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Politicians must accept climate change or suffer consequences

Credit: Yue Yin/ Credit: Yue Yin/
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I would love to visit the beautiful glacial figures nestled in the mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park someday — that is, someday very soon. I crossed one of the glaciers before I was born, when my adventurous mother went on a hiking expedition to Montana when she was pregnant with me. The picture of my mother crossing a long lick of ice may be “my” only picture in the vicinity of these wonders of nature if I do not get a chance to see them for myself within the next decade. By 2030, these once grand, magnificent sculptures could become virtually obsolete as a result of global warming causing our climate to change.

This phenomenon of long term climate change has been acknowledged by every single major scientific agency in the United States, who cite the primary culprit for its acceleration as none other than humankind itself, a claim that is documented by hundreds of studies. Yet an unambiguous consensus that the higher average global temperatures have been increasing — with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record having been recorded since the beginning of the 21st century — is not enough to convince our President-elect Donald Trump that climate change is NOT a hoax.

The last time I checked (and I do my share of extensive fact-checking), I could not find any credentials that cited Donald Trump as a scientist. Reality star? Check. Business leader? Check. Qualified to make an educated assessment of scientific data and scientific opinions? Not even close.

Donald Trump has an extensive history of calling climate change a ‘hoax’. Somehow I cannot find conceivable evidence to support his touted claim. I can, however, confidently tell you that if we continue to choose to ignore climate change, its effects pose a great threat to our planet’s diverse life and ecosystems.

In the last century, average global temperatures driven by human activities, have increased by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, the planet has periods of cooling and warming, but as our civilization has rapidly advanced in the past 200 years, it has not done so without leaving a footprint on the environment. Our industrial impact is largely responsible for the rising levels of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that are released through the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and heat.

Typically when we a picture a gas, we think of it as disappearing and dissipating away because we cannot see it anymore. However, as is the case with a majority of greenhouse gases, some may actually persist in the atmosphere in a layer around our earth for anywhere between 10 to 100 years. As greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, they exhibit a warming effect on the earth by trapping the heat, resulting in the greenhouse effect. During the day, sunlight warms the earth. Heat collected by the earth during the day escapes in the form of infrared radiation. Normally, it would continue to escape directly into space. Instead, it is stopped by greenhouse gases. Instead of permitting infrared radiation to pass through them, these gases absorb it and spread it back to the land and the ocean. Greenhouse gases are necessary components of our atmosphere, shielding us from incoming infrared radiation from sunlight that has damaging properties for us and our skin, but as emissions from human activities increase and more greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, they exhibit a gradual detrimental effect that is caused by this unnatural, human-accelerated global warming over time.

Rising global temperature is only one of many indicators of climate change. Total snowfall has exhibited a decrease over the past decades with 80 percent of the locations studied experiencing more winter precipitation in the form of rain instead of snow. With human-induced climate change, extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent and intense. This past decade has seen twice as many record high temperatures as record lows. In addition, despite natural variability, there is a clear substantial overall increase in sea surface temperature since the 1950s.

The rate of increase in sea level has recently surpassed that of an inch per decade. The ocean water itself has become more acidic — this is due to the increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that dissolve in the water, where they create an imbalance in the nutrients in the water and can disrupt the life and growth of marine animals. The ice in the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps has exhibited a decrease, and the melting rate of glaciers has accelerated over the past decade, contributing to the rise in sea level. The oceanic process of storing heat and responding to increased levels of greenhouse gases is not immediate, and can often take years for the full effect to be reached, which makes it all the more crucial that we begin to take initiative and claim responsibility for the problem NOW.

Despite the overwhelming scientific data, President-elect Trump fails to accept that climate change is REAL and MATTERS. To put it in Trump’s terms, equating the earth to a business deal, then passing it back and forth between politicians and neglecting it, is a dangerous move. And let’s face it — Donald Trump has bankrupted his companies at least six times. Not a stellar track record when handling a deal as ‘huge’ as the earth.

When has a matter of biased opinion ever been more correct than scientific evidence except in the political scene? The fact remains — you can’t change the truth, no matter how much you dismiss it.
Our choices right now will dictate the narrative we will set for life on this earth. We have the potential to shape the future. A denial of science is a step in the wrong direction for us. And, moreover, time and global warming won’t wait for us to catch back up before it’s too late and irreversible damage has been done. It is high time that we stopped turning our backs and making excuses, and do the right thing for our home. This is a global problem, and it is time to come together and work as one rather than push each other apart. The earth is crying out, but we can’t hear it over the sound of our squabbling nations.