Monday, November 26, 2012
I had a fun argument with my mother over the holiday weekend about environmental policy and the path that we are currently on. I couldn't help but to laugh when she told me that there was no proof that the rising climate, extreme weather and other environmental effects weren't just the earth going through it's natural cycle. As an environmentalist myself, and a copywriter covering green issues, policy and business, I couldn't hold my emotions back. The most prolific example of how climate change can seriously affect life for humans as we know it comes in the form of the rising sea levels.
This past summer, the US shattered record highs forcing the majority of the country into a depressive drought. However, the rise in temperature occurred over the globe, specifically around the poles of our planet. Satellite images of Greenland show that about 40% of Greenland's ice caps had melted. This is a microcosm for what was happening around the globe, melting previously solid water forms which then dump off into the ocean.
Currently about 40% of the world's population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. Water levels are expected to rise nearly three feet by 2100. Three feet may not sound like much, but to apply that over the entire ocean over the entire planet is a massive increase. Not only would this affect oceanic ecosystems but weather as well, since the majority of weather patterns are created from the sun evaporating water off of the ocean. The polar ice caps are also a major source of fresh water on the planet and comprise about 70 percent of our fresh water source, of which will simply melt and run off into the ocean.
New York is a major point of concern since the the island is only 8 feet above sea level at its lowest points. Hurricane Sandy was able to force water over the breakers at the current height...now imagine the ocean several feet higher. New Orleans would not be able to withstand another tropical storm...period.
Human involvement in climate change and global warming is definite. The consistent burning of fossil fuels and the fact that the average life expectancy of humans has doubled since 1900 points to ourselves as being the major cause of a shifting environment for the worse. The only course of action is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and simply admit that we are the problem; not doing so could be catastrophic to our well being.
On our current course with environmental policy and leniency with burning fossil fuels, we might not be able to prevent the damage that has been done. In a few years, going to visit New York will be like visiting Venice; scenic and beautiful but all the more depressing. Rising sea levels are a profound concern and one that cannot be pawned off on the next generation.