Climate Change – What Teenagers Need to Know

Climate change is controversial for a reason and sifting through all of it information to find the facts can be a difficult task. The decisions that global leaders make today about how to approach its adverse effects will affect generations to come. That is why it is important to understand the topic and make informed decisions.

The Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have fluctuated three times in the last 400,000 years, but the levels have stayed below a threshold. Research conducted by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) concluded that carbon dioxide levels are at an all time high. The normal threshold for atmospheric carbon dioxide is 300 parts per million. Prior to 1950, this was the highest Earth had ever reached. In the current day, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level is estimated to be approximately 400 parts per million; an astounding 100 parts per million higher than the mean of 300. These numbers are small, but they are significant.

The increase in CO₂ levels have directly caused a rise in atmospheric temperature at an average of two degrees fahrenheit to date.Within things like your home or car, a two degrees difference isn’t significant, but for the environment it’s a big deal. The rise in average temperature has already adversely affected many ecosystems, according to an article published by the BBC. A variety of Peruvian mountain birds have disappeared and scientists hypothesize that they have died off. Another repercussion of the increase in temperature are more violent storms. Hurricanes like Maria and Florence have devastated the Caribbean and southern coast of the United States, and hurricanes are only becoming stronger. The National Laboratory for Geophysical Fluid Dynamics concluded with the help of data collected by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) that the increasing severity and frequency of Atlantic hurricanes is largely because of the increased ocean level and temperature brought on by the increase in atmospheric CO₂. The average atmospheric temperature rise is overall negatively impacting our environment and the ecosystems around the world.

Scientists understand that the Earth has a natural cycle in temperature rise and decrease, but the extremely high amount of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases has caused an imbalance in this cycle. The industrialization and use of fossil fuels is a direct cause of this increase, normally the change in temperature is gradual and ecosystems are able to adapt slowly, but the rapid spike in temperature isn’t allowing ecosystems time to adapt. One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is renewable energy such as solar, wind and tidal. These methods use forces of the Earth to produce power instead of fossil fuels, which produce the greenhouse gases when burned. Progressive countries, such as Sweden and Costa Rica are rapidly approaching 100% sustainable energy, and are challenging other countries to do the same, stated by the Climate Council. Although we are not able to stop the rise in atmospheric temperature we can slow the rapid climb in temperature to allow animals and the Earth inself to adapt over time.

Information about climate change is plentiful, and credible statistics are as well, but the information is useless if, as a society, we ignore them. Regardless of political affiliation or personal bias everyone needs to acknowledge that climate change exists and that it is impacting our environment.

Students at Woodland however, seem to have quite a good fundamental understanding of climate change. A poll on Woodland students concluded that 100% of students were sure that climate change exists. Furthermore, only 22% of students believed that climate change was not affected by humans, and the majority of students support the concept that climate change is Human-assisted not human-caused.

Regardless of the well informed youth at Woodland without a strong informed public as a whole, the environment will only become more neglected, currently, the IPCC estimates that, “A temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit,” will occur in the next century. If we understand and acknowledge climate change and its effects, invasive species can be saved, the air can become cleaner and millions of lives will be saved by decreased number of intense storms.