Does Climate Change matter to college students?


Graphic from Pew Research Center.

Global warming and the topic of the rapidly changing environment (especially the drastic continuing rise in temperature) has been a national and international subject for many years. But is it something college students are concerned about? Are picking majors and studying for finals more important to students than our dying planet?

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal; each year is becoming hotter than the last. Things like the rise in sea levels, temperature increase in the atmosphere and oceans, and melting Arctic sea ice, is unavoidable proof that the environment around us is altering, according to NASA’s website.

The overall world opinion is that climate change is happening too fast, and if no action is taken to reduce the harm that has occurred, then the effects are something that will stay with many generations after our time.

“The people who are mostly affected aren’t going to be us today,” Ryan New, the 2015 Men’s Soccer CSAC Defensive Player of the Year, said. “Our consequences are something that we as a society don’t have to deal with while we’re living, so I think that is why people don’t realize the damage.”

College students recognize the challenge that climate change can bring to their future, maybe because students are constantly thinking about their future.

“This is our future that we’re dealing with here,” sophomore Katie Briante said. “By the time the ramifications of climate change make themselves seen to us in a major way, it won’t be our grandparents or our parents who will have to be living with it, it will be us. This also affects every aspect of our lives: from temperature increases, to sea level rise, to food insecurity, (and) to price increases on virtually everything we use.”

The serious condition of our planet is recognized on our campus just as well os it is worldwide.

Globally, the United States and China are the two nations that seem to be least troubled with climate change as a concern. The U.S. and China fall below the 54% median of nation majorities that consider climate change is a very serious problem according to PewReasearchCenter. Latin America is the most apprehensive; it is the region whose people are most aware of the problem, conscious that climate change hurts people, and are mindful that global warming can harm them personally as an individual.

“Climate change definitely affects the planet, but I’m not sure it affects me personally. Melting ice caps and rising sea levels are really affecting a lot of species of animals, and damage people’s homes that live close to sea level,” Jordan Ogden, a student at Neumann University, said. “Personally, for me, I don’t notice any change in my own life, except for hotter summers and really bad winters, but everyone is affected by that so I can’t single myself out. I’m aware that it is an actual problem, and when people deny the evidence about it and say that climate change isn’t actually real, it’s hard to believe that some people are that ignorant.”

“I think college students should most definitely be concerned with climate change. As cliché as it sounds, we really are the future,” freshman Brooke Fertig said. “Climate change is very real and its effects can be seen on a global scale. Even if it is something as simple as recycling or turning off the lights when you leave the room, it is so very important that every college student tries to do something.”

From 2010 to 2015, the concern for climate change rose in the U.S. from 37 percent to 45 percent according to PewReasearchCenter. The rise in the interest of climate change, and its detriments, lead to the world’s interest of reversing the effects already done.

“Simple daily choices that college students make from the beginning to end of their days can either encourage the Earth to continue to heat up 1.7 degrees fahrenheit every year as it has been since 1880, or prevent the potential for the planet to be 8 degrees hotter by 2040 or 2045,” freshman Angelina Miller said.

The idea that “reversing” global warming and climate could be possible influenced the idea of the hiatus, or slowing down, of global warming around the year 2006. “…academic research on the pause is typically not talking about an actual pause but, at best, about a fluctuation in warming rate that is towards the lower end of the various temperature trends over recent decades (based on article published from Science Express).” The idea of the global warming hiatus is based on the trends of lowered temperatures during the years of 1993 to 2003. The hiatus was attractive to the public, mostly because society through their actions to stop global warming were working.

66% of people in the United States believe that a major lifestyle change is needed to reduce climate change. “Using less energy would be the biggest lifestyle change all Americans could do to help the environment,” sophomore Megan McLoughlin said. “Solar panels and other alternative energy sources should be more affordable for regular people so that everyone has the chance to make a difference to the world. If we don’t change our habits now, then people who live after us will have to deal with the mess that we’ve made, and that’s just not fair.”

So what can we do? Can a lifestyle change really affect our Earth’s help? Or is the damage done irreversible?

“I believe that gradual changes to a person’s lifestyle are needed to achieve a significant change in order to stop climate change,” Danielle Pérez said. “I think that if people actually paid attention to the harm their actions are having on other aspects of their life, they’d make changes immediately.”

After the Paris Climate Change Conference of 2015 occured, over 200 countries met to discuss what could be done to stop the temperature from climbing. According to the NYTimes, the United States has pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent from 2005 levels. As counties are attempting to fix the climate problem on a larger scale, individuals are looking to make a person change to help too.

“We’ll probably need help from the government to make up rules and guidelines citizens have to follow if we want to make a difference,” New said. “You always hear about how people will carpool or travel less to try to stop pollution. I think that big industrial companies should be targeted first, because they are the ones who pollute the most.”

According to the NYTimes, “…experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.”

Demanding change in our society and world must be done so that the human race can continue on for many generations.

Sophomore Lisette Hrapmann said, “College students have a large voice within the American society and are definitely capable of making a difference.”

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