Nonbelievers No-More: Hello Climate Change

When I first saw the Hollywood production of The Day After Tomorrow, I was entranced. The thought of a global natural disaster on a gigantic scale was terrifying, yet also bewildering. A look into what happens when the population is unprepared for the worst, but perhaps how to make best of what is left. A parallel to our society today, and with the recent events of Hurricane Sandy, a quite literal comparison.

Watching Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast this past weekend, all I could think about was the Hollywood representation of the disaster, and how fiction was becoming reality. Naturally, this was only one massive hurricane, and not four or five, as we see in the movie, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe that is what we can expect for the future of our planet.

While I send my heart to all of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, including my family, as most of my relatives live in the New York area, I couldn’t help but want to scream and blame our entire country for causing such massive natural turmoil. To all of you non-believers, welcome to a world where climate change DOES, very truly, exist.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a group of leading scientists from all over the world that come together every five or so years to summarize their observations and data on climate change. While a conservative group of publishers, in their 2007 report, they published this statement on natural disasters:

“Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures.”

If this doesn’t scream Hurricane Sandy, I don’t know what does. These are not mystical fortune-tellers, these are scientists with facts. So stop being afraid of graphs and numbers, and read the words. Climate change is here, and it is irrefutable.

In a recent article published in Business Week, Paul Barrett makes a similar observation. He explains Hurricane Sandy a scientific perspective that economists and other non-climate enthusiasts can understand.

“The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.”

His words are fluid and clear. They prove an inevitable truth: we should have put climate change in a context that everyone could understand decades ago. Quite simply, Barrett claims, “If Hurricane Sandy does nothing else, it should suggest that we need to commit more to disaster preparation and response.”

Hollywood gave us an imaginative representation of large-scale climate change with The Day After Tomorrow, but new leaders like the IPCC and Business Week, among the many others, will help us prepare for the realistic climate change of the future. I beg you- do not be ignorant of what is here, take a stand for the planet you live on. We deserve to all live healthy, beautiful lives on this Earth, and it can start with you. It’s our turn to have the happy, hopeful ending this time.

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The Human Responsibility

If you are an average student graduating high school in America, you follow a similar path to the rest of your class- go to college, study, spend time with friends, sleep, eat, workout. Four years later, when you wake from this surreal bubble, real life compounds on you like a pound of bricks. You are no longer forced down the same path as everyone else- and it’s time to make your own decisions about where you want your life to end up. Some will choose careers in finance, some will choose careers in journalism, some will choose careers in education, and there are endless other possibilities. What very few people stop to think about is that in order to perform in any of these careers, you need one thing: an earth to live on.

So where does the environmentalist come in? To many, as an overbearing, judgmental voice, seeming to say “why can’t you just be greener.” Unfortunately, we no longer have the liberty to ignore this voice (and let’s try to pretend that she is not as annoying as you would think). There is no easy solution. For the first time in human history, we are at an energy standstill, and there is no immediate, convenient alternative. We cannot simple replace fossil fuels with an alternative energy source; oil is 13 times as efficient as biofuels. Solar energy is too unreliable without anywhere to aggregate the collected energy, especially on stormy days or in the dark. So while economies continue to change, journals continue to be published, and students continue to graduate, our earth is left in this uneasy standstill.

A vast majority of citizens of the United States do not care about environmental issues because they believe that climate change will not reasonably affect them in our lifetime. The sad truth is that the effects of climate change are coming faster than anyone anticipated, and faster than even our best climatologists can predict. With climate, there is not an easy, one stop solution. As with any severe, large scale problem, it takes a collaboration of minds and thinkers to come up with a reasonable result to the problem. We cannot just rely on the environmentalists to take control of the issue- maintaining the quality of life on earth is a responsibility of all of earth’s inhabitants.

We will fix the environment. But it will take the minds of many- not just scientists- to do so. It would seem as though just when you thought leaving college would be the time to take a path away from your peers, this is the perfect opportunity to instead combine passions to help preserve the world in which we all live. Do not fear climate change, and do not sit around and wait for someone else to fix it. Take the knowledge you have and do something with it.

Don’t Just Think Green- Act Green.

As an environmental science major, I do a ton of scholarly reading on climate change, environmental health and anthropological engagement on our planet. Reading after reading, academic after academic, I am fed similar information, all with an underlying message: humans are affecting our planet; we will soon be forced to change the way we live.

Humans are an adaptive species- but that doesn’t mean that the challenges we have yet to face won’t be difficult. Simply, with climate change comes climate responsibility. We can change our lifestyles, but we will be encouraged to make smart changes if there is any hope of helping to stabilize our planet.

Mother Earth needs us- and to be honest, it’s about time to pay her back for her hospitable endeavors. As creatures of her turf, we, as humans, have neglected her generosity. Human success and our own personal ambitions have blinded us of the unique privilege we have to be living on this planet. Guzzling energy, water and food while trying to personally succeed in our own lives will be worth nothing if we don’t have a place to live when the day is done.

For the past few years, the word “green” has taken on a new meaning in a colloquial context. Society understands what the green movement stands for- but as humans, we have yet to commit to a solution. Society needs activists- we need people that are going to get up and not stand for sluggish efforts. We need individuals to insist that the government, starting with our presidential candidates, advocate for clean energy. We need individuals to make conscious purchasing decisions, including thinking about where the final destination for certain goods will be. Most importantly, we need individuals to take the information that is right in front of them every single day, and  do something about it. It’s not only up to the climate activists and environmentalists- it’s up to the everyday citizen, and it can start with you.

As an environmentalist myself, I would like to start this blog with an official disclaimer: the reason I care about the environment is not because I am a tree hugger or bird lover (I actually despise birds), but because I love life. I want to live a long, healthy, fulfilled life, and I don’t want to grow up in a place that can no longer support human innovation. We are an unbelievable species- but we need to maintain the grounds on which we live. So ask yourself this, would you want to raise your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or cousins, in a community where we wear space suits to breathe and live off of corn and desalinated water? Sounds pretty abominable to me. So let’s do everything in our power to change that- let’s do everything in our power to keep where we live a green enough place to live in tomorrow.