Earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes, “oh my!” After the March 11 disaster in Japan, many people have found themselves wondering if climate change is the culprit behind the worst tsunami ever recorded in the country. Environmentalists often explain that climate change cause extreme and deadly weather conditions. While this may be true, the recent events in the Pacific Rim most likely have simpler reasons behind them.
Japan lies in an area of the world where earthquakes and tsunamis are unfortunately relatively common occurrences. However, while there is no reason to panic about impending climate disasters worldwide, these events should remind us that the environment is a fragile resource that is in need of protection.
Though climate change has been frequently discussed in the mainstream media for several years now, there is still a lot of understandable confusion about the topic. Initially, it was referred to as “global warming” because when carbon gets trapped in the earth’s atmosphere it raises the earth’s temperature. However, severe snowstorms led many to believe that this was an indication that the planet was not, in fact, warming. Therefore, the term “climate change” was brought into common use and is more appropriate to describe what is actually happening.
When high levels of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere by processes such as burning fossil fuels, the atmosphere cannot absorb them. Instead, it traps heat and ultimately increases the temperature of the planet. This process has been occurring at an extreme rate since the Industrial Revolution when humans began producing more carbon dioxide than ever before.
Though the term “global warming” is relatively accurate, it does not serve to explain that the earth will actually face cold weather extremes as well. Because of the way that the earth’s climate works, some parts of the world will experience a much warmer climate while others will experience a much cooler climate.
The idea of climate change can become muddled after hearing the different perspectives of scientists, politicians and environmentalists. Some state that climate change either does not exist or it is nothing to be concerned with. Others explain that climate change is a global catastrophe that must be stopped immediately. There are also countless changes we are told to make to reduce our impact on the environment. In all honesty, it is a difficult concept to wrap one’s head around. Human activity is to blame for climate change, yet human activity must also provide the solution. Traveling in cars, purchasing homes and buying goods all contribute to climate change, but at the same time we are always strongly encouraged to do these things. So where does that leave us?
You may, like others, be skeptical of the existence and impact of climate change. However, this is the way that I like to think of it. Everything that we do has some kind of consequence. Emissions from car tailpipes and the trash we throw away must go somewhere. Once it is gone, we may think that we will never see it again, but this is not the case. It could come back to us in the form of air pollution, landfills or perhaps extreme weather patterns. While the events in Japan may not be because of climate change, I hope to never see similar events occur throughout the world in areas that are not prepared for it.
– Brenna Simonson