As humans, one of our less desirable traits is our attitude of “yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t promised, so live in the moment … live for today”. On the surface, that seems like a decent philosophy, and I know many who follow it, but there are some big problems with it. Personal finance, of course, is near the top of the list. There are those for whom living “payday-to-payday” with no savings for emergencies is a way of life. They spend and buy what they want today without concern for the future because “tomorrow isn’t promised”. There is, however, a more global effect of the “live for today” attitude that humans tend to employ, and the one I have in mind at the moment is climate change and our environment. I do not know how citizens in other nations view the threat to our globe but as a citizen of the U.S., I can tell you that Americans are short-sighted, selfish and arrogant when it comes to their willingness to make sacrifices today in order to save the planet tomorrow. Apparently it is easier to deny that there is a problem than to suffer sacrifice or inconvenience in order to work toward solving the problem. There is very real and irrefutable evidence that we (and I use this term in the global sense) have contributed to changes in the environment, changes that will have long-lasting consequences and ultimately have the potential to make this earth uninhabitable for human life. Yet rather than be inconvenienced, far too many people choose to turn a blind eye, declaring that climate change is some conspiracy dreamed up by politicians … to what end I do not know. Just this morning I read a post by a fellow blogger who referred to the concept of climate change as the “hoax of the century”. Yet most all scientists now agree that climate change is a very real and lethal phenomenon.
The evidence is clear and overwhelming as seen in the effects of our environmental neglect:
- Sea level rise – Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
- Global temperature rise – All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
- Warming oceans – The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969
- Shrinking ice sheets – The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show 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.
- Declining Arctic sea ice – Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
- Glacial retreat – Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
- Extreme events – The number of record high temperature events in the United States 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.
- Ocean acidification – Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
- Decreased snow cover – 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.
The above information with supporting detail and much more from the scientific community can be found at: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
The leading cause of climate change remains the burning of fossil fuels for power plants and transportation. Though this is by no means the only cause of what is known as the “greenhouse effect”, it is the biggest culprit and the one over which we, as humans, have the most control. I hear people say that it won’t make a big difference if the turn their thermostat up by 5 or 10 degrees in the winter, or if they make an extra trip to the market to pick up just one or two items. The fallacy in this way of thinking is that of volume. You may not save the world by turning that light out when you leave the room or donning a sweater instead of turning the thermostat up, but your efforts combined with millions of others just might contribute to making a difference. On a larger scale, we can refuse to support businesses that are not environmentally-friendly. We can elect politicians who support environmental legislation such as research for alternative, renewable energy sources.
I do not claim to be a scientist, nor do I entirely understand the science behind the data despite having taken two courses on Environmental Science. Thus it is not my intent to go into the details of the science behind climate change, but merely to assert that there seems to be more evidence in support of the fact that mankind is destroying the global atmosphere than there is evidence to the contrary. No matter how diligent or negligent you and I are at working toward solutions to the problem of climate change, we will not be around to see the effects, but other humans will. Shall we not worry about the future and simply “live for today”, or shall we be responsible global citizens and do that which is in our power to preserve the world for future generations?