“I ask the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, [from] just outside here. It’s very, very cold out,” Senator (R-OK) Jim Inhoff said in a Senate floor speech in late February.
Inhoff, chair to the Environment and Public Works Committee in the House of Representatives, then tossed the snowball at the presiding officer on the floor, all to prove that global warming does not exist.
This argument that more than one congressman has made reflects the opinion of 23 percent of the U.S. population who counter the scientific fact of climate change, according to a November 2013 conducted by Yale University.
The existence, as well as the causes of climate change, is constantly debated among lawmakers, causing the issue itself to be put on the backburner not only in Congress, but in the United States in general, including UA.
Most people have seen the images of polar bears being stranded on icebergs in the Arctic Ocean as a symbol of global warming. This is just one effect of the myriad of detrimental effects climate change has had on the planet. More evidence of climate change, however, is now headed south.
According to The Huffington Post, parts of Antarctica are melting so rapidly it has become “ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,” said Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica.
According to NASA, 49 billion tons of ice are lost each year, and, according to Ricardo Jana, a glaciologist for the Chilean Antarctic Institute, temperatures rose 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in the last half century, much faster than Earth’s average.
These drastic changes are due to human behavior. According to the EPA, “human activities are contributing to climate change, primarily by releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide…and other heat-trapping gases, known as greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere every year.”
A confusion some people face when discussing the issue of climate change is the difference between weather and climate.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and narrator of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, differentiates between weather and climate.
“Weather is what the atmosphere does in the short-term, hour-to-hour, day-to-day,” Tyson said. “Climate is the long-term average of the weather over a number of years. It’s shaped by global forces that alter the energy balance in the atmosphere.”
Therefore, a few extra inches of snow or subzero temperatures are not enough to disprove the existence of climate change, like Inhoff believes.
According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists have concluded that climate change is real and is caused by humans. Three percent of scientists, however, believe otherwise.
Some lawmakers don’t believe these three percent of scientists are reliable. According to The New York Times, “Democratic lawmakers in Washington are demanding information about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change.”
Prominent members of Congress have sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy. They asked for responses by April 3.
For some, the debate is not over the existence of climate change, but is whether or not climate change is caused by humans.
Senior Andrew Lee is someone who believes climate change is real, but is not caused by human activity.
“[Climate change] is a natural part of the planet and nature,” Lee said. “Someday in the future it will correct itself and all will be back to normal.”
Lee counters scientific evidence that claims humans are responsible for climate change, claiming that this drastic climate change could not happen in such a short amount of time.
“Anybody that says that by burning fossil fuels we are destroying the atmosphere or whatever, got kicked by a horse when they were young,” Lee said. “If my interpretations of the history books are correct, our world was covered in…ice at one point in time. Talk about a climate change. So this could easily be just some fluctuation by Mother Nature just as the Ice Age once was.”
Senior and President of Environmental Club Emma Dorfman disagrees.
“Most scientists who are experts in the field agree that climate change is being quickened by humans,” Dorfman said. “They are the majority.”
Dorfman claims that those who deny this fact are the ones who reap the economic benefits of destroying the planet.
“The people sponsoring ideas that climate change is not affecting humans are often times people who would suffer economic losses if laws to reduce carbon emissions and help the environment are put in place,” Dorfman said. “For some people, denying the fact that climate change is made worse by humans is just something to hide behind so that they don’t have to tell people that they simply don’t care whether or not the earth is okay. I think it’s used as a cop-out.”
Politicians who deny scientific fact on climate change have now become the people running U.S. policy on scientific issues.
For example, Inhoff is the chair to the Environment and Public Works Committee in the House of Representative and, in January, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was named chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, where he will oversee NASA and science programs.
NASA has conducted a mass amount of research on climate change. Meanwhile, Cruz has claimed there isn’t enough evidence to prove global warming is occurring, telling CNN he was skeptical of the “so-called scientific theory.”
In addition, in January, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was appointed chair of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.
Rubio has denied that humans play a role in climate change, saying legislation addressing the problem would do nothing but waste money and “destroy our economy.”
Lee thinks that “the liberal version of ‘global warming’ is a myth.” And even if climate change were an issue, nothing could be done about it due to America’s broken political system.
“Plants would have to come alive and shoot up a school full of kids before our government actually takes note of any environmental problem, no matter what political party you belong to,” Lee said.
At Home Initiatives
Though Upper Arlington has not been drastically affected by climate change, there are still actions students take within UAHS and in their personal lives to curb the effects. One of example of UAHS taking initiative is the Environmental Club.
“[Environmental Club does] lots of things,” Dorfman said “We have…gone on field trips to waste management facilities and to an anaerobic digester. Right now we are working on an awareness project collecting water plastic water bottles to show the school how much plastic it uses in one day that is not needed.”
Dorfman also takes initiative in her personal life.
“My family buys organic food as much as possible and I never buy plastic water bottles,” Dorfman said. “I also do not have a car and I carpool or ride my bike most places…. There are little things like recycling or choosing to use a reusable water bottle that can help in a big way if everybody does it.”
Senior Taylor Staub is also a passionate student who also takes action in her personal life. After many hours of research, one of the reasons Staub is a vegetarian is due to environmental reasons.
“Carbon dioxide emissions from the [meat industry are the] leading cause of global warming,” Staub said. “It pollutes the air more than all transportation combined so that means cars, trains, planes [and] boats. All of that combined is less than the air pollution that comes from the livestock industry.”
A plethora of factors led to Staub making the transition into vegetarian, but health of the environment plays a major role in her decision to remain a vegetarian.
“I not only stand against the brutality and cruelty that the animals face, but from an environmentalist standpoint…[animal agriculture] is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction,” Staub said. “The level of destruction…is absolutely not worth incorporating meat into my diet.”
Dorfman hopes the world will address climate change and is hopeful for the future.
“I am passionate about the environment because I know that it is something that is negatively affecting the world right now and I believe that it is something we as humans can actually work together to fix,” Dorfman said “I think a lot of times people have trouble connecting climate change to something that can harm people, but the science is there to prove that it does and it is important to me that I have a planet to live on.”
Staub advocates in being conscious of where one’s food comes from and researching the facts on climate change, including its relation to animal agriculture.
“Be aware of the way your actions not only affect your own health…but the health of the environment in general,” Staub said.
Staub also believes that UA as a whole is not well educated in the causes of climate change or climate change in general.
“If we really made these facts and information and were aware of the way that…humans’ only planet is affected everyday by this…,” Staub said. “…we would not be acting the way that we are towards the environment.”