Do a few quick Google searches of “climate change,” and you’ll find yourself in an endless heap of factual information, not-so-factual information, headlines denouncing it, headlines calling for action, hope and devastation alike. With the impending reality of climate change continuously remaining ever-present in today’s world, it helps to have clarity on the subject.
Dr. Dan Klingensmith and Dr. Paul Threadgill have attempted to provide such clarity to Maryville College students by offering a climate change course for the first time this year, which is an option for any and all students to fulfill the life science credit required of them via the core curriculum. I got to experience it firsthand.
I had little clue what to expect from this course in its beginning stages, but during the very first class, Dr. Threadgill made it clear that the course had no objective besides informing us about the subject. Now that we’re at the end of the semester, I’m grateful to have taken it.
With two professors from different departments—Dr. Klingensmith from the humanities and Dr. Threadgill from natural sciences—there was lots of room for discussion. In fact, every class was a student-led discussion, where we would explore assigned readings, our own real-world problems, questions and thoughts about climate change.
While most of us in the class agreed that climate change is an ever-growing and pertinent problem in the world, different topics and questions allowed us to explore our own thinking about the subject (which is something we all should do); What if we don’t experience the more devastating effects of climate change in our lifetime? What if the world never comes to a consensus that climate change is real? Why are we, as Americans, divided on the subject when the rest of the world isn’t?
“Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced,” said Greta Thunberg—the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who is leading a global revolution to take strong action against climate change—at the World Economic Forum this year. “The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. And either we do that, or we don’t.”
Thunberg is correct; climate change will be the end-all, be-all of the human race and the future of the Earth and stopping greenhouse gas emissions is the main solution. The object of making it happen is not exactly simple, and there is much more needed of us to slow the warming trend.
We are past the point of asking the Earth for permission of our negligence. We are forced to the point of asking it for forgiveness. These are perilous times. In order to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (the degree at which we will begin to face brutal consequences across the globe), we must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to net century by the middle of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Climate change is nothing new, but we’re beginning to see its effects. As people in our 20s, we will face even worse if strong action isn’t taken soon. Climate change is more than a problem that puts our world at risk. It puts civilization at risk. It puts humanity at risk.
I encourage you to inform yourself and others (especially policy makers currently in or running for government). I encourage you to vote. I encourage you to take this course. I encourage you to care. In the words of Greta Thunberg, I encourage you to “act like your house is on fire,” because it is.