Climate Change and the 2016 Presidential Election

by Jesse Jennings

In the 2016 race for the White House, Republican candidates were tilting farther right on the issue of global warming, while the left-wing candidates are promising stronger mandates on carbon emissions. Although there is no consensus when it comes to climate change and it’s legitimacy, right-winged voters agree that climate change should not be a top priority of government officials—recent poll data show that a mere 3% of GOP primary voters think global warming should be on the agenda. Thirty percent of Democrat voters and 11% of swing voters think it should be a priority. Climate change seems to be more of a political pawn which either could hurt or help a nominee’s campaign, dependent on party. Standing in the middle could be more detrimental as Mike McKenna (R), an energy and environmental lobbyist, warns that “staying in one place”—either wholly believing or wholly denying climate change—will prevent political damage to yourself. But whether or not they believe in climate change and it’s place on the agenda, both parties are using it to gain votes in upcoming elections. Continue reading

Veganism and Climate Change

by Riley Hoffman

Many scientists studying climate change are wondering why data they are presenting isn’t causing everyone to jump up to help combat the problem. Robyn Gray attempts to answer this question in her article “The Effectiveness of Advocacy and Advertising: A Comparison Between Veganism and Climate Change” (2015). Why, she asks during this essay, are people much more willing to boycott SeaWorld and keeping animals in captivity after seeing the movie Blackfish than they are to convert to veganism? Her answer is that becoming a vegan requires an extreme change in one’s lifestyle. She also argues the dramatic effect that emotions can have on an individual’s actions. When dramatic life changes are needed, most people are likely to ignore the supporting data and refuse to change. Thus, even though the data shows that the livestock industry produces about 18% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, only 1% of the population is vegan. On the other hand, 4% of the population is vegetarian, which helps to reduce the effect that the livestock industry has, although doesn’t completely eliminate their impact. Obviously, if we lived in a perfect world, everyone would immediately change to veganism to help the environment. This statistic helps to show that change isn’t going to come easily; it will take a different kind of effort than what is being put in now.

Just as converting to veganism requires an extreme life change, so do some of the possible solutions being presented to combat climate change. This explanation of why there is only a small number of people willing to alter their life for the good of the globe seems accurate.

Later on in her essay, Gray presents a solution to this dilemma. Instead of continuing to spew out information and statistics, scientists should try to pull at the heartstrings of their audiences. She argues that making a movie appealing to emotion, like Blackfish, will have a greater impact than force-feeding people scientific data. For example, Gray found that after researching some people chose to convert to veganism after seeing an animal being slaughtered.

Gray, R., 2015. Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, 11. The Effectiveness of Advocacy and Advertisement: A Comparison between Veganism and Climate Change. DOI: 10.5931/djim.v11.1.5514

Gruesome Virus attacks Sea Turtles in Florida

by Pushan Hinduja

Climate change and pollution around the world are causing marine mammals to see an increase in illness and disease. More specifically, Lorraine Chow, discusses a rising number of sea turtles affected by fibropapillomatosis (FP), a disease similar to herpes, in the waters around Florida. Chow believes that the possible culprits for the observed rise in affected turtles are increased pollution and the warming of the waters. Between 2012 and 2014, the Turtle Hospital rescue and rehab facility based in the Florida-Keys has seen an increase in the number of turtles admitted, from 56 to almost 100. FP is a virus that primarily causes tumors to grow on the exterior of a turtle’s body. In some cases, however, FP can cause tumors so large that they prevent a turtle from being able to swim, see, or avoid predators. The hospital tries its best to find turtles and cut off the tumor growths with a carbon dioxide laser, however the process and sheer volume they are dealing with doesn’t make it easy. Although the survival rate after the surgery is almost 90 percent, some surgeries can take almost “half a year,” given the huge number of tumors some turtles can have; additionally, because many turtles are already sick, only one in five actually gets to return to the wild after the surgical procedure. Continue reading

Environmental and Political Factors Combine to Exacerbate Syrian Drought that Underpins Unrest

by Caroline Hays

Major climate events have social and political ramifications beyond their environmental impacts. In a recent study, Kelley et al. (2015) examine the extent of the drought in Syria that began in the winter of 2006/2007 and consider how it impacted the country socially and politically. The authors find that, although Syria has experienced several multiyear (three or more) droughts in the last 80 years, the most recent drought is the most extreme on record. Additionally, the authors note that three of the four most severe droughts recorded in Syria have taken place in the last 25 years. They connect the dots between anthropogenic climate effects, drought, agricultural collapse, and mass human migration, presenting a more comprehensive picture of a major climate event than is often shown. Continue reading

National Hockey League Joins Climate Change Discussion

by Maya Gutierrez

Why was a representative of the National Hockey League (NHL) in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference? Journalist Kevin Blackistone met with the NHL’s vice president for corporate and social responsibility, Omar Mitchell, to discuss the NHL’s unexpected presence at the conference. According to Mitchell, climate change and water scarcity uniquely impact hockey, which at the community level depends on cold weather and fresh water. The NHL seeks to promote water restoration and other sustainable practices. In furtherance of these goals, the NHL has created an eco-friendly mandate “NHL Green” to combat climate change. Continue reading

Rising Seas

by Owen Dubeck

Coral Davenport summarizes the effects of rising sea levels across Kiribati, Greenland, Panama, Fiji and the United States. Kiribati, a chain of islands northwest of Australia, will see some of the worst consequences. Given the island’s low elevation, it could be completely underwater by 2100. Fortunately, the government has urgently responded, buying over 6,000 acres of land in Fiji. This land can function both as a source of crops and possibly a new home. Continue reading

Zero-Waste Mine Reclamation: Coal + Steel + Human Wastes = Soil

by Zoe Dilles

Coal has seen a worldwide growth in production in recent decades despite health as well as environmental concerns as coal combustion is cited as the primary CO2 atmospheric source. In this age anthropogenic climate change, air emissions often overshadow the threats posed coalmine waste rock, which has far-reaching ecological effects from its metal and acid contents. Mixes of coal waste rock with other substances to balance the concentration of nutrients and minerals can order to promote plant growth. Fabricated soils have the potential to reduce landfill disposal as well as mitigate the issues attendant to reclamation reliant on borrowed soils, often leading to deforestation and hydrologic changes. Continue reading