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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Rising heat indicates climate collapse

For much of July, the thermometer at Piedmont Triad International Airport ebbed between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Citizens of Greensboro experienced a slightly warmer than average month.

The world as a whole experienced something grimmer.

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July 2016 had the highest global mean temperature of any July ever recorded. GISS records date back to 1880.

“There’s no question we’ve had a warming trend since the 1940s,” said Professor of Geology and Earth Studies Dave Dobson. “The years are noisy but the trend is upward.”

Of the seven months in 2016 with complete datasets, six set new global temperature records. The seventh month, June, matched the global high set in 2015.

“The people who argue against the reality of global warming are basically arguing with thermometers,” said Dobson.

With 2016 on pace to become the warmest year on record, a looming question is what should be done to reverse course. Visiting Lecturer of Biology Randy Gooch pinpointed two industries that must change their ways.

“Climate change, the entry of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is caused by human emissions, so our use of fossil fuels, and also by our agricultural practices,” said Gooch.

Gooch explained that carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel use is not the only factor to consider. With increasing populations around the world, farms have ramped up their efforts to meet the demand for meat.

“We love our red meat, which means we need lots of cows,” said Gooch. “And there are lots of people in the world who need food. Cows produce methane.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane’s global warming potential is 84 times greater than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release into the atmosphere.

Geologically speaking, methane has wrecked havoc on the earth’s climate before. The release of methane gas over 50 million years ago contributed to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a major climate event that divided the two epochs.

“It didn’t kill the planet, but it changed ecosystems and it changed climate zones, the same way we’re seeing happening now with our CO2 based global warming,” said Dobson.

Some fear that today’s climate change could be exacerbated by methane deposits being released by the steadily melting polar ice caps. Still, there is little being done to address climate change on the world stage.

“If you look at any kind of political issue, there gets to be a point where there is a watershed moment and the whole way of looking at it changes,” said Dobson. “We’ve seen that with gay marriage over the last ten years. Even at the beginning of Obama’s presidency, he was very cautious about how he advocated for it, and then it kind of flipped.

“We haven’t had that watershed moment yet for global warming and climate change.”

While environmental issues have become heavily politicized, that was not always the case.

“Back in the mid-century, we had chlorofluorocarbons, which punched a big hole in the ozone layer,” said Gooch. “Back then, scientists accepted that and politicians accepted that fact, and they banned the use of CFCs. And today, that hole has shrunk considerably. It’s still there, but it’s reduced in size.

“We need a do over in the political scene to get more people into office that accept climate change and are willing to do something about it.”

Striving to revamp our energy and food systems could go a long way to solving other issues humanity faces.

“I think if we could get to renewable energy that was clean and easy, then we could become a planet that has a lot less war and a lot less poverty,” said Dobson. “It seems like that would be a huge step forward for us socially.”

In order to entertain that idea though, cutting greenhouse emissions must be a top priority.

“If we don’t do something now, the effects will linger for thousands of years,” said Gooch. “Not just 100 or 200 but thousands.”

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About the Contributor
Ian Penny, World & Nation Editor


Economics and German studies double major, Writing minor

Ian enjoys simple things like Cook Out quesadillas with Reese’s Cup milkshakes. When not writing or studying, he whips a golf cart around campus working for Conferences and Events.

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