A look into climate change

BY: KELCI BOYNTON 

Environment

What does “climate change” mean exactly? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines climate change as, “any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time.”

Climate change is basically the long-term effects we are seeing today in regards to temperature and precipitation. And climate change doesn’t only affect us. It also affects numerous plant and animal species and ecosystems around the world.

Climate change is not just “global warming,” like some people think it is, but rather, the extreme weather conditions we are seeing today. This is when there are intensely hot summers, which leads to more droughts and heat waves—and severely cold winters, which is when there is more intense rainfall that leads to flooding.

Overall, the average global climate has been rising for many decades. The climate has been rising largely due to human activities, such as increased automobile use, deforestation, and large-scale industrial and agricultural practices that release fossil fuels and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

According to the EPA, “greenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm.” This process is what is referred to as the “greenhouse effect,” and while some greenhouse gases are necessary to sustain life on Earth, too much has a negative impact because the planet is becoming too warm.

If you can’t imagine why a change in temperature is affecting the environment so much, think of it this way: if it is really cold outside we can just throw on an extra sweater or a warm pair of socks, right? Or if it is extra hot one day, even by just a few degrees, we take off as many layers as is socially acceptable. Well, the environment doesn’t have that option. There aren’t layers of clothing that can be taken on or off for a species to adapt.

Communications major Marivic Manalang said, “I find it odd that climate change is something to ‘believe’ because the effects of [it] are so blatantly around us.”

Nonetheless, some species have found other ways to adapt temporarily. Birds aren’t flying as far in the winter; they are finding warm areas that aren’t as far south as they used to go. This is disrupting many ecosystems because these birds—which were not there 20 years ago—are now competing for food and habitat with other animals that are native to these areas. And this is how some species begin to go extinct.

Even though climate change is a very important issue today, it is not the first time it has been seen.

“I believe climate change is a natural phenomena, but what we are seeing is a rapid change that is human induced,” said CSULB environmental science and policy professor, Monica Argandona.

This is exactly correct. Climate change is something that has been happening for millions of years; however, the effects of climate change have never happened this quickly before.

Carla Weaver, a geology professor, added to the idea and said that, “the velocity of climate change today is quicker than past periods between ice ages.”

The rate of species going extinct on a yearly basis due to climate change has also never been seen before. There are dozens of species going extinct literally every day.

Jacquelyn Velez, a biology and physiology major, pointed out how marine organisms might be feeling the effects of climate change more than others.

“The change in temperature of the water is also increasing the acidity of the water causing animals that have exoskeletons to have problems because the calcium in their shells is being eroded by the high acidity level,” she said.

Additionally, the change in pH levels (also due to the ice caps melting) is destroying coral reefs, which are an extremely important ecosystem for marine life.

You might be reading all of this and wonder, “Why should I care?” Well, it’s simple really. The oceans that are being affected by the rising climate provide a majority of the oxygen we breathe.

If they aren’t protected then our future generations will be severely affected by not having clean air to breathe. All plants and animals are a part of a massive food web, so if one is affected, we will eventually all be affected.

Now, what can we do to help fix the problem? Simple things you do every day can help reduce our carbon footprint. Try making sure all of your lights are turned off when they don’t need to be on and carpool to school every once in a while. These may seem like small suggestions that won’t make much difference, but if each of the 35,000 students at CSULB took these small steps, we could make a huge difference.

It just starts with one person!