Officials announced Wednesday that 2016 was the world’s hottest year on record, highlighting once again the disastrous effects of global warming on the environment.
This is the third year in a row of record-setting heat, and politicians can no longer ignore the issue. Both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) verified the alarmingly high average temperature for Earth, begging the question, “is this our new normal?”
If we don’t take immediate action to curb the rate of global warming, coastal cities will soon be underwater, the arctic coast will continue to recede and famines will become more prevalent throughout the world.
“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the NOAA. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”
In the Arctic, temperatures were 20-to-30 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than normal. In Asia, a drought and deadly heat waves rocked the continent, the Great Barrier Reef near Australia faced heavy coral bleaching and a “mega” wildfire ran rampant in Canada.
Most of global warming has taken place within the past 35 years and 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have taken place since 2001, according to NASA.
This issue isn’t just affecting those in third-world countries or those living under the Aurora Borealis. Sea levels are constantly rising in Miami, causing millions to be spent on keeping the city above water. A town in Alaska has been abandoned to escape the ever-rising ocean. Mussels and salmon are facing threatening acidic levels in the Pacific Ocean and temperatures across the country are increasing, impacting crops and wildlife in the region.
Yet America still refuses to take the issue seriously. Public transportation is not considered a necessity, causing 253 million cars to crowd the streets and fill the air with emissions. Not to mention the 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline the U.S. Energy Information Administration found the U.S. consumed in 2015.
What many politicians, including several members of Donald Trump’s incoming staff, fail to accept is burning gas, oil and coal produces “greenhouse” gases such as methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When those gases go up, the temperature rises.
The concept seems simple and there are years of data to back up the claim, yet some conservative politicians, like Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency, choose to whistle and look the other way as if ignoring the issue will somehow magically cure the problem.
Perhaps it’s easier to ignore an issue if you know you won’t be around long enough to face its repercussions. But the evidence cannot be ignored.
Until meaningful legislation is passed prioritizing the environment and forcing Americans to live less toxic lifestyles, we will continue to pollute our atmosphere.
Our laziness and apathy will ultimately be our destruction.
Hopefully, the recent findings will force those who deny climate change to re-evaluate their stance and realize somewhere in their reasoning they have erred.
Otherwise we will continue to watch the thermometer rise.
Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.