Climate change has recently become one of the most discussed issues in politics today and Missouri State University is filled with experts on this topic.
A survey done by The League of Conservation Voters found that 55% of the surveyed general election voters consider climate change a crisis or a very serious problem, and another 24% consider climate change a somewhat serious problem.
Associate professor Scott Worman has taught a variety of archeology and anthropology courses at MSU over the past seven years and has a professional background in both of these fields.
As a professor, Worman said he has the opportunity to potentially shape students’ views of the world. He said he hopes students taking his courses realize the importance of studying the past to better understand today’s issues.
“We can’t plan for the future unless we understand the past and how we got here,” Worman said.
Worman says people have been changing the world around us since we became modern humans, around 200,000 years ago.
“The idea that we can have no effect on the environment is ridiculous,” Worman said.
We have to evaluate the way in which we are changing the environment and think about how we can help ourselves to better modify the planet so it can be beneficial to us, Worman said.
“The planet itself is going to be fine until the sun expands in 5 billion years and burns it up,” Worman said. “We’re not going to actually destroy the planet, but what we can do is make it uninhabitable for humans.”
Worman said because humans continue to pollute the natural world by transporation and agriculture, we are affecting non-human life too.
“There’s a whole bunch of species going extinct,” Worman said.
Worman said species extinction is a natural process which has happened throughout geologic history, but Worman said it’s important to examine the rate of extinction.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, natural species extinction occurs at a background rate of one to five species per year. The article, “The Extinction Crisis,” says scientists estimate humans cause species to go extinct up to 1,000 times the normal rate.
Worman said people who deny climate change are denying science.
“It takes intellectual backflips to be able to deny (climate change),” Worman said.
According to The Guardian, about 99% of scientists now agree that the climate is changing and we are causing it.
Worman said people are less likely to believe things they aren’t ready to accept and many choose to ignore what’s happening around them.
“I mean look at the weather patterns we have (in Missouri),” Worman said. “It’s really really hot out and it’s mid September — it should be cooler than it is right now.”
Climate models show the climate will become unpredictable and overall warmer, Worman said.
“It’s hard for me to understand how people don’t notice this extreme weather,” Worman said. “Hurricanes are getting bigger and stronger, droughts are getting longer and drier, floods are getting wetter.”
Worman said the United States is able to insulate itself from the worst of what’s going on.
“If we get a hurricane we have insurance and can rebuild,” Worman said, “whereas in less developed nations, if extreme weather hits you’re just screwed.”.
From a technological and biological perspective, Worman said human damage to the planet is not irreversible. The United States has the technology to shift over to clean power and grow more than enough food to feed ourselves.
“We can solve all of these problems but what we don’t have is the political will or economic incentive to do so,” Worman said.
Judith Meyer, geography program director, teaches a variety of courses including principles of sustainability. She said her hope for students enrolled in her courses is for them to understand the diverse world around them.
Meyer said climate change is often debated in politics but thinks politicians should be talking about the facts.
“Climate does change naturally,” Meyer said. “But what’s happening right now is not a part of the natural climate change process. Never before in earth's history has so much carbon dioxide been pumped into the atmosphere in such a short amount of time.”
Meyer said the earth’s coral reefs grow by taking carbon out of the ocean thus pulling it out of the atmosphere. She said her hope for students enrolled in her courses is for them to understand the diverse world around them.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the earth’s coral reefs grow by taking carbon out of the ocean, thus pulling it out of the atmosphere. When humans pollute the ocean, they are destroying natural mechanisms in which carbon is removed from the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
The biggest impact an individual can make is to vote and engage in political activism, Meyer said.
She advises people who make environmentally friendly efforts not to be discouraged by pessimistic comments.
“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that your efforts mean nothing, you do have an impact,” Meyer said.
Both Worman and Meyer agree that individualized efforts make an impact but cannot be a substitute for large-scale change.
“Join a club, make your voice heard,” Meyer said. “Hold your politicians, media sources, and friends accountable, if someone says something ridiculous, call them on it.”
Students can join clubs like Green Student Alliance, MSU's central sustainability group focused on community development.