Antarctica experiences record high temperatures


Annalisa Baranowski and Gina Ricards | The DePaulia

On Feb. 6, Antarctica reached its highest temperature ever recorded at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In yet another instance of a drastic climate event, temperature was similar to some of the warmest places around the world.

The phenomenon of global warming was brought to the forefront again on Feb. 6 in Antarctica as a record high 65 degree temperature was recorded, according to The New York Times. This occurrence is another point in a troubling trend of rising temperatures, with 2019 being the second highest on record. 

Mark Potosnak, an assistant professor at the DePaul Department of Environmental Science and Studies, discussed the various aspects of climate change and why these high temperatures are not as important as the trends. 

“When we see these record highs, particularly somewhere like Antarctica, it’s a good marker,” Potosnak said. “Now from a scientific point of view it is not really these extreme values, it is the overall trend. It is what we see globally. It is what we see over long periods of time. It is not necessarily right to say this one point is such an important thing scientifically, but it certainly draws our attention to a definite problem of climate chang 

While these types of extremes command attention, the overall trend is the main concern.

Tyler Barron, a policy fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, agreed that this is part of a larger trend. He also said that reactions to these high temperatures need to be taken into account.

“There is a difficult balancing act that needs to happen,” Barron said. “People need to properly contextualize a singular event with how that singular event points to something much larger. It is not to say that being fearful or being alarmed by high temperatures is the wrong thing to do, but making sure that people at large understand that there is much more to that.” 

Barron also said people have begun to accept that climate change is real, and it is now time for a shift from getting people to believe to getting people to act.

“We are in that second level,” Barron said. “The technology and the will power are there for the most part and the technology exists to help address the problem. Now we need to develop the strategies necessary to ultimately implement that will and technology that ultimately makes the most impact.”

He also spoke of the need to start focusing on the people who believe in climate change and getting them to act rather than zeroing in on deniers. 

“The people who do not believe in anthropogenic climate change are such a small minority that moving the significant majority of people towards action is a more worthwhile goal than trying to herd the remaining people who still do not believe in it,” he said. 

However, there are other aspects and impacts of climate change that need to be considered. 

“The impacts of climate change are of course global,” Potosnak said. “We are going to see changes in plant species distribution, we are going to see changes in animal distributions and we are also going to see increased rates of extinctions.”

We are also seeing direct impacts on our own lives caused by climate change including food issues.

“From a more human centric view there will be multiple impacts,” Potosnak said. “We will see changes in food production. As climate becomes warmer and more variable it will become more difficult to reliably grow food. If it was always a little warmer or always a little wetter we could deal with that, but what we see is a pattern of extremes with wet and dry. That is very hard to deal with.”

Since food is produced at large levels on small patches of land in the United States, food production could be very severely affected by climate change, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The center also believes that the impact could be greater on food production than any other sector.

Potosnak said that along with food concerns there will also be a health concern as disease will be able to spread more in hot weather as well as mosquitos being able to spread. 

Air quality will also become very poor for human beings as fossil fuels are burned, according to Potosnak. The burning of CO2 in addition to fossil fuels in turn creates a dual effect because very harmful toxins are released at the same time. However, Potosnak sees fossil fuels as an issue that, if addressed, can have a double positive effect. 

“I like to think of it as two sides of the coin. It also means that as we move away from fossil fuels, we are going to get a co-benefit of cleaning up our air. By moving to wind, solar, electric cars, transport especially on the L, we are having a win-win. We are causing less climate change and we are getting cleaner air,” he said.

Along with Potosnak bringing up the interrelatedness of the various aspects of climate change, Barron said climate change is a “force multiplier.”

“There will be increasing changes that we see in the climate that will affect multiple aspects of life,” Barron said. 

“The planet heats up and the sea level rises which leads to climate refugees which leads to entire political systems having to readjust the way that they operate,” he said. “Climate change is more than just rising temperatures. Each thing that is included within the umbrella of climate change multiplies the negative consequences as it continues to happen. Inaction is more costly in the long run than action at the moment.” 

Climate change requires action from human beings; however, Barron had a different view on what we should be concentrating on.

“When we talk about climate change there is this knee jerk reaction for people to ask, ‘what can I do,’” Barron said. “The bottom line is that the most significant contributors to climate change are a very small collection of very large companies. In my opinion, the only way we are going to see very significant climate action is by pressuring cities, states and politicians to radically transform the ways that they operate on the local level and the way that they ultimately regulate industry on the federal level.” 

Students also agree that activism and engagement are key to fighting for climate change action. 

“Making small steps like reducing intake of animal products,” said Becky Budds, a sophomore at DePaul. “Also joining organizations that have a goal of climate activism is helpful.” 

On an individual level, Barron also spoke of the various ways people can become more energy efficient including through household appliances and electric vehicles. 

“Individual people can have a large collective impact by joining groups and being active in the ways that they put that pressure on their own cities or on their own politicians to make that action happen,” Barron said.