The World Must Respond
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently made news all over the globe for their latest report on climate change. As the environmental problems of climate change have begun to manifest, people are continuously warning that the world must respond.
The IPCC is a world-renowned intergovernmental body that was formed under the United Nations in 1988. Its purpose is to evaluate the scientific, technical, and socio-economic information that is associated with potential impacts of climate change. They also provide solutions to adapt to climate change and mitigate the causes as well.
The content of their most recent report sparked a media storm.
In addition to the probability of extinction for a number of species, IPCC reports that climate change is expected to significantly affect billions of people by disrupting food supplies, harming economies, and causing environmental damage that cannot be reversed.
The narrative of climate change has been no stranger to the spotlight either.
Australia has undergone one of its hottest years on record. California is in the midst of terrible drought. African nations are undergoing desertification. Coastal cities in the Atlantic United States are flooding and small island nations are drowning
The IPCC’s climate report focuses heavily on anthropogenic climate change, which is essentially the change in climate that is caused by humans.
The city of Norfolk is the second most vulnerable city to climate change in the United States after New Orleans. This is for a number of reasons, such as the proximity to the coast, dense population, low-lying terrain, and a phenomenon called ‘subsidence’ in which land sinks into the Earth.
Problems of flooding in Norfolk are not out of the ordinary.
Norfolk city planners identified the risks that climate change poses on the area and the need to adapt. The city essentially faces a billion dollar problem. In fact, completely adapting to sea level rise effects in Norfolk would cost more than the city’s entire annual budget.
The Norfolk Naval Base—the largest naval complex on the planet—is another area in the region that has identified sea level rise problems.
The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study over the course of three years in which they found that Naval Station Norfolk did not have the infrastructure to survive the types of storms and flooding that are expected to arise with climate change in years to come.
Speaking on the matter, retired Navy Captain Joe Bouchard said climate change directly impacts the operational readiness of the naval station and is therefore an issue of national security as well.
The problem extends further. When the streets of Norfolk become frequently inaccessible, everyone suffers. People are, at times, unable to get to work, or even travel freely at all.
Old Dominion University’s main campus witnesses frequent and intensive flooding. During past storms, major campus streets and areas have been covered with multiple feet of water.
ODU sophomore Tori Biase is one of many students that haven been impacted by flooding on campus.
“It’s impacted me most when we have heavy amounts of rain and classes get cancelled. It’s difficult to catch up when classes have to be postponed just because of rain,” she said.
Another ODU student, Jeffrey Grabowski, said that flooding has provided problems for him as well.
“I’ve seen students unable to even to get to campus in some cases. People in my classes that commute have had to miss class because of flooded streets,” he said. “This is especially a problem for group work, presentations or discussions which are all quite frequent in my courses,” he said
Complimenting Norfolk’s relevance to the issue of climate change and sea level rise, Old Dominion University’s Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences department has regularly conducted climate studies from multiple perspectives.
While anthropogenic climate change is the usual focus of environmentalists, the work of ODU professor Dennis Darby, Ph. D., offers more to consider.
Darby’s work primarily focuses on paleoclimatology, which is essentially viewing long term changes in the climate in time frames that span thousands of years. His recent work identified newfound trends in the climate that refer to what is called the arctic oscillation cycle.
Arctic oscillation concerns the fluctuation of atmospheric pressures in the arctic. Changes in pressure significantly affect North American weather.
The pressure changes associated with arctic oscillation can range in severity. This causes colder or warmer climates, more precipitation in some areas, and less precipitation in others. Arctic oscillation also has the ability to enhance climate fluctuation four-fold.
After intensive research and analysis Darby’s work ultimately found a 1,500-year trend within the arctic oscillation cycle, but the causes of the cycle are not yet known.
The reason Darby’s work provides concern for adapting to climate change is that his findings are concerned with natural changes in the climate. This allows his work to offer another dimension to the IPCC report. After all, anthropogenic climate change stacks on top of natural climate change.
It is for this reason that his work on arctic oscillation is highly important.
Identifying climate trends that significantly affect weather, such as arctic oscillation, allows for a better understanding of what to expect. The arctic oscillation trends, which have a huge impact on weather patterns, are expected to enhance because of climate change via greenhouse gases.
“Man has the capability of change,” Darby said. “The next step is to come up with good ideas to wean ourselves off of a carbon based fuel system and we have to go to cleaner fuels that produce less carbon dioxide and methane, then eventually to fuels that don’t produce any carbon dioxide or methane.”
Despite how alarming his work may be at times, Darby has still been able to maintain optimism.
“Eventually people are going to demand that something be done,” he said. “The reason [politicians] are not doing anything now is because they think it will hurt the economy. They’re not looking at the positive side of this, there could be new jobs as a result of a new energy regime, and new markets can spawn to help the economy.”
Darby’s statements speak of a transition. All signs seem to point to the notion that there will have to be an inevitable switch from fossil fuels to renewables for energy.
Groups that support this change are also urging that meaningful steps should be taken immediately. From their perspective, the longer the world waits, the more the world will suffer.
By: Jugal Patel