The Trump administration’s denial of climate change has not stopped government researchers from publishing their findings. The U.S. Global Change Research Program released its National Climate Assessment on Nov. 23. Containing contributions from over a dozen U.S. federal agencies and 300 authors, the report details how climate change is impacting everything from the spread of ticks causing Lyme disease, declining water levels in the Colorado river basin, the increasing prevalence of wildfires in California and economic development.
According to the report, the loss of labor, capital and extreme weather damage would cost the U.S. upwards of $500 billion a year. The scientists projected that climate change will lead to poorer air quality. Higher temperatures increase the formation of ozone, one of the particulates which causes smog.
“Climate change is basically a cycle. Right now we are seeing these wildfires and hurricanes because of humidity in the air,” said sophomore Luz Martinez, a health sciences and biology major. “In a sense we are destroying ourselves.”
The report’s warnings are not new. The scientific community has been warning of catastrophic human and environmental costs for many years. A 2013 peer-reviewed study in the journal Environmental Research Letters surveyed 10,306 scientists and found that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global climate change is real and caused by human activities.
Staff and students at Guilford expressed their concerns about climate change.
“I just think there is so much science and research on it, it is kind of silly to deny it. We can see it in our changing weather patterns,” said Guilford Guide Mollie Blafer. “It is easy to push out of our day to day consciousness, but it is absolutely happening.”
Visible changes to environments provide evidence for climate change. The number of glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National park has dropped from 150 in 1910 when the park opened, to fewer than 30 today. The snows of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro have melted about 80 percent since 1912. Rising sea levels are killing Bermuda’s mangrove forests.
“We see pictures of polar bears floating on melted ice, so we know it’s happening,” said Learning Commons Academic Support Kentilya Eason. “I think people are hesitant to actually speak on it, make a change on it.”
Greenhouse gas emissions have caused the planet’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.62 degrees Celsius since the late nineteenth century, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. According to CQ Researcher, World Ocean Temperatures have risen by a net 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit over the past four decades.
“Hurricanes happen because of pressure differentials and weather patterns over warm water,” said Professor of Geology Holly Peterson. “As the oceans warm up, you will have more hurricanes.”
“It is definitely a very real danger, we can see stuff changing,” said senior Kaeli Frank. “We have had a bunch of hurricanes this year, and every other year I have been here, we have never had hurricanes.”
While 1.62 degrees may not seem like much, the change has already caused major consequences for human health. In 2002, a heatwave in southeastern India brought temperatures to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the deaths of over 1,200 people. In 2003, a heatwave in Europe killed over 25,000 people.
Climate change is likely exacerbating the spread of infectious diseases. Disease spreading insects tend to be more active at higher temperatures. Malaria has spread into highland regions in East Africa where it did not exist previously. Cholera, which was eliminated from most developed countries, has reemerged in tropical areas.
“It’s going to increase in terms of disease overall” said Professor of Biology Melanie Lee Brown. “I think the U.S. is pretty good as far as breaking transmission and getting resources to people as soon as possible, but there are other parts of the world that don’t have as quick a response or don’t have the resources and are going to be highly affected by it.”
According to the recent report, higher temperatures have expanded the range of Lyme Disease-carrying ticks. Allergy seasons are becoming longer and more severe as pollen spewing plants have longer pollination seasons.
“Communities that are already the most marginalized, they are the ones who are going to be impacted,” said Blafer. “They are not going to be able gain the access to healthcare that they need.
As well as negative health outcomes, climate change may also make certain regions more prone to conflict. A report by Berlin Thinktank Adelphi titled “Insurgency, Terrorism, and Organized Crime, in a Warming World” concludes that climate change will fuel acts of terrorism and strengthen recruiting efforts by groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram.
“Terrorist groups are increasingly using natural resources such as water as a weapon of war, controlling access to it, and further compounding, and exacerbating resource scarcities,” wrote researcher Lukas Rüttinger. “The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods.”
The U.S. will certainly pay a heavy toll, but at least in the beginning, the brunt of the costs to stability, human health and economic growth, will likely be born by developing nations.
“I am very concerned, because the evidence is clear that it is decimating communities all over the world, particularly communities that live in poverty,” said Learning Commons Director Melissa Daniels. “I think the evidence is clear, that it exists, and it is only going to continue impacting communities all over the world.”
“My future, my children, my grandchildren, will definitely be impacted.” said Eason.
Although some effects of climate change are inescapable, the report urges action now in order to avert disasters in the future.
“Future impacts and risks from climate change are directly tied to decisions made in the present,” reads the report.
“There are no regulations in place for gas emissions, there is cap and trade, but cap and trade has it’s loopholes,” Martinez said. “Nothing will get better, our public health our environmental health, until we do something about it ourselves.”