I am sure I’ll get many emails that this post is politically charged. I’m unsure why protecting our planet, and the fact that climate change exists, has become a political issue. There are 192 nations that believe climate change is real, and, from China to Iceland, they are determined to do something about it. Here are some undeniable facts that scientists around the globe agree upon:
- The earth is warming, and this is not a part of the planet’s natural cycle.
- Species are disappearing. While climate changes may play a role in habitat changes; habitat change is mostly due to human activity. In some places, hunting (legal and/or illegal) has also diminished species. When one species goes away, it affects others, often beginning a ripple effect that also impacts humans.
Worldwide scientific consent is that global warming is real. The argument that somehow these are political left wingers forwarding an agenda is absurd. These organizations and their scientists, who demonstrate that climate change is real, are non-political, and are not necessarily interested in, or even aware of, American politics.
President Trump and a handful of American public officials have repeatedly stated that China is “behind the global warming hoax.” In fact, China is one of the very few nations that was at first hesitant about participating with the world community regarding climate change, and only reluctantly and recently even acknowledged that climate change exists. Today, China realizes that diminishing pollution and addressing climate change in other ways benefits their economy.
Meanwhile, climate change around the world has been proven to be real. The science might be ignored or laughed at, or politically charged, but none of that banter changes what’s happening on our planet. Here are some facts not based on political views:
- Global sea levels rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
- The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about two degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Most of the warming has occurred over the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The warmest year on record was 2016.
- The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing a warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. This difference may not appear significant, but has actually changed the ocean flora and ecosystem. The impact of many species remains unknown.
- The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005, and both Arctic and Antarctic species have been affected. Significant though is what happens to the melting ice. That’s a lot of extra water. The good news is that without that extra water, the average ocean temperatures might have risen even more. However, the bad news is that extra water with at some point directly impact coastal cities and islands, and even now impacting the climate regarding extreme weather.
- The number of record-high temperature events in the U.S. has been increasing, while the number of record-low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events. “Odd” and extreme weather patterns are occurring around the planet, far more than they have historically. These extreme weather events—from droughts to tsunamis—have impacted millions of human lives and wildlife, and cost nations millions of dollars. The extreme weather events are on the rise in the U.S., throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia, and on nearly all small islands.
- Glaciers are retreating everywhere, including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa.
- Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier. Convenient? Yes, but there are unexpected consequences. One example is increased tick populations and tick disease in North America. Increased tick disease means more medical expenses.
To those who say this is a “natural cycle,” I have no idea where that comes from. It’s made up. According to scientists, since records have been kept and using carbon dating to examine the earth going back thousands of years, this combination of factors has never existed before on earth.
However, if we want to save ourselves (it seems saving the earth means saving ourselves), there are other factors involved.
The senseless hunting of various species does affect us (aside from what are clear ethical issues). To save orangutan, a severely endangered great ape, we must save the forests in which they live. Deforestation is the primary explanation for their disappearance. Meanwhile, the slash-and-burn techniques used by desperate locals, or increasingly logging to build palm plantations, are not sustainable. The disappearance of rain forests in Asia (and elsewhere) affects local and worldwide weather patterns, and, of course, many other species pay the ultimate price when trees are cut. Locally, in Asia, there’s been increased flooding associated with deforestation.
Forests continue to hold secrets. I just wrote about a frog species that may provide a drug or treatment for the flu (maybe strains of flu affecting animals as well as people). It is a peptide on the mucous of the frog’s skin that may provide a solution.
Ocean species also hold secrets. Apoaequorin is a protein isolated from jellyfish that is now the active ingredient in some medication to assist those suffering from Alzheimers. It is also used in supplements to prevent cognitive decline.
In America, we look at other nations and are extremely critical when big game is killed, such as illegal lion hunts in Africa, or even where they are legal, we appropriately ask if they are morally right to do. However, some states in our country allow for killing of bobcat and coyotes. How is this relevant? In part, because of the diminished populations of these predators, the white-footed mouse populations are exploding. Mice are more than an annoyance: It’s with these cute rodents that the cycle of Lyme disease actually begins. As conditions allow for more tick numbers, it’s a perfect storm for Lyme and other tick diseases in America.
Human beings made this mess. Only human beings can fix it. It’s in our hands.