Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Focused on the Skies...

Having been interested in the weather for as long as I can remember, my eyes have been focused on the skies and the world at large long before Al Gore began talking publicly about global warming. When I took an introductory class in meteorology three years ago, I heard a lot on the topic. Also, working in a bookstore for two years allowed me to see all kinds of books and movies related to the topic of climate change. When Inconvenient Truth first came out, the book started to fly off of the shelves. I reviewed Inconvenient Truth for Teens when it appeared on the scene as well. So, suffice to say, I have had exposure to the topic.

However, I have only had passing knowledge with it. Certainly I knew about it and that serious consequences were coming. Yet I did not know the details. In elementary school, we were drilled in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, and we were told that by doing our part, we could really make a difference. Sometimes that was not enough for me. I wanted to know how something so small as putting my juice bottle from lunch into the recyclables would do something about changing the planet’s climate. Somehow the explanation of “If we all did this one thing...” was not enough. I did it anyway; I knew it was a good thing to do and would help, somehow. I am as curious as a cat and stubborn as a donkey, perhaps even more so, and so I was always asking how this one thing would change the world.

Because of this project, my curiosity is starting to find answers and relief. It is amazing what those small things can do. Would you believe that we recycle nearly 64 billion tons of our waste a year[1]? Think about it. If that little mantra had not gotten drilled into our heads as a nation, we would not be recycling an amount roughly equivalent to nearly 29 million space shuttles[2]! That’s an insane amount of stuff. I guess every little bit helps after all.

My group’s task is to research reducing our carbon footprint. After having researched the policies that have been put in place, the opportunities grabbed, and the opportunities missed, I can see how the whole situation can be misjudged and misunderstood when someone has been misinformed. It is only now that people are starting to get a grasp on global warming. If we can keep educating ourselves, keep reading anything we can, go see exhibits, go see movies, perhaps we can bring it to a level we can all understand and make the decisions we must make clearer.

I heard someone say that the recent warm spell was due to global warming. I hope that they understood what they were saying. Something important to keep in mind when talking about climate change and global warming is that it doesn’t happen in a week, or even a month. The time scale for this change is on the scale of decades. Yes, the warming trend is part of the climate change and global warming that we have been hearing about. No, the recent heat wave is not attributed solely to global warming. Weather does change. Heat waves come and go. The severity and frequency could be contributed to global warming, though. The drought down south is not necessarily an indicator of global warming. The strength or weakness of the current La Niña, a part of what is called the Southern Pacific Oscillation and which is partially causing the lack of rain in the southeast, could be. Weather is a day-to-day phenomenon. Climate, on the other hand, is a long-term thing and much easier to predict as a whole.

The climate change predicted is real. I do not know how real, but I know it is there. Education is going to be part of the equation here. Maybe if we are all more aware, maybe we can handle this. Maybe if we recycle that juice bottle from lunch, we can really make a difference, step-by-step.

[1] http://earth911.org/recycling/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle

-Laura Santamaria, Cornell University Student

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