Natural disasters rise in quantity, hit close to home

TEMP ORARY November 14, 2012 0

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing number of natural disasters occurring around the world. The after-effects of this increase could be felt even here in the small community of Elizabethtown. Just this past school year, we dealt with an earthquake, a flood and even a snow storm in October. In the United States alone, there was one billion dollars worth of damage caused by tornadoes in 2011.
The most recent of these devastating ordeals, Hurricane Sandy, happened right in our own proverbial backyards. Some individuals affected by the storm lost their homes to the disaster and many in the New York and New Jersey area are still without power. With the growing number of disasters occurring across the world, it begs the question, why are these natural disaster increases happening and are they natural in itself?
In the search for an answer, a look into how science explains this increase could help formulate a reasoning for such events. The National Climate Data Center created a “state of the climate” report with the help of 400 scientists from around the world to determine the nature of the recent incidences. The group of experts came to the conclusion that human activity and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions are major contributors to the increase in climate-related events.
One of the individuals who partook in the report was Dr. James Renwick of Victoria University in Australia. Renwick spoke about how the current climate changes differ from those of the past in a web chat. “It is mostly different from the past because it is very rapid. It’s an issue for us because we’re here this time! Civilization has grown up in the last 10,000 years, when the global climate has been quite stable. The last time there was a lot of global climate change, during the peak of the last ice age cycle, the human population was numbered in the millions at most,” Renwick said. “Now, we’re looking at significant climate change (including changes to where crops will grow, where rain falls etc) with 7+ billion people. As a species, we have come to depend on the climate being stable, as it has been the past few centuries. A lot of change will mean a lot of disruption to agriculture, water supplies, etc.”
Though some individuals believe that humans are playing a large part in the shift in climate, there are other that feel we play less of a role than some believe. Junior Owen Howson spoke extensively about his thoughts on the idea of man-made climate change, “I do not believe that global warming is 100 percent man’s fault. There is a natural cycle that the Earth goes through. A series of warming cycles and cooling cycles. Our world has gone through numerous ice ages and numerous extreme warm spells. In the time period of the crusades that was the warmest that the Earth has ever been, at this time every human was burning wood, and it was a time period of high volcanic activity,” Howson said. “Our effect on the environment does play a role in how drastic the results are, but it is not completely our fault,” Howson said.
Whether you believe that this is a natural occurrence or an after effect of the footprint that humans have left behind, the final product is alarming. The frightening part of the climate change is that we still cannot pin-point the exact reasoning behind these events occurring. We need to find out how to hinder such changes and disasters from occurring to help those around us. Whichever side of this argument you are on, the purpose should be to find the answer to the question, not to come out victorious in the debate.

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