Climate change doesn’t just affect certain areas and it doesn’t skip us college students — it affects all of humankind. Our altitude at Rider is about 95 feet, and over in Ewing, near the Delaware River, it’s as low as 30 feet. These seem like simple numbers — until we realize that climate change can raise sea levels by 21 feet, and that hurts tides and flat areas. But the effects don’t stop there.
Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. With a 2-degree Celsius increase, “sea level rise of several meters could be expected,” wrote 18 scientists in a review paper in the journal PLOS One. “Increased climate extremes, already apparent at 0.8 degrees Celsius warming, would be more severe. Coral reefs and associated species, already stressed with current conditions, would be decimated by increased acidification, temperature and sea level rise.” That may not sound like much, but the temperature difference between today’s world and the last ice age was about 5 degrees Celsius, so seemingly small changes in temperature can mean big differences for the Earth.
Food prices are rising as climate change makes it trickier to maintain the specific conditions crops need to thrive. Fresh water is becoming scarcer in some regions. Overall, precipitation patterns are also changing, bringing droughts to some areas of the world, and severe floods t o others. More wildfires are breaking out as droughts become increasingly common. Fires that go through drought-stricken land spread more quickly and burn longer.
Many mountainous states rely on snowmelt to replenish their water sources, and the snowpack is declining, as well as melting earlier in the season. Rising ocean levels will cover areas of the coastline used for recreation and human habitation. Sea ice is melting at an accelerated rate and arctic sea ice has shrunk by 30 percent since 1979. As it melts and ocean levels rise, coastlines and low-lying areas like New Orleans, Miami and New York will be threatened.
Representatives from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.
The U.S. has committed to cut its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent, compared with 2005 levels, by 2025. There is clear evidence that global cooperation will help individual countries’ efforts on carbon reduction, and increase overall ambition to tackle climate change. If nations can meet and agree on goals for the climate, on economic development, on social and environmental issues, and do so in a spirit of cooperation, it will be a huge achievement.
Rider students can stay updated on the important issue of climate change by staying informed on the issues and solutions discussed at the conference in Paris. It is also important to know your facts and ignore the doubters, an idea discussed in next month’s Green Film, Merchants of Doubt, which will be shown on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart room 115. Remember that these kinds of effects to our climate and our sea don’t just hurt the air or the water, and they don’t just hurt any one spot on the planet — they hurt everyone, including us here at Rider.
Westminster Eco Rep
Printed in the 11/18/15 issue.