Climate Change Is Today’s, Not Tomorrow’s, Problem


Aidan O'Connor, writer

On June first, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate-change mitigation. The Paris Agreement is an agreement reached by all 195 countries of the world under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement states that all countries will address and create a plan to combat climate change through lowering greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint, and do their best to combat global warming. After Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, the United States stands as the only country not part of the agreement.

The decision by President Trump to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement is contemptuous and truly a step in the wrong direction. It is disturbing that the leader of the free world has dismissed such an important issue by calling it a “hoax” and not even believing it to be a threat in the first place. We are in trouble if we do nothing to combat climate change, and as recent studies show, we must act now to ensure a better future for generations to come.

The drastic increase in carbon-dioxide levels and other greenhouse gases in the past 75 years is appalling. Carbon dioxide, Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) are all major greenhouse gases that have seen a spike in their amount in the atmosphere since 1950. These greenhouse gases have high heat-trapping potential, as they trap infrared radiation in Earth’s atmosphere by absorbing it and re-emitting it into all directions. As a result, it has been scientifically proven that this causes increased temperatures at Earth’s surface.

The statistics of global warming are quite worrisome. The global increase in temperature has caused unprecedented amounts of melting of the Antarctic ice sheets, which turns into water and increases the sea level. Sea levels have risen eight inches in the last century; however, the rate of the last two decades is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year. The expert consensus is that global sea levels will rise somewhere between two and four feet by the end of the century if nothing is done by countries like the United States. Some scientists go as far as saying that the sea levels will rise by 15 feet by 2095. This threat directly affects the United States because some scientists predict that, if global warming continues, much of the east coast, including almost all of Florida, will be underwater. As a country, we need to address this issue to prevent sea-level rise because if we don’t, we will lose much of our land.

In a recent statement, the IPCC said that it was likely that tropical cyclones would get stronger as the oceans heat up, with faster winds and heavier rainfall. The United States has seen a plethora of stronger hurricanes in recent years, including devastating Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Jose Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Florence. Hurricane Irma of 2017, a category-five hurricane, killed 102 people and cost the economy $300 billion. Hurricane Harvey, which took place in Texas, affected about 13 million people, killed 88, and cost $125 billion in damage. These hurricanes and severe-weather incidents are only going to become more frequent and more intense if we continue to do nothing about global warming. President Trump’s path will only lead to more hurricanes and national disasters because he is not addressing the prime causes of them. More natural disasters are predicted to occur, such as drought and the flooding of farmland. This will lead to destruction and a drop in the food supply because we have a monoculture, which means we plant identical crops.

It is predicted that global warming is accelerating the sixth mass extinction. Many people are concerned about the effect that increased temperatures have on wildlife, and they think that we have reason to be concerned. Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize winner said, “Human activity, the consumption of fossil fuels, the acidification of the oceans, pollution, deforestation, and forced migrations threaten life forms of all kinds. It is estimated that one-third of corals, freshwater mollusks, sharks, and rays, one-fourth of all mammals, one-fifth of all reptiles, and one-sixth of all birds are heading towards extinction.” These worrisome predictions should be warning signs to our president about the impact of global warming and the use of fossil fuels. We need to protect our wildlife and maintain a high level of biodiversity.

Many criticize those who want immediate change regarding global warming. They say that taking too much action will negatively impact our economy. In response, there will be no economy if we don’t have a planet. It is more important that we ensure that our planet is habitable before we worry about the economy. However, we should do so at a rate that isn’t completely devastating to the economy keeping in mind that saving our planet is more important.

In February of 2017, Scott Pruitt was named the head of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Trump. This appointment is so questionable because Pruitt doesn’t even believe in global warming. He believes that little should be done and he was quoted saying that an increase in global temperature might not be a “bad thing”. Other members of Trump’s cabinet advocate for increased fossil fuel use, which greatly contributes to, and would only accelerate global warming, making matters clearly worse. The lack of government administrators within the Trump administration who are taking the initiative to fight global warming is severely lacking.

It is clear that our president needs to follow the example set by other world leaders to follow the initiative to combat global warming and the effect humans are having on our planet. It is vital that we take a step forward to save our planet.