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Evidence for and against climate change environmental sciences essay

Some things just seem too momentous to keep in mind. Squatting on a floe of eight-foot-thick sea ice at the North Pole, drifting on the 14,300-foot-deep Arctic Ocean hundreds of miles from land, with everything in every direction south and the sun circling the horizon, you absolutely feel you are on a planet.

Another momentous thing we hardly ever think about is the thing we think with: I think about mine now quite a bit, ever since a hot July day in 2011 when my eyes started telling me conflicting stories about the nature of the world as I huffed and strained to keep up with my far fitter son running up a steep trail in the woods near my home. My left eye told me the world was paisley. The right eye insisted all was well. I called out; we returned home. I took a shower and some aspirin, wondering if I could be having a stroke.

My son drove me to the hospital. By the next morning, it was. The stroke made me confront that critical human operating system in my skull for the first time. Turning to journalism allowed no emotional space for absorbing the jarring reality that the white spots in my brain scan showed I was breakable—that something as basic as dexterity, let alone a long healthy life, was no longer a given.

Fortunately, I recovered fully, but there was no guarantee that would be the case. Reporting on my stroke as a medical and health care problem allowed me to treat it as an intellectual puzzle rather than an emotional crisis—to levitate above my mortality instead of confronting it, deeply feeling it, embracing it.

  • Response diversity is particularly important for social renewal and reorganization following change;
  • But I also see the value in engaging with—dare I say it, even working for or investing in—big companies as a way to test the possibility of building a different culture from the inside out;
  • Take, for example, fracking, shorthand for the hydraulic fracturing technology that has greatly expanded access to oil and gas reserves that were thought to be untappable;
  • The portentous cover art for my October 1988 climate article was the sweating Earth melting on a hot plate.

Some challenges are so grand and momentous that anxiety seems, at best, a waste of time and energy in confronting them. It occurs to me, looking back, that my approach to my stroke parallels, in a strange way, my approach to another almost incomprehensibly large challenge: In essence, we have been learning, as uncomfortably as we navigate puberty, that our only planet is somewhat breakable.

Science can help clarify which is which. With that mix in mind, in both making the most of a finite life and limiting regrets related to global climate change, it seems necessary to integrate two seemingly incompatible traits: I used to think of my reporting as a thousand separate stories.

But I can see, as I age, that it is in fact one story—a single meandering learning journey with more than a few wrong turns, surprises, and reversals, starting with a dancing bivalve and scribbled death threat in the late 1960s.

Charmed into the undersea world by Jacques Cousteau, I was taken by surprise one summer while snorkeling where a small river meets the sea not far from my Rhode Island home. A bay scallop, trying to evade me, jetted through the sea grass by castanet-clapping its corrugated evidence for and against climate change environmental sciences essay, which were surreally fringed by fleshy curtains flecked with tiny glinting blue eyes.

I quickly moved from embracing nature to defending it. A small patch of woods and fields behind our house remained untouched amid the expanding suburban grid of streets and lawns. Around age fourteen, on one of my regular after-school walks through the trees, I encountered a bulldozer parked in a fresh-cut clearing near my favorite spruce.

I placed a scribbled warning on the seat, something like Whoever chops down this tree will suffer a horrible death.

Mark Maslin

A few decades would pass before I reflected back on that bulldozer encounter and realized I had never considered that a bulldozer, just a few years earlier, had cleared the tract our house occupied. In high school, a teacher let me and a friend build and refine a crude wave tank in lieu of writing a paper.

I loved reshaping the cardboard baffles I taped over an aquarium until the airflow from a fan blew across the water in the tank just right, forming perfect waves breaking on our artificial beach. The experience helped ignite my interest in science.

  1. If we could just explain the problem more clearly, people would see it more clearly, and then they would change.
  2. He recalled how his father, a musicologist, used to prod friends who were scientists.
  3. That year, I reported from the first World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, in Toronto, where a keystone statement spelled out the momentous nature of what was unfolding.
  4. Take, for example, fracking, shorthand for the hydraulic fracturing technology that has greatly expanded access to oil and gas reserves that were thought to be untappable.
  5. With that mix in mind, in both making the most of a finite life and limiting regrets related to global climate change, it seems necessary to integrate two seemingly incompatible traits. But to me, the monumental nature of the task facing those trying to move the world away from fossil fuels called for extra attention to detail.

Finding my path I shifted to journalism after winning a traveling fellowship just before graduation. Three months in, I ended up studying my own relationship to the sea after encountering a Crew Wanted sign on a pier in Auckland, New Zealand, and signing up as first mate on a circumnavigating home-built sailboat, the Wanderlust. That journey exposed me to the wonders and ills of a fast-changing world, including the sight of dozens of leopard skins piled on a street corner in Djibouti, at the base of the Red Sea, to entice French Foreign Legionnaires stationed there.

I felt a mix of anger and mission as I photographed the remains of those evidence for and against climate change environmental sciences essay cats, determined to tell their story.

Where were they being killed? How could this be tolerated? A week or so later, riding a strong southerly wind up the Red Sea, we sheltered for a day or so in the lee of an uninhabited island off the coast of Yemen. Hiking to the windblown south-facing shore, I stumbled upon a random assortment of intact light bulbs—presumably cast from passing ships over many years—piled in drifts just above the tide line.

Small inconsequential wounds to the world, building inexorably. Energized by these experiences, I pursued journalism in graduate school and forged a path into magazines in the early 1980s—the heyday of science writing. At my first stop, Science Digest, I exposed pesticide perils, described the future of the automobile at the time, the future was the Ford Taurus! Until this point, most human assaults on nature were local—polluting a stream, felling a forest.

Now, through booming populations and resource appetites, we were going global. The authors of the key study, including Carl Sagan, had reached this result using computer models that had been built to study global warming as early as the 1950s but were becoming ever more sophisticated as computing power grew. Subsequent analysis pointed to a more transitory climatic effect, which two climate scientists, Stephen H.

Schneider and Starley L. Clearly less of a headline there. That pattern would pop up again and again in weighing environmental perils: Three years later, at Discover magazine, I was assigned to write a feature on global warming.

Though only well understood by a handful of scientists and policymakers in the mid-1980s, research was revealing that human numbers and technological potency were changing the human-climate relationship in profound ways. Through nearly all of human history, this had been a one-way relationship. Weather patterns changed; ice sheets, coastlines, or deserts advanced or retreated; and communities thrived, suffered, or adjusted how or where they lived.

  • Cohen, a demographer and development expert affiliated with Columbia and Rockefeller University;
  • The authors of the key study, including Carl Sagan, had reached this result using computer models that had been built to study global warming as early as the 1950s but were becoming ever more sophisticated as computing power grew.

But now, in subtle but measurable ways, the relationship was running in two directions, with enormous potential consequences. A host of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and forests, were adding long-lived gases—most important, carbon dioxide—to the atmosphere. These gasses prevented some of the energy that arrived as visible sunlight from escaping as radiating heat.

  • Fortunately, I recovered fully, but there was no guarantee that would be the case;
  • Three months in, I ended up studying my own relationship to the sea after encountering a Crew Wanted sign on a pier in Auckland, New Zealand, and signing up as first mate on a circumnavigating home-built sailboat, the Wanderlust.

The imbalance guaranteed warming and resulting changes in climate, ice sheets, and sea levels with big implications for humans and other life. It soon became apparent, even back then, that this would be hard to reverse.

My Climate Change

Climate change achieved headline status in 1988 because Yellowstone National Park and the Amazon rain forest were ablaze and the eastern United States baked in record heat. It was a heady time. That year, I reported from the first World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, in Toronto, where a keystone statement spelled out the momentous nature of what was unfolding: The portentous cover art for my October 1988 climate article was the sweating Earth melting on a hot plate.

In the end, it is values and instincts and particular circumstances—economic and environmental and cultural—that determine what individuals and societies do.

The Toronto meeting, although relatively obscure, initiated the process leading to the first climate treaty, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and the negotiations that have been under way ever since, most recently in Paris, to try to strengthen responses to the threat. Later that year, the American Museum of Natural History staged the first museum exhibition on climate change. Reflecting how much momentum had built around this issue and how mainstream environmentalism had become, the exhibit was co-sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and largely funded by the National Science Foundation.

I was invited to write the companion book for the exhibition, and I drew some pretty ominous word pictures to lay out the stakes. In a section on climate history, I described how we were growing potent enough, perhaps, to end the current geological epoch, the Holocene: Perhaps earth scientists of the future will name this new post-Holocene era for its causative element—for us.

After all, it is a geological age of our own making. The challenge now is to find a way to act that will make geologists of the future look upon this age as a remarkable time, a time in which a species began to take into account the long-term impact of its actions. The alternative may be to leave a legacy of irresponsibility and neglect of the biosphere that could eventually manifest itself in the fossil record as just one more mass extinction—like the record of bones and footprints left behind by the dinosaurs.

As an environmental writer, I was on a roll, with several awards signaling my skill at communicating environmental science. Of course, eliminating a class of synthetic chemicals is a relatively simple task, as Pieter Winsemius, a former minister of the environment for the Netherlands explained to me at one greenhouse-effect meeting.

Substitutes for these destructive compounds are already being developed, he said. You can put them all in one room; you can talk to them.

Carbon dioxide had little in common with pollutants of old, stray impurities produced during combustion sulfur compounds, for examplewhich could be controlled relatively easily and affordably with filters or catalytic converters. In the case of CFCs, industry had swiftly moved ahead to develop more sustainable, and affordable, alternatives.

Carbon dioxide, in contrast, is a fundamental and long-lived byproduct of burning fossil fuels, and, even now, efforts to capture and store this gas permanently—at a scale relevant to the climate system—remain costly drawing-board pipe dreams. Too, unlike other pollutants, carbon dioxide is also a ubiquitous and normal component of the air—not to mention the bubbles in beer and every exhaled breath.

Science magazines, books, and museum shows were mainly preaching to the converted. Once I moved to The New York Times in the mid-1990s, the phenomenon of global warming itself became a tougher sell, both to my editors and the public. A stock-market correction, an earthquake, a particular hurricane: Still, they were great years for reporting. The paper sent me far and wide. In 2003, after several years of trying, I made that North Pole trip, spending three days with scientists camped on the drifting sea ice near the North Pole, studying the shifting ocean conditions for clues to how warming would affect the region.

My addictions to science and nature were never more fully fed. After all, I had literally gone to the ends of the Earth. But the newspaper was embroiled in controversy: An ambitious package of climate change articles planned that year was spiked as new management, more focused on core issues, settled in.

The path to the front page was through covering climate politics, not climate science.

Finding my path

I think one reason the issue was covered so often through the lens of politics is that doing so made the solution seem easier. After all, the only thing missing was political will, campaigners insisted. Stories that had villains and heroes, the empowered and the powerless—those were often appropriately news. I thrived under this model, too. I was hitting the peak of my influence among Earth-loving activists and loving it.

After all, I was among my kin, in essence, as a liberal, Ivy League, middle-class Northeasterner. My responsibilities as a journalist were, at least at that moment, aligned with my longtime passion for protecting the environment.

Climate apostasy But then my underlying hunger for reality spoiled things.