(Updated 10/18/2020, 06:57 HST)
We just completed the Fall 2019 semester at University of Hawai’i West Oahu. Among the many invaluable skills and knowledge (I gained), it was the scholastic understanding of climate change that I appreciated the most. Likewise, it was inspiring to witness firsthand, how the academic and science communities took stance and the lead in addressing this highly significant issue of our times.
As a scholar of science, it’s hard to fathom why there are still many of us, including leaders, who claim it’s not happening. Maybe not all could sense the urgency; but to denounce or ignore the science community, is to deny Mother Earth of the solutions.
The consequences of global warming are too dire and pervasive, as they affect our ways of living. In fact one country that is so impacted, is about to lose its place on the globe, Vanuatu. Have you heard of climate change refugees? I know the words alone sound too depressing; but that’s how mean climate change is to humanity.
In brief, Vanuatu sits in the Pacific and sinks 6mm per year–faster than any other country –due to rising sea levels (UN, 2015). Mostly Melanesians, the Vanuatu’s people (with roughly 296,000 of them according to United Nations) are facing threats of losing their homes, their very country, and perhaps their heritage (2015).
Similarly, millions of people living in coastal communities around the world are under threat from fast rising sea levels. The consequences include threats to the quality of our lives, to our health, to our properties, to our sources of living, and even the existence of many marine species–those too are in jeopardy.
Note that the issue is not that we don’t know the solutions. Neither, we can’t do anything to any of our wrongdoing. The missing piece in addressing this dilemma, is our unanimous will. But to find out, if we can solve this problem, we have to refer ourselves to other global threats, which we successfully addressed.
For example, although in the nearly 14,000 years of world’s battle with smallpox (CDC, 2016); and millions including kings and queens died from the disease: The vaccine was finally developed by the English physician, Edward Jenner in 1796. It was delivered house to house in billions of arms (CDC, 2016). Consequently, in 1980, “the World Health Assembly announced its complete eradication,” (CDC, 2016). Also, most recently, we contained the outbreak of another deadly virus, ebola that started and spread in Africa. Amid its ”discovery in 1976” (CDC, 2018); and only just few hours ago (as of press time) that “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine;” but again, we were able to addressed ebola threats effectively. So, why can’t we bring that same passion in dealing with the issues of climate change? Is it procrastination? Underestimation? Complacency? Or denial?
Personally, there’s guilt and shame to hear a 16-year old girl taunt us that we “sold” their generation–and I can’t blame her for the frustration. But it is my hope to find the answers to my questions through writing this series. The first one is below. It is an informal academic piece submitted last December 2, 2019.
Burning Earth: Endangered Oceans and Coasts
From corals, to fishes and other marine life dying, to coastal communities losing properties and their sources of living: Climate change’s lethal impacts are getting ubiquitous in the oceans and coasts all over the world. Worse, the consensus among scientists, is that the rising temperature is showing no retreat (NASA, 2019). And we, humans are responsible (NASA, 2019).
“Seventy-one-percent of the Earth is covered by the oceans,” (Johnson et al, 2017). Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise most of CO₂ we caused the atmosphere ends up in the ocean, in which millions of species depend to us for survival. However, note that we also depend on the ocean for our diet and commerce to name few.
Regardless, on September 24, 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported, “global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970. . . [And] Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled. [Moreover,] marine heatwaves have very likely doubled since 1982 and are increasing intensity. [And that] By absorbing more CO₂, the ocean has undergone increasing surface acidification. A loss of oxygen, salinity intrusion, and sea level rise have [also] occurred,” (IPCC, 2019).
Accordingly, in class, we learned through rigorous academic works using scientific materials and processes the real-life “horrors” of global warming. To name few, we learned that due to warmer ocean waters and acidification: The corals (considered as the back bone of the ocean) suffer losing their skeletons. As algae abandon them due to warm water; They turn weak and bleached. Unable to fight diseases eventually, they die. Likewise, shellfishes are either born without shells or they easily lose their shells; while other, smaller marine species dissolve. Aren’t their lives as important as ours?
Worse, some of these issues are getting personal. Because say for example, the corals: In Hawai’i, we only have roughly fifteen. So, to learn that those in Maui are already suffering the effects of global warming, is devastating.
Also, on rising sea levels, most of our coastal communities here, in Oahu, are threatened by beach erosion—and we are talking of billions of dollars’ worth of properties. Sadly, the only solutions to their problem: One, to bear the hefty cost of yearly sand replenishment. Two, to build a jetty, and destroy their good relationship with their neighbors. Three, to build a seawall, and give up the beach. But none of those solutions, is cheap and favorable to coastal home or property owners.
So, to say that global warming is a myth: We are undermining the sufferings of those greatly affected. And although the rocks in Africa speak of climate change as old as antiquity; its current rate of acceleration is unprecedented. Lastly, the causes back then were natural; and now, it’s man made. We should really hold ourselves accountable.
Aguirre-Villegas, H., & Benson, C. (2017). Case History of Environmental Impacts of an Indonesian Coal Supply Chain. Journal of Cleaner Production, 157(C), 47-56.
Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. (2018). History of Ebola Virus Disease. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/summaries.html
Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. (2016). History of Smallpox. CDC.gov.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2019). World Fact Book, South Asia: India. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html
Earl, S. Physical Geology OER Textbook. (2015) BC Campus OpenEd.
Johnson, Chris, Matthew D. Affolter, Paul Inkenbrandt, and Cam Mosher. (2017). An Introduction to Geology. Salt Lake Community College. Retrieved from http://opengeology.org/textbook/15-global-climate-change/
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2019). The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate: Summary of Policy Maker, pgs. 10-15. Retrieved from https://report.ipcc.ch/srocc/pdf/SROCC_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf
National Atmospheric and Space Administration. (2019). Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
Schwarzenegger, Arnold, James Cameron. (2016). Years of Living Dangerously Season 2. Los Angeles, CA: National Geographic Channel.
United Nations. (2015). Vanuatu. Adaptation-UNDP.org. https://www.adaptation-undp.org/explore/melanesia/vanuatu
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale Environment 360. (2019). E360 Digest: Global Warming Causing Profound Changes to the World’s Oceans, Scientists Warn. Retrieved from https://e360.yale.edu/digest/global-warming-causing-profound-changes-to-the-worlds-oceans-scientists-warn