As we enter a new year and reflect on the last decade, it is clear that was one of the most widely debated topics around the world during the 2010s. Of all the regions hit hardest by the impacts of climate change in the United States, California is the unfortunate frontrunner. From increasing temperatures and wildfires, to droughts and dam breaks, these extreme conditions may only be the beginning signs of what is yet to come in 2020 and beyond. 

2010-2019: California’s Most Notable Weather Events  

Five of the 10 largest and most destructive fires in California’s history occurred after 2010. The state also experienced its driest year on record since 1895. Additionally, the Sierra snowpack, which provides more than one-third of the state’s freshwater supply, reached its lowest level in nearly 500 years. 

Even though wildfires and other natural disasters have been a part of California’s history for centuries, they are worsening and causing more destruction each year. The state has already experienced the effects of , with the state having warmed by nearly 3 degrees as a whole compared to 100 years ago, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

Environmental scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, A. Park Williams, told the LA Times that the warming that California is experiencing as a result of climate change could account for up to 15% of the drought’s severity.  

Williams and his team have been studying the effects of climate change in California since the drought began to worsen at the beginning of the decade. According to Williams, the drought, fires, and storms that California has been experiencing would have inevitably come to pass – climate change or not. However, climate change and global warming act as a steroid of sorts, escalating and intensifying the natural weather patterns that already exist in the region. 

A Generation Born into Climate Change 

Of the generations most concerned about climate change, Generation Z is at the forefront. According to a Future of Humanity survey conducted by Amnesty International, out of 10,000 surveyed adults ranging from 18 to 25 from 22 countries, 41% say that global warming and climate change is the most important issue facing the world today. 

Scores of climate change advocates worldwide are pushing national governments to view the implementation of effective climate change policies as part of basic, fundamental human rights. Those such as Karin Watson, human rights educator and activist in Chile, believe that the environmental crisis we are experiencing is ultimately linked to a social crisis.  

Ultimately, unless we can work intergenerationally to fight climate change, bringing together all persons and governments to join the right side of the fight, we are headed towards further destruction. 

Climate Change Predictions for the Coming Decade 

By 2100, it is predicted that California’s average temperature could rise anywhere from 5.6 to 8.8 degrees higher than it was in the early 1900s. The severity of this increase will be determined by our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as how we continue to respond and adapt to climate change in the coming decades. 

Along with rising temperatures as a result of climate change, scientists also predict that changing precipitation levels, melting snow and ice, rising sea levels, acidic ocean water, changing ocean currents, and increases in severe weather worldwide are sure to be seen.  

The University Corporations for Atmospheric Research stated in a release that there are several tipping points, or changes in climate, that indicate large, abrupt changes that cannot be readily stopped or managed, even with drastic measures. These possible tipping points include the collapse of major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, disruption to the ocean’s circulation processes that govern heat and freshwater fluxes, sudden releases of methane, and CO2 saturation in Earth’s oceans. 

Although climate change anxiety is becoming more common, it is important to focus on problem-solving modalities, rather than succumb to fear. Humankind has suffered and overcome earth-altering events before. Now with advanced climate change tracking and other technologies, we are more equipped than ever before to tackle climate change and halt its worldwide impacts before it is too late. 

Resources: 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/emanuelabarbiroglio/2019/12/09/generation-z-fears-climate-change-more-than-anything-else/

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2019-12-26/california-decade-extreme-weather-climate-change-anxiety 

https://scied.ucar.edu/longcontent/predictions-future-global-climate 

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