Two weeks ago, I wrote about the high school science bloggers in Ms. Baker’s biology classes at Staten Island Academy. Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing several guest posts that have been written by Ms. Baker’s students.
Today’s post comes from 12th-grader Michael, who would like to be a computer engineer. (Note: At Ms. Baker’s request, I am withholding the last names of the students–if you are interested in contacting any of them, Ms. Baker asks that you please get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.) I have not done any editing–the post, which begins below, is all Taylor’s own work. –EA
Why America Doesn’t Pay Attention to Global Warming
Staten Island Academy
“In the summer of 2003, an intense heat wave was blamed for an estimated 35,000 deaths across large swaths of Europe. A study says that global warming has doubled the likelihood of heat waves of this magnitude.” (From NRDC)
Now, I don’t live in Europe, but I certainly do remember that summer. I remember not only how hot it was in America, but also the news talking about all the people who were dying day after day, mostly the elderly, the children, and the homeless. The NRDC brings this memory back, as well as some other past events, to warn us of the dangers of global warming. But why isn’t America paying attention?
I’m sure you have heard about it on the news; they have a segment on whenever I watch. Everywhere you look, there are the warnings: “GLOBAL WARMING WILL DESTROY US!”, or “SAVE THE POLAR BEARS!” Commercials on the TV are constantly advertising “cleaner, more energy efficient appliances” in order to get more people to buy. Politicians are always seen bickering over how humanity on a whole should stop it. Yet America seems to ignore all of this and continues on its merry way, regardless of the effects on the environment. In a recent poll by Gallup, 48% of Americans believe that the threat of global warming is “greatly exaggerated”. That’s right, about half of America believe that. But the question is: Why? Why do Americans ignore the warning signs? I have 2 hypotheses that could answer this question. One: people are not educated properly about global warming, and are thus more likely to believe whatever the media says. Two: there has been so much media coverage on global warming; Americans have become desensitized to it.
Well, an easy way to start by educating the people is to actually EDUCATE PEOPLE. The people over at NASA know a lot about global warming, so allow me to spread some of this knowledge around, since chances are many people would never find it (It’s in the middle of very first page when you Google “global warming”, but who ever goes beyond the first 3 or 4 links?). And I quote: “Global warming is an increase in the average temperature of Earth’s surface. Since the late 1800’s, the global average temperature has increased about 0.7 to 1.4 degrees F (0.4 to 0.8 degrees C).” The first part is pretty much self-explanatory. However, many people will read the second part and say ‘So what? What’s that little change going to do?’ And there lies the problem. Only a person ignorant of the truth of global warming would say that, so therefore I must continue: “Global warming could melt enough polar ice to raise the sea level. In certain parts of the world, human disease could spread, and crop yields could decline.” All of that could happen due to a small change in the global temperature; a change by a single degree could spell disaster for us. However, would the average American really comprehend what I just quoted? Would that American be able to go to the NASA website, read all about global warming, and understand it? Sadly, chances are this person wouldn’t. It’s the scientist’s job to find the information, and then show it to the world in a way people understand.
Of course, with the media always spouting how global warming will end us, there comes the second possibility: desensitization. The media doesn’t educate, instead it scares everyone to death with portends of doom, “The Day After Tomorrow” style (although MSNBC was kind enough to debunk this apocalyptic myth). They show the ice caps melting, and the occasional polar bear stranded on an iceberg. I mean, look at ABC news! They have an entire webpage dedicated to global warming, with headlines such as: “Charging Your iPod could Harm a Polar Bear?”Let’s face it: Americans have come to see global warming as just another part of daily life. I also blame the internet for desensitizing the public, although this is more due to an information overload than anything else. Type “global warming” on Google, and the search engine will immediately suggest about 10 different choices regarding the topic. If you want quick, simple answers on global warming, the best was the EPA’s website.
Now, the problem isn’t that Americans don’t believe that global warming doesn’t exist. The problem, as the poll I mentioned before suggests, is that Americans believe the dangers are blown out of proportion, and that humanity is not at fault for causing the global warming. Again I blame the internet as one of the causes. Type in “global warming” on Google, and among the suggestions are “global warming myths”, “global warming hoax”, and “global warming lies”. While I was looking at the links these suggestions provided, I came across this lovely website. With websites such as this, a person with little understanding of global warming could easily be duped into believing that it is all a lie. However, most of the reasoning this website uses to debunk global warming is absolutely ridiculous: “Global warming is causing ice to melt on Mars. There are no cars on Mars.” WHAT?!? What does Mars have to do with global warming on EARTH? Also, the website mockingly gives suggestions on what one can do to stop producing carbon dioxide: “Quit school – Those school buildings produce more carbon in a year then you do in 20 years.” Now, while you may think that’s simply satire, read this blog, and you will find out how close that remark is to becoming true.
Why would people prefer to think that global warming does not exist or is greatly exaggerated? How could people be convinced that global warming is a threat, and is caused by humanity, if they are already desensitized to the danger?