We can still save the planet

By: Cody Boteler, Editor-in-Chief

The climate is changing. It’s our fault. It’s bad. Things will get worse. We can still fix it.

The scientific consensus is clear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 34 national science academies, the African Academy of Sciences, the Geological Society of America and countless other scientists, groups and experts have concurred—yes, the climate is changing and yes, it’s mostly because of human activity.

The science of climate change is not complicated. When a fossil fuel, like coal, oil or natural gas, is burned, it goes through a reaction that produces carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide, when it reaches the atmosphere, traps heat instead of letting it escape into space. That’s why they’re called greenhouse gases – heat can get into Earth’s atmosphere, from the sun, but not as much is escaping, because carbon dioxide and other gases are trapping it in the atmosphere.

Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have pumped more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating the rate of climate change. We’re already seeing the effects as glaciers and permafrost melt, regions, like Syria, experience extended drought and storms become more powerful.

Here at home, the changing climate was probably most visible last week, when we had a few days of unseasonably-warm weather in the middle of February.

It got all of us at The Towerlight thinking, sure, and inspired this week’s theme of “Take a Hike,” and yeah, it was nice to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Cromwell Valley Park (photo by Cody Boteler)
Cromwell Valley Park (photo by Cody Boteler)

But it’s really, really disquieting. As one of my professors, Brian Fath, pointed out, it’s not just the winters that are going to get warmer. We’ll be dealing with hotter summers, too.

“It does come to bite you in the end,” Fath said in an interview.

Fath said that if we’re going to avoid absolute catastrophe from a changing climate, humans are going to have to make some “drastic changes.”

“The real question is whether we’re going to do it voluntarily or if we’re going to be forced into it,” Fath said. “I am of the belief that if we’re not doing it voluntarily, we may be forced. The consequences [of a changing climate] will be so obvious that it won’t make any sense to keep doing business as usual.”

We’ve got to use less. We’ve got to reuse what we can. We have to recycle as much as possible. In a relatively new book, Fath put it really simply: There are no trash cans in nature. We can’t keep consuming and then discarding like we do.

I love this planet and got into journalism, at least in part, to report on how it’s changing.

As much as we wanted this issue to be, we didn’t want our readers to forget about the scientific fact that our planet’s climate is changing and that humans are going to have to adapt.

The economy won’t matter, civil rights won’t matter, privacy won’t matter, healthcare won’t matter; jobs, unemployment, the stock market all won’t matter, if our planet becomes uninhabitable because of climate change brought on by human action.

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