OPINION: We’re already doomed to climate change

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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Automobiles release a variety of pollutants which have been known to contribute to climate change. Photo credit: Ally Prusnofsky

With increasing talk of the importance of taking action to prevent climate change, environmental activism has made a resurgence. Even with this last-ditch effort to save the environment, the reality is that it is already too late, and at best we can attempt to alleviate the worst of it.

Climate change is best made analogous to a speeding car that has no brakes and is gradually accelerating toward a brick wall in the distance. Even if the world somehow managed to cease 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, because this planet-sized car has no brakes, it will still take a significant amount of time for the greenhouse gasses that we have already released to be naturally scrubbed from the atmosphere, or for the car to decelerate.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the planet has 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Surpassing this number by even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of catastrophic events, such as drought, floods, wildfires, extreme heat, food and water shortages, mass migrations and poverty for people worldwide.

The world is currently 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. However, headlines on this report such as “We have 12 years left to act on climate change, UN warns” from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, can be extremely misleading and give the implication that things may not be as grim as they actually are.

Despite many claiming that the media hypes up the danger of climate change, it actually significantly undersells the reality of climate change.

The U.N. report states that carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45 percent by 2030 to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius and come down to zero by 2050. This would require an unprecedented level of change to achieve, which seems very unlikely given the current global outlook.

According to a Yale University article, in Sept. 2016, the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide year around. The significance of this number is that it has long served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change by climate scientists.

The last time that there was this much carbon in the air, over 2 million years ago, the sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are now. This is important considering the fact that about 40 percent of people in the world live within 100 kilometers of the coast, and that humans can’t breathe underwater.

Despite such a grim outlook, the public is largely uninformed on the reality of the situation. Matt Bershadsky, a sophomore psychology major, said that he believes it is possibly worse than most people believe.

“Even myself, I don’t think about climate change ever,” Bershadsky said. “Because it doesn’t seem as bad to me since I just don’t have the knowledge … that would be necessary to make a decision on it.”

With conflicting reports and studies, it can be difficult to understand the direction in which our planet is heading. While the planet may be in an irreversible path to a deteriorating environment, the best we can do now is make small efforts to slow it down.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Press On: Journalism after the Gazette shooting

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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After the shooting at the Capital Gazette, many are questioning the future of journalism. Photo credit: Kevin Barrett

After receiving the jolting news of the Capital Gazette shooting that left five journalists dead last week, many have questioned what this event means for freedom of the press in the U.S.

Five employees of The Capital Gazette — Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith — were killed Thursday, June 28, after gunman Jarrod Ramos entered the office and opened fire. Ramos was charged with five counts of first degree murder.

According to The Hill, the gunman had a poor relationship with the paper and attempted to sue the paper for defamation.

In recent years the lifeblood of any democracy, the fourth estate — the free press —has increasingly come under attack. Many journalists, including the Sentinel staff, have come to fear the unwarranted risks of the profession, even in their own town.

“This was an attack on the press,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said following the attack. “It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

According to the Washington Post, 2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists, and data published by press freedom organizations indicate that the threats faced by journalists worldwide are only increasing.

There has been increasing political pressure on journalists in the U.S. with President Donald Trump often referring to the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Unfortunately, this phrase has a very long and horrific pedigree that can be found in both the French Terror and Soviet Terror. Thousands of people have been executed as “enemies of the people.” Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post questioned what role this type of political atmosphere may have played in the actions of the Capital Gazette shooter.

Julia McIntosh, a journalism major at KSU, says that while the attack has made her more fearful of the dangers to journalists, she is not deterred.

“It’s made me more scared to be a journalist,” McIntosh said. “I’m never going to be scared to tell stories for those in need.”

In the days following the shooting, the Capital Gazette also received death threats and emails from people they don’t know celebrating their loss. In a letter released by the Capital Gazette staff said, “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”

In the age of growing political polarization and nationwide accusations of media, we must not forget the importance and sacrifice of journalists. Although “facts” and well-vetted sources are the cornerstone of quality journalism, and it is the duty of the people to call out errors or mistakes that are made, we have grown to be a completely intolerant people. People sit comfortably behind a computer and hurl insults or belittle the sacrifice of journalists who work long hours for very little pay, and who sometimes pay a price too high for it.

Journalism is constantly changing, and we as journalists must always adapt. We must never forget the sacrifice and bravery of the journalists who fight to bring truth to light.

Press on.

The Sentinel staff would like to honor those killed in the attack: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel