OPINION: Climate change, the greatest threat we face


We know the horrors of terrorism, global health crises and economic catastrophe, war and nuclear proliferation. They are known, universally accepted perils that breach partisanship in an otherwise factional country.

Skeptics of the validity and increasing impact of climate change on the basic qualities of human life, on the other hand, seem inclined to play chicken with the most damaging repercussions at the expense of those around them. It’s this mostly philosophical rejection that plays into the emergency’s slow exponential advancement; the threat of our unnaturally deteriorating world permeates the lives of naysayers like carbon monoxide as their counterparts frantically install as many beeping gas detectors necessary.

Full recognition of environmental threats has always been notoriously scarce. Addressing the 1912 People’s Forum in Troy, New York, future President Franklin D. Roosevelt lamented the apathy deforesters had for the world they were handing to future generations. Roosevelt’s pertinence resonates more than a century later.

“They care not what happens after they are gone and I will go even further and say that they care not what happens even to their neighbors, to the community as a whole, during their own lifetime,” Roosevelt said.

The dangers awaiting Kansas and the world

Left unchecked, Miami, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Los Angeles and all other coastal populations around the world will be severely, and in some cases completely, submerged, Alison Kemper and Roger Martin reported in “New York, London and Mumbai: major cities face risk from sea-level rises” for The Guardian. Massive agricultural loss, destruction and subsequent vulnerability of the natural ecosystem that humans rely on at an existential level and severe weather patterns and drought will affect the entire natural landscape on our only planet.

How will climate change affect Kansas and surrounding states in the Great Plains?

The amount of days in Kansas with temperatures over 100 F could double by just 2050, while the severity of flooding from dangerously rapid seasonal transition and extreme escalations in snowfall and rain could reach devastating levels and frequencies, according to NBC News’ Bill Briggs and Tracy Connor in “Nowhere to Run: Climate Change Will Affect Every Region of U.S.” The Ogallala Aquifer, the source from which Kansas and neighboring states have fervently drawn water from for homes, businesses, agriculture and energy for more than a century, has shown signs of impending depletion.

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin wrote in “Climate Change Skeptics: What if You’re Wrong?” about the possible scenarios that will play out due to impactful climate change deniers and those resisting calls for immediate action. If they’re wrong, Carlin says, they’ll know because of the large-scale harm the planet will have obviously endured; if critics are right and action has been needlessly taken to avoid some of the worst of the effects as a precaution, the only downside would be the short-term expenses.

What may happen in the near future?

Perhaps the most aggravating facet of this issue is the stonewalling and denial that has been executed by many of the country’s lawmakers. Instead of taking direct and expeditious action to ensure the safe and habitable planet that they largely took for granted during their lives, the majority of current elected officials are preparing an environmental time bomb for the youngest generations and their descendants.

If federal and state lawmakers are hesitant or simply opposed to passing bills to tackle climate change, solutions like infrastructure packages with clean energy and flood prevention specifically in mind could be just one way through. Using structurally and environmentally superior concrete substitutes in cement is just one way of accomplishing this, as the world churns out around 10 billion metric tons of cement annually at a rate of one-ton of carbon dioxide for every ton of concrete.

Like most of his stances, President Donald Trump has been inconsistent on even the validity of climate change.

In an interview with writers at The New York Times in late November, Trump at the time seemed open to maintaining America’s leadership in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity,” Trump said of the relationship between human activity and the global climate. “There is some, something. It depends on how much.”

The Trump Administration’s takeover of whitehouse.gov has not been promising. Trump is “committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule,” according to “An America First Energy Plan” and hopes to “take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands.”

We cannot afford to go in this detrimental direction. Climate change is the most ubiquitous, central issue for everyone – for contemporary advocates and leaders with the crucial opportunity to stave off the worst effects and for those who will be born into the result of their predecessors’ actions. It’s time for the matter to be confronted like the consequential and possibly existential issue that it is.

Alex Brase is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Contributing writer for the Collegian. I’m a senior studying journalism and mass communications and working on minors in political science and music. I also manage digital operations as a communications fellow with the Kansas Democratic Party; I do not report on or write about anything political unless it shows up in the opinion section.