Our world is no stranger to climate change. In fact, geologic records confirm that there were climate variations long before mammals (including us) dominated Earth. Unlike past climates caused by natural factors, modern climate change is mainly influenced by human activities. Its impacts are alarming because we are experiencing them firsthand. Humanity continues to survive; however, the issues on climate change did not receive enough attention. Now, there is a need for constant political action and public engagement to protect all living things from extinction.
Climate differs from place to place. It is caused by factors influencing the amount of solar energy retained by Earth’s atmosphere or reflected into space. To name a few, these factors include: the distance of Earth from the sun; ocean currents spreading heat around the planet; and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap solar radiation (Lutgens, Tasa, & Tarbuck, 2014, p.717-720). Anybody who is given the chance to travel the world can experience different climates. For sure, the person will find that it is hard to believe their occurrence in different places at the same time. Geologic records confirm the fact that every place on Earth had experienced changes in climate from ice ages to conditions related to desert dunes or coal swamps.
Stable climate makes living things survive because it helps them to perfectly adapt over time. If the climate changes faster than their adaptability, they can no longer thrive. For instance, the dry, hot weather worsened the wildfires— affecting domestic animals and wildlife. In fact, around 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been affected (Kwong, 2020). Moreover, affected residents were forced to evacuate to prevent the increase of death toll. Though Australia is infamous for its bushfire season, the two-year drought with low humidity and high temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius worsen the impacts. Some species migrate or adapt to new climate conditions but most species decline in number or become extinct.
It is clear enough that we are far from the demands of climate science. This issue is reflected in our environment. The increase of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions comes with the rise of global temperature. For instance, combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal, gas, and oil) releases great amounts of carbon dioxide that traps heat in the atmosphere (Lutgens et al., 2014, p.721). If the said emissions continuously increase, then global temperature will possibly rise beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit of the Paris climate agreement. With this, disasters like droughts, flood, sea-level rise, and other extreme weather conditions will likely follow.
In spite of the casualties and damage done, climate change stories still cannot get enough attention. Thanks to the protests of green advocates around the world, public awareness of climate crisis dramatically increased in 2019; however, political actions on climate change still fail to meet the challenge. During United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in September 2019, national delegates had well-thought discussions but talked less about concrete plans on how to deal with the issue. Some countries took actions to address the crisis, but others took major steps backward; The United States of America had formally withdrawn its part from the Paris climate agreement while Brazil dismantled the policies protecting the Amazon rainforest. Unsurprisingly, the climate crisis triggered a series of civic engagement and environmental activism.
The iconic Doomsday Clock is a widely accepted indicator of our vulnerability to man-made global catastrophe since its creation in 1947. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2020) believes that the global leaders are not responding well with worsening threats like nuclear war, climate change, and cyber warfare, so they moved the clock’s minute hand forward as a sign for emergency action (p.8). This year, the clock is 100 seconds to midnight, and experts behind its creation think that we are closer to the apocalypse.
Science and technology can be of great help in addressing global concerns, but they can also be threats when action plans are inconsistent. Let us hope that environmental movements will strengthen around the world, and the global leaders will invest on technologies that help maintain a minimum emission rate of greenhouse gasses.
Climate change is an on-going process for billions of years, but the difference now is that we are experiencing it firsthand and it is quite alarming. Though the long-term change in average weather patterns happens naturally, the recent climate emergency is caused by human activities. Unfortunately, there is still insufficient response to climate concerns that can adversely affect the Earth. Science-based books and articles almost show the same frightening picture of an environmental apocalypse, discussing possible uninhabitable places and evacuation scenes. Of course, this is not to stir panic but to spread awareness.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (2020, January 23). 2020 Doomsday Clock Statement Retrieved from https://thebulletin.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020-Doomsday-Clock-statement.pdf
Kwong, E. (2020, January 5). Australia Deploys Military Reservists To Combat Wildfire, As Thousands Evacuate. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/01/05/793754335/australia-deploys-military-reservists-to-combat-wildfire-as-thousands-evacuate
Lutgens, F. K., Tasa, D., & Tarbuck, E. J. (2014). Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology, 11th Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.