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Photo credits: The Nation, 2019

USA Today, 2019


by Aleena Chaudhry (10)

On September 27, 2019, more than two million youths and adults alike from over 150 countries participated in the “Global Week for the Future,” an international protest initiative led by Swedish female activist Greta Thunberg and aimed at raising awareness about political inaction regarding the pressing issue of climate change. Two million. 

Clearly, climate change has become an important global problem to tackle. Though many would still rather pretend that climate change is a “made up” phenomenon, the fact of the matter is that it’s happening. 

But how exactly do we know that it’s real? Is this just something the media has made up to scare the public into living a fearful life?

Trump has attempted to put forward the idea that climate change is somehow “fake”. He has attempted to remove many of the guardrails installed by the Obama administration to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases. Trump also made the decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, and even without this measure, the US could have legally left the global agreement as early as 2020. He even stated that it was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in politics.” He also claimed to have “a natural instinct for science”, but one can’t argue with facts.

The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. This significant change is primarily due to the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. Ice sheets are shrinking; Antarctica lost approximately 127 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016 while Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice during the same time period. Worldwide, glaciers are disappearing at a rate of about 400 billion tons a year. Sea levels have risen 8 inches since the last century, and the rate has been doubling for the last two decades. Furthermore, the number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing since 1950. 

Moreover, if climate change was just a hoax, then why are we seeing a yearly outbreak of wildfires in California? Simply put, this isn’t just a coincidence. Within a decade, climate change has contributed to an extra 10 million acres of burning in western forests— an area about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. This increase can be attributed to the fact that California itself has warmed about three degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. The warm air leaves plants, trees, and shrubs dry, priming them to burn. Since when did it become normal for there to be an epidemic of fires every single year?  

So what? Why does all of this evidence matter? What does it even mean? 

Even though it may feel like there is nothing wrong with the climate, there are some serious long term effects. If temperatures continue to rise, we will be seeing more droughts, heatwaves, and hurricanes in the future. If we fast-forward a couple of hundred years, who knows if civilization as we know it will even exist? After all, we are destroying the planet at a pretty fast rate.

But why is this even happening? What did we do wrong?

Greenhouse gases are the underlying cause, which traps heat from the sun, not allowing it to radiate back into space. Humans have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Over the last 100 years, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that there is a 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.  

People don’t fully understand how serious this problem is becoming. In fact, more than one-quarter of Americans are climate change skeptics. They believe that since they haven’t noticed a change in the weather around them, nothing is wrong, or that fluctuation in temperature is just part of the Earth’s ‘natural cycle.’ Others who do acknowledge climate change don’t bother changing their lifestyle because they don’t believe it affects them in the near term. Although it’s very likely that we won’t be seeing the profound effects of climate change right away, future generations will—and by then, it will be too late. That is exactly WHY this issue is so important. If not for yourself, act for the Earth’s future population. 

But how can you act? What can we do to help solve this problem?

Unfortunately, even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations. In this way, humanity is “committed” to some level of climate change. But what we do have control of is how much climate change occurs. Here are some things we all can do:

  1. Use energy wisely—don’t be wasteful, and always unplug appliances when not in use. 

  2. Start a climate change conversation, and spread awareness—because apparently some people refuse to believe this is a real issue. (In fact, there’s a great climate change club at Foothill called Local Leaders. Meetings are every Monday in C-16. Check it out!)

  3. Use public transport, bike, or carpool. 

  4. Power your home with renewable energy.hoose a utility company that generates at least half its power from wind or solar and is certified by Green-e-Energy.

  5. Reduce water waste; start by taking five-minute showers!

  6. Plant trees to capture the carbon!

  7. Reduce your beef intake- bovine flatulence and gas release from processing food causes a significant amount of methane output!

Climate change will have an impact on your life. But the opposite is also true: your actions will influence the planet for the coming decades – for better or for worse. 

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