The impact of climate change is felt everywhere. National park services are feeling it. Kansans are feeling it. Students at East are feeling it, too.
In wake of the National Climate Assessment — a report by the Federal Government citing possible effects of climate change such as an economic loss of hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — many were left with questions and concerns.
The Harbinger has compiled several accounts of climate change’s effect on the modern world, in addition to the ways that a large corporation, a divisive White House and impassioned citizens are responding.
by Lila Tulp
Ranking sixth among states in agricultural exports, Kansas is expected to face significant changes in agriculture production and the state’s economy due to temperature increase, according to the Federal Government’s Nov. 26 report.
Last year, Kansas’s agricultural exports accounted for nearly $3.4 billion, which went towards helping the economy by producing products such as wheat, beef and other crops. However, due to changes in climate and weather patterns, exports and agricultural products are projected to decline 13 percent within the next few years, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
Though the manufacturing business outweighs the total GDP of agriculture, the agricultural sector of Kansas employs more than 246,877 people — 13 percent of the entire workforce in the state. Out of those 246,877 people, over 1,400 would likely lose their jobs due to the dramatic change in climate and consequently lower yield of crops, according to the Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER).
In a recent report, the KDA stated that farming has cultural and traditional significance to Kansas residents and when the industry suffers, especially to this extent, the effects reach beyond the harvested crops and the workers directly employed by the farms.
“Climate change will affect our water, energy, transportation and public health systems, as well as state economies as climate change impacts a wide range of important economic sectors from agriculture to manufacturing to tourism,” Director for Integrative Environmental Research, Dr. Matthias Ruth said.
These changes have a direct effect on the Kansas economy and a shift in temperature by less than 1 percent, which could — and is expected to — alter crop and farm production rates and contribute to the loss a total of $169 million in all sectors of the Kansas economy over the next few years, according to CIER research.
Simply put, despite Kansas’s inconstant climate — the eastern half receiving moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the western half with a semiarid weather pattern — temperatures have increased throughout the state, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the last century.
The average winter temperature in Kansas has increased by 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit from the 1900s to the 2000s, and over the same period while the average summer temperature has increased by 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to sophomore David Crabb, after working on his family farm he’s noticed drier growing seasons and hotter temperatures in both Oklahoma and Texas, but hasn’t seen much of an impact quite yet in Kansas. However he’s expecting to see dramatic changes by the time summer approaches.
Climate change would also lessen yields of one of Kansas’s most central crops: wheat. In a study conducted by the Kansas State University, Professor of Agronomy Dr. Charles W. Rice and his students focused on wheat production in correlation to climate change. They found that in the upcoming decades, at least one-quarter of the world’s wheat production will be lost due to extreme weather, and if no adaptive measurements are implemented, there will be consequences including raised prices and a weaker economy.
“The Agronomy Department, collaborating with other departments at K-State and with other universities, is world-renowned for its research into agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation practices,” Rice said. “The objective of [this project was] to find ways to increase soil carbon sequestration and reduce agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide and methane.”
If temperatures rise significantly along with constant decreases in precipitation and sporadic droughts, pasture yields will deteriorate due to the lack of nutrients and hydration levels — livestock will not gain a healthy amount of weight and dairy cows may produce less milk.
According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, dairy cow milk production in Kansas could decrease by 11 to 22 percent by the end of the century due to warmer temperatures and lowered precipitation, ultimately increasing prices of dairy products.
Higher summer temperatures due to climate change influence not only livestock, but crop production patterns northward. This may force farmers to change which crops they grow, how much irrigation they use or change what time of year they harvest crops — this would cause a shift in what crops are harvested and an increase in money spent on farm operations such as irrigation systems.
President of the Missouri Farm Bureau Blake Hurst said last week that the government’s report was “pretty disturbing.” He agreed, however, that agricultural producers will have to meet the challenge and conform to the climate-related changes in farming.
“I’m not optimistic that our trading partners will be willing to do all the things they have to do,” Hurst said. “As farmers, we will do our best to adapt to changes in weather, as we always have.”
According to Hurst, collaboration to advance wheat research is critical in order to mitigate these issues. Since 2008, multiple private technology providers, like BluWrap, have announced increased investments up to $18.6 million in wheat breeding and their interest in partnering with public research programs. The National Association of Wheat Growers stated that wheat farmers in the industry are “excited about these developments and hopeful these efforts will lead to greater sustainability for the entire wheat chain.”
The possibility of drier growing seasons will call for increased irrigation in the western part of the state, putting more pressure on an already strained groundwater supply and increasing the cost of operations on farms, according to the bureau. Through this increase, the cost of produce and other products will spike statewide as these forced changes are implemented.
*Dr. Charles Rice, Kansas State University
by Emily Fey
When then-sophomore Seth Arvesen was told he and his family were going visit Olympic National Park in Washington, the “angsty teen” in him could only think about how badly his legs were going to ache after hours of hiking. But when Arvesen got his first look at the park, all he can remember thinking is “Oh my God. This is amazing.”
Olympic National Park was the backdrop to Arvesen’s 60 miles of hiking in six days, or rather six days and 45 minutes after getting lost in the maze of trails. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming presented him with the most “picture-perfect mountains” and a sunset he will never forget, even if it came with the risk of being 15 feet from a bear. And Arches National Park in Utah landed him near Wall Street — a two-mile stretch of wall, famous in the rock climbing community and perfect for scaling.
Now a senior, those “beauties” that Arvesen describes and the 414 other national parks in the U.S. are experiencing climate change at a rate much faster than the rest of the U.S. combined, according to Patrick Gonzalez, a climate change scientist from UC Berkeley. Temperatures are rising at a rate double that of the U.S. as a whole, and annual precipitation is significantly down for 12 percent of park area — compared to only 3 percent of the nation as a whole.
Gonzalez attributes the parks’ faster climate change response to their location: most parks are in the Arctic, at high elevations or in the arid regions of the southwestern U.S., which are all areas that respond more severely to climate change. This means melting ice sheets in Glacier National Park in Montana, more wildfires blazing near Yosemite National Park in California and dryer climates for the vegetation and wildlife of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
“[Climate change] is not uniform,” Madeleine Rubenstein, a biologist from the U.S. geological survey, said. “There are multiple dimensions of climate change. There are changes to temperature, changes to sea level, changes to precipitation, and these changes are all happening at different rates across different parts of the world.”
Global warming is quickly affecting the physical characteristics and rare wildlife and vegetation that earned the National Parks their status as federally protected land. The increased temperatures have created a climate where wildfires run rampant, glaciers melt at rates never seen before and already endangered species and plants are becoming more vulnerable to becoming extinct.
National Parks run the risk of losing the natural features that gave way to their famous names. According to the Washington Post, the trees native to Joshua Tree National Park may not be able to adapt to changing temperatures and by 2100 will only be seen on historic postcards. It is estimated that a rise of 1 degree Celsius could lead to the complete melting of the glaciers that embody Glacier National Park. Gonzalez states the rise of 1 degree Celsius could occur as early as 2030.
“We thought [glaciers] changed in response to climate kind of slowly, not reaching these thresholds and changing really quickly,” Leigh Stearns, member of the KU Glaciology and Remote Sensing department, said. “The warming in the arctic has really been greater than warming elsewhere around the world. It’s warming a lot more and the glaciers are responding a lot faster than we had anticipated 20 years ago.”
Senior Dane Erickson was able to see the effects of California wildfires on Yosemite National Park first-hand in 2013. The towering Sequoia trees were not enough to distract him from the burnt trees and shrubs where the lush green forest should have been.
“You go to some places out west, like when my family went to Yosemite, you can see all the forest fires that have just destroyed the area,” Erickson said. “Obviously forest fires are sometimes natural, but they’re also often caused by humans, so just seeing [the fires’] giant effect on these national parks diminishes the quality of the trip a little.”
Warming temperatures have also caused a disruption to the delicate ecosystems of the parks. According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, animals and plants can adapt to climate change in three ways: move, adapt or die. Peter Groffman, professor at City University of New York says some species are very adaptable to new climate, but those that aren’t are much more susceptible to climate change, such as the sea turtles and staghorn coral living in Dry Tortuga National Park.
The wildlife that isn’t able to adapt is forced northward and uphill as they attempt to reach cooler temperatures and the rare and endangered species found throughout the parks, such as the polar bears in northern Alaskan parks, are put at a higher risk of extinction.
In a poll taken of 209 students, 96.2 percent believe that National Parks are an important part of the U.S. Erickson believes that national parks are important because they give people a chance to enjoy the parts of the country not yet touched by modernization.
“When [the parks] were created back with Teddy Roosevelt, they were meant to set aside land to prevent urbanization and I still think that is really necessary in today’s society,” Erickson said. “We really need these national parks so everybody has an opportunity to go experience nature and see all the beauty the world has to offer.”
Not only are the parks important to preserve natural beauty, but Gonzalez says that the shifting of ecosystems and effects of climate change on wildlife increases the importance of national parks because they can “offer habitat refuge for climate-sensitive species.”
According to Groffman, the parks are working on ways to combat climate change to not only help their species, but also use their land to provide refuge for wildlife found in other parks that need to be moved to a more suitable environment. When animals are seen to be in danger from increased temperatures, park rangers can begin the process of trying to relocate the animal to a more northern park.
“To me, this illustrates the idea that the people who run the national parks are thinking ‘Yeah, I got to save my park,’ but they’re also thinking ‘My park could play a role in saving species and [helping] healthy species adapt to climate change,’” Groffman said.
In 2017, 331 million people visited a national park, and the National Parks Conservation Association estimates $32 billion was brought in to the country by the parks in 2015. The effects of the warming climate may not just affect the natural and unusual beauties of the parks, but it could also have a negative economic effect if burnt grass lands and glacier-less national parks become the norm, resulting in fewer tourists to visit the national parks of the country.
Gonzalez and a team of other climate scientists from UC Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin believe that under the “highest [carbon dioxide] emissions scenario,” park temperatures could increase 3 to 9 degrees Celsius between the years of 2000 and 2100. Even with reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, the team says temperatures still could exceed 2 degrees Celsius for 58 percent of national park area. Despite these alarming claims, they believe greenhouse gas emissions reductions could reduce the projected temperature increase by one-half to two-thirds.
Daniel Cohan, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at Rice University believes the best way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to control “what we eat, what we drive and how we heat and cool our homes.” He encourages eating less beef, using a carpool or transit system to get to and from work and learning how to use a thermostat correctly in order to not overuse electricity.
“[It is important to have national parks] because after talking to a handful of people from Europe, and sometimes even South America, a lot of times they kind of look up to the National Park System,” Arvesen said. “It’s because our national park system is so good and we have a lot of parks and a lot of protective lands inside of our country. And plus, it brings in a lot of money, but it’s not really about the money. It’s all about getting nature lovers in their natural habitat.”
Senior Claire Griffith stared down distastefully at the hamburger on her dinner plate. Burgers used to be Claire’s favorite dinner, but now she won’t touch it. Instead, she only thinks of the methanes produced from cow slaughter that emit more greenhouse gas emission than 10 times that of coal production — just for a burger on her plate.
Claire looked up at her parents and twin sister:
“Do you guys know the effect this meal has on the environment?”
They stared back blankly, mumbled remarks of confusion and continued on with their burgers and conversations about one another’s day.
Claire was annoyed at how unaffected they all were. After watching hours of documentaries on climate change and the livestock industry, she now saw everything differently: the clothes she bought, the food she ate and the way she lived her day-to-day life.
She started the Outdoor Club at East so she can encourage students to realize the importance of nature, and protecting it. Instead of plastic utensils being an easy tool for school lunches, she associated it with fossil fuel emissions, thus putting an end to her plastic usage. She stopped reaching for Ziploc bags and instead tried metal tupperware. But it still wasn’t enough, so she put an end to anything that touched plastic — meat, processed food, disposable water bottles.
Dairy and meat, once a part of Claire’s daily diet, now reminded her of the bigger picture and why she stopped purchasing processed and plastic related food. For a girl who grew up loving meat, shifting to veganism affected packing school lunches, grocery shopping and finding substitutes to burger night. Her new philanthropic menu began to affect the rest of her family.
When her twin sister Ally dipped a straw in her glass of water, Claire looked up from her lunch box made of recycled fabric and couldn’t help but comment.
“You really need a straw for that, Ally?”
Slowly, Claire reminded her family of the impact. She needed them to see the importance of protecting humanity. Of protecting places that preserve the natural Earth, whether it be as far as Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska or as close to home as Shawnee Mission Park. So they came to learn the compost bin wasn’t such a burden when they realized it could help the garden just as much as it can help the environment.
“Sometimes you want a hamburger, you want it to be easy,” her dad Steve Griffith said. “but she’s passionate and we all use the compost bin now.”
They used to go on drives together — to talk, listen to music, to think. But since Claire realized the gas emissions were harmful to the atmosphere, they don’t go on directionless drives. Instead they rock climb or hike though Shawnee Mission Park, an environmentally friendly alternative.
Ally also watched her sister struggle to buy a Homecoming dress because few companies that sell dance dresses were environmentally conscious. She couldn’t return to any of their
Ally watched her twin sister change what they had been doing their entire lives. But Claire had found something she followed so passionately that Ally cut back on plastic to support Claire.
But Claire isn’t confrontational — at least not outside of the comfort of her own home — and according to her sister, Claire would never pick a fight at school, even over climate change. But watching students in the cafeteria dump entire trays into the trash as if the recycling and compost bins weren’t centimeters away frustrates her. It reminds Claire of the people in China forced to wear smog masks due to the pollution. She had seen the disturbing images when Googling how to prevent climate change. She feared for her safe haven in nature.
“It makes me feel like what I’m doing can’t help,” Claire said. “If there are plenty of people who don’t believe in [climate change].”
Claire notices everything. Every light left on, every plastic water bottle, each piece of paper in the trash. But even with people around her disregarding the environment, she is most discouraged by seeing the actions of the government and bigger corporations. No matter how much gas she saves or how many burgers she turns down, there will always be more people who don’t care.
“It might not change the world,” Claire said. “But at least you could sleep at night knowing you are helping the environment. It’s so hard to change people’s minds.”
At home, Claire is able to speak her mind. Climate change has become a common topic at the dinner table where now, all family members contribute. Once she starts, Claire switches from slouching to sitting up straight and reminding her dad that even cow farts affect the atmosphere.
On walks through Shawnee Mission Park, she can’t help but imagine the outcome of climate change progressing. She wonders if the trees and the crisp air will remain in 20 years. She wonders if her children will be around to enjoy the same peacefulness.
“I think, what if there’s nowhere to go in the future to breathe this air and feel this free?”
by Ben Henschel
President Trump loves digging himself into holes.
He dug one by lying, repeatedly, about hush payments to women he had affairs with. He dug another by supporting Roy Moore, a senatorial candidate in Alabama accused by nine women of sexual misconduct. He found himself miles underground by failing to condemn alt-right groups involved in the Charlottesville attack last year.
Now he’s pulling us all in with him. At this point, 60 percent of the country is in agreement, according to a poll by the University of Michigan — climate change is a problem that must be solved, or bare minimum, addressed.
President Trump isn’t concerned about doing either.
The president’s unceasing denial of climate change and enacted policies have cut down any progress that previous administrations have made, propelling the U.S. into an overheated climate and the decimation of thousands of species.
His most recent denial of climate change is perhaps the most concerning.
The National Climate Assessment, written by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is an official governmental report on climate change and its effects on the U.S. The Trump administration quietly released it several weeks early on Nov. 23, while most people were on Thanksgiving holiday — strategically taking a break from the news.
The report says that Earth’s climate is changing faster than any previous point in modern history, and that now, nearly 9,300 more people could die every year from extreme weather and climate-related events.
A perfect example? The California wildfires that decimated much of the state and took 85 lives in early November — the same fires that Trump said on Twitter occurred due to the “forest management [being] so poor.”
Oh, and that “tremendous economy” that the president’s so proud of — the economy that he’s built in large part due to rapid expansion of factories, which emit loads of carbon dioxide? The report states that by the end of the century, the American economy is on track to lose hundreds of billions of dollars, or even up to 10 percent of its GDP, due to changes in national climate. The economic losses would stem from effects like an increased amount of collateral damage from extra natural disasters to major crop failures from drought.
Most responsible world leaders would respond hastily and with newfound inspiration to curtail the effects of climate change. But we’re dealing with a special case, here.
“I’ve seen it,” Trump said of the report. “I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine.”
Thousands of lives and billions of dollars lost aren’t just fine, Mr. President. They’re a preventable catastrophe that you can’t help but cause. Just look to his most recent policies for proof.
In August, Trump tried rolling back legislation that would attempt to raise the average fuel range of cars to 50 miles per gallon by 2025. Higher fuel ranges for cars lead to less fuel burned per car, meaning lower carbon emissions — lower by an estimated amount of 134 coal plants burning for a full year.
One gallon of gasoline produces around twenty pounds of carbon dioxide gas, and six tons per car each year. Still, Trump insists on unrestricted car mileage standards.
The administration also recently released plans to convert nine million acres of land reserved for native sage grouse, a bird species, into land for oil and gas drilling. This crosses two dangerous boundaries — one, the expansion of fossil fuels leading to increased carbon emissions, and two, displacing an indigenous species for those fossil fuels.
And let’s not forget about the world’s primary source of carbon dioxide emissions — the “indestructible stuff,” as Trump calls it — coal.
The Trump administration plans to nix Obama-era carbon-trapping technology that prevents carbon dioxide from escaping to earth’s atmosphere.
Trump said the technology’s too expensive to maintain at around $121 per ton of carbon dioxide. Funny enough, he just finished over two years of golf that cost American taxpayers an estimated $77 million. But carbon-restricting technology to help prevent an uncontrollable climate? Far too much money.
These policies and loose restrictions are quickly shortening the distance between where we are now and the rising sea levels and relentless heat waves to come. Business Insider reported in August that if the world’s governments don’t soon begin to collaborate on ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and raise the share of renewable energies by at least two percent annually, major effects could be seen as soon as 2035.
It’s a point of no return, where droughts, major hurricanes and flooding would be as common as reading a Trump Twitter rant over breakfast.
When asked about the potential economic and ecologic harm given out in the report — harm alleviable by implementing any contrary climate change policies — Trump said “I don’t believe it” and that the U.S. was “at the cleanest [it’s] ever been.”
Trump’s in denial. His policies, rhetoric and inscrutable claims pertaining to climate change are a revelation of the outdated, anti-intellectualist ideals that have corrupted much of his administration.
But maybe he’s not beyond convincing.
If the nation realizes that Trump and his administration must shift their current course on climate change imminently, we may have time to act and speak against it before time runs out — and the time’s shrinks exponentially from here. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves nose-deep in a hole we can’t possibly hope to dig ourselves out of.
by Miranda Hack
It pains me to admit that we live in a country where an “anti-science” agenda exists — to know that personal fortune is, to some, of higher importance than the future of our planet. And worst of all, some of the offenders are the ones with the most power.
Take ExxonMobil, a leading American oil and gas corporation. A 2017 report by InsiderClimateNews revealed corruption inside Exxon — specifically, their attempts to “emphasize the uncertainty” in climate research. It described how Exxon published ads in mainstream newspapers, claiming that the effects of fossil fuel emissions on the climate were still uncertain — contrary to research done by scientists on Exxon’s own payroll. But, aside from a few protests and a blow to their reputation, the company emerged largely unscathed — still profiting from their lies.
So I’ve lost faith in the fossil fuel industry. I’m losing faith in my government — in their responsibility to mitigate the corruption and greed of these massive corporations who control, quite literally, the future of this planet.
But ExxonMobil’s campaign of deliberate misinformation has already played its part in polarizing the American public on climate change. Now, it seems they are trying to re-endear themselves with the public — two weeks ago, the corporation signed a contract that would increase their use of wind and solar power in the Permian Basin in Texas.
But this is not a solution — it’s a bandaid on a gunshot wound.
Yes, they’ve invested a percentage of their massive funds into renewable energy in Texas. But they’re still drilling there, and they’ve released their plans to triple their daily oil production by 2025.
It’s counterintuitive that Exxon would actively acknowledge the truth in climate science. After spending four decades and nearly $10 million on climate change denial, they’ve made it clear that the truth is secondary to their own profits. So it simply doesn’t make sense that ExxonMobil would, all of a sudden, start preaching the dangers of their own products, much less fund an effort reduce the use of them. It’s selfish and corrupt and flat-out wrong, but they’ve continually put their own interests above those of the planet’s.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to slap a public statement on their website’s front page, displaying their support of the cause. But it’s not easy to change a business that is fundamentally rooted in the destruction of our planet.
And knowing ExxonMobil’s past, can we trust them to truly invest in the possibilities for the future, instead of making a half-hearted attempt to appease an angry public?
Almost certainly not. The big businessmen of this world, it seems, have little interest in truth. They’re preoccupied with money, with filling up their own checking accounts through risky, short-term investments that leave our planet at stake. Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, made $40 million in his last year on the job — and still seemed to have no qualms misleading his investors on the actual costs of climate change. And the Koch Brothers — a pair of oil heirs who, according to GreenPeace, have donated over $100 million to climate change denial groups since 1997 — are no better.
But hey — at least they’ll be able to afford renovations when sea levels rise and flood their multi-million dollar waterfront mansions. But that’s likely not the case for the millions of people they, and ExxonMobil, have deceived along the way.
So with the fossil fuel industry intently focused on protecting themselves and the Trump Administration clearly unbothered by the excess of oil companies — who does that leave?
Us. The consumers.
So think. Think before you pull into an ExxonMobil gas station. Think before you call an Uber instead of walking. Think before you vote for a candidate who doesn’t support regulating carbon emissions.
We all live on this planet. We all will — no matter the claims of the climate change deniers — at some point, suffer the consequences of these executives’ actions. My only wish is that we can stop this corruption and blatant self-preservation before the climate crisis becomes irreversible. And, unfortunately, that could come as quickly as 2100, according to Scientific American, when global temperatures could rise to over 3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.
Three degrees of warming would leave Arctic forests melted and and wipe out most coastal cities — and this is what some climate scientists consider to be a realistic consequence. Four degrees, and the entire European continent would almost certainly turn into desert.
But the executives of ExxonMobil are thinking short term. They only need to make enough money to live sumptuously in excess for their lifetime. Still, considering the damage that they have the power to do, I can only hope that this planet outlasts them.
The History of Exxon’s Climate Denial
*information courtesy of greenpeace.org
*keynote speech by ExxonMobil official
infographic below by Lila Tulp