Climate change is a discussion that is pushed aside by older generations and is seen as an issue that the world has more time to resolve. However, the harsh reality is that climate change is real, and we have a limited amount of time to fix our Earth.
In the simplest terms, climate change is the change in global or regional climate patterns. This means that climate change causes less predictable weather patterns and increases the number of natural disasters that occur worldwide, such as hurricanes and wildfires.
Climate change is rapidly altering the world we live in and is affecting us more than we think. People tend to turn a blind eye to the situation, but it is hard to ignore the signs of a decaying world, especially when 76 million tons of air pollutants are released into our atmosphere from the United States alone and these pollutants are impacting public health.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, carbon emissions are responsible for the increase in air pollution as well as the spike in asthma diagnoses. Other factors contribute to the causation of asthma, but it cannot be denied that carbon emissions definitely play a role. If we continue this path, more children will be diagnosed with asthma and people already diagnosed will live with their condition being exacerbated by the air we breathe.
Air pollution is responsible for the decline in the health of our population and environment. Some of the pollutants in our air consist of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. According to the Ministry for the Environment, sulfur dioxide, in particular, is linked to cardiovascular disease.
Sulfur dioxide is mainly produced by combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and through fertilizer manufacturing, aluminum smelting and steel making. This gas contributes to the formation of acid rain. Acid rain, in combination with other environmental stressors, causes trees and plants to become more vulnerable to insects, colder temperatures and diseases.
As trees become weaker, our environment suffers and without an abundance of trees, we have no way of absorbing greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases trap heat which results in higher temperatures and industrial activities have sped up the production of these gases. When trees photosynthesize, they absorb carbon dioxide which aids in the reduction of greenhouse gases.
These gases have vastly impacted the temperature of our planet, a key aspect of it’s careful ecological balance. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, since 1981, the rate of decennial temperature increase has more than doubled the average increases of the previous century.
Temperature increases are especially important for us Floridians, as with increased temperatures come higher sea levels as a result of melting ice caps, which directly threaten our coast. In fact, NOAA officially predicted that by 2070, Miami streets will flood annually.
In addition, an increase in wildfires and deforestation, has made it increasingly harder for us to clean up the mess we have made. This is a vicious cycle that we cannot seem to break. Our society is driven by the manufacturing of goods and the extraction of natural resources which has caused us to no longer care about what damage is being done to the Earth.
Another part of the problem is that older generations do not care about climate change as much as millennials and Generation Z. According to Climate Change Communication, 56% of people aged 55 or older worry about climate change in comparison to the 70% of 18-34 year olds who do.
In order to reverse the effects of climate change, people of all ages need to work together. The responsibility of tackling climate change should not be delegated to only younger generations.
Climate change does not have one specific contributor; however, when people attempt to point fingers the average person is often blamed rather than big corporations. Companies like China Coal, Saudi Aramco and Exxon Mobil Corp. are apart of the 100 firms that are responsible for 71% of the global greenhouse gas emissions in the past 30 years according to The Guardian.
Companies and politicians often criticize the general public, and make consumers feel like it’s specifically their fault that the world is dying, even though it is clear corporate greed is to blame. The insatiable thirst for money by big business has resulted in our oceans being heavily polluted with fishing equipment and other trash. According to The Huffington Post, commercial fishing fleets lose approximately 700,000 tons of nets, lines and traps which accounts for 10% of ocean pollution.
The ocean is responsible for regulating the Earth’s climate and because of global industrial activities we have caused a disturbance in ocean temperature and coastal ecosystems. The blatant disregard for the well-being of the Earth results in all living organisms being severely affected.
As stated by a U.S. Geological survey, if this destructive path continues, heat waves will occur at higher intensities and for longer periods of time in certain parts of the United States. On a global scale continents like Europe will experience frequent coastal flooding and reduced production of crops in the southern region.
According to the Yale Environment Review the projected point of no return is 2035. However, with the path international businesses and governments are on, it seems that the point of no return will approach us much faster than we would expect.
As a whole, society disagrees on climate change and this is making it harder to combat its effects. A major reason as to why people claim that global warming is a hoax is what they perceive as inexperience with the phenomenon, with many denying the reality of global warming when they see snow fall. Shockingly, that is not true and that is not how climate change works. Regions can experience snow and cold weather even as the devastating effects of climate change continue to rise. Climate change derives from average global temperatures not from snowstorms specific to the U.S. or other regions. Therefore this argument is invalid and baseless.
Corporate greed, ignorance and a lack of urgency will be the world’s demise. Climate change is a prevalent issue that we have less time to reverse the effects of. In order to combat climate change, corporations need to hold themselves accountable for their actions, and governments need to actively play a role in environmental protection.
What harm is being done if we just take the extra step to protect the environment? If you want to sit on the couch and ignore the harmful effects of climate change then so be it, but do not stop anyone else from making this world a more habitable place for future generations.
This story was originally published in the December 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.