Climate Change and Global Warming

What is it and what’s wrong with it?

The “climate” of a geographic location can be defined as the average weather observed in that place. Elements of a climate include temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and seasonality. Climatic patterns affect the makeup of natural ecosystems and the lives and activities of humans. Scientists and governments largely agree that the climate is rapidly changing.

Anthropogenic global warming is the gradual warming of the earth over time caused by human activities, namely, the burning of fossil fuels. Pollution from burning carbon releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into earth’s atmosphere, which traps heat from the sun and warms the earth. Global warming leads to climate change.

According to Dr. James Hansen (formerly of NASA) and 97% of climate scientists worldwide, manmade production of CO2 is the leading cause of global warming and climate change. Global warming threatens our human future on this earth, and the future of all living beings.

One of the most outspoken leaders of the movement to halt global warming is Bill McKibben. According to McKibben's organization 350.org, “[for all of human history] until about 300 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. About 300 years ago, humans began to burn coal and oil to produce energy and goods. By now—the planet has reached 391 parts per million—and this number is rising by about 2 ppm every year.”

Polar bears stuck on ever-shrinking icebergs in the Arctic have become the face of climate change, as the region's critically important, yet rapidly melting, sea ice continues to disappear as the Earth heats up.

Polar bears stuck on ever-shrinking icebergs in the Arctic have become the face of climate change, as the region's critically important, yet rapidly melting, sea ice continues to disappear as the Earth heats up.

 

What’s been done?

McKibben warns that the dangers that face us as a result of global warming are immense; unless we make drastic changes to reduce our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, life on earth as we know it will disappear in the very near future. Natural disasters will increase, land mass will be reduced, islands and countries will vanish.  We will see famine, clean water depletion, excessive heat and intense weather patterns.  As we have seen with Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), and the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima (2011), natural disasters increase with an extreme change in our climate.  According to McKibben, we've passed the tipping point, but we don't want to make things worse by sitting on our hands. Despite our clear climatic catastrophe, the U.S. government refuses to sign important commitments to reduce C02 emissions--such as the KYOTO agreement.

Actions to radically reduce carbon emissions must take place immediately or the consequences will be dire in the near future and for years to come. In recognition of this fact, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in New York City on September 21, 2014, to take part in the People's Climate March. Around the world, hundreds of similar climate-action events took place that same day to bring attention to the issues of climate change.

Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program students and staff march on September 21, 2014, at the People's Climate March in New York City.

Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program students and staff march on September 21, 2014, at the People's Climate March in New York City.

Other key leaders in this movement: Al Gore. Gore's movie An Inconvient Truth, brought great worldwide attention to the crises of global warming. Dr. Heidi Cullen of Climate Central educates on this issue. Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” (2006) writes about global warming for The New Yorker. Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is an outspoken opponent of the Keystone Pipeline and a climate change activist.

Tim DeChristopher, an important global warming activist, recently went to jail for three years for his protest of climate change. Read about his powerful story and the large community of activists who support him here: http://www.peacefuluprising.org/ 

Tim DeChristopher, climate activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising.

Tim DeChristopher, climate activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising.

 

What you can do?

 Consume less!  Conserve your energy! 

-Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation

-Live close to your job or school to reduce or eliminate your commute

-Turn down your heat & ensure your home/windows/doors are well insulated and sealed

-Unplug what you are not using

-Use LED light bulbs

-Don't waste electricity or leave your car running

-Don't eat meat--believe it or not, meat production is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions

-Eat locally

-Reduce, reuse, recycle

-Encourage businesses to burn less carbon!

-Go solar

 

learn more here:

websites

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/ (Union of Concerned Scientists on Global Warming)

http://www.350.org (Bill McKibben) GET INVOLVED!

http://www.peacefuluprising.org/  (Tim DeChristopher)

http://www.ipcc.ch/  (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

http://www.meatlessmonday.com (for handy tips and tricks on going meatless to reduce your carbon footprint)

http://sealevel.climatecentral.org (see how sea level rise as a result of climate change will impact your community)

 

Articles 

California Must Adopt Aggressive Climate-Change Policies, Report Says by Tony Barboza, LA Times (2013)

Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies by Justin Gillis, NY Times (2013)

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change Report by the Environmental Working Group (2011)

Obama Executive Order on Climate Change Preparedness (Part II)—A Long Overdue Step Forward by Rick Plitz, Climate Science Watch (2013)

 

Books

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit (2010)

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben (2011)

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert (2006)

Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (2011)

If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth (Revised and Updated) by Helen Caldicott (2009)

Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis by Vadana Shiva (2008)

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (2006)

The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change by Bill McKibben (2012)

 

Films

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (2007)

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Carbon Nation (2010)

Earth 2100 (2009)

Everything’s Cool (2007)

Planet in Peril (2008)

The 11th Hour (2008)

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004)

 

video clips

350.org: Because the World Needs to Know (2008)

Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts (TedxTalks, 2012)

Do the Math: The Movie – International Trailer (350.org, 2013)

Global Warming 101 (National Geographic, 2007)

Preview of An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore (2006)