The Stress and Science of Climate Change

You might find it hard to believe, but there are still individuals who don’t think climate change is real. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the 21st century?”. Yes, this is the 21st century. Yet some people still think there is no scientific evidence for climate change. Doubters tend to say that climate change is little more than an ongoing lie perpetrated by the media. 

They’ve dreamed up this conspiracy theory that liberal scientists are working together to fool the public and funnel millions of government dollars into their research departments. But these conspiracy theorists are wrong. In an interview with the University of Hull in England, Professor Mike Rogerson frames the discussion on the stress and science of climate change this way:

“The problem is that society gets climate information from the media, not from scientists. And the media, in an effort to seem unbiased, often line up one climate scientist against one denier to debate their point… But that doesn’t mean that the scientific community is split 50/50 on climate change”

Professor Mike Rogerson

Recognizing the Stress and Science of Climate Change and How it Manifests on Mother Earth

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Climate change is real, and it is happening now! As we speak, climate change is impacting ecosystems around the globe. It is important we understand that the human contributing factors are not in dispute within the international scientific community. Therefore, we must make the necessary adjustments in order to save the future of this planet. So, let’s discuss climate change.

What is climate change all about?

Climate change is a phrase that describes the traceable large-scale shift in the earth’s global climate. Natural changes in weather patterns have contributed to the shift in climate. But the largest contributing factor is unnatural emissions of carbon dioxide. According to Wikipedia, human beings have had an extraordinary impact on the global climate since the middle of the 20th century. Our impact has outweighed all of the naturally occurring environmental factors. 

An article by Climate.gov tells us that gas emissions are the single largest driver of global warming. Carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas is the primary contributor to global warming. Burning fossil fuels for the purpose of energy is the main source of carbon dioxide emissions. As a result of global warming, the temperature worldwide has experienced an increase twice the global average. This explains why the globe has been facing the unnatural expansion of deserts and a record number of heatwaves. Dangerous heatwaves have contributed to the increased hazardous conditions which are responsible for a large number of wildfires.

The Stress and Science of Climate Change Polar Bear on ice floating down river.

In the Arctic, global warming is responsible for the melting of the thick layer of soil beneath the surface. The subsurface layer called permafrost would normally remain frozen year-round. However, it is now melting during parts of the year due to global warming. The increased evaporation of permafrost and the glaciers has contributed to weather extremes in other places on the globe. These extreme conditions have been disruptive to the earth’s delicate ecosystems. As a result, unpredictable flooding has threatened food supplies. And some areas face a scarcity of clean drinking water.  Because of these factors, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled climate change as:

 “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century”

World Health Organization

The history of climate change.

The earth regularly experiences climate change. Even so, the earth’s climate is changing faster today than at any other point in the history of the world. And these climate changes are largely due to human involvement. We know this because of the science dedicated to the study of the earth’s climate called “Climatology”. According to Wikipedia, climatology is the study of the earth’s history of climate change. It also studies the effect these changes have had on the civilizations of the earth. 

For example, climatology studies told scientists that the eruption of the super-volcano Toba decreased the global temperature of the earth by 5 degrees. This eruption would have taken place nearly 75,000 years ago. Scientists suspected that this eruption was what triggered the ice age. Climatology also told scientists the temperature of the earth was higher during the Medieval period. The middle-ages were between the 9th century to the 14th century. So, I believe we can take some measure of comfort from knowing that Mother Earth goes through natural warming cycles and most likely has since her origins. However, that does not take into account the damage that humans are doing mercilessly to Mother Earth.

The Stress and Science of Climate Change - Medieval map of the world.

Medieval warm period (MWP), also called medieval warm epoch or little climatic optimum, brief climatic interval that is hypothesized to have occurred from approximately 900 ce to 1300 (roughly coinciding with the Middle Ages in Europe), in which relatively warm conditions are said to have prevailed in various parts of the world, though predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere from Greenland eastward through Europe and parts of Asia.

Britannica

The unpleasant scientific truth of climate change and the depleting the ozone layer.

The ozone layer is a layer high in the earth’s stratosphere that contains a concentration of ozone. This layer of ozone blocks much of the ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun. Thanks to the earth’s ozone layer, most of this radiation never reaches the surface. Tragically, toxic gases which humans release into the air are slowly diminishing the ozone layer. The depletion of the ozone layer is the reason that climate change is happening.   

The Stress and Science of Climate Change - the ozone layer.

Toxic gases produce a “greenhouse” effect in the earth’s atmosphere. They slow down the rate at which ultraviolet radiation escapes the earth’s atmosphere. Of all the toxic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is the most damaging. As a consequence of the steady depletion of the ozone layer, the earth’s temperature has continued to rise.  According to the National Global Climate Assessment, the average surface temperature of the air has increased by almost 2 degrees from 1901 to 2016. This brings us to the current period, which is the warmest in the history of civilization.

The climate assessment concluded there is overwhelming evidence that the emissions of greenhouse gasses are the dominant cause of global warming recorded since the middle of the 20th century. Furthermore, there is no other convincing alternative to explain the phenomena of global warming over the past century. Our ozone layer will continue to be deplete unless there is a major reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. That means the earth will experience greater warming with less resistance to ultraviolet radiation.

The unpleasant scientific truth of climate change and its effect on the weather.

The Stress and Science of Climate Change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) oversaw the development of a special climate science report. The purpose of the report was to provide a scientific overview of climate change. It describes vital areas of the earth’s multiple ecosystems that are being negatively impacted by climate change. Among those negative impacts are:

  • Changes in the earth’s surface
  • Changes in the earth’s atmosphere
  • Changing oceanic temperatures
  • Melting glaciers
  • Diminishing snow cover
  • Shrinking sea ice
  • Rising sea levels
  • Rising ocean acidification.
  • Increasing atmospheric water vapor

One of the most catastrophic items on the list is the changes in the earth’s atmosphere. These changes have led to large impacts on weather systems globally. The earth has experienced multiple record-breaking extreme weather events in the past few decades. For Instance, the average annual temperature in the U.S. has risen substantially. There have been more heatwaves in the United States than ever before. And the last few years have been the warmest years on record globally. At the same time, fewer extreme cold events have been recorded in recent years.   

Due to increased global temperatures, the number of forest fires has steadily increased for the past 40 years. Meanwhile, in other areas, heavy rainfall incidents have increased due to climate change. Incidents of flooding due to heavy rainfall have occurred with greater frequency and greater intensity. This produces a great threat to infrastructure and to general human safety. Flooding has also produced great risk to the agricultural industry as harvests become unpredictable. Climate change’s effect on weather patterns has caused harsh weather events, increased forest fires, and increased flooding – all leading to loss of natural habitat. 

What humans must do to prepare to survive the stress and science of climate change.

The Stress and Science of Climate Change
Himalayas high altitude town overlooking Mt. Stok Kangri.

The stress and science of climate change point towards catastrophic results. Yet, there are steps we can take towards lessening our vulnerability to the impact of climate change. For one, we can move to locations that are at higher elevations. There are many cities around the world to choose from that would place you high above sea level. For instance, Arcadia is an unincorporated city in Louisiana that resides at 384 feet above sea level. Or, for more elevation, Hannagan Meadow, Arizona rests at 9,071 feet above sea level. Another thing we can do is plant crops that can thrive under warmer climate conditions. Many vegetables are warm climate-friendly such as corn, eggplant, beans, peppers, zucchini, and summer squash. 

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan included a Climate Resilience Toolkit that provides teaching tools and a compilation of resources. The goal of these tool kits is to teach climate literacy and provide science information to make people more climate-smart. Additionally, the tool kits include 3-minute video discussions on catastrophic events that may take place due to climate change.

One thing that’s discussed is soil. If the earth’s temperature continues to rise, soils will suffer globally. This will result in crops withering around the world. The tool kits give information on how to explore this hazard, assess your vulnerabilities, and prioritize a plan for your survival. Another key point is rising sea levels. Climate change is responsible for rising tides and storm surge. Earth could experience a rise in sea levels by as much as 10-feet. This would affect infrastructure, buildings, and long-term land contamination. The Climate Resilience toolkit offers local and regional resources and tools to deal with such an event.

What can we do about the stress and science of climate change.

Preventing climate change is going to take international effort. Many leaders of countries around the world have claimed to be up to the challenge. But, they have yet to meet the challenge.

At the United Nations Climate Summit in 2017, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist made the famous statement, “We’ll be watching you” to the leaders who had agreed to the guidelines for climate change given by the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is a 32-page treaty that committed each signing country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 degrees. 

Greta’s statement was a firm reminder to each of the nations that the world is watching. Nevertheless, according to a recent article by PBS News, only two of the countries who signed are on track to meet their climate pledges within the time frame given.

What follows is a list of the top five global emitters of carbon dioxide and included each country’s mandate for reducing carbon emissions. These countries together account for almost 70% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. Perhaps with more attention to the issue, they’ll increase their effort to combat the stress and science of climate change head-on. 

Top 10 Global Emitters of Carbon Dioxide.

The Stress and Science of Climate Change

1. United States (14.95 Metric Tons). 

The US leads the list of greatest emitters of Carbon Dioxide. The Washington Post claims air pollution has worsened for more than half a decade straight. The good news is, the US is actively combating this issue with higher standards in air quality.

Thanks to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution rates are lower than they were before the agency’s establishment.

2. Canada (14.91 Metric Tons). 

Canada is the second-largest emitter contributing 73% more air pollution than companies within the same industry in the United States. However, Canada has been aggressively developing new technology to address the issue.

Canada has developed a Low Carbon Economy Fund which supports retrofitting of homes and buildings for clean energy. Plus, Canada produces the lowest amount of greenhouse-specific gases. So, in a way, they have the least amount of work to do.

3. South Korea (11.5 Metric Tons).

Of the 35 richest countries on the globe, South Korea has the worst air quality. For South Korea, the answer is in technology. South Korea’s ministry of the environment noted that air pollution technology makes up for 5% of the environmental technology market. 

U.S. environmental equipment technology companies that are aware of the regulatory challenges in the market have recently been partnering with South Korean companies. This partnership should produce breakthroughs in environmental technology that can help South Korea solve the problem.

4. Russia (9.97 Metric Tons).

Emissions of almost 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide is lower than the US, but are not good enough. The primary source of Russia’s air pollution is their mining industry and vehicle emissions. 

In response, Russia’s Council for Human Rights has come up with proposals aimed at the mining and transportation industries to reduce toxic emissions.

5. Japan (9.04 Metric Tons).

Japan has a population of over 37 million residents. Thankful, air quality is already receiving a lot of attention. Different from Russia, the WHO has given Japan an air quality rating of “Moderately Unsafe” in the past. 

Today, Japan has had its national air pollution rating upgraded due to efforts by its government to bring air pollution levels down.

6. Germany (8.88 Metric Tons).

Germany is 6th on this list. At the heart of Germany’s air pollution concerns is the unique issue of a lack of forestation. Germany frequently experiences many sandstorms and forest fires which greatly decreases the country’s ability to combat air pollution. 

Germany would have to increase its rate of forestation by a great deal to replenish its natural resource. However, to date, this large increase has yet to be recorded.  

7. China (6.57 Metric Tons). 

China’s President has responded by publicly declaring war on air pollution. His plan is to engage China’s energy sector to develop new sources of energy and to implement new methods of air pollution control. 

The President is committing his country to achieving carbon-neutral status within the next 40-years. 

8. United Kingdom (5.65 Metric Tons).

Diesel-powered vehicles are the largest contributor to air pollution in the United Kingdom. European courts in the UK dictated that the UK address the problem of air pollution in the shortest time possible. 

However, studies prove that the UK has made very little progress in the past few years. As a result of their failure to comply, the UK now faces large penalties enforced by the European Commission.

9. Italy (5.37 Metric Tons).

The World Health Organization listed Northern Italy as having the worst air quality within the continent of Europe. Italy suffers from particle air pollution the most. This type of pollution is formed when particles from fire, chemicals, or some other pollutant mix with water droplets and remain suspended in the air.

To address the issue, many cities in Italy containing popular tourist attractions have begun asking visitors and tourists to leave their cars outside of the city. If this strategy is effective, it will keep a good number of cars off the road. 

10. France (4.38 Metric Tons).

Most businesses and homes in France utilize gas-burning furnaces. However, the good news is, the government of France has set a very aggressive agenda to deal with air pollution caused by these three culprits. We will soon see if the steps they’ve taken are enough to make an impact.

It is our sincere desire that each of you consider the implications of the stress and science of climate change. It is upon us and it is real. Now, it’s up to us to open our minds to new possibilities of Mother Earth’s climate change and how we can help each other survive and thrive. Together We Light the Way. 🔥

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