Column Contest Submissions

Jamie McFarlin

One might think that being a California native, I might appreciate that Appleton, Wis. has endured an obviously mild wintry season thus far. I expected some sort of climatic shock to my body upon returning to campus after a beautiful holiday break in temperate Carmel Valley, and one hasn’t quite hit me yet.
As the new and shallow snow suggests, sunshine has been a more abundant commodity over the last few months than cold storm systems. For SAD and vitamin D production in our skin, the ability to spend more time outside is great. But being a cross-country skier, to me it’s disappointing that winter has been weak. Even more importantly, our lack of snow is indicative of an intercontinental issue much larger and problematic than poor ski conditions.
The term global warming has attached to it a huge amount of negative stigma. While I feel the term global climate change is more accurate, it is fair to say it’s impossible to deny that weather patterns are altering beyond just normal variation, in respect to the speed of the alteration.
The popular explanation for the expedited increase in average global temperature is deceptively simple: An increase in greenhouse gases, namely CO2. Most here at a liberal university are decently versed in the idea that our planet is changing and recognize change in this case is not so great.
Kyoto is a name commonly tossed around in this conversation, along with fossil fuels, Bush and ice shelves. Kyoto had its problems, fossil fuels and Bush are hopefully at a peak, and at this point, ice forms and snow still house around 70 percent of fresh water. In other words, sea levels aren’t flooding coasts yet. So what, then, is being affected beyond thermometers and rain gauges? Oceans.
Oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and by doing so, the content of dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean increases, jeopardizing the ocean chemistry and threatening marine organisms. With a higher concentration of CO2, essentially the ocean becomes more acidic. The more acidic the ocean the lower the concentration of the carbonate ion – a building block of the calcium carbonate used by shellfish and reefs to generate skeletons.
Without going into details on the chemistry of how, shells of live animals – especially in polar regions – can literally dissolve around the creature. Good luck on generating new shells, too. The earth really is a united body, and greenhouse gases affect far more than most realize. Take that to the bank.