Climate In Crisis
Changes in Earth's climate have potential for deadly consequences for this generation
October 22, 2019
A land that was once a symbol of paradise, notorious for its clear waters, coral reefs, exotic cuisine and diverse wildlife, is now in shambles. A once-cozy blue house with an easy white porch, now lays completely upside down amongst the debris. The streets which previously resonated the enthusiastic chatter between tourists and locals, are now flooded with the incessant clamor of bulldozers clearing the city’s remnants. With the official death toll now reaching at least 50, and an estimated 76,000 residents left homeless, Hurricane Dorian has left the Bahamas in devastation. Dorian is only the latest of many natural disasters this year.
With recent changes in the earth’s climate, natural disasters, such as Hurricane Dorian, are becoming more and more frequent. According to information gathered by NASA on global climate change, hurricanes will grow more frequent and intense, more droughts and heat waves will occur and sea levels will rise, along with many other effects as the climate’s temperature increases.
Environmental Science teacher and sponsor of FHC’s environmental club, Mrs. Kellie Staback, is well-informed on some of the biggest issues with the current climate risks.
“With the rising global temperature that comes with climate change, you have to worry about the melting of the ice caps and sea level rise. Weather extremes as well: flooding that we’ve seen in the past few years, ocean acidification is another big one with coral bleaching and the loss of biodiversity in the ocean,” Staback said.
Although the concept of climate change is a complex one, it is not an issue that can only be grasped by adult minds. Many students are also very aware of the changes the planet is experiencing. Senior and co-president of the Environmental Club, Anne Meister, has a thorough understanding of what effects climate change can have on the earth.
“The way that we live right now is going to drastically change within 10 to 15 years, because it won’t just be the earth getting hotter. We’ll see the coldest winters we’ve ever seen. We’ll see the hottest summers we’ve ever seen. We’ll see more hurricanes and more floods that devastate towns and cities and coastlines,” Meister said.
Meister has even witnessed these repercussions firsthand while traveling the country with her father, who works as a plant scientist.
“We were driving all over the country this year, and [my dad was] like, ‘Those crop machines shouldn’t be out right now… The farmers should already be planting their crops,’ and ‘We’re going to run out of food,’” Meister said.
Although the issues that threaten the future of planet earth appear to be well known amongst the general public, the overall climate temperature continues to rise. But according to Staback, this is not due to a lack of regard today’s youth has for the environment.
“I would say that a lot of students truly care about what’s going on in the environment,” Staback explained. “I think that they really want to have an understanding of what’s actually happening, and are there ways that they, as an individual, can actually make a difference.”
Eric Aldrich, a meteorology instructor at the University of Missouri- Columbia, agrees that there is a positive attitude toward reducing climate pollution. However, he believes that those who are concerned are not always informed on the truth of what the issues are.
“The climate has always been changing; that’s nothing new. The climate will continue to change, too. I think many people just think that it has started to change, when that’s not the case at all. Now, the rate at which it is changing is happening quicker,” Aldrich said. “[Attitude toward the environment is] good in that, people do genuinely care about the climate and environment. There just needs to be more education on how the natural climate changing process changes.”
The first step to preventing climate change is understanding what it is. Meister provided a brief description of global warming, which is arguably the biggest contributor to climate change.
“[Greenhouse gasses are] making a blanket around the Earth, so that the sun rays- they can come in, but they can’t get out,” Meister said.
Additionally, in order to understand how a change in climate can be prevented, it is important to recognize what its initial causes are. Staback provided some information on the biggest contributors to air pollution, which drive global warming and climate change.
“[Greenhouse gas emissions are] really due to urbanization, industrialization, those types of things, but the greenhouse gas emissions come from a variety of things like transportation: cars, trains, airplanes, [etc.], but also stationary sources like power plants and factories. And even methane from livestock is a big issue,” Staback said.
There are many things that can be done to reduce pollution, and Staback instills in her students that it only takes one person to begin a change that can have a monumental impact.
“I always tell them that it truly takes one individual. If you look at The Ocean Cleanup Project, it took one teenager to have this idea, and now this idea is being implemented out in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” Staback said. “So, I tell them that individuals matter, and their care for the environment matters.”
Even if the efforts of one individual do not spark a nationwide project, all of the minor acts that people carry out every day can have a significant impact on the air and climate quality. Aldrich provided some of the very basics that almost everyone can take part in.
“Carpool, bike and walk more, don’t participate in open burning, recycle, upgrade to new vehicles [such as those that are battery powered],” Aldrich said.
Staback also shared some household habits that could have a drastic impact when implemented continuously.
“Eat less meat. With the greenhouse gas methane, if we’re eating less meat, then we’re not driving that whole industry,” Staback said. “[Also,]conserving energy at home; thinking about light usage and energy efficient appliances that are in your house. If possible, I know it’s difficult with our society today, but [try] using renewable resources if you can.”
Meister is passionate about the often unrecognized effects food waste can have on global warming and climate change. She suggests being conscious of what food products could still be eaten instead of thrown out.
“People should start thinking about their food waste, and being like, ‘Okay, can I eat this still? I can still eat this,’” Meister said. “Food lasts a lot longer than people actually think it does.”
With the joined efforts of the planet’s inhabitants, earth’s preservation is most certainly within reach. However, even though it only takes one person to start a movement, no one individual can make the change on their own. That is why Staback highly encourages students to raise awareness for issues they’re passionate about.
“Just raising awareness: telling other people what you know. Like I said: individuals matter. If one person is sharing what they care about, then it might spark somebody else to make a change too,” Staback said.