Climate Change Rears its Ugly Head

By Trey Arline

Massive hurricanes, sea temperatures rising, droughts increasing and viruses spreading are certainly signs of environmental distress that is likely a result of climate change.

Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey in August with major flooding and extreme winds. According to the Weather Channel, Harvey made landfall in Rockport and worked its way up the coast to Corpus Christi with maximum winds of 130 mph, making it a Category 4.

Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September causing massive destruction and lives lost. Winds of 150 mph made it a Category 4 hurricane. It created flash floods, downed power lines, closed roads, blew down houses and caused 56 people to lose their lives, according to some news reports.

Following, Maria hit Puerto Rico in September as a Category 4 with winds of 150 mph that devoured the island, affecting everything: the power grid, roads, sanitation centers and drinking supplies. They are in state of crisis needing assistance from the U.S. government but finding it hard to get. Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz stated on her Twitter account Oct. 1 that a hospital in San Juan had to be evacuated because the generator broke. Things are still a mess.

A reason for these hurricanes that environmental scientists conclude is that the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping more heat and causing the atmosphere and ocean temperatures to warm.

“That’s how a hurricane works,” said Melissa Giovanni, environmental instructor at the College of Southern Nevada. “They get their energy from warm waters and warm air. Warm air can hold more moisture. You have a condition of much stronger hurricanes than we’ve had in the past.”

“There’s no reason to think there will be more hurricanes in a given season, but the models have predicted for decades now: stronger hurricanes,” Giovanni said. “I mean, how many times have you seen multiple Category 5s in one season?”

Another cause is the Earth’s increasing temperatures contributing to rising sea levels, which create all sorts of problems from hurricanes to Arctic Sea ice melt.

“We lose about 4 percent of our sea ice every decade,” said Professor David Batchelor, who teaches astronomy at CSN, in reference to a portion of the Larsen C ice shelf that broke away from Antarctica in July—an iceberg roughly the size of Delaware.

According to Batchelor, the Earth’s temperature should increase by 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit every decade until 2100. That will raise temperatures dangerously high.

Climate change will have its effect on Nevada, as well, as the state and rest of the Western United States has been in the period of an extended drought. The lack of snowmelt from Rocky Mountains will directly affect the water flow in the Colorado River, which the water in Lake Mead highly depends on.

“We are gonna see increase in heat, temperatures and rainfall,” Bachelor said. One of the things happening in the oceans, he mentioned, is that they are becoming more acidic due to absorption of carbon dioxide, which means that seashells and coral are dissolving. Reefs are less hospitable to ocean life. The ecosystems are being affected by global warming, which has its effects on humans.

Additionally Bachelor is concerned about temperatures rising steadily and very high in Las Vegas. He predicts an 8-degree increase, which could put our record heat index at 125 degrees.

CSN biology Professor Sonja Burd said climate change can affect biological norms as well as the environment. Current phenomenon previously unseen in Las Vegas such as Zika and the West Nile virus have been found in the Valley, which was incapable of spreading in desert climates before. Two cases of mosquitos carrying the virus have been documented in the valley, she said.

“With sort of a warmer climate overall, you can expect to see some of the longer breeding season or longer activity in these mosquitos, which tends to spread the disease more,” Burd said. “Infectious diseases in that way affects human population not just [on a] local level, but global as well.”

Though it is easy for many to see that the environmental disasters are coming fast due to global warming, others deny this.

The Trump administration’s directives on eliminating climate and environmental protections have been heavily scrutinized. His defection from the landmark Paris Climate Accord in June shocked the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator Scott Pruitt aims to revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have businesses reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions from electrical-power generators by 32 percent, especially from coal-burning power plants. The Plan would incentivize companies that use green energy and conservation. Pruitt wants to back out of this Plan, according to the EPA’s website.

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