At the beginning of the month, the White House shared the third U.S. National Climate Assessment studying how this hot topic is likely to change the planet. This study is the most expansive scientific picture yet generated, and it is encouraging that the White House is taking climate change seriously. Last winter was one of the coldest on record. Some skeptics claim this cold front is proof the planet is not warming, but the scientific perspective answers that with cautionary facts.
A polar vortex was released from the North Pole due to melting glaciers that accounts for the unusual cold this past winter. This disruption may have been caused by large atmospheric Rossby waves moving upwards from the troposphere into the stratosphere where most weather occurs. As air travels down it warms. The motion of these waves transport energy disrupting the usual flow. Sea ice is melting into the ocean due to the warming of the planet. Open water absorbs heat more than reflective ice. This cycle is causing the Arctic to warm at twice the average globally. The jet stream of air separating the cold northern air from the southern warmer air has kept the polar vortex contained until now. Scientists theorize as they observe climate change trends that as the temperature range of the jet stream narrows the likelihood of cold Arctic air escaping the polar vortex increases. The more that this occurs the quicker the polar ice cap would melt without those insulating cold winds.
Scientists have done well in estimating the effects of climate change, but the topic has ended them in hot waters with implementing data into policy. In 2012, North Carolina passed a law that inhibits coastal policies from being based on the newest scientific data, and insists policy relate to historical record. This blatant denial of the impending sea rise will not serve North Carolina. Motivation for this law comes in part from projected coastal development projects that will make the state good money in the short-term, but pose a major risk in the long-term.
Thankfully, the White House is not adopting these measures of denial, and are using the most relevant science to chart the best course for America’s future. The most recent assessment was developed over four years with the expertise of hundreds of top scientists and technical specialists. To make this valuable information available to the public, it is being released in a digital format that is highly interactive and available at www.globalchange.gov. This assessment advises carbon-cutting measures, preparing communities for inevitable changes, and participation in international efforts to mitigate climate change. The assessment details the threats to coastal regions around the world, and how impacts affect the economy. Transportation, energy, agriculture, water, ecosystems and how they interrelate with society are detailed in the assessment. This is an encouraging step towards turning away from denial and embracing necessary change.
The need for these measures is immediate. The Corporate Military Advisory Board has identified climate change as a major threat to national and global security. Drought in Africa and the Middle East are already leading to conflicts over water and food. Rising sea levels are threatening coastal regions in Vietnam, India and the Mekong Delta. The greater occurrences of extreme weather lead to more troops needed to manage fallout around the world, and to protect U.S. bases. The extra heat and pressure that climate change brings to already stressed regions is a topic on the global table. Hopefully new alliances will be made to assist vulnerable communities that will result in a more cohesive world.
Opinion by Grace Pollari