Global warming isn’t just about more violent storms, said climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe Monday night at Bowling Green State University.
It’s about violent conflicts caused by fewer resources and people forced to migrate.
Climate change isn’t just about polar bears, she said. It’s about her son’s future, about his not experiencing the same world she grew up in, and maybe being drafted to fight as global conflict spreads.
Hayhoe, who was recently included on Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world, visited Bowling Green as the annual Lamb Peace speaker.
In a systematic presentation she explained the science behind global warming, noting it is not based solely on recent findings, but rather to papers writing in the early 19th century.
Hayhoe went through the “what abouts,” the other reasons posited for climate change. In each instance, whether the idea that the world is just emerging from another ice age or that increased temperatures are caused by the cyclical changes in the earth rotation around the sun, she showed how studies do not support those explanations.
And while Ohio and the Midwest and eastern United States did just have a cold and snowy winter, this weather should not be taken as disproving global warming. Rather this area was an outlier in a world that saw warmer temperatures this year. Short-term weather patterns are not the same as long-term trends, she said.
In chart after chart, the long-term patterns were clear: temperatures are rising. That rise is caused by the increased burning of coal, gas and oil, which creates carbon dioxide which traps heat and warms the globe.
That means, Hayhoe said, a civilization built on the assumption of climate stability will be threatened.
Hurricane Sandy last year demonstrated the danger. Global warming didn’t cause the storm, but it made its damage more severe. Places flooded that hadn’t before.
Using projections she showed that by 2095 scientists expect the weather in Illinois will be more like what’s now experienced in East Texas. Large parts of Florida will be underwater. The prime rice growing region of Bangladesh will be flooded.
And when that happens people will move somewhere else, causing conflict over diminishing resources in areas where governments will not be able to respond. Those conflicts, she said, will have their most damaging effects on the developing countries in Africa, south Asia and South America.
The key is to move toward more renewable sources of energy and government action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.