Australia graphic

An intense drought, record-breaking high temperatures and sweeping winds have led to nationwide wildfires that have ravaged Australia's wildlife.

Opinion

Climate change due to human-caused global warming is happening.

We have a scientific consensus on that if you don’t believe a random college writer.

And yet, the current political climate is one of disbelief and pushback about the realities of that. The problem is, sticking our fingers in our ears and shouting about how it isn’t real doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

People are dying and losing their livelihoods due to our continued inaction, spending time pointing to alternative theories. People are having debates with no basis in reality and allowing the situation to grow into a problem that may very well be untenable in the very near future.

Just look at the ongoing Australian bushfires. Members of the Australian Parliament were pointing fingers at the lack of controlled burns, but Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science David Bowman dismissed this, mentioning that the cause was fundamentally the major drought the region has suffered due to climate change. Even regions that had controlled burns were hit hard, but it is easier to blame something on political rivals’ actions rather than recognize the very real issues that the world is facing.

The United States isn’t doing much better. Getting half of the nation to recognize the reality of climate change has proven to be a real challenge, and every day we spend debating this is another day we get deeper into a hole of our own making.

There is nothing clever about pointing to a snowstorm and asking how global warming can be real. That’s the whole reason scientists switched to calling it climate change — not because the globe wasn’t warming, but because people kept conflating the globe warming with their specific locations being warmer at all times.

That’s not the case. In fact, for areas like us, global warming might actually be causing more intense snowstorms, as the Polar Vortex is making more and more frequent dips south.

Some question, “Even if this is a thing, how bad can it be?” The answer is simple: we don’t know. The planet has never seen a temperature change this dramatic in this time frame. We’re seeing tropical storms, blizzards and droughts that lead to wildfires like these or the California wildfires of 2018, escalating and setting records that have stood since we started making records.

So the question becomes what can we do now, as college students at the University of Kansas? Personal conservation efforts are good habits to start, but ultimately the majority of greenhouse gases are from industrial sources.

One of the best ways to influence companies is by refusing to give them money and focusing on companies that do put effort into making conservation a priority. For many manufactured goods, such as clothes, books and water bottles, alternatives that use sustainable sources or make their products out of recycled products exist. Things like electric cars and alternative energy sources like solar are rapidly becoming viable alternatives for individuals. 

All of these are good actions we can take that directly impact the world we live in in small ways. Ultimately, however, participating in the political process is the best way to make sweeping changes to the way our culture impacts the planet. Getting an electric car might be asking too much of a college student, but creating government subsidies for their research and manufacturing can make them viable for thousands of people. 

2020 is a big election year and before long we’re going to be having primaries and elections that will determine the people who make decisions with ramifications for decades or centuries to come. Will your voice be heard?

Jeffrey Birch is a senior from Wichita studying accounting.