By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Wildfires are spreading across California. Hurricane names have moved into the Greek alphabet, and the season is not over until November. The level of destruction from these weather events used to be rare, but it’s now becoming more common.
Dr. Joseph White, professor of biology, said it’s important that it’s clear that climate change did not cause the hurricanes and wildfires, but it does make them more frequent and intense.
“Scientists, including myself, generally don’t go out on a limb and say, ‘yes, that’s climate change.’ Unless you have data … it’s not very good science, but we can say that these events are hallmarks of things that might occur as the climate continues to change,” White said.
It is also crucial to know the difference between weather and climate, White said. Climate is a long term average of weather patterns, while weather is the daily events.
The earth goes through natural cycles of changes in climate, Dr. Daniel Peppe, associate professor and graduate program director of geosciences, said. However, he said these changes usually happen over thousands of years, and now the climate has been growing warmer at an unprecedented rate.
Peppe said he studies past climate change and how the ecosystem responded to it. He uses fossil leaves to reconstruct the climate in the past.
Discovering the climate in the past and how it changes overtime helps scientists learn about what is happening today, Peppe said. It shows the stark difference between the natural slow change of the climate millions of years ago and the climate changing quickly today.
“The biggest thing is the pace of change is so fast that it’s really difficult to adapt to those changes,” Peppe said. “If you look at average temperatures over the last decade, they’ve gone up a lot. That’s a pretty short amount of time.”
Not all hope is lost, Peppe said. There are still things that can be done to take better care of the planet and slow down the heating of the Earth.
Dr. Rebecca Sheesley, associate professor of environmental science, said individuals need to care and want to make changes to lower their carbon footprint and reduce pollution.
“But the climate isn’t going to be fixed completely by individual actions, we do need a concerted effort,” Sheesley said. “Everybody kind of has to participate in that to fix that problem, so I think it is definitely a combined effort.”
Sheesley said overall, taking care of the planet and going green will actually benefit people economically in the long run. Big societal changes through laws and companies need to happen to make a significant change, White said.
“Even if you don’t think climate change real, what we do in terms of being aware of pollution, and reducing pollution is a basic act of compassion for our fellow human beings,” White said. “And so if we can’t do anything else, and if we can’t agree whether or not climate change is occurring, we can agree that there’s more pollutants in the atmosphere, and whatever we do to reduce that reduces the health and suffering burden on people around this. And, you know, as godly people, I think that’s kind of what we should be doing.”