For those that crave the summer sun’s blistering rays, climate change may seem like a pretty great thing for you. A couple degrees hotter isn't so bad, right? The world can just adapt. We can crank up the air conditioner and introduce shorts season a little earlier each year to work on our tans. It's a win-win!
Except, the world isn't adapting gracefully and Mother Nature is getting heated. According to NASA, 2016 is already on target to be the hottest year on record. You would think that if NASA, one of the most reputable science and research organizations in the world, says we are heading down a dangerous and irreversible path, someone would do something, right? With a problem so big, the government and corporate lobby would look to save both citizen and consumer, to get us all on track to fix the problem that is climate change? But even with the landmark Paris Agreement, signed by 176 nation states and the EU, it may be a little too late for the world's governments to make real, tangible changes.
As I watch the American political cycle closely this year, it seems even many politicians, specifically those that agree climate change is an issue, don't seem to want to push for the changes we so desperately need. Only two US presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, have the sense to realize change needs to occur now and with drastic measure. In all fairness, Hillary Clinton agrees that actions must be taken to slow climate change, though there seems to be a lack of urgency on her platform. For example, Hillary remains agreeable to continuing our reliance on fossil fuels, natural gas and still propagates the expansion of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” This does not lead us on a path to improving and implementing a strong energy production from renewable sources. The proposed incremental shift from our reliance on older forms of energy is not nearly urgent enough. On the other side of the political spectrum, Donald Trump has called climate change a “Chinese hoax” and would withdraw from the Paris Agreement post haste if he were to be elected to the Oval Office. Generally speaking, we need a unified voice across the globe in order to enact the changes required.
As a travel photographer and a human being this is VERY concerning to me. Let's add some perspective.
1. Bye Bye Birdy: 314 species—nearly half of all North American birds—are severely threatened by global warming
According to the National Audubon Society, by 2080 nearly half of North American bird species could lose most of their climate range, for summer and winter, becoming climate-endangered; basically, this means that some of your favorite birds may no longer be able to survive in their summer and winter habitats that they have traveled between for decades. They also predict that at least ten states could be in danger of having their official state bird no longer able to survive in the state they represent due to the increasing effects of climate change. Imagine losing that familiar and comforting sound of birds chirping in the trees at the start of spring or, for some even worse, the incredible increase in insect populations that will then thrive without a natural predator. Why are a few more bugs a bad thing? More on this shortly.
2. Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful: Weather events will become increasingly more severe and damaging
Climate change also fuels an increase in the intensity and levels of snowfall. The warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, and that in turn drives heavier precipitation during hurricanes, or in this case, snowstorms. For a city, the heavier snowfall endangers lives and jacks up the overall cost of cleanup and maintenance for effected states. Earlier this year, the mega-snowstorm Jonas cost the northeastern United States upwards of $2.5 to $3 billion dollars, according to Moody's Analytics. So how much is $3 billion dollars? You could buy the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Lakers 3 times or buy 6 of the most expensive paintings on earth twice. Further, this single storm claimed the lives of almost 50 people. This does not even take into account those who were unable to receive medical attention due to blocked or unsafe roadways. And this was only one of the major weather systems in an isolated part of the country. Scientists expect storms like this will only become more frequent and more severe due to the effects of climate change.
3. Ring Around the Rosie: Longer periods of sustained warmer weather can assist in spreading infectious diseases
Insects such as mosquitoes and ticks are now able to move further north with the shorter cold season, which would normally regulate their population and prevent them from migrating into new areas. The World Health Organization even describes the effects of climate on malaria and dengue fever. The list of infectious diseases transmitted by these insects, most notably the Zika virus that has begun affecting the Western Hemisphere, is particularly scary.
4. Feeling Hot Hot Hot: Climate Change is striking a match across the globe.
Warmer temperatures combined with drought have led to an increase in wildfires that destroy homes, business, and ecosystems. Although wildfires can play a part of a region’s natural cycle, there has been a sharp increase in the number of wildfires and their severity since the mid-80's. According to some scientists, they now occur nearly four times more often, consuming more than six times the land area, and burning five times longer. In 2015 alone, wildfire burned through 9 million acres of land. Sound like a lot? If you put New Jersey AND Connecticut together, you would still be about a million acres short. Would you be okay trading in lush forests and fields filled with flora and fauna for gray and barren wastelands of scorched earth? As a travel photographer, I worry that the places I visit now and the images I am able to capture may not be here for my children and grandchildren to see if we don’t act. For me, it’s vital to remember that climate change is not just about us in this moment, but what this will do for future generations as well.
I can't blame the average person for not truly understanding the urgency we face. It can be difficult to fathom the concept of a global temperature rising more than 1.11*C or about 2*F. It sounds like such a little number. Unfortunately, the true realization may come only after the temperature changes have compounded over months and years and is too late to fix; but the signs are there even now. Notice your rising energy bill or by watching some of the wealthiest nations on earth ration their drinking water. Imagine your first snorkeling trip brings you face-to-face with coral reefs turned to graveyards of white coral, now devoid of life. I expect that when you take an honest look and see what truly comes from our inaction - the picture becomes a little clearer and that two degree temperature change suddenly has a lot more meaning.
How do I help to solve an issue that is so large and effects so many?
- Vote and contact your local representatives to make climate change efforts a priority.
- Donate to a cause or organization that has meaning for you and is working to ensure a better future for our natural resources.
- Consider investing in renewable energy sources for your home like solar or wind. The installation cost may seem high, but the yearly savings may mean a quick return on your investment.
- Be mindful of your use of electricity and how you regulate the temperature in your home by wearing more clothing in the winter or keeping the curtains drawn in the summer.
- Take public transportation, when possible, to limit the burning of fossil fuels.
- Feel free to comment below for your thoughts and suggestions on sustaining the world for a better tomorrow.