DEANA KAJMAKOVIC & ARIELLE BEAK
Two major earthquakes in Mexico in a span of two weeks. Devastation in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean due to multiple hurricanes. Forest fires burning through nine states. Major flooding in Bangladesh and Nepal. It seems that in the past 30 days, the entire world has been shocked by the sudden string of natural disasters that seemed to come out of nowhere, yet the real root cause of these horrors has already been debated for years: global warming.
These two words can trigger a landslide of emotions and harsh feelings which often ensue in heated arguments between members of opposing political parties, yet the majority of Americans don’t actually understand much of the science behind global warming.
Global warming, a subset of the term climate change, refers to the Earth’s rising temperature. According to The New York Times, the Earth’s temperature today is roughly two degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was in the 1880s, which has heavily contributed to the melting of the world’s land ice and the rise of sea levels. This catastrophic change is the consequence of the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, resulting in the steady rise in the Earth’s temperature that is evident today. It is no secret that these greenhouse gases are mainly produced by humans’ industrial technologies, though many political conservatives try to undermine the evidence supported by the entire scientific community, such as President Donald Trump, who has claimed that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese government in an effort to damage American industry.
It’s easy for us to laugh at accusations like this, but the fact of the matter is that the lack of seriousness behind the public perception of climate change is what causes the majority of us to sit back and twiddle our thumbs as the problem continues to worsen. The current state of the Earth has been linked to the natural disasters upon us, such as prolonged heat waves and droughts in already dry areas like California and the Middle East. Sea levels have already risen so much that they have dramatically worsened the aftermath of hurricanes such as Sandy and Harvey, which devastated Northeastern United States and Texas, respectively, more so with consequential flooding than with their direct impacts. Scientists predict that in the next 25 to 30 years, the climate is likely to warm even more dramatically, and such effects will exacerbate.
But let’s put this into perspective on a social scale – one that directly impacts us. It’s fully possible that in the next couple decades, the climates in some regions of the world will become so harsh that they will force governments to destabilize and produce a massive influx of refugees. Entire cities and countries will be displaced because people’s beloved homes will no longer be suitable for the preservation of human life, not to mention the probable mass extinction of several plant and animal species that will follow.
Climate change is real. It’s not a hoax, it’s not a political strategy, and it’s not a joke. As one of the lead economies around the globe, the U.S. is also among the top culprits of carbon dioxide emissions. With great power comes great responsibility – it’s time the U.S. stepped up to recognize a global crisis. As Americans, we naturally look to the leader of our country when faced with a problem of immense proportions. However, in this instance, our so-called leader is choosing to ignore the obvious.
If the U.S. is to take responsibility, we need to pursue stricter climate change legislation. Trump made the decision this past June to step out of the Paris Agreement, an agreement between the United Nations to mitigate climate change. By abandoning a progressive effort against climate change, Trump effectively led the nation into a clumsy, not to mention foolish, step backward.
On a more basic level, the ongoing, devastating damage that continues in the Middle East all stem from a conflict over resources. Had our nation invested earlier in renewable energy and alternative energy sources, the tooth-and-nail struggle over oil would not have escalated to the catastrophic scale that it is today. If Trump continues to exalt the United States on its superiority, then he should own up to it. As a country built off of the principles of independence and equal opportunity, self-sufficiency in energy is a logical step forward; the republic needs to establish a truly independent nation, one that is “great” in its ability to right its wrongs. There’s not a moment to lose, as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires obliterate the very earth around us. The time has come to wake up and smell the roses – before they’re gone.