We have always had the Earth. We have always had land to build our homes and plant our crops and set our roots.  We have always had water, oxygen, sunlight, and rain. We have always had a climate – not too hot, not too cold – at a perfect 93 million miles from the sun that sustains our precarious existence.  On Earth, people survive long-term within a 55 degree Fahrenheit range, a minuscule fraction of the trillions of degrees the universe naturally spans.

We, on this Earth, have always had what we needed.  We have evolved for survival on this perfect planet we have always known. However, to think that simply because we have always had this Earth we always will is shortsighted. To think that, man, a species that has proven to mold mountains and control nature, cannot affect the climate is shortsighted.

According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), there is a 95 percent certainty that human activities have warmed the planet in the last 50 years.  This global warming, a distinct rising trend in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, is included in climate change, which encompasses the changes and effects of long-term weather patterns, also including rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Climate change and global warming, while often used interchangeably, are distinct phenomena.  Warmer conditions lead to more evaporation and precipitation, leaving some regions dryer and some wetter, but all exposed to the effects of the elements harsher than ever.

Since 1880, the average global temperature has risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.  In 2016, the warmest year on record, every U.S. state was warmer than average.  The sea level has risen eight inches in the last century and continues to rise with a rate of increase double that of the last century.

Extreme weather events have wrought a 2015 heat wave in India, killing 2,300 with temperatures averaging 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some cities and leaves Cape Town, South Africa as the first city to run out of water from a severe drought.  Hurricane Harvey in Texas caused $125 billion in damage and affected millions of Americans. Increasing precipitation and temperatures means more severe, but fewer, snowfalls.

The primary cause of both climate change and global warming is human activity amplifying the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural function of the Earth’s atmosphere in which select gases in the atmosphere trap light and heat to warm the Earth’s surface.

In natural compositions, the carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases keep the Earth at a livable temperature.  However, as human activities increase the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the atmosphere traps more light and heat, therefore, warming the Earth.

Human activities have increased the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by more than one third since the Industrial Revolution.

Activities ranging from burning coal and gasoline, creating landfills, and deforestation all release key greenhouse gases.

Over the next century, the IPPC has predicted a 2.5 to 10 degree Fahrenheit rise in average global temperatures. The sea level is expected to rise one to four feet by 2100, putting many coastal cities below sea level at risk.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, New York City, Miami, Boston, and even Norfolk are at risk of coastal flooding by the year 2050, putting millions of Americans at risk.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, humans have only existed for 200,000 years, modern civilization for 6,000; yet, we have drastically changed the climate and composition of the Earth’s surface in the past 200 years.  While we may not feel the effect of a single degree or live for the centuries over which climate change takes its effect that does not mean we should not care about the fate of our Earth.

Climate change and global warming are not wild conspiracies to be taken by faith or denied for the same reason. They are supported by science and fact, irreparably true, not opinion, not partisan, not political. The existence of climate change should not be up for debate.  How, we as humans, should combat and stop this process is up for debate.

A national and even global effort to combat climate change requires a culture open to an honest conversation on who we are as a civilization and the impact we want to leave for the generations to come.

The executive administration today is sending a message to the American people that encourages denying the uncomfortable truth and focusing only on America, today, rather than the fate of the entire world, for generations to come.

President Trump encourages denying science as liberal fake news and skewing and cherry-picking fact to further a partisan ideal, giving an ‘okay’ to the American people to disregard science and fact for whim and opinion.

America is sending a message to the world, and to the future, that we do not care about any other life on the planet, in any other country, or the future the Earth could have.

We, becoming one of only two countries to not be part of the Paris Accords, care more about theoretical American jobs and American energy than the reality of global warming and its effects.

The presidential nominees to head the National Aeronautics Space Agency, Jim Bridenstine, and the United States Department of Agriculture Chief Scientist, Sam Clover, are both career politicians and climate change skeptics. This administration blatantly ignores science and fact, and so, with no one in government to protect the environment, we, the American people, must be the ones to care about the future of our planet.

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©2018 Eagles' Eyrie - the school newspaper for Mills E. Godwin High School in Henrico, VA

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