Climate change – the good, the bad and the ugly

Within the past week, there have been a number of strange weather occurrences across the country. The weekend before Valentine’s Day, a dam in Oroville, Calif., was damaged when water levels rose 50 feet within a few days.  The dam itself was damaged, and around 200,000 people in the area were evacuated as a precaution. 

Richland earth sciences professor Stephen Kallenberg explained that this was odd because California has been in drought over the last couple of years.  

“The water levels were record-breaking for this. It could, however, be attributed to ElNiño, the current and climatic changes that occur in the ocean.” 

In Antarctica, a massive iceberg at the Larsen C Ice Shelf is preparing to break off. 

“When broken off the ice chunk will be approximately 2,000 square miles,” said Kallenberg. “The crack has been growing for seven years, and there are now only 12 miles left of the 110-mile iceberg.”

With an iceberg so large floating around the ocean, consequences are to be expected. 

“I believe whatever change we see as the ice breaks off, it will be short term,” he said.  “Whether it is a change in the currents, which could affect the weather up north, or just in boating traffic.”

Here in Texas, there has been an increase in average temperatures. 

According to the National Weather Service, it was a toasty 88 degrees Feb. 11, here in Dallas, tying an all-time record for that day set in 1922. In San Antonio, that same day, a new record was set at 85 degrees. 

At times a record high must be set, and at times it will be warm in the winter.  Kallenberg added that it’s troublesome that record highs are being broken more and more closely together with shorter intervals. 

Kallenberg hypothesized that climate change is not a direct cause for any of these issues because there is no hard evidence to prove that it is.  He did, however, propose that perhaps it is why we are seeing such extreme weather events so close together rather than spread apart over several years. 

“In San Antonio, that record-breaking heat will be a data point among many other data points which can then be used to make that connection between climate change and these phenomena,” Tallenberg said. 

As the frequencies have increased in extreme and occasionally catastrophic events, communities look at their options.  When it comes to the maintenance of infrastructure, it may be overlooked until repairs become pertinent. 

Whether it be the dam in Oroville, or the dam at Lake Lewisville, Kallenberg said, “Downtown Dallas is within the floodway, if water levels were to go above the levee in Lake Lewisville.” This is just another example of how issues tend to get put on the “backburner,” as Kallenberg called it, when they are not directly affecting the community. 

An iceberg bigger than the state of Rhode Island with the potential to change weather patterns has barely made headlines.  Why? Likely because no one is being directly affected yet. This is the time for world powers to increase their efforts in combating climate change. 

During President Barack Obama’s administration, the United States and several other world powers signed the Paris Climate Agreement, a policy to begin brainstorming resolutions to the dilemma. The new administration however, has voiced disfavor toward the agreement.

An international consensus on anything is rare. For the United States, a country with power and a plethora of resources, the repercussions of abandoning this policy could be negative not only for the other countries, but for the environment itself.