The Range of Climate Change

Raging Fires. The smoke in the sky creates a colorful sunset across most of Sonoma County. Many fires in California started burning in mid-August, causing millions of acres to go up in flames. “Since this is a norm for California, I really think it’s just going to unfortunately get worse,” said SRHS junior and climate change demonstrator Olivia House. “Not only weather, but daily routines and [activities], will change around this time [every] year.”

Article & Photo By: Tara Elsa

Climate change is affecting everyone around the world. From fires to extreme weather changes to rising sea levels, the world is undergoing a detrimental change. In the last 140 years, the global temperature has increased by 2°F. 

The world’s greenhouse gas emissions (mainly Carbon Dioxide and Methane) have only continued to get worse. These greenhouse gases trap the heat on the surface of Earth, causing it to warm up. They are mainly produced through livestock manure and from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, or gas).

We are almost to the point where mass amounts of animals will start going extinct. Scientists have said that by 2050, there will be a significant negative impact on the population of fish, with many species dying off. Currently, the sea levels are rising and glaciers are melting due to the increase in temperature. According to Nasa, “arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 12.85 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.”

As we in California, especially Sonoma County, know, there have been a drastic increase of fires and extreme heatwaves. Recently, Death Valley broke a world-record heat of 130°. This is most likely due to climate change, which would cause seasons to have longer hot and dry spells.

I interviewed Matt Davis, a Santa Rosa High School physics teacher, asking him what he thought about climate change and the ways people were handling it. “First of all, I am someone who aspires to be scientifically literate. The scientific data does show compellingly that global warming is quite real (average temp has increased by over 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 200 years) and that human activity (Carbon Dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels among others) is responsible… If climate change is the result of global warming, reducing our dependence on hydrocarbon-based fossil fuels is even more important. Utilizing more clean and renewable energy could help slow the rate of increase of average global temperature,” said Davis.

Davis added, “[I] hope to purchase and install solar panels on my roof in a few years and purchase an electric car. The thing is China still produces over 50% of its energy by burning coal. If the United States went entirely (100%) to clean energy tomorrow, the amount of Carbon Dioxide (which is the primary greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere would still continue to increase, largely as the result of China. It should be noted though that China has reduced its dependence on coal from 80% to 52%.”

By reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burned, and choosing to buy an electric car over a gas car, humans can make a significant positive impact towards slowing global warming. Using solar power, wind power and hydropower are all good alternatives to burning fossil fuels.

Next, I asked Davis whether he thought the increase of fires and extreme heatwaves were a product of global warming. “Abnormally high temperatures would happen here in Sonoma County in the early 1970’s when I was a child. They were not as extreme or frequent as they are now, however. Some scientists who have stated the data shows that global warming is the result of more Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere (put there by humans) are less convinced that what we call “climate change” has the same cause. Some scientists do see the connection. I think we as a society though would be wise to do whatever we can to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and encourage our elected officials at the Federal level to help China and other developing countries to reduce their dependence on coal… I have lived in Sonoma County for most of my life and the extreme high temperatures and associated fires in the last few years are like nothing I have ever experienced,” said Davis.

My final question to Davis was about what he thinks the future looks like involving climate change. He said that eliminating the use of hydrocarbon-based fossil fuels will be the most important, especially in the United States and China. “I think there are scientific models out there that suggest that, although we cannot reverse global warming, we [can] slow down the rate of increase of temperature. If we do nothing, things will get much worse much faster,” said Davis.

Global warming is not only caused by humans, but it is also a product of the Sun’s heat. Some scientists and astrophysicists have suggested putting reflective materials into space to redirect some of the Sun’s light; others have even suggested artificially brightening the clouds to reflect more of the light back into space. Although global warming doesn’t have only one easy fix, there is a lot each of us as individuals can do. By reducing the use of fossil fuels (CO2 and Methane) and switching to electric vehicles or purchasing solar panels, people can make a significant positive impact. While there are many different approaches to help prevent or slow global warming, it is only effective if everyone participates, and nobody solely relies on others to fix the problem.

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