College Green Magazine: Debatin Talks, How Countries Respond to Climate Change

After discussing the implications of rising sea levels, due to rapidly-advancing climate changes in the Earth’s atmospheric concentrations, Dr. Bernhard Debatin of Ohio University’s environmental journalism program argued that each nation’s response to these sea level changes will ultimately affect citizens’ opinions in preventing further atmospheric warming.

“Different countries have different traditions in dealing with it,” said Debatin. “And very few countries have experience in dealing with it [rising seal levels].”

The Netherlands, in particular, might be a country the United States looks to in the future for their intricate water drainage system. According to Debatin, the Netherlands have an established, sophisticated system to combat variable sea level changes. They use windmills as an imperative energy source for pumping excess amounts of water away from lands used for human activities.

“Most of it [the Netherlands] is actually land that wouldn’t exist as land if they would just let it slip,” continued Debatin, “and it would be underwater half the time.”

Should the United States require elaborate water drainage systems to safeguard cities within the next few decades, the Netherlands already have a well-tenured history of impressive water technologies.

“They have a system of little canals and ponds and dikes and windmills, or a lot of it today is electricity,” said Debatin. “[The country] has a long history of dealing with the fact that the sea is always trying to take away that land, and people are trying to keep that land. That requires a fair amount of effort and technology.”

Many major U.S. metropolises are located at or below sea level – New York, New Orleans, and Miami, to name a few. These cities are targets not only of floods due to sea level rises, but also erosion of shorelines and more severe tropical storms that could negatively impact the surrounding communities.

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 rocked the New Jersey shore, leaving some residents, including Gov. Chris Christie, to reconsider the validity of climate change as a reality.

Weather patterns, in general, will continue to become increasingly chaotic as climate changes alter the once predictable seasonal models.

“This is a relatively new phenomenon, that we get much more volatile climate from [climate changes],” said Debatin. “It’s often something that people don’t understand. People hear global warming and they think everything gets warmer, but that’s not exactly how it works. It’s more like some areas get warmer, some get colder, but the overall shows an increase in temperature.”

Some of these effects produce stagnant cold temperatures in northern latitude areas. Remember the ‘polar vortices’ from last year? Despite the frigid conditions experienced in the upper United States, the science behind the vortex can actually be attributed to the global warming effect.

“The interesting thing about them was that they just sat there,” said Debatin, in reference to the polar vortices. “We had two to three weeks of this cold front just sitting there and not moving.”

Warming in the northern Arctic region, which has led to a reduction in polar sea ice, has also decreased the temperature difference between the lower, more equatorial regions of the Earth and the poles. It turns out this temperature discrepancy may have caused those severe chilling effects experienced in the United States last winter.

“The more difference you have, the more wind activity you will have,” explained Debatin. “Wind is actually produced by temperature difference. We ended up with less wind activity in winter, so normally this stuff would get blown away, but it was stationary because there was not enough wind.”

For all of those climate change naysayers out there, consider examining these extreme cooling effects through a holistic, interconnected scientific approach.

“People who live here think, ‘Global warming, well I don’t see it. We had the coldest winter ever.’ We’re not made for having the big picture because we don’t have sensors for it. We don’t see these issues,” said Debatin.

The politics behind the climate change debate may also sway individuals in their opinions and beliefs about global warming effects. Though climate is now on a candidate’s agenda, Debatin argues that science shouldn’t be a political component –– science is strictly science, no opinionated debate about it.


Two corrections have been made to this article. In the third and fifth paragraphs it originally said water irrigation system. It has since been changed to water drainage system in both paragraphs because the problem in the Netherlands and many cities in the US, is not too little water, it is too much. Therefore, a system of drainage is more accurate than a system of irrigation.

This story also appears on College Green Magazine