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We cannot afford to ignore climate change

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published February 28, 2017. Digital scan of the issue unavailable.

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By Cody Jones, Opinion Staff Writer

Climate change needs to be addressed immediately in a meaningful and substantial way before we reach the tipping point.

Reports of the symptoms of a warming Earth seem to be steadily increasing. A new study published last week in Nature found oxygen levels in oceans worldwide dropped an average of 2 percent in the last 50 years — in some areas there was a decrease of more than 4 percent. If the trend continues, this has catastrophic implications for marine life and ultimately the entire food chain.

At our current pace, the World Health Organization projects climate change will result in 250,000 additional deaths per year attributable to more heat waves, malnutrition from increased famines and the spread of diseases like malaria. Some scientists think that projection may be an underestimation.

A 2014 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned, “Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty more difficult, further erode food security and prolong existing and create new poverty traps.”

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization found sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic at record lows. Occurrences of floods and droughts will increase, and that is just the beginning.

The effects of climate change will lead to political instability. With rampant, international political instability, it is unlikely any concrete steps would be made since the focus cannot be on climate change at that point. It will be too late. The focus would then be on scrambling to relieve angry, impoverished and dying populations.

Some studies, such as “Quantifying global soil carbon losses in response to warming” published in Nature, suggest we are already beyond the prospect of reversing climate change, but its effects, at least, can be mitigated.

The longer we wait to take action, the more extreme the bare minimum solutions become. The more extreme the solutions become, the more politically unappealing they will be. The more politically unappealing those solutions are, the less likely they are to become a reality.

We can focus on it now before it is too late, but those who have the power to enact and enforce change do not seem to be concerned about the threat — they would much rather bow to pressure from lobbyists and make a quick buck.

The evidence is abundant and readily accessible. Our current administration and the majority of Congress, however, seem resolute in their decision to roll back environmental regulations and ignore the evidence.