New Report Says It Is Not Too Late to Limit Effects of Climate Change

Lucian Cosson, Staff Writer

Our world is changing, and it is changing faster than expected. The world’s temperature has already risen by 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as a result of drastically increased emissions that heat up the atmosphere. If current trends continue, the world will have to face a lot worse problems than just a warmer planet. As of October 2018 the International Panel on Climate Change, known as the IPCC, released a new report predicting that the world will rise by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052, and detailed the impacts that this event would have on the environment, the economy, and sustainability, as well as the necessary actions countries will have to take to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Like junior Rhea Kulkarni notes, “We depend on the environment more than we think we do. We need to build homes using its resources, and we cannot import and export resources forever. Everything is connected to environment and economy and industry.”

When students of Issaquah High School were asked if they noticed any impacts of climate change almost all students said they had and described noticing differences in local weather patterns such as warmer temperatures or like senior Andy Smith, who noticed, “It doesn’t snow as much when it’s supposed to snow.“ Visible weather changes are likely the impact most closely associated with climate change. While in the long run climate change will cause warmer temperatures in some area, often these temperature changes can be accounted for by a warmer jetstream. But what is becoming increasingly evident is that the impacts of climate change on the environment are much more far-reaching than warmer temperature or different weather patterns. The IPCC states that sea levels have been rising for decades and and some island communities, including the islands in Papua New Guinea, have been so affected by rising sea levels that they were forced to relocate, leaving behind their home and way of life. Other small islands have completely disappeared altogether. If current trends continue, many more islands and coastal areas including many big cities will be threatened by flooding. And with higher sea levels there is a higher storm wave base that will be much more dangerous to low lying areas. Unfortunately, hurricanes and other extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, blizzards, and fires will become more intense and possibly more frequent as a result of global warming. The fires in California this year were the deadliest fires in the United States in a century, with a death toll of 88 and countless communities and homes destroyed. In addition, the 2018 hurricane season was the third season in a row of above average damaging hurricane seasons. Warmer temperatures will also lead to an increased number of pests and mosquitoes, increasing the prevalence of mosquito borne illnesses like Malaria and the Zika virus. But possibly the most significant impact is on our agricultural systems. With drought, less arable land, severe weather, and an increased number of pests, farmers would suffer crop losses and food shortages would likely occur worldwide, leading to famine and possibly civil unrest.

While everyone will be affected by climate change in some way, poor areas that have less resources and weaker infrastructure will be less equipped to adjust to climate change and will be affected more despite contributing less to harmful emissions. Instead of spending funds to promote business or improve education, these countries will be forced to spend their limited funds adapting to the changing world. In addition, with a decreasing food supply and an increasing price of food, the poor will struggle more to get enough food. Despite efforts over the past decades, inequality and poverty could actually increase as a result of climate change making it not just an environmental problem, but a social issue as well.

Even given the extensive impacts of climate change, experts still say that there is a chance for the younger generation to get back to pre-industrial levels as long as climate change is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many students like sophomore Anya King agree that it is “not too late to make changes.” However, to keep global warming to only 1.5 degrees Celsius, rapid and far-reaching changes are needed in energy, lands, urban infrastructure, and industrial systems. According to The Guardian, governments need to be willing to make sacrifices to preserve and protect the planet but as of now, even pro-Paris deal nations are going against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas-fracking, Norway with exploration in the Arctic, and Germany continues to cut down part of the hambach forest every year for coal mining. To successfully limit the impacts of climate change, governments will have to start using more sustainable and less environmentally harmful energy sources. An increased use of wind turbines and solar farms would significantly decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, solar farms would actually be cheaper to install than fossil fuels so governments could potentially save money on energy as well which is a very important factor in these decisions. As freshman Zachary McKee realizes, ”Climate change is hurting our world, but some profit from hurting others.” Governments would also need to implement a number of carbon removal strategies like planting new trees, protecting existing forests, and other man-made carbon removal technologies to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere. However, although it may seem like individuals can not make much of an impact and that it is all up to big businesses and governments, there are a number of ways that individuals can make a difference. Things like recycling, limiting driving, and being mindful of energy usage are all fairly easy actions that can help limit the impact on the environment. Individuals can also decide to implement solar energy or buy an electric car to limit emissions more. It may not seem like much, but if everyone limits their impact even just by a small amount there is possibility for significant change.

The key to encouraging positive change is building awareness about climate change. If people do not even believe climate change is a threat they will not be willing to make sacrifices to help improve it. As of now, the IPCC is leading research about climate change, providing policymakers and world leaders with an objective and scientific view. However the U.S. has stopped all funding previously given to the IPCC and as a result, the organization had to draw on its financial reserves, posing a threat to long run stability. Other nations have had to step up their donations, including the Netherlands which announced it would double its contributions and encouraged other nations to do the same. In addition, while 97.7% of Americans are aware of climate change, only 64% were aware that climate change was a serious threat according to the Carbon Brief. There are a number of reasons that might explain the difference in awareness but one of the most significant reasons is the political reason. As junior Max Karpman notes, “They don’t see the impacts just yet, only what they believe from politics.” It is important that the issue of climate change is not neglected, or dismissed as not a real problem, because in the end, putting off the problem only makes it worse and harms us more.