The science behind: my hopes for 2019


Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Talia Zitner

A new year means fresh hope for the scientific community. Maybe 2019 will be the year that we discover new cures for deadly diseases, find ways to stymie the progression of climate change, or lower drug prices around the globe. Whatever this new year has in store for science, these are some of the things I hope are considered as the new year progresses:

Communities will come together to battle warming oceans.

New research is indicating that our oceans are warming at a much faster rate than scientists initially thought. This will have devastating consequences in regard to climate change. The research, published in the journal “Science,” indicates that oceans are actually warming 40 percent faster than estimated five years ago by a United Nations panel. They also found that 2018 will be the warmest year on record for the world’s oceans, just as 2017 and 2016 were previously considered record years. Higher water temperatures lead to the destruction of marine ecosystems, stronger hurricanes, and a reduction in seafood. The researchers predict that sea levels could rise an entire foot by 2100, putting coastal cities in serious danger. The only way to begin the reversal of this issue is to prioritize efforts to reduce climate change, like the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Given the lack of attention by our government toward our warming planet, the responsibility will need to fall on  people and businesses to begin taking climate science and its repercussions seriously.

The government will consider the environmental implications of ‘The Wall.’

Besides all of the other valid reasons not to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S., Trump’s proposal would be unbelievably destructive to the surrounding areas. The 654 miles of walls and fences along the U.S.-Mexico border have already proven to be quite damaging. They’ve isolated and reduced the population of jaguars and ocelots, both very rare animals. They’ve aggravated flooding and created miles of roads through once preserved areas of wilderness. Various areas around the border are protected, but Trump’s proposed plan would build through two unfenced areas that are home to some of the most ecologically valuable animals and plants, as considered by conservationists. While many consider this area to be a barren desert, there are predicted to be 134 mammal, 178 reptile, and 57 amphibian species within only 30 miles of the line. Adding new parts to the border wall would impact 19 federally threatened and endangered species and 57 state-protected species. If the government shutdown ever ends, I would hope that they take into account the serious implications of how this construction would impact living things all along the border.

The damage done by the government shutdown will be remedied.

The science community has been hit hard by the government shut down. Among the agencies closed are the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA, where nearly all employees are on leave. Additionally, 40 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s 14,000 workers are furloughed, as are most employees of the National Parks Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The laundry list of negative impacts of the shutdown includes but is not limited to: a lack of pollution inspection agents, which could result in companies releasing chemicals or other byproducts that violate EPA guidelines, stalled funding for scientific research and awards, Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park were cut down to make room for roads by visitors, causing damage to the park that will take many years to fix, and of course, the seven people who have died in National Parks since the shutdown began.

This list could probably go on forever, given the amount of progress that still needs to happen in so many areas of scientific research. On the bright side, new scientific discoveries are constantly being made, and progress is inevitable. These three wishes for the new year may or may not come true, but I know that there will certainly be people out there doing their best to make them happen, and for that I’m grateful.