A Better yOU: Climate Change 101˚

Are you feeling hotter? No, I don’t mean from going to the gym every day. Many scientists and important public figures including James Hansen, Bill Nye and Al Gore are all involved in the study of global warming and are constantly working hard to inform us of the change that is currently happening and its effect on our future.

Over the past century, global temperature has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 98 percent of scientists agree that climate change is greatly a result of human activities; the only debate that remains is how fast the climate will change. By the end of this century, the most conservative estimates predict the Earth will be six degrees warmer. This temperature increase will have catastrophic consequences. But first…what exactly is climate change?

Water vapor, nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide are considered greenhouse gases. These gases are not inherently “bad”, as they do occur naturally. However, these gases become “bad” when they are produced in excess and trap heat from the sun. The more gas produced, the more heat trapped. Carbon dioxide is the largest contributor.

“Adding CO2 to the air is like throwing another blanket on the bed,” James Hansen, former NASA climate scientist, said.

Throughout history there has been a fairly constant up and down in the levels of carbon dioxide. But starting during the Industrial Revolution, those levels dramatically increased far beyond what we could have ever imagined.

Humans are the main cause of climate change. Yes, that means you. It also means me. Greenhouse gases are elevated predominantly by burning fossil fuels. Who burns the most fossil fuels? Factories, motor vehicles and utility companies. Who else releases a large amount of greenhouse gases? Agriculture and landfills.  Here’s the misconception: you and I are only accountable for about a quarter of energy consumption and 10 percent of water consumption. So who is really to blame? Commercial, industrial, corporate and agribusinesses. Why should you care about this?

The consequences of climate change become apparent when we look at the world around us. Rising sea levels, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking sea sheets, declining Arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, ocean acidification, decreased snow cover, etc. These are all major problems. Most of our major cities reside near water, and with rising sea levels millions of people will be displaced. Rising temperatures will create unlivable conditions and make it extremely difficult to grow food. These are just a few of the catastrophes that can and will occur if we just keep flipping the page and changing the channel on this issue.

The solution mainly lies within government resources, and the issue has been acknowledged through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the National Climate Assessment. Though, we can make small changes in our own lives to reduce waste and energy consumption, the biggest and most effective change will come from electing leaders who will hold carbon emitters accountable. 

“No one is coming to save us. We only get this one planet, and I promise there is no secret mission to save the world. We, collectively, have to make it clear to our representatives in government that we want political action,” Layla Sizemore, Oakland University Political Science major, said.

As stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” The first step to finding a solution to climate change is to step out of denial and, as Bill Nye would say, “change the world.” Climate change is alarming and many scientists worry about what the future holds for our planet if we continue to do nothing.

Resources: NASA, The Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic, This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Upcoming environmental, health, and wellness events:

  • Becoming a Community Health Advocate: A Discussion Panel on Smoking & University Campuses, March 30th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, 203 O’Dowd Hall
  • Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection General Meeting, March 31st, 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Lake Superior A Room in the Oakland Center
  • Aspiring Surgeons general meeting, April 5th, 6:00pm – 7:00pm, Oakland Center Room 130