Students discuss the impact of climate change

Setodzi Avoke
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Climate change is an increasing global concern.Graphic by: Alana Mueller

Climate change is an increasing global concern.

From dire doomsayers who describe a soon uninhabitable earth to climate skeptics whose beliefs describe weather abnormalities of unknown impact and dubious origin, how do students feel about climate change?

Liberal arts major Amanda Persse said climate change was a “definite issue” that impacts humanity today. With rising temperatures and abnormal extremes of weather incidence threatening to alter weather, humanity has grown accustomed to experiencing bizarre weather over the last four millennia.

“I think in some instances, over in China for example, the concern is more immediate given that wearing masks [to lessen smog inhalation] has become [normalized for them],” said Persse.

“In our country the effects of global warming and pollution aren’t as [pronounced] as elsewhere, but over time it’ll grow into a more dramatic situation that needs to be considered now,” she said.

Given the international scope that the topic covers, when it comes to responding to climate change, Persse said that “all governments should have a role.”

“I think that every nation that has the ability to [combat climate change], should have the responsibility to do so,” said Persse.

Climate change and global warming discussion necessarily concerns large amounts of data recorded over centuries and inference into billions of years of geological history.

“Global Warming is the observed increase in globally averaged temperature which we have observed over the course of the last 150 years or so, since the onset of the industrial revolution,” said Meteorology Professor Alicia Wasula.

“It implies that there is a human component to the observed changes,” she said.

According to Wasula, climate change encompasses both natural and human-induced changes in the global climate.

“We know from measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the level of CO2 has increased exponentially over the last century, and we also know based on proxy measurements that the quantities we are observing today are higher than those which existed over the last several thousand years,” said Wasula.

According to Wasula, the globally averaged temperature has increased steadily in the last several decades.

“Knowing that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, meaning that it absorbs solar radiation and thus has a moderating effect on Earth’s climate, it is hard to refute the notion that humans are having some impact on the climate as a result of our burning of fossil fuels,” said Casula.

“That being said, ‘global warming’, or a warmer climate, can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and what the atmospheric circulations, storm tracks and intensities will look like in a warmer climate is still a topic of current study,” she said.

Biological science major Haley Norton said climate change presents a potentially “world ending” concern for humanity to deal with.

“I think [climate change and global warming] should be the primary concern of [humanity]. I think not taking away funding from the EPA would be a great start,” said Norton.

Norton referenced the Trump administration’s plan to cut $48 million from the U.S. the EPA’s program is responsible for producing new car fuel economy labels and certifying that new vehicles, engines and fuels conform with clean air standards, according to Crain’s Detroit Business news site.

“I think there should be one agency whose sole task is dedicated to addressing climate change,” said Norton.

Localizing the issue, Wasula described the situation as far as Albany’s own climate record which began about 143 years ago in 1874.

“One of the things that we have noticed is that the overnight low temperatures, overall, do not get as low as they did back in the beginning of the period of record,” said Wasula. “Now, that doesn’t mean that we never get cold nights, as we well know, but it just means that it doesn’t happen as readily as it did in the past,” she said.

Wasula feels it is also important to remember that a warmer climate does not mean that there is no cold air on the planet, so we can still experience record colds.

Increases in flash flooding events, such as those characteristic of 2011’s Hurricane Irene in the Albany area, are also indicative of how climate changes have affected local weather, but conclusive causation has not been established.

Digital media major Cameron White said that he “hasn’t involved much of his time” to the review of the science surrounding climate change, but has been exposed to enough passively absorbed information to make him consider it a danger worth confronting through government action.

“I think [the government] should have a big role in climate change,” said White. “They’ll be able to do the most about it.”

Wasula believes that the reality of climate change precedes the debate of whether or not it even exists.

The U.S. Navy considers the issue to be a chief concern for the military and countries bordering the arctic are preparing for how they’ll respond to the exposure of freshly navigable territory as ice melts.

“I firmly believe, no matter what your stance on the human impacts of climate change, that it is our responsibility to tread lightly and treat the fragile ecosystems that exist on our planet with respect,” said Casula.

“The climate will always change as a result of natural variability as it has in the past, but being good stewards of the resources we have is always a good practice.”

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