It’s time for America to get serious about climate change

Helen Rogalski, Managing Editor

What’s with America’s ability to ignore serious, prominent, life-threatening issues? While there is discussion in politics about whether or not climate change exists, let’s put that aside for just a moment.

Here are the facts: 2015 was the hottest year on record. The US uses approximately 19 million barrels of oil per day on average. The ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and more and more studies are showing that climate change will drastically affect us throughout the next few decades, rather than centuries.

We as a nation, and as a world, are destroying the environment little by little. It is easy to ignore how our actions cause this effect because it is not immediate. We live in a society where it is normal to drive everywhere, throw away a lot and ignore the opportunity to recycle if it is not convenient.

We are all guilty of doing things that take a toll on the environment, and honestly, it is not our fault. These actions are deemed acceptable and are easy to ignore. Most of us are aware that driving is bad for the environment. Even though we know this, we do it anyways. This is because we are not well enough informed or inspired by the great global environmental issues that will become prevalent within the next few years.

Recent scientific findings prove that our current actions to stop climate change may not be enough. While there have been global efforts to cut down on pollution and slow climate change, these strategies may not be enough, and more serious issues may arise.

New scientific evidence suggests that “the likely consequences would include killer storms stronger than any in modern times, the disintegration of large parts of the polar ice sheets and a rise of the sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s coastal cities before the end of this century,” according to the New York Times.

So, now we know how serious and prevalent of an issue climate change may be during our lifetime. Now the question is, how do we stop it?

There have been propositions across the country and world on how different areas will cut down their carbon emissions in different ways. But, this is no longer enough. The time has come for drastic changes to be implemented.

A common argument about cutting carbon emissions is that it will negatively affect the economy. So, oftentimes, when a way to cut back on pollution is introduced, many government officials deny it, claiming the economy will be at risk.

This was George W. Bush’s reason to not sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. The Kyoto Protocol aimed for nations to cut back carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions by roughly 5% by 2012. Little did Bush know, the hottest year on record would be on its way.

The truth is that production using pollution makes up less than 5% of the United States’ GDP (Gross Domestic Products). Production using pollution provides less that 1.5% of jobs in America. While many would assume that imposing environmental regulation would hurt the economy, this is not the case. The states in America that had these regulations also had the most economic growth.

If we take away the idea that environmental regulation is bad for the economy, what reasons do we have to not make drastic changes worldwide in an effort to slow down the depletion of the ozone layer, eliminate sea level rise and save more species? Why would we wait any longer to change our ways?

The solution here is also the problem: change. Most people avoid the idea of it. While we want to save the environment, we also want to continue driving our cars and having affordable gas. While we complain about traffic, we wouldn’t want the hassle of public transit. While we avoid paying road tolls, we know the implementation of them would cut down on air pollution. We are stuck in our ways and therefore avoid changing them.

At the end of the day carbon emissions need to be cut. Higher taxes on pollution production need to be implemented. Highway tolls need to be more present, so that less people drive on them. Recycling needs to be made even easier. Public transportation needs to be more prominent. Seniors, adults and children need to be taught about the severity of this situation.

While we know these changes would be inconvenient in many ways, let us take them with a grain of salt knowing we are making a brighter future. While it will be difficult at first, we will eventually get used to them. The sacrifice of our convenience today in a few small ways will provide a drastically greener, better and safer future for all.