Climate Conundrum: A Hot Mess

from Issue 3


limate change is defined as “changes in the Earth’s weather patterns.” This is caused when greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat given from the sun inside the atmosphere, warming it. Greenhouse gases do occur naturally, but since industrialization, humans have been releasing increasing amounts. The effects of climate change are already thought to have started and will only continue to get worse in time. Some of these effects are more frequent and powerful tropical storms and wildfires and, in some places, an increased duration in droughts. These alone could affect thousands of people, though this is only the tip of the iceberg.
This increase in heat from both the atmosphere and the oceans has led to an increase in the melting of glaciers. When the glaciers melt, sea levels rise, though not equally. There are different estimates on how high global sea levels will rise by the end of this century. Estimates vary, the reasons being that no one knows exactly how fast the ice is melting. With that, low estimates say that by 2050, sea levels will have risen by 26 inches if they continue to rise at the same pace as today (though this is unlikely and more ice melting could cause a run away greenhouse effect). A runaway greenhouse effect is when so much greenhouse gas has been released into the atmosphere that the heat creates more water vapor which creates a feedback loop. This may be caused from deforestation and large glaciers melting, which will accelerate how fast the glaciers are already deteriorating. With factors such as these, the rise of sea levels may be higher than anticipated. Most estimates say that global sea levels will rise by four feet by the end of the century; however, if all of Greenland’s ice melts by mid-century, which is predicted in some models, the sea levels would automatically rise 20 feet. Changes such as these would drown out cities and force citizens to move. Though a lot of these threats seem far away, they may be closer than thought. By 2050, potentially 350 million more people will become heat stressed; by 2050, over 106 billion dollars of coastal property will be below sea level. There could also be a 10% crop yield production.
Problems like these may seem bad, but if the Earth warms 2.5 to 10o C higher which is predicted by the end of the century, then problems like this will only increase. It may seem impossible, but there are ways to combat climate change. The two most well-known ways are renewable energy and nuclear power. Both have their drawbacks, but they can help reduce carbon emissions significantly. This would only be part of the equation, as electricity generates only about 30% of carbon emissions. One thing is clear, though: we have to stand up for change, for if we do not, our climate will.