Climate change: permanent effects on the world

Changing climate will continue to leave a mark beyond this century

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish school girl and climate change activist, has met with Pope Francis and addressed the European Union, the United Nations and the British Parliament to bring awareness to the urgent need to work against climate change.

Thunberg was influenced by the survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Florida shooting, who walked out of their classes to protest gun violence. In August of 2018, she decided not to go to school and instead chose to sit on the steps of the Swedish parliament holding a sign that read “School Strike for Climate.”

On the second day, some other students joined her, and the growing group of students kept at it until the Swedish elections, nearly a month later. Since then, she has been leading student strikes every Friday, and the movement has spread to other pieces through the use of the hashtag #FridaysForFuture.

“We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed,” Thunberg said.

The Impact on Oak Park

The projected annual number of deaths caused by the effects of climate change, worldwide was roughly 250,000 in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

Climate change is defined by NASA as “a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere.” According to Axios, the five hottest years recorded in order from the highest have been 2016, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Only three percent of climate scientists, according to Climate Chat, argue that the earth’s climate has previously gone through cycles of heating and cooling, and the recent increase of global temperature is within natural temperature fluctuations that has occurred over around 3,000 years.

However, Skeptical Science explains that the Earth warms because of an outside factor, and “can only be explained by adding in anthropogenic radiative forcings, namely increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.”

“Even though we just came out of one of the wettest winters we’ve ever had, it doesn’t mean that climate change doesn’t exist,” Superintendent Tony Knight said.

According to TIME Magazine, before the California wildfires of November 2018, the state experienced some of its hottest temperatures recorded. July’s conditions, warm and dry, created “ideal wildfire conditions,” which were part of the cause that created to the multiple wildfires experienced later in the year.

The Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, which blazed through parts of Northern and Southern California, burned around 250,000 acres in total, according to the Insurance Information Institute. All of Oak Park was placed under mandatory evacuation during the time that the fires burned, beginning Nov. 8.

Junior Srijan Gattem was evacuated from his home to Reseda with his family Nov. 8. Gattem said that he believes that climate change should be dealt with, since “the earth is our home and it’s our job to take care of it.”

“Living in California especially, there’s a lot of pollution in our area. Drastic changes to the climate can really affect the environment,” Gattem said. “Plus, climate change isn’t exactly fun for us either, dressing for hot weather one day and cold the next.”

Climate change on a global scale

On a larger scale, there have been an array of different effects across the globe that are attributed to climate change. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen 1.62 degrees in recent years, according to NASA.

“We’re really looking, generally, at long-term changes that are happening and affecting the natural world. We had a very hot summer and a very wet, rainy winter this past year, so that caused various issues,” Knight said. “We can’t be entirely sure that those two specific examples are linked to climate change, though. It’s a lot of long-term things.”

Additionally, according to NASA, the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland have decreased in size. Antarctica has lost approximately 127 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016. In the same time frame, Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice a year. writes that if the Antarctic melted completely, the “sea levels [could] rise to 200 feet and more.” Should they rise this high, “the entire Eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast and Florida would disappear. The hills of San Francisco would become a series of islands, with an inland sea forming in California’s Central Valley. Los Angeles and San Diego would be underwater, along with Seattle, parts of Portland, Oregon and British Columbia in Canada.”

A report from the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explains that the effects of climate change can begin to be resolved, but only if people “abandon coal and other fossil fuels in the next decade or two.”

The IPCC is one of the leading authorities on climate change and published “Global Warming of 1.5°C” as recently as October 2018, which contains specific guidelines countries can follow to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement. The countries involved are currently working on greenhouse-gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Politics and the push for change

A major climate report written by 91 scientists from 40 countries through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that by 2040, many climate change effects that were once anticipated to take place far in the future will arrive.

Despite this, on June 1, 2017, Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. Brazil, the seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, seems likely to elect Jair Bolsonaro, who also intends to withdraw.

On Feb. 9, it was announced that CA Congresswoman Julia Brownley would serve as a member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Brownley released a statement on her part in the Committee.

“This Committee’s work could mean the difference between a safe and healthy future for our children and grandchildren and one where our planet, our economy, and our security are under unrelenting and catastrophic threat,” Brownley said. “I am honored to be appointed to this important Committee and will be laser-focused on addressing climate change before it is too late.”

Brownley announced on April 9 that she had introduced legislation that would help address climate change issues across the country through cleaner public transit systems. The legislation, named the Green Bus Act, includes a number of initiatives to lessen climate change effects and mentions a mandate for all buses purchased with federal funds to be zero-emission by October 2029.

“I look forward to bringing to the federal level the forward-thinking policies that California has long been a leader on, from limiting harmful industrial emissions, to supporting development of clean, alternative transportation infrastructure, to promoting wind, solar, hydropower and other renewable resources, to spurring action to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency,” Brownley said upon introducing the legislation.

Besides governments and elected officials, there are many movements and organizations that work to protect the environment and spur on change.

The World Wildlife Foundation has also worked to raise awareness about and fight against climate change, pushing for a “safer, healthier and more resilient future” through the collective action of Earth’s inhabitants.

“Achieving this future will require action by everyone, and we are already well on our way. People are using their collective voices to demand change,” the WWF website reads.

What can you do in your daily life? Hear from experts

According to BBC, there is a variety of ways that people can help combat climate change in their everyday lives. It states that the most important thing to do is “[limit] the use of  fossil fuels such as oil, carbon and natural gas and [replace] them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy, all while increasing energy efficiency.”

AP Environmental Science teacher Anastasia Kokousis explained that her classes have just finished up a unit on climate change, which included its effects, causes and solutions.

“[The classes looked at] what we can do to mitigate the effects and to adapt to the effects of climate change,” Kokousis said.

Kokousis explained that members of the Oak Park community can start to fight climate change by implementing more sustainable habits and changes into their lives, such as having landscaping in yards that use less water and taking shorter showers.

Superintendent Tony Knight explained that an important part of pushing back against climate change is a more plant-based diet, rather than one based on meats.

“The food that we eat every day has a huge impact on our carbon emissions and global climate change. So eating a more plant-based diet, for example, will have a more positive effect on mitigating climate change,” Knight said.

Knight’s opinion is corroborated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who writes that “agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide.”

Finding different ways to travel can also make an impact, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. Such alternatives can include taking public transit (such as the Kanan Shuttle), riding a bike, carpooling, switching to an electric or hybrid vehicle and traveling via airplane less frequently. Additionally, moving closer to work or school can reduce emissions from cars each day.

It also suggests using energy wisely, in ways such as changing to energy-efficient light bulbs, washing clothes in cold or warm water, hanging clothes to dry when possible, unplugging electronics when they aren’t in use and installing a programmable thermostat. The website advises users to “consume less, waste less, enjoy life more.”

“Focusing on life’s simple pleasures — spending time in nature, being with loved ones and/or making a difference to others — provides more purpose, belonging and happiness than buying and consuming,” the website reads. “Sharing, making, fixing, upcycling, repurposing and composting are all good places to start.”

Kokousis explained that if people do not start turning to renewable energy and more sustainable lifestyles, there will eventually come “a point of no turning back.” She believes that if the Earth gets to that point, there will no longer be a way to fight climate change, only a way to adapt to it.

“People should know that Earth is in a bad place right now. A lot of people don’t really know that we are going in this direction that is not going to be able to be stopped if we don’t stop it now,” Kokousis said. “I think that people need to act now so that we can save our future.”

#FridaysForFuture has spread to countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S., and has inspired students around the world to bring matters into their own hands and protest. On Mar. 15, an estimated 20,000 students in Berlin took to the streets in the form of a worldwide climate strike. The strike, inspired by Thunberg, occurred in over 120 countries and had roughly 1.6 million participants. In the U.S., students in more than 100 cities also participated in the strike.

Every Friday, Thunberg still leads students in protesting at their nearest city hall and holding a sign, tagging their posts with #ClimateStrike and #FridaysForFuture.