Editorial: Climate change must change us

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We’d like to believe climate change won’t affect us.

But according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by 2040 the global population could see global temperatures rise to dangerous levels of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.  This could create serious harm for coastlines, coral reefs and populations that already have severe droughts.   

So why doesn’t there seem to be any sort of concern regarding such a catastrophic issue? Inaction is traced to the idea that climate change is buck-passed on a small and large scale.

At a more local level, we’d like to think someone else will be the one to live more sustainably by driving an electric car, recycling, picking up trash or other environmentally-friendly endeavors. In addition, we feel less proactive because climate change is not something we are able to fix individually. It takes a collective effort and because it’s an irreversible issue, we approach it as a daunting task.

But as the report points out, if we don’t make a collective change, our planet will deteriorate quickly starting with coral reef destruction, wildfires and food shortages.

No matter how segregated environmental problems may appear to the average person, the complexity of the earth means a small change will likely yield a massive effect. Unfortunately, people can’t see the urgency if the numbers are not shocking enough.

It seems like there will need to be scarier and more drastic statistics in evidence for climate change, in order for people to believe the urgency. But until then, people are quick to shrug it off.

As citizens of a wealthy country with plenty of resources not just to combat climate change, but also spread awareness and education about the matter, Americans should take it upon themselves to be ambassadors for change.

Natural disasters and other possible effects of climate change don’t always phase our country. Though there are many people in the United States that reside under the poverty line, overall we are capable of maintaining our infrastructure.

For less wealthy and developed countries, this is more of an issue, which is why our government should take it upon themselves to be more committed to the international fight against climate change — for those nations that can’t.

Pulling out of long-term international conservation policies like the Paris Agreement are steps in the wrong direction, and the next administration to take the reigns will need to have a more dedicated approach.

These long-term treaties among the members of the international community are important because if we don’t have those, then what do we have as a means to make a statement that we’re all fighting together? They’re the last thing we have to prove were committed to climate change in the long run.

At the same time, we need to improve education on the subject.

At a young age, children across the world need to be introduced to this topic. Why are we waiting? Moreso, college-aged students need to plan and collaborate to be more sustainable when they graduate and have the responsibility of making independent life choices.

In other countries such as China and many in the European Union, lawmakers have started to enact carbon pricing programs to help. The United States is the second-largest greenhouse-gas emitter behind China, yet for some reason, lawmakers have been slow to even consider such taxation or a price on carbon dioxide emissions.

If lawmakers are unwilling to take the next step toward combating climate change as a collective international community, the best thing we can do is become more educated and proactive as individuals. We share this space together and we can’t let our laziness trump our generational legacy.

The year 2040 is just 22 years away.

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1 Comment

  1. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    Climate change has always occurred throughout the ages and at one time the ice age ended long before the industriall era without its greenhouse gases. Then the world cooled again & now it is warming again. How much of this is related to greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial era & how much is related to the cycles of the Sun is debatable.

    The fact of the matter is that rather than focus on perhaps false preventative measures, we best simply prepare for the changes anticipated such as preparing to relocate communities subject to flooding. Warmer temperatures does not necessarily result in food shortages as the growing seasons & crop regions will increase further north & levies & fertilization efforts can increase food supplies for the world.

    You need to change the focus of your climate change efforts & recognize that the US cannot afford to support the world poverty situation & the Paris accord was flawed.

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