Part of the reason I was initially interested in attending Elon University was to get away from Chicago winters. When I visited almost exactly four years ago, it was sunny and warm compared to the cold, oppressive gray of early March back home in Illinois.
My appreciation for warm weather makes me smile when I see highs in the 60s and 70s as I check my weather app each morning. I like the warm weather, but it’s difficult to keep a smile on my face when I remember that part of the reason it’s been so warm is climate change.
It’s easy to be happy about warmer temperatures when the only change you notice is being able to forgo a coat in the middle of winter. But, climate change is also causing changes in where species live, global precipitation patterns, ocean acidification and a rising sea level.
We may not notice sea levels rising, but the Bramble Cay melomys has. It’s an Australian rodent who has disappeared from its only known habitat on a small Queensland island, possibly becoming the first mammal extinction that scientists attribute to climate change.
Maybe you don’t care for rodents, but these changes affect people, too. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), North Carolina is expected to experience a sea level rise up to four feet in the next century, submerging important coastal wetlands and threatening coastal towns.
These changes can be made worse by policy inaction — or in the case of North Carolina, banning evidence in policy-making. In 2012, North Carolina banned the consideration of sea level rise in coastal policy decision-making until 2016 through House Bill 819. But hey, at least the drive on those weekend trips to the beach will be slightly shorter, right?
Maybe you don’t care as much because you don’t spend time on the coast. Unluckily for you, you’ll still be affected. The EPA predicts North Carolina will have two to four times more days with temperatures above 95 degrees in 70 years. This means that more people will be at risk for heat related conditions like dehydration and heat stroke. Yeah, we’ll be pretty old by then, but the elderly are especially at risk for these conditions, along with young people, sick people and poor people.
These are just a few examples of the widespread effects of climate change. Of course, these examples assume you are willing to look at the evidence supporting climate change and make the logical decision to accept it.
Yes, there is some uncertainty in exactly what will happen over the next century. However, the uncertainty among scientists isn’t about whether or not climate change is real and happening. It’s in the details of their models and projections, like how the population growth rate and our fossil fuel emissions will change over the next few years, and how this will affect cloud formation and carbon uptake by plants.
Climate models are incredibly complex, and there is disagreement over which models are most accurate. But these scientists are still saying it doesn’t look good — and they’d love for it to look good. Studying the destruction of Earth’s ecological systems has lead scientists to experience what forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren refers to as “pre-traumatic stress disorder.”
I’m not telling you this because I don’t want you to enjoy the nice weather. I’m just asking you make small decisions that are better for the environment. I’m not asking you to go vegan, but you can probably participate in meatless Mondays (or any other day of the week that works for you) to reduce your carbon footprint. If you’re getting rid of waste, try to recycle and compost what you can.
If you’re confused because you’ve never composted before, you can always reach out to the Office of Sustainability. Bring reusable grocery bags when you go shopping. It only takes a short phone call to let your representatives know that what happens to the environment is important to you and that they shouldn’t support House Bill 861 to terminate the EPA.
Do your part to keep this planet for us and generations to come. And if you still want weather even warmer than North Carolina, the Global Education Center can help you out.