Differing opinions on global warming causes students, teachers to take sides. While some believe it to be a myth, others believe it to be undeniable truth.
By Eman Albash and Marisa Patwa
Deadly hurricanes, sea levels rising by more then 20 feet and all of Europe being plunged into an ice age. According to the article, Global Warming 101: Science, by William Yeatman, former Vice President Al Gore said he believes that due to global warming, these events could eventually occur. In the past decade, global warming has become a heated debate among scientists and politicians.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said global warming is the increase of the world’s temperatures due to the release of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, through the burning of fossil fuels. According to the Agency’s website, data from NASA shows that the earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years and claims that the increase in temperature is a direct result of harmful human activities.
Now, with the recent increase of snow, along with the release of scientific data stating that global warming is merely a myth, the debate of global warming has reached the UAHS hallways as well.
REALITY OR MYTH?
Junior Izzy Esler, leader of the UAHS Environmental Club, said she believes humans are the main cause of global warming.
“Life on Earth is so intricately connected, and humans have already damaged the systems,” Esler said. “I think we all need to accept the problem and join together to help reverse it.”
Sophomore Brandon Fiskel said he is concerned about the environment and hopes others will start to make more of an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, which is the measure of gases people release every year.
“We need to make [people] realize how big of a situation this is,” Fiskel said. “And tell them what they can do to help.”
The Environmental Club is making those very efforts by trying to educate students about environmental issues and how the changes in the environment can affect them personally.
According to Esler, the club currently has about fifteen students that meet every week to plan events. One such event is Bike to School Day, where students who walk or rides their bikes to school are eligible for a free cup of Caribou Coffee. The club has also done fundraising for national parks and external clubs to help advance various environmental causes.
Before senior Gaven McDaniel joined Environmental Club, he said he did not view global warming as a real problem.
“I just thought that I would be dead before global warming affected us,” McDaniel said. “But as I learned [about] other issues involving the environment, I really began to understand that actions are very important and needed.”
Now, McDaniel is much more environmentally friendly and recycles paper, cardboard, bottles, glass and plastic every day in his household and does his best to carpool whenever possible. However, he said it was not always easy to be environmentally conscious.
“It was strange [transitioning] at first,” McDaniel said. “But after a while it just became easier and habitual, almost second nature.”
Esler said she hopes more people will take the initiative to be environmentally friendly and more aware of the effects of global warming. She first became aware of the issue of global warming during her freshman year. Like McDaniel, she recycles and rides her bike to school.
“I know there’s a lot more I should and can do, seeing as we live in such a privileged place,” Esler said.
Esler said that not everyone takes advantage of the recycling bins the school has to offer and that most students drive to school even though they have the option of walking or riding a bike.
“It’s hard to really commit yourself to a totally environmentally friendly lifestyle,” Esler said.
Not all students agree that global warming is a matter for concern. Among them is freshman Dottie Worester, who said she does not believe in global warming because there is no scientific data that backs it up. Although she supports the Environmental Club for trying to be more eco friendly, she said she does not believe that global warming is an actual concern for the environment.
“I don’t believe in global warming because there has been too much evidence that contradicts it, such as the big snow storm we just had—how is that global warming?” Worester said.
On the other hand, Environmental Science teacher Jane Hunt said people cannot pinpoint one aspect of the weather or climate patterns to support or refute global warming. She said she believes people need to consider the events that are more long term than simply an increase in snow.
“I think the climate is changing,” Hunt said. “Just because it gets warmer in some places, it’s not going to be warmer everywhere. I don’t think that’s as much a function of a natural cycle as much as it is our amount of [carbon dioxide] that’s out there.”
Hunt said the people who support global warming generally have more knowledge and are therefore more credible than the people who deny global warming.
“People who believe in global climate change or global warming are generally scientists who are doing the work,” she said. “People who are skeptical are pseudo-scientists who are reading all about what the scientists are doing, but they’re not doing any research.”
Worester, however, is confident she is right, especially with some scientists behind her. According to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, over 17,000 scientists have signed a petition stating that there is no scientific evidence that the release of green house gases will cause the catastrophic heating of the earth’s surface.
Recently, living a more eco friendly lifestyle has become a widespread trend. However, some people feel pressured to maintain the same lifestyle.
Senior Kelly McDermott said although she supports people who try to live an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, she has felt pressured to be more eco friendly in certain situations. In one such incident, McDermott threw a banana peel out the car window, thinking it was biodegradable. The driver, however, disagreed and immediately made McDermott get out of the car and pick up the peel so an animal would not attempt to consume it. She wanted to teach McDermott a lesson about being more considerate of the environment.
“I think more people have become educated about what they can do to help the environment,” McDermott said. “At the same time, I think some people just go along with it because it’s a trend.”
Esler, on the other hand, said she disagrees that being environmentally consious is a trend. She said she thinks the majority of people are unaware of their effect on the environment.
“I don’t think the Environmental Club is very significant in the school right now,” Esler said. “But we’re working on becoming more mainstream and doing a lot more around the school.”
Still, the Environmental Club goes beyond the UAHS hallways to try to bring change to the community. Recently, the club has been collaborating with Tipping Point, a solar panel company that helps to subsidize individuals or businesses buying solar panels.
Worester said she supports the Environmental Club for their efforts, but, like McDermott, she said she does not think people should be pressured to be environmentally friendly.
“It’s when [people] start bothering other people about [global warming] that it [bothers] me,” Worester said.
Although she said she thinks the world is undergoing climate change, she does not believe in global warming.
“I think that people who believe in global warming need to do some more research,” Worester said. “And they will probably come to the conclusion that I did: that there is global climate change, but there is no such thing as just global warming.”
Some scientific facts support Worester’s opinions. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a sponser of the Global Warming website, more people in America have died every year from excess cold than from excess heat. Additionally, deaths related to extreme weather conditions have declined more than 98 percent since the 1920s. The institute said they believe climate change is a natural, recurring cycle and humans have nothing to do with the cause of global warming.
However, many other scientists and public officials still view global warming as a scientific fact. According to the website for the Union of Concerned Scientists, global warming is a serious threat.
“Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”
According to the article The Climate Change Travesty by The Washington Post reporter George Will, newly-released e-mails obtained from scientists studying global warming revealed that their data refuted global warming instead of supporting it. In one of the e-mails, climate research director Phil Jones explained that data from the past 20 years has shown a decline in temperatures and that they must do everything in their power to hide the news from the public, which they did. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the scientists disposed of the data to avoid public criticism.
Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth was one of the scientists exchanging emails with Jones.
“The fact is we, cannot account for the lack of global warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” Trenberth said in an e-mail to Jones.
McDermott said events like this cause her to have some doubts about global warming.
“I am skeptical to believe all of the hype,” McDermott said. “I definitely thought twice about it when I found out that these scientists threw out the data because it didn’t fit in with the trends.”
According to the article Climate-Change Debate Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze, by John M. Broder, due to the increase of snow, many skeptics of global warming are twisting the snow to mock global warming, calling it global cooling instead. Many scientists, however, said these severe storms are consistent with global warming causing more intense weather anomalies.
“Of course both climate change contrarians and climate change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change,” Masters said. “However, one can ‘load the dice’ in favor of events that used to be rare or unheard of.”
The New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, in his article Global Weirding Is Here, used satire to express his belief in global warming.
“Surely the silliest argument is that just because Washington is having a particularly snowy winter, it proves that climate change is a hoax,” Friedman said. “And therefore, we need not bother with all this girly-man stuff like renewable energy, solar panels and carbon taxes. Just drill baby, drill.”
Like Friedman, Esler also said she believes that global warming is an undeniable truth and the world will face consequences if people refuse to acknowledge it.
“Climate change is changing the very balance of the Earth’s natural systems, like ocean currents, making more extreme weather, raising ocean levels, and so on,” Esler said. “And as the environment goes, disease, famine, poverty, and environmental refugees increase, too.”
Esler said she believes that people who are unconcerned about the environment should expand their outlook. She said she thinks it is obvious that environmental degradation is having a terrible impact on the world.
“Forests, rainforests, heartland [and] mountains are all being degraded, and this is threatening tons of wildlife,” Esler said. “I think it would be a huge shame if we just blundered on down the path we’re on and let the beautiful, valuable life on this planet disappear.”
Although Hunt said she believes in global warming, she said she thinks both people who agree and disagree with global warming can be biased. However, she said people should place trust in the scientists who have done research on global warming.
“We believe our doctor when our doctor says, ‘You have this disease and we need to treat it,’” Hunt said. “So why don’t we believe this? Because it creates a real dissonance in our lifestyle [and] what we would like to believe our lifestyle is doing, which is nothing.”
Cheap and Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
A carbon footprint is defined as the measure of all the greenhouse gases that a person emits during a year. According to the Encyclopedia of Earth website, the average American generates about 20 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Whether or not they believe in global warming, following these tips can help anyone reduce their environmental impact.
At UAHS, recycling paper and plastic is always an option because nearly every classroom contains recycling bins. Also, old cell phones, computers and other electronics can be recycled.
2. Walk or bike
Not only will this reduce pollution and lower personal gas costs, the exercise of walking or biking is beneficial to cardiovascular health.
3. Save water
Turning off water faucets and taking shorter showers are simple steps that help the environment as well as lowering the cost of the water bill.
4. Save Energy
Turning off the lights, the television and other appliances can help conserve energy. And washing clothing in cold water can save 85 percent of the energy used when doing the laundry.
5. Skip Bottled Water
Instead of using bottled water, people can buy a filter that purifies tap water for the same result. Using a reusable water bottle can be beneficial, also.