In the modern world, climate change is a topic that is argued and discussed by scientists, politicians and people around the world. Some stick to the belief that climate change is simply a hoax; many others stress the catastrophic effects that result from issues such as rising temperatures and extreme weather, and they repeatedly voice their concerns and the need for change.
Michael A. Scanlin, professor of geosciences and engineering at Elizabethtown College, opened with a powerful statement. “Climate change is an extinction level event that is happening now,” he said. Scanlin claimed that humans pay close attention to events that happen quickly and barely notice changes in their environment that happen slowly, a phenomenon known as “landscape amnesia.” Humans are incrementally changing the composition of gases in the atmosphere and the acidity of the oceans by disrupting the carbon cycle, and these changes are produced by excessive burning of hydrocarbons to generate energy to sustain our addiction. “If you change your environment too quickly, species can’t adapt quickly enough to survive,” Scanlin said. For example, polar bears and penguins are approaching extinction because ice melts when the planet is overheated, and their existence requires ice to survive. “The science that supports climate change is irrefutable,” he said.
In response to the recent hurricanes, Scanlin explained that this is the first time in recorded history that we have seen two category four and two category five hurricanes develop in the Atlantic in a month. The reason behind this is the fact that the surface temperature of the ocean water is three degrees Centigrade higher than it has been in recorded history. Scanlin urges people to pay close attention to lifestyle choices that are related to using energy and to ask themselves, “What can I do to protect the environment?”
Joseph Wunderlich, associate professor of engineering and computer science at the College, also weighed in on this important topic. He stressed that “the instability caused by changing temperatures even a little bit” makes climate change a significant issue. Wunderlich stated that the polar vortex, a low-pressure system that revolves around the North Pole, is destabilized and is causing the ice to melt. “It doesn’t take a lot to make it unstable, and we are pushing its limits of stability,” Wunderlich said.
When asked about the recent hurricanes, Wunderlich explained that “you can’t argue that the oceans are warming up and that hurricanes feed off of warm water.” The rising ocean levels also give way to more frequent and more devastating storms, since storm surges are greater with higher water. Wunderlich believes that leadership in energy and environmental design will help tremendously with the issue of climate change. Leadership in Energey and Environmental Design (LEED), a certification for national standards for buildings being environmentally friendly, helps students implement standards and behaviors to get more LEED certifications. Wunderilch stressed that we need to look to national standards for new building methods and better management.
Quotes from Students and Faculty
“The science that supports climate change is irrefutable.” -Dr. Michael A. Scanlin, professor of geosciences and engineering
“It’s valid that the Earth is warming, but I don’t think at this point it’s as serious as people are making it out to be.” -Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“I do believe climate change is real. We have more extreme season changes now than when I was younger.” -Amity Radcliff, sophomore
“Future generations to come will suffer if we don’t heed the ever-increasing warnings [of climate change].” -Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“The Earth’s climate is constantly changing…therefore, I am unsure that the change is human-induced and am interested to know more about the correlation.”-Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“We are pushing [the polar vortex] to the limit of instability.”-Dr. Joseph Wunderlich, associate professor of engineering and computer science
“I’m concerned because throughout human history we’ve never had anything quite like the scale of emissions in the post-industrial age.”-Anonymous Response, Student Poll
“[Climate change] will completely change the way things work in the world.”-Anonymous Response, Student Poll