About Emil Morhardt

Roberts Professor of Envioronmental Biology at the W. M. Keck Science Department of Clalaremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges (Members of the Claremont Colleges near Los Angeles, California)

Is Climate Change to Blame for the Rise in Shark Attacks?

by Alex McKenna

After the release of Jaws in 1975, people started thinking twice before getting in the water. Decades later, they still remember the stories, newspaper articles, and photographs of swimmers collapsed on the shore, covered in shark bites. But do they have reason to be concerned? Recent trends in climate change suggest that they actually do. Over the past 30 years, the frequency of unprovoked shark attacks has drastically increased, with the majority of bites being recorded in Florida, South Africa, Australia, and the Bahamas. While researchers argue that there are many reasons behind this influx, Dr. Blake Chapman, professor at Bond University in Australia, points to climate change as one of the principle explanations. He believes that rising temperatures, heavy rains, and anomalous weather patterns, all results of climate change, fundamentally alter marine ecosystems and are ultimately to blame for the recent spike in shark attacks. Continue reading

The Blind Side of Climate Change Economics

by Rachel Ashton Lim

How accurate are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) economic estimates of Climate Change-induced damage? A post-Paris agreement review of its Fifth Assessment Report (Stern, 2016) calls for an imperative revision to its economic model. The review’s main suggestion is for the social science to become better integrated with the natural sciences in order to accurately evaluate the economic consequences of Climate Change, which are direr than is currently estimated. However, the review also suggests that the benefits of transitioning to low-carbon growth are underestimated in the report and must be evaluated more holistically. Combined, these two factors will enable the public, private and non-profit sectors to make decisions that will drive the world into the net-zero carbon economy it must achieve within this century. Continue reading

Climate Change and Mass Migration

by Ethan Lewis

An African Independent writer from the Washington Post investigated the large scale issue of mass human migration stemmed from climate change. The writer met with ANM Muniruzaman, a Bangladesh Politician, who recently attended an international migration policy meeting and said “The international system is in a state of denial.” He then continued to say “If we want an orderly management of the coming crisis, we need to sit down now.” Displacement of humans due to climate change is already ongoing with natural disasters like droughts, floods, and storms. Saying exactly how many people will have to migrate in the future is difficult, but statistics from previous years can help form an estimate. Roughly 203 million people were displaced between 2008 and 2015 due to natural disasters. Continue reading

The Impacts of Climate Change on Children

by Ethan Kurz

When thinking about climate change, usually children do not come to mind. However, according to Rema Hanna and Paulina Oliva (2016), children in developing countries are an important aspect to remember when discussing climate change. Climate change is more dangerous to children in developing countries than in developed countries because of the developing countries’ limited social safety nets, extreme poverty, poor or no health care systems, and weak governments unable to help the poorest of the poor adapt to climate change. Children in developing countries already start off at a disadvantage, and climate change just increases the difficulty in raising a healthy and thriving child. Most of the population in developing countries relies on agriculture for income. With climate change and the resulting new extreme weather patterns, agriculture becomes even less reliable as an income source. A drought could cut off the chances of a child getting medical attention because the family cannot afford it. Children in developing countries also face greater risks of interaction with air or water pollutants. Because of the lack of a strong central government or regulation, children in developing countries have fewer things protecting them from airborne and waterborne contaminants. They also face threats from more parasitic diseases, plagues, and anything that can be contributed to changes in weather pattern or climate change. Continue reading

Improving Blue and Green Infrastructure to Counteract Increasing Urban Temperatures

by Deniz Korman

Urban areas experience higher temperatures compared to rural areas, and it is likely that this will lead to health risks within urban communities due extreme heat in the future. However, we have the power to minimize this effect by improving the infrastructures of our cities. An effective way to lower urban temperatures is increasing vegetation and water surfaces, which also provides the added benefit of increasing urban biodiversity, and improving air quality. While this known to be a valid strategy, the magnitude of the climate impact that such an improvement will have when applied on a city scale is unknown. Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016) have modeled the potential of improving green and blue infrastructure within Vienna, and identified the ways in which changes should be applied in order to counteract urban warming as effectively as possible.

Continue reading

The Relationship of Childhood Gastrointestinal Illness, Untreated Groundwater, and Climate Change Precipitation

by Jasmine Kaur

The control of municipal surface water, groundwater, and private wells in the United States varies from place to place. In general, these regulations are minimal and do not mandate federal monitoring of water quality. This has led to reports of 4.3–16.4 million annual cases of gastrointestinal illnesses (GI) caused by pathogens found in public drinking water systems. Amongst the reasons for GI pathogens transported to the drinking water is increased run off from the increased precipitation association with climate change. Continue reading

Schneider and Louisville’s Green Initiative

by Vikramaditya Jhunjhunwala

In the spring of 2011, the mayor of Louisville created a commission dedicated to planting more trees. This commission was to be co-chaired by none other than Katy Schneider, former deputy mayor of Louisville and advocate of environmental issues. Madeline Ostrander (2016) outlines Schneider’s efforts in creating a healthier environment for her city, and reminds the people of urban America of the environmental dangers their concrete worlds face in the absence of greenery.

Ostrander recounts that Schneider’s journey began in early 2012 when Schneider approached Brian Stone, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, to find out the extent of temperature changes in Louisville. Stone proceeded to reveal that Louisville’s temperature had increased by about 1.7 degrees every decade since 1960. Stone also noticed that urban areas were heating more than rural areas. He discovered that this situation was primarily caused by what meteorologists call the urban heat-island effect whereby dark and paved surfaces absorb solar radiation consequently causing the air temperature to rise. Continue reading

How Sedimentation, Nutrient Enrichment, and Overfishing Impact a Coral Reef Ecosystem Immediately Following a Disturbance

by Natalie Ireland

Coral reefs are regularly disturbed by natural phenomena such as bleaching, storms, and outbreaks of predators, such as the corallivorous sea star Ancanthaster planci. Corrallivores are animals that eat coral polyps. Coral reef ecosystems are resilient, and are often able to recover from large-scale disturbances quickly. However, anthropogenic stressors such as overfishing, nutrient enrichment, and sedimentation can prevent coral reefs from recovering. Nutrient enrichment, caused by terrestrial runoff, creates the perfect environment for benthic algae to grow on disturbed and broken coral reefs. Overfishing, working in tandem with nutrient enrichment, causes an overgrowth of algae if there are not enough fish to graze it, and the successive degradation of the reef. Sedimentation is also another side effect of terrestrial runoff. Sedimentation buries corals, which blocks light from reaching them and potentially stops coral recovery. However, sedimentation, when not paired with any other stressor, can also stop the growth of algae by burying surfaces for algae to grow on. Gil et. al. (2016) set out to test the interactive effects that overfishing, sedimentation, and nutrient enrichment have on coral reefs in French Polynesia. They hypothesized that these anthropogenic disturbances, when working interactively, will negatively impact corals, while promoting algal cover. Continue reading

Tourist Behavior Affected by Climate Change

by Bryn Edwards

A study from the 2017 Journal of Sustainable Tourism proposed a psychological explanation for tourist behavior, in particular the effect climate change has on vacation locations. This is a promising development in terms of changing future behavior to further minimize damage that tourism has on native environments and ecosystems. Tourist behavior associated with travel to threatened locations can be attributed to reactance theory, which tells us that people inherently put worth on their freedom, and do not want that freedom taken away. Threatened destinations are alluring because people are more motivated to visit a place if they will not have such freedom in the future. Continue reading

Is Climate Change Burning Up the Fashion Retailing Industry?

by Joshua Dorman

The impacts of climate change are well and truly numerous, even wreaking adverse effects upon an industry that has outlasted everything from drastic shifts in consumer tastes to epic financial downturns: fashion. Dr. Steven J. Hausman, a data scientist and president of Hausman Technology Presentations, recently observed that the climate of 2016—the hottest year on record according to NASA—has had a “direct effect on fashion and apparel retailing.” And indeed it has, with the effects of the phenomenon being felt by the likes of fashion giants Levi Strauss & Co., VF Corp., L’Oreal, and many others.

One particularly salient ramification of climate change on the fashion industry is that shifts in weather patterns have begun to affect consumer browsing patterns. Owners of boutique fashion houses have started noticing that when temperatures reach between ninety and one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, people tend to remain cooped-up inside their air-conditioned homes. The result: a severe decrease in browsing time and, in response, plummeting sales revenue. Continue reading