Our generation must take on climate change at a global level

Varshini Ramanathan, Co-Managing Editor

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Hurricane intensity has been augmented by climate change. Credits: Data – NASA, processing – Antti Lipponen (free use under Creative Commons)

As the daughter of two scientists, I have been watching NOVA and Discovery documentaries since I was old enough to sit up straight. As a result, my childhood fears encompassed not just monsters and the dark but dark matter, the Big Bang, and climate change.

The former two were indistinct space phenomena that scared me simply because of how big they were, but my fear of climate change stemmed directly from a doomsday-esque documentary that featured a barren world around 2050, where we had destroyed ourselves through destroying our environment. More than the concept of climate change itself, I was shaken by the image of that lifeless landscape and the ominous tone of the narrator’s voice; the documentary’s message itself was about as meaningless to me as big scary things happening in space.

Now, those childhood fears are transforming into the reality of my future.

In September 2016, carbon dioxide levels failed to dip below 400 parts per million despite being at its lowest for the year. Although it indicated our environment was at critical levels of danger, our country failed to respond in any significant way. We did not sign Paris Accord, and now that the destruction of climate change is finally something tangible, we must take action, as it is our generation and our children who will live its results.

The natural disasters that have been wreaking havoc throughout the world could become our daily lives, and that is no longer an impossible prediction. Although intense hurricane seasons like this one cannot be attributed to global warming, climate scientists agree that the disasters we are seeing are being augmented by climate change. It is certain that climate change is going to be felt along the world’s coastlines no matter what, but its ever-intensifying development can be halted if the current youth takes action.

Unlike the previous generation, we were born in a century where climate change was a known force that would almost certainly affect our lives, and so we have no excuse to not know how to react. Our government has been operating as though climate change will continue to leave us be (or just denying its existence), as in the case of Donald Trump calling it a hoax or EPA Chief Scott Pruitt refusing to admit the effect of CO2 emissions on the climate. By the time the repercussions of the damage the goverment has done are fully felt, the country will be in a new generation’s hands.

We do not have to carry on the legacy of ignoring the environment in order to maximize economic benefits, because we are detached from the corporations who rose to power years before our time. We do not have to block out the voices of climate scientists and engineers who can certainly make change happen — it is already taking place in countries across the world with less land and resources, so there is no explanation for our lack of progress other than deliberate ignorance.

In addition, our generation’s motivation to fight climate change should stem from the problems other countries are facing, whether it is floods in Southeast Asia, relentless storms in the Caribbean, or fires ravaging Canadian forests. The United States puts out more carbon emissions than any other country, at nearly 7,000 million metric tons in 2014. However, it is countries like Haiti, Nicaragua, India, and the Philippines who suffer the most at the hands of climate change.

Our generation has grown up in a globalized society, attuned to the rest of the world in a way that was impossible until a decade ago. We do not live in a bubble anymore, and as a result we have all the more reason to aid other countries.

Whether it is seeing destruction in our own backyards or realizing the impact of disasters other countries have been facing for years, times are changing and people are changing. It is time for our generation to wake up and realize that if anyone can still save our planet, it has to be us.