Michigan into the tropics. Many more serious statements, however, are also ignorant of scientific evidence. The oft-used “There is no evidence” is false. Another common retort is that climate changes all the time — again, this is not true. Such a dramatic spike in CO2 levels cannot be attributed to natural variation. skepticalscience.com provides a list of 174 myths about global warming, and facts to disprove these myths [7].

Asia’s shoreline could look like this in as few as a couple hundred years should sea levels rise. (From National Geographic)

People who do not think climate change needs to be addressed do not understand its consequences. What, exactly, does happen when the Greenhouse Effect takes place and global warming begins?

The Arctic ice is melting, which raises sea levels. Many of the world’s largest metropolises border an ocean or a port. If sea levels rise the 200 feet they are projected to rise, hundreds of millions will become displaced and huge cities will disappear underwater [8]. Arctic habitat will also disappear — so much for those Polar Bears. Habitats will change drastically; more agricultural land will turn into barren desert. should make every effort to do so, no matter what the cost may be. Saving our planet is Warming temperatures will be detrimental to vegetation in all biomes, and animals will not be able to adapt to new habitats. Many birds have already shifted their ranges northward, and sooner or later there will be nowhere for them to go. Warmer temperatures will enable disease-bearing insects to expand their ranges; a spread in reports of malaria has already been noted. Global warming causes extreme weather, and scientists project that billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure will occur. This is a very brief list of the possible damages inflicted by global warming [10].

I think it is safe to say that most people who are aware of these drastic effects would agree that it is essential to take action against climate change. Humans have the resources — the usage of alternative energy, for example, could make a crucial difference in halting carbon emissions. Personally, I feel that if we are able to stop climate change, we should make every effort to do so, no matter what they cost may be. Saving our planet is something that is worth paying taxes for. Some people who deny the existence of climate change may be too stubborn to change their views. Others, however, may simply be unaware of its effects. For those of us who see how dangerous climate change is, it is our job to educate these people about its consequences. Even the smallest things people could do to help — turning off lights when they leave the room, recycling, unplugging charged objects — would counter the effects of climate change in a monumental way. When more people are devoted to making a difference, more of a difference will be made, and that could potentially save the Earth.

Bibliography
[1] co2now.org
[2] http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence
[3] http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
[4] http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm
[5] http://climate.nasa.gov/causes
[6] http://www.npr.org/2011/09/07/140071973/in-their-own-words-gop-candidates-and-science
[7] http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
[8] http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/rising-seas/if-ice-melted-map
[9] http://web4.audubon.org/bird/bacc/Species.html
[10] http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-positives-negatives-intermediate.htm

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