Monday, October 22, 2007

First Impressions

Hi, my name is Max Royster and I am one of the Cornell students working with the Museum of the Earth this semester on their Climate Change 101 series. Sitting here in front of the computer screen, the prospect of writing my first blog seems daunting. Because I am going to learn much more about climate change this semester, I guess I’ll start with outlining my current opinions on Global Warming.

The first time I can remember hearing anything about global warming or climate change was all the way back in the third grade. I remember that the back page of an issue of Weekly Reader had a small, one paragraph blurb about pollution, the “greenhouse effect,” and the possibility of climate change. As a child most of the article went over my head and I went on living my life, giving no further thought to the prospect of human actions causing global change.

Wow. Times have certainly changed. Over the past 10 years, (I can’t believe third grade was 10 years ago!) global warming has undergone the transition from an obscure and widely contested speculation to an almost universally accepted theory. During this time global warming has gone from being unworthy of media attention to front page material and the subject of numerous TV specials and documentaries. Perhaps one of the most famous is Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Along with millions of other Americans, I saw this film and left depressed. I mean, I wasn’t sure the world was going to be around much longer. At least not in the way I was used to it. In fact, most of the coverage global warming gets in the media nowadays is of the doomsday type. Now is our situation really all that bad?

Based on what I know now, I think the answer is both yes and no. I say no because the earth’s climate been fluctuating for earth’s entire existence. In fact, right now our climate is colder than it has been for a lot of earth’s history. So it makes sense that the climate will change and get warmer. It seems to me that the earth’s climatic and circulatory systems have been around for a heck of a lot longer than humans and that they’ve dealt with a lot more serious things that we can throw at them. For example, the meteor impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs. That event was large enough to wipe out a significant percentage of life on earth and the climate still recovered. It seems to me that humans won’t really be able to do any lasting damage to the earth as a whole.

The reason I say that yes, climate change is a big deal is because climate change can cause a great deal for humans. While we probably won’t change the world forever, we can change it enough to make it our lives more difficult. Rising sea level is one of the first things that comes to mind. Sure, sea level rise isn’t the end of the world but if you think about the fact that much of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, a rising sea level can be a very bad thing. There are many other ways that global warming is going to affect us in the next century and while they may not be the terrible catastrophes that the media sometimes makes them out to be, they are certainly worth noticing.

-Max Royster, Cornell University Student

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