Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Climate and Earth Day 2015

So it's Earth Day and the climate is still changing.

That change will render "two degrees" to become perhaps the most significant number in human history. How? A series of videos at CNN in honor of the day actually do a decent job of explaining that fact. Let me put it to you in personalized terms.

My students just got done studying the Industrial Revolution. That occurrence brought us a lot of cool stuff and conveniences that most of us would rather not go without. But there's a downside. Exhaust from combustion, everything from factory smokestacks to cars, has sent a record level of carbon dioxide into the air. As one of the videos at the link points out, CO2 is at its highest level in almost one million years. In fact, nine of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.

Say it with me everyone: climate change.

Thus far, the surface of the world has seen an overall increase in average temperature of .85 degrees Celsius since 1880. That might not sound like much, but consider what is already happening. This rise in temperature has resulted in a melting of 150 billion tons of land ice from Antarctica. That means an inevitable rise in sea level. Far more ominous is the concept of "two degrees."

That's Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit for the rest of us in America who didn't make the switch over to Metric. If overall temperatures rise two more degrees, that's when start to see massive changes. That ice melt I mentioned? It accelerates. So with it does a rise in sea level and that means the flooding of coastal areas. On the flipside, we'll also experience massive droughts in many parts of the world, on par with or worse than what California has to deal with right now. All of this combined can lead to species extinction. Not necessarily of humanity (although that's not far fetched) but of other species that we actually depend upon for our lives as we know them.

Keeping that temperature rise beneath two degrees gives us a chance to stave off a few of the worst possible consequences of climate change. The question is whether or not we have collective will to do so. Hell, it's a question of values as well. Do we value a livable environment over business? I'm not sure America does and frankly I'm well past fed up with it.

Oh but then again why worry? Let the flora and fauna stir in the heat together in a mirepoix. Who believes climatologists? That would be like me believing an expert mechanic telling me I need new brakes. Better yet, it would be like 97% of the world's expert mechanics telling me that I need new brakes (97% of peer-reviewed articles on climate change agree that it's happening and humans are the cause.) They're probably all after my money anyway. It's a liberal conspiracy.

Most insidious of all, what if we make all of these efforts to reduce carbon emissions and climate change doesn't happen...but we make the world a healthier place anyway? GASP! Yeah I know. I'm probably going to get into more Facebook fights over this post.

I'm okay with that.

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