Climate Change: The irreversible effects are getting closer by the day

By Muriel Baki

Rider’s campus received another snowstorm last week, which brought snow totals in parts of Mercer County to 25 inches for the season already — a sharp departure from last year when snow accumulation in Lawrenceville barely reached an inch. While some have been enjoying the snowy scenery and winter activities like sledding, skiing and snowboarding, others are worried about the trend that this represents on a larger scale.

After the extremely cold temperatures and power grid failure in Texas last week, it is clear that the United States does not have the necessary infrastructure weatherization in place in the south to handle the severe cold weather conditions brought on by climate change.

“Seeing extreme weather events getting worse and more frequent makes me nervous to imagine what the future will hold,” said sophomore musical theater major Brianna Nicola.

Nicola’s worry is shared by many, as weather patterns in the United States begin to reflect the severity of the climate situation we are currently facing.

In a report published this January by NOAA and NASA, it was reported that 2010 to 2020 was the hottest decade since weather record-keeping began 140 years ago. This pattern is certainly indicative of the presence of global warming, but it is important to recognize that warming is only part of a larger problem: climate change.

Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change.

Global warming refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate change refers to the increasing polarization of climate over a long period — including dramatic changes in regions’ average precipitation, temperature and wind patterns.

These impacts are a direct result of humanity’s unsustainable use of natural resources, including fossil fuels, specifically in the United States. While many populations have been dealing with the implications of our growing problem for years, soon it will be a part of everyone’s daily life.

The USA has been experiencing increasingly disastrous weather events for the past decade, with hurricanes like Sandy, Maria and Harvey leaving damage still felt to this day in the communities they impacted. Intense heat waves forced people across the country and world into dangerous swelter.

Wildfires devoured hundreds of thousands of acres of deciduous forests in the west. Climate records fell left and right. This year has had the hottest and coldest record-breaking temperatures ever.

Even now, as Texas is beginning to thaw from drastic winter weather record-low temperatures and waiting on the power to be restored, many citizens have discovered that their taps have run dry, pipes have burst and water treatment plants have failed, forcing millions to boil all water before usage. Should more extreme weather conditions occur throughout the United States, as energy usage demands keep rising, the power grids designed in the 1950s could continue to fail, leaving communities across various regions facing similar disasters.

The southeast alone may need 35 percent more electric capacity by 2050 simply to deal with the known hazards of climate change, as found in a recent study by the American Chemical Society.

Though all of these extreme weather events are not the same, they share a common root cause in the exponentially increasing effect of climate change.

Unregulated additions of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the mass burning of fossil fuels, are trapping extra heat near Earth’s surface. This warms Earth as a whole, increasing the contrast between our hottest and coldest seasons. The outcome is both straightforward — a hotter planet — and incredibly complex, as changes cascade through the oceans, atmosphere, soil, rocks, trees and every living thing on the planet.

Rider sophomore musical theater major Jasmine Bassham indicated, “Looking back at all of the natural disasters in the past decade, I feel very nervous about the next one… I hope our leaders realize how high the stakes are now and start to take real steps to fix this.”

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