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Climate Change & Natural Disasters: Why You Should Care

How a rapidly warming planet could threaten humanity as soon as 2030

A+projected+12+foot+rise+in+sea+levels+could+be+potentially+catastrophic+for+humanity.
A projected 12 foot rise in sea levels could be potentially catastrophic for humanity.

A projected 12 foot rise in sea levels could be potentially catastrophic for humanity.

Photo by Lily Yates

Photo by Lily Yates

A projected 12 foot rise in sea levels could be potentially catastrophic for humanity.

Lily Yates, Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

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Conspiracy theorists predicted the world’s end by asteroid on September 23- and humanity is still here, for the most part. But in light of recent patterns in ecological events, at this rate we may not be for much longer.

As of September 27, there are currently at least 86 active wildfires in the U.S.– and possibly many more. And with devastating hurricanes Harvey, Jose, Irma, and Maria ravaging the southern U.S. and its island territories in the past weeks, the question lingers: what could be causing such shocking phenomena?

The Washington Post recently cited an expert from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Stefan Rahmstorf, as saying, “Harvey was not caused by climate change, yet its impacts — the storm surge and especially the extreme rainfall — very likely worsened due to human-caused global warming.”

“Rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected.””

It all comes back down to global warming- because the atmosphere holds more water vapor when it is warmer, and forests are drier and more prone to wildfire. It has become a topic that, while rooted firmly in facts, is for some a matter of belief. But in a recent poll, the percentage of Americans who say that climate change has affected the intensity of hurricanes in particular has risen from 39% in 2005 to 55% in 2017.

However grim the overall situation, it is an encouraging statistic for environmental scientists who want to see change resulting from their studies, which have found that not only are severe hurricane seasons lengthening, and they worry that warming temperatures will allow severe hurricanes to maintain their intensity farther from the equator. This could mean that regions with no historical hurricanes may see them in the coming years. That is not to mention the revelation that a sea level that has risen only 8 inches since the year 1880 is now projected to rise anywhere from one to four feet in the next 80 years.

This means that Cambridge, Massachusetts; Oakland, California; Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida; four of the five boroughs of New York City, and many more cities, monuments, homes, and communities across the world will be well underwater by roughly the time that the children of current teenagers reach retirement age.

And if global temperatures continue their meteoric rise, meeting or exceeding the unheard of (but now projected, assuming no change in emissions) 3.6 degree Fahrenheit mark by 2100, the consequences will be catastrophic for the human race.

To put things in perspective for those of us still in high school, climate change between 2030 and 2050 is expected to cause 250,000 additional global deaths, according to WHO. So unless something changes positively, and changes drastically, as humans we cannot expect to continue to live in the same way for much longer- and the only reasonable hope left lies in legislation. So if you will become eligible to vote this year (or sometime soon), consider the effects that your voice could have on the world- and on your children.

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Lily Yates - Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

Lily became a member of The Flightline in August of 2015. She is a senior this year and enjoys an array of activities including choir, theatre and slam poetry. She is also on staff as a library aide at the Omaha Public Library. You can email her at [email protected]

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