For the majority of my young life, I was a climate change skeptic. Like millions of other Americans, I doubted the impact that human beings could have on something as vastly complex as planet Earth. I questioned whether or not regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants were worth the strain they would put on the American economy. I feared that the government would over reach in their efforts to solve a problem based in disputed science.
But that all changed.
Altering my views on climate change was about accepting my own ignorance on the issue and actively working to become informed. Just like me, the American people have changed their outlook on environmental issues. According to a Monmouth poll published in November 2018, 69 percent of Americans support the U.S. government doing more to reduce the type of activities that cause climate change and rising sea levels.
This growing consensus among Americans is promising. However, the issue lies not in the views of the American people but rather in the views of those at the highest levels of government.
In Senate, 52 out of 100 members are climate change deniers. In the House of Representatives, 212 out of 435 members are also climate change deniers. Our president, Donald Trump, refuses to accept the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and instead clutches onto the claim that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese government.
Perhaps these politicians are being held hostage by the fossil fuel lobbyists who contribute massive amounts of money to their re-election campaigns. Or perhaps the lack of action on global warming has more to do with human nature than politics.
We have become too focused on the present while disregarding the problems of the future. It’s why we demand action on issues like terrorism and illegal immigration yet ignore our rising national debt and increasing global temperatures.
As President Obama said in a 2015 interview with Vice News, “Climate change is an example of one of the hardest problems to solve. The hardest thing in politics and in government is to make a sacrifice now for a long-term payoff.”
As temperatures around the world rise and ice caps melt, the timeframe that allows for impactful action on climate change shrinks.
According to the United Nations, 2018 was the fourth warmest year in recorded human history. Scientists estimate that by the year 2100, the Earth’s average temperature will rise by at least 6 degrees.
It may be easy for the president to joke on Twitter about “needing global warming” during this cold winter. But what won’t be easy is for future generations to live on an Earth that is afflicted with frequent and extreme natural disasters. Earth with cities underwater. An Earth that is utterly unsustainable.
If we continue on our current path and refuse to change our ways, our inaction on climate change will be the greatest moral failure of our generation.
David Gordon is a freshman majoring in business.