Today marks the first snowfall of the fall semester. Just a week and a half ago, the East Coast was hit by an unprecedentedly strong hurricane. These rapid weather changes and extreme conditions force us to contemplate the issue of climate change more actively.
While the evidence linking global warming to hurricanes and intense winter snowstorms à la “Snowpocalypse” may be inconclusive, most climate scientists will agree that “climate change amplifies the intensity or duration of extreme weather,” according to an article from The Los Angeles Times after Hurricane Sandy. In other words, climate change creates conditions that make it more likely for these type of storms to occur. Due to shifts in global temperature, we will not only see increases in the intensity of these storms, but also longer hurricane seasons and colder winters.
Undoubtedly, these are scary facts to consider. But climate change is not an issue that affects only Americans. The rest of the world is greatly impacted by the tons of methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we continually pump into the atmosphere as a result over our overconsumption of energy resources. For some crops (i.e. grains) warmer weather can be problematic as it reduces the time that seeds have to mature. Fisheries also face challenges as warming waters may reduce the range of species that can be found in certain areas. The record-high temperatures that have plagued the United States are not endemic to our region — globally, we are seeing an increase in heat waves that could lead to deaths among humans and livestock.
But as the world’s second biggest energy consumer, the United States cannot afford to be silent about climate change. We are responsible for a great deal of the production of greenhouse gases. We have partially fueled a global culture of mass consumption and excessive energy use that threatens massive shifts in global weather patterns. And though we may celebrate the fact that Sandy extended our fall break or frolick in our unexpected snow flurries, it is important to consider where it falls in the spectrum of extreme weather. We must remember that it indicates a larger meteorological trend that will affect large segments of the global population.