Nearly 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs are expected to be killed off according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released Oct. 8.
These consequences, outlined among others including an ice-free Arctic Ocean once per decade, are expected to occur within 80 years unless “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” take place in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities before 2030 according to the IPCC. With these changes, it’s estimated that the planet would still lose 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs.
Aimee Urbina, a Weber State University environmental ambassador, said she is concerned about climate change and is actively involved on campus to promote sustainability.
“I think it’s scary and important because we see the effects of climate change right now,” said Urbina. “We see it with climate refugees and natural disasters. Hurricanes happen year-round. It’s scary because of the massive effect on populations living in the coast of those zones.”
Urbina said the idea that the world could be uninhabitable by the time her 4-year-old brother turns 14 is extremely disconcerting.
“I’m 21 and I feel I have already lived my whole life in comparison to my little brother,” Urbina said. “That’s why I think it has such an urgency, because it is also the future generations and what they are going to get in return for our actions, the actions done by the generations before them. That’s my biggest fear.”
Urbina said the best thing we can do individually is to recycle and increase our energy efficiency.
“For example, are you driving when you know you shouldn’t be driving to the mall to get that one shirt because do you really need that one shirt? ” Urbina said. “Little actions like that can spread into your circle of friends and family members. You may think they are little actions, but they can spread to others like the domino effect.”
Dr. Alice Mulder, associate professor in geography and director of WSU’s Sustainability Practices and Research Center (SPARC), said climate change awareness is important for everyone.
“It’s incredibly important to learn and do something about,” Mulder said. “It ultimately impacts all of us.”
Mulder said the impacts vary globally, specifying temperatures are increasing in the already sweltering sub-Saharan region of Africa.
“Many of the people who are most affected by climate change are those who are least responsible for the causes of it,” Mulder said. “The release of greenhouse gases is primarily emitted by the United States and China. We are all connected and engaged in the causes of climate change because they’re tied with fossil fuel use, which are embedded in our daily lives, in our infrastructures and how we’ve dominantly obtained our energy.”
Mulder said things like the clothing we wear, what we eat and everyday energy consumption such as home electricity can make a difference.
“It seems small, but collectively they add up,” Mulder said. “We could reduce our emissions if people practiced common energy conservation. We are heading into an election very soon and we need to put people in positions and places of policy-making that are tuned into this issue and recognize will do something about it.”
Dr. Dan Bedford, geography department professor and honors program director, said climate change is already fundamentally transforming lives all around the world.
“The two recent hurricanes that we’ve had, Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, the years before Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria–these hurricanes are occurring in a context in which there are warmer ocean waters and warmer atmosphere that can hold more moisture,” Bedford said. “The chances of epically damaging storms like Florence and Michael have gone up because of climate change. That is a fact.”
Bedford said that at this point, the science is clear, and there is nothing to debate.
“If you live on the coast, obviously, then you have serious worries on your hands, but here where you don’t, our insurance premiums are related to what happens in hurricane prone areas,” Bedford said. “Climate change is already affecting us here as it’s affecting storms, as well as droughts and heat waves here in the intermountain west.
Bedford said this summer’s wildfires were also evidence of climate change.
“Snow melt is getting lower. Whether we see more or less precipitation is unclear, but we will see less snow because it’s warming here,” Bedford said.
Bedford said that merely attending WSU is a great way for students to make an impact on climate change and energy efficiency.
“Weber State University is a state leader, and in many cases a national leader when it comes to sustainable campus operations,” Bedford said. “They’ve taken a whole lot of smart steps to bring sustainable and renewable energy up, and our carbon emissions down. They may not know it, but students are reducing their carbon footprint here.”
Bedford addressed the recent IPCC report, clarifying that it doesn’t necessarily contain any new information, and that it functions more as an urgent warning than new science.
“It’s always difficult to change,” Bedford said. “Everything we’re used to involves fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Fuel was an incredible advance in human progress. Fortunately, the renewable technology is advancing very quickly, and if we stand in the way of renewable energy, it will go against what’s most economically sensible.”
Bedford said international and domestic politics are one of the biggest roadblocks to worldwide energy reform.
“Frankly, we have an industry that has a vested interest in not changing” Bedford said. “There is abundant evidence that shows people in those industries engaged in misinformation. That has made change quite difficult.”