Editor’s note: Shelby Haley, author of this article, is a student in a gifted and talented students’ fifth-grade class at Park Elementary taught by Sarah Strouthopoulos.An ice cap breaks away from a bigger glacier. A helpless mother polar bear floats out into the ocean, bobbing on the ice. She jumps, but that pushes the hunk of ice farther out into the sea. She falls into the water with a splash. Not eating in days has made her weak, so she can’t fight to get back to the surface. Then she is gone, leaving her only cub to fend for itself.
This is climate change in action, and this is only the beginning. There will be more than just melting ice caps and endangered species. Communities will go into drought. People might even have to wear gas masks everywhere they go. Climate change needs to stop, or we won’t be able to survive.
Some people don’t think much of climate change, and what we can do. However, a lot of things we do every day are harming the environment, and the way we are headed, animal species will go extinct, air quality could harm human life, and the human economy that we have worked so hard for could crash – but only if we don’t take action.
With ice caps melting, heat waves hitting, and rising sea levels, climate change could destroy the world we know. The animals are dying, and we are the only ones with the power to stop it. Many scientists believe that due to changing climates and its more extreme weather, a lot of plant and animal species are being affected and alongside it, disrupting ecosystem life.
For example, scientists estimate that 20 to 30 percent of studied plants and animals are vulnerable to extinction. According to the World Wildlife Federation, “Polar bears rely on sea ice to access the seals that are their primary source of food as well as to rest and breed. With less sea ice every year, polar bears and many other ice-dependent creatures are at risk.” This shows that polar bears are suffering drastically each year because of climate change. Overall, this shows that animals are dying, and climate change is destroying our way of life.
Alongside that, climate change is destroying many things that keep us alive, and human life could dwindle if it gets too bad.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “The impacts of climate change include warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency or intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. These impacts threaten our health by affecting the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience.” This highlights some of the impacts that climate change can have on our health.
Also, due to changing climates, scientists believe that wildfires will continue to increase in number and severity as the climate changes, they create smoke and other very unhealthy air pollutants. If these wildfires continue the way they are, the pollutants that are released could destroy the air we breathe. Altogether, climate change will be unkind to our health.
Although the economy seems to be strong, changing climates could be the end of having a healthy structure for our economy. According to Columbia University, “Damage to other countries around the globe will also affect U.S. business through disruption in trade and supply chains.” If this happens, the structure of our economy will start to crumble.
Scientists also believe that roughly two billion dollars could be lost in winter recreational sports, if it keeps warming. When it gets too warm in the winter, the snow will melt, so tourism for skiing and other snow sports will be slower than usual. For example, rapid warming in the Adirondack Mountains could extinguish winter activities, which make up 30% of the local economy.
The Carbon Disclosure Project did a study on 7,000 companies, and it showed that the world’s 500 biggest companies could lose an estimated one trillion dollars due to climate change, beginning within five years. If this continues, a lot of the companies we depend on for everyday life, could go out of business because of this global problem.
How can we fix this problem? Scientists are saying that even if we stopped emitting the gases that are harming the environment right now, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries. This is because it takes a while for the planet to respond to fewer greenhouse gases. The gases we are producing are because of our factories making that gray smoke we can see from far away. And because carbon dioxide (the predominant heat-trapping gas) lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.
So, to fix this, we need to start by emitting less of the greenhouse gases. If we can do that, then while the planet starts to heal, we can move on to other things. But how do we stop emitting these poisonous gases? Well, according to the NRDC, we can power our homes with renewable energy, actually eat the food we buy (and make less of it meat), and finally, reduce water waste. All of these will help, and if everyone can do these things, we could finally impact climate change in a positive way.
Though we harm the environment day after day in so many ways, there is still a chance to stop changing climates from being damaged any further. Yes, the way we are headed, animal species could go extinct, air quality could harm human life, and the human economy that we have worked hard for could crash, but we still can fix it.
If we can stop climate change, it could slow down other catastrophic events happening in our everyday lives. It is our responsibility to clean this up, because we have created this global catastrophe. It will get worse if we don’t fix anything or if we don’t try. Therefore, we must do everything we can.
And if we can adjust our everyday lives just enough, and keep it that way, we can survive. We may not experience this change in our lifetimes, but it would save generations after us.