Climate change has been a natural part of the Earth’s cycle for millions of years, from rising temperatures to ice ages, through many climatically stable periods of time. However, in this century, we are facing an unprecedented rise in average global temperatures and even larger rises locally which have already drastically affected the planet as well as all life forms that inhibit it. The human population is not only contributing to this rise in average temperature from activities such as usage of greenhouse gases and depletion of natural resources, but the population will be also affected drastically from climate change.
As a young person who grew up in the Rhones-Alpes region of France, I have learned much about glaciers and their critical importance to humanity and the environment. Glaciers play a crucial role in the world and the oceans, helping to balance the ecosystem and its biodiversity. Many important species live in glacial areas. These species represent a significant part of the tradition and culture of the residents of the Alpine regions, such as the marmots, whose first noise is traditionally the first start of spring.
After moving to the United States, I have visited France and the Alps several times in the summer and skied in Tignes where the high altitude allows for the temperature to be cold enough for the glacier the entire year. However, during the previous year, it was the first time in decades that the glaciers and the snow were melting at an unprecedented rate despite the high altitudes. As a result, Tignes had to shut down for more than half of the summer for the first time in its history. Many local businesses were devastated, and World Cup and Olympic skiers were unable to train in preparation for the next winter. This summer, the problem continued, with glaciers continuing to rapidly melt. Scientists have also recently found pink spots caused by algae on the snow in the Alps, notably on the Presena glacier in Northern Italy. This is alarming news because when algae are present it means the conditions are warm enough for it to grow. The darker (pink) colour of the snow increases its ability to absorb sunlight and heat thereby accelerating the rate that the snow and glaciers melt.
The increase in glacier melting in the Alps, Siberia and the Himalayas continues with temperatures of 30C (86 F) recorded in Siberia this June. The vastly increased volume of glacial meltwater and Arctic iceberg melting are major factors in the rising sea levels observed worldwide. If this is not mitigated, this will lead to the submersion of many large cities and coasts around the world including New York City, the Florida coasts, and the Maldive islands in the Indian Ocean. It is possible to restore the ecosystem, but this issue has to be addressed and accounted for immediately, and on a worldwide scale. The drastic effects of climate change could otherwise become catastrophic for humans, animals, and the entirety of the planet.
Climate change can seem overwhelming but we have many solutions which could prevent major future consequences such as the submergence of many low lying cities and the contamination of water that can create new disease. Possible solutions could thus be to prevent the consumption of fossil fuels as well as raise awareness of the biodiversity and health issues climate change is causing. Organizations such as Our Climate and NY2CL, are youth led nonprofits that focus on this work and connect with legislators in NY in order to influence the passing of crucial climate policies. One such policy is the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (FFDA). This bill specifically targets investments into the fossil fuel industry such as retirement pension funds in order to divest this fund from fossil fuels for a better investment towards an energy efficient New York State. Another policy vital to pass is the Climate Community Investment Act (CCIA). The climate, jobs, and justice recovery campaign is a movement pushing to pass this bill which would make polluters pay for the pollution and greenhouse gases that have affected poor communities making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and toxic infrastructure. The CCIA will invest in these vulnerable communities to create green and renewable jobs.
Anyone can contribute to making a difference and be a part of the movement! One important thing you can do is to educate yourself about climate change and its impacts locally, nationally, and globally. Actions you can take can be as simple as decreasing the amount of plastic you use (there are many more biodegradable alternatives such as paper and cloth). You can help your local communities by encouraging more people to be more environmentally conscious or by producing and participating in projects that focus on waste conservation, wildlife protection, and recycling. It is also important to participate in government and to vote, lobby and meet with state representatives to push for climate-friendly policies. It is important to start, to persevere and to keep pushing forward and contributing to making a change. Hopefully, by implementing solutions curtailing climate change, glaciers will be able to slow their rate of melting and retreat so that many Alpine residents, including myself, can enjoy activities like skiing and simply taking in the natural beauty of the alpine environment.
Links to contribute and learn more to combat climate change :
By Alissa C. Bee