BUSINESS

Opinion: It’s time to stop ignoring the impact of climate change

The amount of garbage we discard every day is frightening.
Photo by Will Corley.

Will Corley
Oxford Stories
wscorley@go.olemiss.edu

There’s a cautionary tale about a frog and pot of water. Normally, a frog would avoid water that is too hot. Place it in a pot of boiling water, and it will jump out immediately, but put it in pot of room temperature water and heat it up gradually, and the frog will sit contently until it is boiled alive, completely oblivious to its own impending doom.

We are the frog, and climate change is the pot of boiling water – an impending doom we have so obliviously been ignoring for decades.

Minor changes in the weather, icebergs melting at seemingly slow rates, species dying off one by one, but we have sat by and done only enough to appease the masses. Unfortunately, that will no longer suffice.

Late last year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave the world harrowing news. At our current rate of production and energy use, the dire and extreme effects of climate change could be seen as early as 2040.

The report described strengthening wildfires, mass die-off of coral reefs, and extreme food shortage around the world, events already occurring at alarming rates.

What we have seen in recent years is nothing compared to what will happen should the planet warm to the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels estimated by the panel. These effects are just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Climate change affects more than weather. It makes its mark on people’s livelihood, personal health and even the economy. Increasing risk of heat stress, diseases, and poor air quality are a few health concerns reported by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

The GCRP reports that pathogens transmitted through food, water, and air will increase by at least 66 percent due to their susceptibility to climatic changes. Extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires are expected to occur much more often, which increases injury, illness, and even death, not to mention devastation to the areas they leave behind.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in 2016 and killed nearly 5,000 people alone, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Last year, wildfires in California have destroyed over 1.2 million acres and approximately 1,200 homes. Imagine things like this happening even more frequently, destroying land, homes, and killing citizens.

Beautiful, tall trees tower over our planet.
Photo by Will Corley.

As Mississippians, we have seen our fair share of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and the like. Our agriculture industry drives most of our state’s economy as it does in other states.

Midwest farmers have noticed sporadic heavy rain events, increasing dry spots on cropland, and shorter planting periods. In a study done by the American Meteorological Society last year, one farmer testified, “It seems like it’s even harder to get our corn planted these last few years. It seemed like we had plenty of time years ago.”

Maybe a few years ago, we did have plenty of time, but time is running out. The urgency of our situation calls for immediate and drastic changes to energy policy, and the most effective place to start is with carbon capture.

Our natural world is too beautiful and complex to not save.
Photo by Will Corley.

So what do we do, then, about this problem? Do we try to reduce our personal carbon footprint by buying reusable straws or recycling our soda cans? Sure, that’s always helpful, but how much can that actually affect the huge amount of greenhouse gases still being released into the atmosphere?

There should be a large-scale solution to this problem. Something big is needed to control these insane amounts of emissions. We can implement tax credits and sanctions, but time has shown how effective those can be. I think carbon capture and storage programs are a great place to start.


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