Sandy should be a wake up call

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164 all-time high temperature records were shattered across the nation during last June’s sweltering heat wave. Record-breaking droughts destroyed U.S. crops in August. Seventy ruthless wildfires, the largest in thirteen years, roasted western states for weeks. To top it off, October brought Hurricane Sandy, the largest storm ever formed in the Atlantic, which left thousands homeless and without power in an area where such weather is rare.

All of this occurred in the past seven months. Coincidence?

No. I’m talking about something based on substantial evidence that has been taking place for a while, and may very well turn into an apocalypse if we don’t act soon: global warming.

Global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other gas emissions from human activities being trapped in Earth’s atmosphere as part of the greenhouse effect. These gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere, but prevent it from radiating back into space, trapping the heat and increasing temperatures.

Because of global warming, average temperatures have increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Higher temperatures cause more evaporation and thus drier land, which in turn instigates drought and wildfires, as seen this past summer. Ocean temperatures have also increased, by about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit. As hurricanes feed on warm water, this encourages the formation of violent storms like Sandy.

However, the most alarming part of global warming is the drastic rise in sea levels. While high temperatures melt glaciers, ocean levels rise, increasing by about seven inches in the past century. Sea levels will rise at least three feet by 2100. As a result, coastal nations such as Bangladesh are already being inundated (18% of its coastal area may be underwater by 2050), and of course, polar bears are losing their homes. In fact, the Arctic Ocean lost an ice mass the size of the U.S. in 2012. The Northwest Passage sailors sought years ago now exists.

Despite all of this, only 54 percent of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity. The other 46 percent need to wake up.

Yes, our climate has naturally and dramatically fluctuated in the past and we’ve had worse disasters, but never at this rate. 2012 was the hottest year on record. It’s proven that there is more carbon dioxide in the air from the burning of fossil fuels and that carbon dioxide traps heat. Therefore, Earth has logically become warmer.

But behind all the excuses lies the inner desire to pretend it isn’t happening. Why worry about awful consequences when we can sit back in our comfortable heated homes and stare at a flat-screen TV? Even if anything does happen, it’ll happen after our generation, right? It’ll be their problem, not ours.

Of course not. Our actions, which have provided us with energy for well over a century, are backfiring. We can’t keep procrastinating on the problem – it’s already too late to do that.

Both President Obama and Governor Romney clearly avoided the topic during the election season. Although Obama mentioned something about investing in green energy and reducing emissions, I doubt the government is really putting in their best efforts. The U.S. is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions, although it only accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population. Thus, we’re one of the least, if not the least, eco-friendly nations in the world. Global warming must be made a priority by our government, since it is by far the most fatal problem we face.

We ourselves can start by turning off the light when leaving the kitchen, or walking that extra mile instead of driving. These actions may seem small, but imagine if every single person did it?

Humanity has a tendency to create problems it can’t solve: wars, poverty, and now climate changes. However, humanity also has a certain resilience and determination that manifests itself during times of great need, as seen from the past. With enough commitment, we can find alternative sources of energy and reduce emissions.

So for all the skeptics out there: Don’t wait for things to get worse, because they already are. While it may be nice to ignore the consequences, that ignorance is no longer blissful.