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Climate change: it’s not a political issue

I do not consider myself a political person. In fact, I shy away from political topics as much as possible because I know that politics can get in the way of honest conversation and turn friends against each other. However, I am a conservationist and I believe in protecting the environment.

I am not entirely sure why the topic of climate change has been turned into something political. Climate change is something so important to the future of humanity that it shouldn’t be a political issue to argue over.

At this point I know we have been inundated with political talk, commercials and speeches to the point of exhaustion. So I am not going to talk about politics; I am going to talk about the problems of human consumption and our impact on the global environment, and how we need to be aware that our actions can affect all people everywhere.

Within this issue, there are lots of terms that people may have heard but have only ever had them explained in a political context. People who want to turn this problem into a political weapon seem to have no problem describing things in a way that’s beneficial to their agendas instead of in an accurate way. As a result, it’s easy for regular people to get mixed up and confused when they hear the same thing described in essentially opposite ways by people on different political sides.

Here are some of the terms and what they mean:

Global warming is when the earth heats up because of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is named for something we’re all already familiar with: greenhouses let plants keep growing even when it’s cold outside because the sun’s light enters through the glass, then turns into heat that doesn’t escape back out through the glass. The same thing happens when your car gets hot on a sunny day.

In our atmosphere, carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere act as the glass of the greenhouse. The gases let in the sunlight but block the heat from exiting the atmosphere, which heats up the planet.

Climate change is related to global warming but is not quite the same thing. Climate change is a term that refers to the side effects of global warming. As the greenhouse gases continue to keep more and more heat inside our atmosphere, the average overall temperature rises very slightly every year. The changes in the the temperature cause the weather to behave differently, leading to changes in climate that include some areas getting warmer, some areas seeing different weather and some areas even getting colder.

It’s hard sometimes to understand something that seems like an abstract concept. It’s especially tough with climate change because a big winter storm or a heat wave aren’t necessarily directly a result of global warming. It may have just been an especially hot summer or cold winter, even if we weren’t adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. However, I’ve seen lots of photos of starving polar bears and videos of melting icecaps. These images turn the concept of the science into a real-life problem I can relate to.

NASA has a wonderful website that has lots of climate change information and facts that are helpful in a non-political way. You can find the website at climate.nasa.gov. Some of the facts include that the average global temperature has risen by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. “The Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice has been thinning or melting away over the past decades, leaving the sea ice cap more vulnerable to the warming ocean and atmosphere,” according to the website. The ice that Greenland has lost has doubled between 1996 and 2005.

I hate to be all doom and gloom, but facts are facts and the fact of the matter is that we are warming the world. Our actions are tinkering with the global atmosphere and the oceans are warming up as a result.

This is a problem that could be disastrous not only for polar bears, but for millions of people living in cities that could eventually become part of the ocean as sea levels rise. That shouldn’t be something that gets tossed around as a political football; it should be something we all care about, regardless of our political beliefs.

Note: In a column from a few weeks ago about feral cats, I wrote that the TNR (trap, neuter release) program was for male cats. A reader, Charlotta, contacted me and let me know that TNR programs target both male and female cats. I wanted to let you know this corrected information and thank Charlotta for pointing this out to me. I always strive to have correct information in my columns, so if you ever find an error, please let me know. You can email me at amandawheelerphoto@live.com. I hate to spread incorrect information.

Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week

Thanks to their unique fur and skin, polar bears are nearly invisible to infrared photography. Polar bears look white, but their fur is actually made up of transparent tubes that allow sunlight to be absorbed by their black skin.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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