Tuesday, the Washington Center hosted Bob Deans, the director of strategic engagement at the Natural Resource Defense Council to discuss climate change. At the seminar, Deans raised awareness about the increased danger of climate change. More specifically, the Great Barrier Reef is rapidly dying off due to pollution, rising temperatures in the oceans, land loss due to rising sea levels, and increased emission of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. In order to combat these issues, Deans contended that the President of the United States and other powerful individuals in government must acknowledge the increased risk of climate change. Undoubtedly, if this continues, citizens around the world will not have left a safe environment for their children’s children to live in.
Climate change affects many areas of society such as the water supply, energy, agriculture, and ecosystems. This includes the health of humans when events like wildfires, decreased air quality, and diseases are spread through insects, water and food. In California, for instance, there have been long periods where the state has gone without rainfall, which leads to droughts that cause massive wildfires. Deans stated that currently this year, California’s wildfires have burned approximately 8.6 million acres of land. In California history, the deadliest wildfire happened just recently in November of 2018 and was caused by a negligent campfire. This wildfire alone destroyed 153,336 acres of land. There needs to be increased awareness of wildfire seasons and ways to educate individuals and avoid the devastation of wildfires.
For states on the coastlines, there have been increasingly dangerous storms and rising sea levels. Deans mentioned that during Hurricane Michael in 2018, seawater temperatures raised to 86 degrees, which is significantly higher than normal. Deans stated that rising temperature levels at sea create more powerful storms because the increased temperature of the seawater produces more energy. Therefore, when these storms hit the coastlines, they cause more damage and wreckage and are able to move farther inland. This caused more flooding to occur which affected the communities there. Louisiana, which is on the coastline, constantly loses land to rising sea levels. During the lecture on Tuesday, Deans pointed out that Charleston, South Carolina floods fifty out of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year without a storm. Not to mention the rise in the sea’s temperature and pollution have killed ecosystems in the ocean, including the world-famous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. The rise in temperatures caused stress to the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. This coral then released algae tenants, which lives in the tissue of the plant. The coral then slowly started to starve because the algae provided 90% of the energy to the coral. This process is known as coral bleaching in which all the colors of the coral leaves the plant and it turns white.
Gases like carbon dioxide are responsible for preventing the heat produced in the atmosphere from escaping into space. By burning fossil fuels, like coal, we have increased our release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 45% in recent years. Ecosystems around the world are not used to this sudden increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which causes temperatures to rise. Some causes for the rise of carbon dioxide are when forests are cut down and the burning of coal, oil, and gas. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and without them, the carbon dioxide goes back to the atmosphere. Burning coal also increases the risk of air pollution because when the coal burns, the chemical bonds are broken which releases energy. In this process, other pollutants are released into the air that can cause smog and acid rain. Deans suggested that there is a much simpler way of getting clean power through the wind and sun. It is much cheaper and efficient to buy a wind turbine than a coal refinery. In 2005, by using wind turbines the United States was able to cut down 14% of its carbon footprint. Therefore, if the United States increased the use of wind turbines and reduced the burning of coal, it would lower the amount of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere causing temperature increases.
To come up with a remedy to this problem, the leader of our country must get on board, said Deans. President Donald Trump had said multiple times that climate change is a hoax and he does not believe it. In 2017, Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which was a landmark agreement designed to combat climate change and lower the emission of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Deans believes that in order for the United States to combat climate change the leader of this nation must first recognize that there is a problem. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has recognized this existential threat by creating a committee for a climate crisis to focus resources on this issue and create bills to combat the crisis. These steps are undoubtedly the ones we need by the leaders in the United States government to combat climate change.