A lot of the United States is going through a brutal cold spell right now, and it seems like most of us are pretty much done with winter right now. I, for one, can't wait until the spring, when my toes and fingers finally thaw out.
Unfortunately, many people assume that cold weather and global warming cannot be synonymous. Take our president's tweet, for instance:
To challenge these accusations, we first must recognize the difference between climate and weather. Climate is defined as the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general, or over a long period of time. So a cold front doesn't necessarily mean that our climate is getting cooler. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Earth's average surface temperature has risen around two degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century.
NASA's got a nifty slider graph so that you can see this change visually.
"Wow," you might be thinking to yourself. "Two degrees. Big difference. That's like comparing 68 and 70 degrees."
But a more accurate parallel would be the comparison of our global temperature during the ice age and today: a mere 9 degrees separates the two. According to NASA, an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit would nearly double the water deficit, and lead to a plummet of corn and wheat harvests.
We can already see the effects of global warming.
The coral reefs are dying. The oceans are rising and becoming more acidic. The glaciers are sinking. And our weather is becoming more unstable, with rising frequency of extreme weather.
Now, how do we know that climate change is because of us, and not just a natural occurrence? Global warming and cooling have occurred in the past, as evidenced by the Ice Age.
For starters, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased exponentially since the industrial age. As we burn more fossil fuels, we release more carbon dioxide; it's simple chemistry. Additionally, global warming is a much abrupter change in climate than the Ice Age or the Eocene Age. In the latter examples, the Earth had millions of years to adjust. In this case, it's been a little over a century.
So far, I've offered bleak facts and statistics. But our global warming situation is not entirely negative. You may have heard that our coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate, thanks to pollution and rising water temperatures. But through micro fragmentation (a technique in which scientists break coral into tiny pieces so they can regrow faster), establishing ecologically protected areas, and coral breeding, scientists are hopeful that they can coax our coral reefs back to life.
Additionally, although the US dropped out of the Paris Climate Agreement, 194 other countries are committed towards reducing our emissions and limiting global warming.
We cannot fight against something we are ignorant about, thus spreading knowledge about global warming and climate change is vital. We started this, and it's up to us to fix it.