By Olivia Cobleigh
I want to start this blog with a story about my research of this topic that proves a prudent issue. The first article I read about climate change and the Earth’s heating specifically, was called “The Uninhabitable Earth.” Written by David Wallace-Wells who is not a scientist but a journalist who conducted this article by interviewing scientists and using their data so bear this in mind. Seeing that he himself was not a scientist I wanted to first research the authenticity of this article and what I found was many scientists “deemed the paper erroneous and misconstrued”. I read what these scientists had to say and what shocked me was how these scientists down played the severity that Wells was presenting. They stated that he was “too bleak!” In a world with rising seas and thousands of people dying from heat waves, for a fact. How can concern about this “be too bleak?” Not to mention it will only get worse as time goes on without intervention, so this shocked me and I think it is part of the detrimental “out of sight, out of mind” policy that a lot of people have with climate change.
Global warming, the driver of climate change, is exponential and on a scale that we can never properly measure. As temperatures continue to rise we will see more ice shelfs falling into the sea, more heat waves and this all will release more CO2 and possibly methane that will serve as a catalyst. And the even scarier part… we are seeing the effects of heating and climate change now from decades ago. This will catch up to us and humans still haven’t fully prepared, or even acknowledged that the warming of the Earth could (will) be our biggest problem.
What specifically should we be most afraid of right now, you might ask? The ice caps. As the Earth warms this doesn’t just melt the ice caps it makes huge shelfs of land ice break off into the ocean that immediately increase ocean levels. But what’s even worse, this permafrost is meant to stay permanently frozen, because trapped inside are enormous amounts of CO2 and methane. It is estimated there is one to two times the amount of CO2 in the permafrost that is currently in out atmosphere. So, imagine doubling the already devastating amount of pollution in the atmosphere in one fell swoop.
As we discussed in class, what do people do when it gets hot? They turn on their air conditioners. These air conditioners are part of an exacerbating cycle which is exactly what caused the heat wave in the first place. But it probably saved some lives because in the 2003 heat wave of France, 15,000 people died. It is this injudicious human behavior that is simply a catalyst to our possible catastrophe.
Economically, I don’t even have to tell you that rising temperature will cause ruin. For the cities and peoples who live near coasts or on islands, they will become climate refugees. This aid and relocation will be astronomically expensive. There is also the question of where will they go? Will neighboring countries let them in? Will America or the UN have to redistribute people? I think we are just hoping this doesn’t happen and if we ignore it, it will go away but this is already happening.
For the currently cold places like Russia, the Northern United States and Canada, they will see some positives, so at least it’s not all doom and gloom, if you can forget about the rest of the world. These areas will develop longer growing seasons mainly. With the ice melting, Canada and Russia will have more accessible land and more access to channels in the ocean.
A hotter Earth will exacerbate every climate issue we currently face, from worsening allergies and asthma to more smog and to stronger natural storms like hurricanes. The costs of rebuilding after super hurricanes alone, is immense, not to mention they decrease GDP. Another economic yet moral issue we see especially in America is that the poor, or the people who are least able to help themselves are left to bear the brunt of things, like in the case of hurricanes and air and water pollution.
“Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat” (Wallace-Wells). As temperature continue to rise at exponential rates this is problematic and lethal for equatorial countries especially. In the summers, with 90%+ humidity and temperature about 100 degrees it would be dangerous just to go outside. Not only will the people have to stay indoors but for countries like Costa Rica and El Salvador where their livelihood depends on agriculture and outdoor tourism, this will be impossible.
To conclude, this is just scratching the surface of all the issues we as a species will face due to rising global temperatures. I think if we take away anything from this is that we literally need to change drastically right now, or we have to fund Elon Musk more. It is our choice, and it goes against our nature, and anthropocentric views for most people, but we have already entered a war with climate change.
Amadeo, Kimberly. “Global Warming Effects on the Economy.” Thebalance.com, November 13, 2017. https://www.thebalance.com/effects-of-global-warming-on-the-economy-3305692
Bamat, Joseph. “France takes steps to avoid repeat of deadly 2003 heat wave.” France24.com, July 1, 2015. http://www.france24.com/en/20150701-france-paris-heat-wave-alert-deadly-2003-summer-guidelines
Lawson, Ashley. “It’s certain: The Earth is getting warmer, and human activity is largely to blame.” C2es.org, March 10, 2017. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. https://www.c2es.org/2017/03/its-certain-the-earth-is-getting-warmer-and-human-activity-is-largely-to-blame/
Mooney, Chris. “Scientists challenge magazine story about ‘uninhabitable Earth’.” Washingtonpost.com, July 12, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/07/12/scientists-challenge-magazine-story-about-uninhabitable-earth/?utm_term=.a5f1e9c00efc
Wallace-Wells, David. “The Uninhabitable Earth.” Nymag.com, July 9, 2017. New York Media LLC. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html