Winter break allows college students to step away from the hustle and bustle of campus life. While students have been spending time with family and catching up with friends, policy makers and organizers have been making progress in the realm of sustainability and climate change. While pressing pause on class assignments, students may have missed a small step taken in the direction of change by the United States Senate.
Whether people like it or not, the Earth is warming. Research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. Many in the Tri-State area experienced this firsthand during Hurricane Sandy. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the super-storm killed 159 people, destroyed 650,000 homes, and caused more than 8.5 million people to lose power for an extended period of time.
Although the Senate admits that climate change exists, passing the statement with a vote of 98 to 1, a majority still refuses to acknowledge that human activity plays a role. Many say that it is a “hoax” and that climate change is following Earth’s previous warming and cooling periods. However, organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were created to analyze the causes of the changes. Scientific research demonstrates that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, may be responsible for the warming of the planet.
On Jan. 22, the Senate voted 56 to 42 to deny an amendment that declared climate change as real, devastating and caused by humans, reported The New York Times. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who voted against the amendment, stated, “The hoax is that there are some people who are arrogant as to think they are so powerful that they can change climate,” according to The Huffington Post.
However, Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who proposed the amendment, and other environmental activists have hope that the senators in denial will recognize the significance of human impact on the climate.
“Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another two to 11.5°F over the next hundred years,” reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These seemingly slight changes have catastrophic consequences, including “floods, droughts, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves” across the globe. In addition, “oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising.”
Science has deemed humans responsible for global warming. This is because of the mass amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that humans emit into the atmosphere. The EPA illustrates greenhouse gases as a huge blanket that covers the Earth, trapping energy and causing this warming effect. Although the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon, and necessary for all life on Earth, the accumulation of gases can cause dangerous temperature fluctuations.
Fortunately, it is not too late to stop climate change. By taking small steps toward reducing carbon emissions and being mindful of the resources that we consume, we can each help ensure that we do not continue down this path of destruction.
Printed in the 02/04/15 issue.