COURTNEY PAULSE

During 2017 a number of weather phenomena occurred in unusual places, and at unusual times of the year. The world’s most destructive flood took place in Peru, and in South Africa we saw massive storm floods hit Durban, as well as snow in the Free State in November. These unusual occurrences awakened a debate that has been going on for decades, on whether or not climate change really exists.

According to NASA climate change is real and there is significant evidence to prove it. There has been a rise in global temperatures and since 2001 we have had 16 of the 17 warmest years on record. These high temperatures are believed to have been caused by the increase in greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide as well as other human-made emissions that have been released into the atmosphere. Oceans have continued to grow warmer and ice sheets have continued to shrink. Evidence has also shown that glaciers have been melt. Using satellites, observations have shown that snow cover has decreased over recent years and that snow is melting much earlier than usual. Studies have also shown that the acidity of the oceans has increased and the thickness of the Artic sea ice has reduced significantly over the past few years.

In a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre titled “The Politics of Climate.”, it was found that 20% of Americans believe that there has not been any solid evidence provided by scientists that global warming exists. 48% of Americans said that climate change is caused by human activity and only a mere 36% of Americans were found to be concerned about climate change. The survey also found that beliefs about global warming and climate change have mainly been shaped by politics.

While many people do believe global warming is real there are a number of people who simply do not believe that the Earth is undergoing a global warming trend. In an article published by HowStuffWorks titled “Are Climate Skeptics Right?”, reasons for why people do not believe in global warming included the belief that the models used to predict what Earth’s future will be like under global warming are unreliable. The placement of some weather stations may be producing inaccurate results and produce data that may be corrupted by urban heat islands . They believe that while the glaciers, sun, gases and the ocean are largely responsible for the weather, there are a number of other factors that also play a pivotal role that we currently are unable to understand. Sceptics have also pointed out that global warming might not be so global after all, since the temperature s of the Northern Hemisphere have increased while the Southern Hemisphere has actually cooled down. Global warming sceptics have also used the Medieval Warm Period as a counterargument, as it was a period where temperatures across the globe increase d, which was followed by a period where global temperatures cooled. They believe that we are currently experiencing something similar.

Although significant strides in global warming and climate change research have been made and whether or not 2018 brings more unpredictable and out of the ordinary weather phenomena, there is no doubt that the debate on climate change will continue for many more years.

Image: Sally Hartzenberg