Earth's tipping point
We are destroying our creator. Earth has given us the ability to exist, yet the respect it deserves has been left far in the past. Global warming will be the death of us, and there is not much that can be done to change that. Recently, examinations of ground temperatures and satellite calculations have shown that last year was the hottest year on record. This is the third year in a row that has seen an increase in temperature, and although some may say it is the result of natural climate change, scientists would disagree.
The new record set has been an estimated 0.07 degrees fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) overall increase and a 0.22 degrees fahrenheit increase in the Arctic (NASA). Do not let these seemingly minuscule numbers fool you, as Deke Arndt from NOAA claimed this is the highest increase in temperature by year ever recorded. Statistics show that last year was around 1.78 degrees fahrenheit higher compared to the twentieth century temperature average, rising at an exponential rate. Temperatures simply should not increase this fast naturally, and studies have proven that it is the fault of humans rather than nature.
Calculations given by Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, have demonstrated that most of the record-breaking heat was due to heat-trapping gases created by the burning of oil, coal, and gas. Twelve percent of the increase, he says, is the fault of El Niño—“the periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that change weather globally.” Schmidt stated that although El Niño disappeared last June, the effect of our human footprint alone will list 2017 as the fifth hottest year on record. Rising global temperatures create highly concerning effects on the future of the human race and the progression of nature as a whole. Natural commodities, such as the polar ice caps, are needed in order to reflect sunlight, resulting in cooler temperatures. With a decrease in ice caps, less sunlight is reflected, and it is instead absorbed by the ocean. This will lead to a rapid increase in temperature, leaving whatever is left of the polar ice caps to be destroyed, and leading to a dramatic increase in sea levels. With a hotter planet and a rise in sea levels, oceans will diffuse into human inhabited locations, including major cities such as New York City and Tokyo.
An increase in sea levels up to two feet high would result in one trillion dollars worth of flood damage per year, and an increase in sea levels to 25 meters would result in the displacement of 1.4 billion people (twenty percent of the human population). If all the ice melts, however, the estimated increase in sea level would be seventy meters high. An increase this high would cause parts of the world such as the United States’ Eastern Seaboard, the West Coast, and the entire state of Florida to be engulfed in water. This will cause ocean currents to change their patterns, preventing crucial nutrients from being delivered to the organisms that produce oxygen (nearly half of our oxygen is produced from phytoplankton and ocean plants). In addition, a warming will cause crops to wither. When all of these factors begin to make a difference on our planet, there is no stopping them and the result will be global suicide.
This scenario may prompt concern for later years to come and a natural desire for solutions. Elliot Burch, a biology teacher at LM, was able to share some effective ways to end the impending catastrophe. He surrounded his argument with the culminating idea that the “bulk of fossil fuels must remain in the ground.” Burch says we must “make a rapid switch to renewables such as wind energy, solar power, and geothermal ocean currents” in an attempt to terminate the use of these earthly products. Burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide into the air, which then dissolves into the oceans and makes them more acidic. Shellfish, corals, and plankton will suffer from the increased levels of acidity by failing to form their skeletons, causing a destruction of main marine food webs and eliminating the main source of protein for one billion people. Burch advises that everyone should make a valiant effort to end the use of fossil fuels because “even though some of these fossil fuels are really cheap, if we burn them all, we are definitely doomed.”
There are many other solutions to prevent this catastrophe from happening, but they will only work if everyone helps out. America needs to become more European in the sense of saving light energy and reducing gas emissions from cars. Emissions could be drastically reduced by taking one less flight per year. Additionally, the government could form strong state and national policies, such as joining the Paris agreement and regulating global warming pollution. The next four years provide no hope for any change with the president being a denier of man-made global warming. During his time in office, we will be under critical years that will determine the future of the human race. Sadly, the ultimate solution for now is optimism and to hope that we will be able to survive whatever the future brings, for a destruction of our planet would not only be a failure to us, but a failure to our creator—Earth.
Feb. 22, 2017
Caleb Shack ’19