The Urgency of Climate Change

Our oceans are being negatively affected by rising temperatures

An “ice calf” breaks off a glacier, part of an accelerating melting of the polar ice caps. Photo Credit: Bernhard Staehl for Geographical Magazine

By Grace Parsons ‘23 

Despite all the evidence to prove that global warming is a major problem, some people still believe it isn’t real. However, within the last year, more people have begun to realize that it is a genuine issue that needs to be corrected before it’s too late. Data tracked by NASA since 1884 shows that the average global temperature has risen by 2.12°F (1.18°C), with most of this warming happening within the last 40 years.

This is a very serious issue since the current warming rate is 10 times faster than the average ice-age recovery rate (NASA). This means that the temperature of the planet is heating up faster than the Earth’s ice can regenerate. If we continue this trend the ice in both the south and north pole will melt completely. Not only will this be the destruction of many animals’ habitats, but it will also cause ocean levels to rise. With this, there will be massive floods and most of the planet’s land will be underwater. Ocean levels have already risen 8 inches within the last century.

Maybe you’re wondering what exactly causes the warming of the planet. This is called the “greenhouse effect.” It is caused when certain gases in our atmosphere trap heat, and the more of these gases there are in our atmosphere, the more heat that is trapped. One gas that is a major cause of this greenhouse effect is carbon dioxide (consisting of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms). Carbon dioxide is created when natural resources such as coal and gas are burned, and the smoke is released into the air. The more of this that builds up, the more our atmosphere will trap in heat from the sun.

Already the Greenland and Arctic sheets have decreased in mass, with the Greenland ice sheet losing 279 billion tons of ice per year and the Arctic ice sheet losing about 148 billion tons per year. In addition to this, the oceans have absorbed 20% – 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions in recent decades. Oceans are what we call “carbon banks” which means they absorb and store excess carbon in our atmosphere. Too much carbon, however, can cause the water to acidify, causing much of the ocean life to die from the change in water (NASA).

If we continue at the rate we are going, scientists believe that in fifty years there will be more plastic in the sea than fish (National History Museum). Climate change is no longer a “what if,” it is a genuine problem that we now face, and we are seeing the effects of it. If we continue this path, the world will no longer be habitable. We should cherish the planet we were given and take care of it. 

There are many activist groups out in the world trying to make a change. Many of them are kids. A popular name you might have heard of is Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. She has been an activist for change since she was thirteen and she is now eighteen. 

Generation X has the task of fixing the mistakes of the past generations, if you are interested in helping there are many teen-led groups working on this issue. One of them is called Sustain US. If interested, sign up to receive emails from them at Teenagers need to lead the way on climate change, because we are inheriting this planet. However, we need the help of all generations to reverse the damage that has been done.

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