On Monday, Nov. 26, President Donald Trump dismissed a study that warned of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change. This study was produced by his own administration and it involved 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists.
This type of report is the result of Congress, in the 1980s, mandating that this sort of report be submitted every four years as a sort of reference point for lawmakers and legislators. Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment comes after a barrage of wild weather has continued long into the final month of 2018.
The near 1700-page report tackles topics from the increased temperatures to the effects that climate change will have on communities across the country.
“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country,” the report said. “More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities.”
The report went on to say that “future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life” and will make challenges to prosperity that already exist more difficult due to “aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality”.
When asked about the report, this is what the president had to say.
“I don’t believe it,” said Trump. “Here’s the other thing – you’re going to have to have China and Japan and all of Asia and all of these other countries – [the report] addresses only our country. We are the cleanest we have ever been. And it is very important to me. But if we are clean and every other place is dirty, that’s not so good. So, I want clean air and clean water. Very important.”
Cheyenne Cunningham, a senior environmental law student at Coastal Carolina, spent the summer working in Washington, D.C. with South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman of the Fifth District. During her time there, she was able to sit in on several congressional hearings that discussed climate change.
After hearing about the president’s comments on his own administration’s report, Cunningham gave her thoughts on the Trump’s response.
“China certainly is one of the worst countries when it comes to pollution,” said Cunningham. “However, the United States cannot keep pushing our obligations off to the side in order for us to get out of the spotlight. Climate change affects the entire world. I would think that the scientists that were involved in the report are in some type of outrage. The best thing that they can do is continue to put the science out there and move forward with what they find.”
The Trump Administration has not been the strongest supporters of climate change. On the night before Thanksgiving, the president tweeted about the cold temperatures that were being forecasted for much of the northeastern United States.
“Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?” tweeted Trump.
What the president failed to realize is that there is a difference between weather, which is what is forecasted daily, and climate.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of weather is “the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness”. The definition of climate is “the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation”.
The report touched on the effects that climate will have on the oceans and coasts. Being a university that is less than 20 minutes from the beach, this section of the report is something that should be made aware.
“Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change,” the report said. “Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.”
The report also mentioned that the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts face above-average risks due to lasting damage to coastal property and infrastructure driven by sea level rise and storm surge. These effects are also expected to lead to financial losses for individuals, businesses, and communities.
Despite the Trump administration ignoring the effects that climate change will have on both this country and the entire planet, efforts to combat global warming and clean up our home are well underway here at CCU thanks to Sustain Coastal.
Sustain Coastal has taken steps over the years to build recycling habits throughout the community, including providing teal recycling bins to faculty, staff and incoming students. This past month, the University decided to go strawless in order to reduce the amount of waste that can harm the environment. According to a release sent out by the university, Coastal has installed 91 water bottle refill stations have been installed across campus, which have collectively eliminated more than 4.2 million disposable water bottles.
The release also stated that during the 2017-2018 academic year, CCU was able to divert 544 tons of total waste from area landfills, including food and organic waste, electronics, commingled recyclables, cooking oil, scrap metal and items sold or donated via the annual Campus Salvage sale.
Jeremy Monday, CCU’s sustainability coordinator, says that this achievement is just one checkmark on a large list of ways the CCU population and surrounding community can help protect and improve the planet.
“Diverting waste is really just one piece of the puzzle,” he said in the release. “There’s a lot more that we do to help Coastal be sustainable. CCU diverted 102 tons of organic waste alone from going into a landfill, and we’re able to do that because there is a Horry County Solid Waste Authority facility located right on S.C. 90.”
While it is good to see our campus and our community work together to ‘go green’, there is always more that we can do. Climate change is real and ignoring it or placing the blame on other countries is not going make it go away. It is time that our elected officials on both sides of the aisle take a moment to sit down and review the facts that scientists are providing and try to enact policies that will ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.