Climate change through the eyes of a teen

Climate change; it’s a really scary concept. There is talk of it everywhere on the Internet on whether or not it’s real and if it is hurting all living things on our planet. Last year when I took a meteorology class, we learned a lot about this, including how the Earth is warmed, what fossil fuels we are using too fast, and the negative effects that we as humans are causing to our home. As a 17-year-old girl, I am very worried about my planet. The talk from prestigious scientists at NASA and many other high up corporations have scientific proof that climate change is real, and we are in significant trouble. A lot of people simply don’t know about any of this, or don’t believe in it. Now, I am no scientist, but I do go to school and know how to use the Internet.

CO2 is causing climate change. According to NASA’s Global Climate Change website, unfortunately, we as humans are the fault at hand for this. Human activity, expansion, and the green house effect are causing the Earth to warm at an alarming rate. We as people burn fossil fuels like coal and oil to power everything, and doing so is increasing the concentration of atmospheric CO2. Now that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but then we take the greenhouse effect into consideration.

The Earth is like a greenhouse. About half the light reaching Earth’s atmosphere passes through the air and clouds to the surface, where it’s absorbed then radiated back upward in the form of infrared heat. 90% of the heat is then absorbed by greenhouse gases, and radiated back to the surface, which is warmed to a temperature we can live in. The heat-trapping nature of the greenhouse is good because it keeps us warm and alive, but when there is too much CO2, basically it’s getting too hot up in here.

I didn’t know any of this until I took meteorology. A lot of people, including myself a year ago, think that the Earth is being warmed just by the sun hitting it and the internal warmth from the core of the Earth, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Unless you live next door to a volcano, we are not experiencing heat from them, and the atmosphere is being warmed so we can live in it by our friend the greenhouse.

Another misconception that a lot of people are confused about is that CO2 has lag time, and therefore temperature is driving CO2. According to climatologist Peter Hildebrand, who was interviewed by NASA in 2013, this was once true in the pre-industrial age; The post-industrial world is the exact opposite though. We are increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere now, and that is driving the temperature up. The average surface temperature has risen about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, and most of the warming has occurred in the last 35 years.

So how is this affecting life on our home planet? How scary is it really? Well, for one, it is causing our ocean levels to rise. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and NOAA say that the sea level is rising, and it’s primarily caused by global warming. The ice sheets and glaciers are melting, and the sea is expanding as it warms. Ocean levels are going up 3.3 milliliters per year, and this is only going to increase. The melting glaciers kill animals in the Arctic because that was their home, therefore throwing off the ecosystem. As an animal lover, this truly breaks my heart. Penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes and so many more are going to go extinct if we don’t do something about this. There is no way around it. And if animals aren’t your passion, think of the people. The ocean is rising, and scientists say that it will get to a point where any land on any coast is gone. Underwater.

Since the climate is changing, this will alter where we can and can’t grow food, where we can get water from, where we can live. So what do we do about this? What can we do right here in Kansas? I really believe wind farms, as well as other green systems like solar panels, are the answer. There has been a whole lot of controversy over this, but scientists for NASA, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the American Wind Energy Association say that this will work. We are running out of fossil fuels, and all they do is hurt our planet. Wind turbines use wind to create energy and power, and we will never run out of wind until the sun stops shining. It’s an inexhaustible resource. They don’t release any toxic emissions that pollute the air or water, and will reduce and hopefully replace the need for fossil fuels to create electricity.

Some argue that making and transporting the parts for the wind turbines are just as bad as just using fossil fuels, but according to the American Wind Energy Association, that is misleading information. The wind turbine life cycle emits between 0.02 and 0.04 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour. To put this into perspective, natural gas emits between 0.6 and 2 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour, and even worse, coal generates between 1.1 and 3.6 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour. Wind turbines seem to be a winner.

The wind farms do cause some issues though, but not ones that aren’t trying to be fixed. There have been a lot of bats that run into them and die, which is concerning and sad. I love bats, they are adorable; I don’t want them to die. Wildlife biologists have found though that bats are most active when wind speeds are low, so the Bat and Wind Energy Cooperative (which, how cool, really does exist) are trying to work to keep the turbines off when the wind speeds are low. This is predicted to cut bat deaths in half, and not cause significant power production issues.

People also aren’t a fan of the wind farms because they obstruct the scenic views. I agree they aren’t the most cute looking objects, but if they can give people a way to stop the very alarming rate of CO2 emissions, and will eventually give us free electricity, I am willing to accept them, and I hope others can see the good in them too.

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