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Climate Change or Climate Chaos?

Photo+courtesy+of+The+New+York+TImes
Photo courtesy of The New York TImes

Photo courtesy of The New York TImes

Photo courtesy of The New York TImes

Hailey MacDonald, Editor in Chief

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Imagine waking up one morning to your house flooded, a county-wide power outage and no access to clean water, food or any sort of electricity. You get out of bed and enter your kitchen to see your mom frantically going through the cabinets, looking for any possible scraps of food you can eat. The grocery stores have been closed for days, and your family has been scarcely consuming the remains of scraps of food throughout what seems like eternity in fear of running out. “Thank goodness you’re up. We need to leave.”

You’ve heard about some friends and neighbors who have evacuated the area due to the storm, but you never thought it would happen to your family. You knew that all your possessions would be swept away and ruined once the storm officially hit your area, and you had to pick up your most beloved things and go. How would you go on without all of your dearest possessions, your friends and the only home you’ve ever known?

This was a decision that thousands of people have had to make during the last two weeks of August and first few weeks of September as some of the most severe tropical storms of all time bombarded Caribbean islands as well as Texas, Florida and other Southern states within our nation. The frequency of the storms has been very rapid, and the severity of some of the storms have surpassed those of a category four hurricane. Winds exceeding 150 miles per hour and inches upon feet of flash flooding have destroyed homes and businesses across the board, and many lives have been lost while attempting to survive Mother Nature’s wrath.

What is happening to the Earth, and why have these storms been so deadly? Sure, hurricanes are normal and they are the most severe storms on Earth, but the pace that these storms are traveling as well as their consecutive manner is unheard of. There’s a few different arguments that could defend this claim, however there is one controversial option that seems to fit the best: climate change.

A hurricane begins when warm water evaporates up from the surface, creating an area of low pressure near the surface of the ocean. As warm air as well as the energy from higher pressure areas enter the place of lower pressure, it rises at an even faster rate. As more moisture is taken in, the air begins to pick up even more energy, causing the air to spin around it. Clouds are formed by the excess moisture, and the spinning energy as well as the clouds begin to get more intense as time goes on due to the continuous evaporation and heat from the ocean. The faster the storm spins, the faster an eye, or center of the hurricane, is created.

So, if hurricanes are just naturally created by the Earth, how is climate change affecting them? More specifically, how are humans contributing to the increase of the hurricanes and their severity? Well, there is a simple answer: the increase in global temperature. For a hurricane to form, the ocean must be at least 79 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2017, the average temperature of the ocean on the coast of Key West was 87 degrees, which is already 8 degrees higher than the minimum. Aside from Key West, the average temperature of oceans around the equator over the last few years have well exceeded 79 degrees as well. This is because the temperature of the Earth’s surface is increasing by double the amount it was about 50 years ago, and scientists have pinpointed the reasoning for this. It is thought to all be linked back to greenhouse gas emission, which is released into the atmosphere by humans every minute of every day. But how?

To start, trucks, cars and other petroleum releasing engines account for about 30% of toxic emission into our atmosphere, as they release some of the most toxic greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. However, burning different fossil fuels such as coal and oil are the biggest factor of atmosphere toxicity. But those substances don’t just burn themselves: humans take responsibility for that.

In addition, another factor that contributes to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the mass deforestation that takes place around the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 48 football fields of forest are cut down each minute, and 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission is a result of cutting down trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis; therefore, less trees on the surface allow for more carbon dioxide to be present on Earth, and eventually it all travels up to the atmosphere. If our population stopped cutting down forests to build houses, fast food restaurants and shopping malls, perhaps our future generations would not be as affected by climate change and global temperature increase.

Furthermore, because so much of these gases are present in the atmosphere, they trap heat energy from the surface and restrict them from releasing into space. This is how too much greenhouse gas emission creates a greater overall temperature of the Earth.

It would be untrue and uneducated to say that humans are the only reason that our planet is changing at such a rapid rate. It is a scientific fact that the Earth goes through changes naturally, and its cycle through time alters its composition, temperature and physical state. However, it would be naive to say that humans are doing nothing to increase the severity of Earth’s natural disasters, temperature rise and natural resource availability. We only have one planet forever, so why wouldn’t we take care of it while we still can? It is never too late to change bad habits, educate yourself on what is going on and start treating our one provider of life with respect.

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Climate Change or Climate Chaos?