With a nation simultaneously underwater and on fire, now more than ever is the time for American citizens to fully understand the climate change disaster afoot and what we must strive for to stop it.
In the last month alone, the US has fallen victim to some of its largest natural disasters to ever introduce themselves to the record books.
For far too long, the human effect on climate change has become an unnecessarily politicized issue. Despite decades of scientific research and evidence, the idea that “climate change is a hoax” or that “global warming is not real,” much like climate change, never seems to fade. It is as though no matter how much evidence one throws at global warming’s opposition, it is never enough to persuade non-believers. Well, there has never been as much evidence as there is today.
According to a recent study conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predictions regarding human-based speeding of climate change made over 30 years ago have held true to a dangerous extent. In response to the report, which consists of over 234 authors and over 14,000 individual studies around the globe, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Washington Post that the current climate situation is a sign of “code red for humanity.” Furthermore, in regard to circumstances that can only be attributed to nearly everything but coincidence, if the world is on code red, then the United States is on full lockdown.
For starters, over the course of the last 7 weeks, the Dixie Fire complex has ravaged Northern California at an extremely alarming rate, quickly becoming California’s second-largest wildfire ever. Yet despite having been active for over seven weeks, destroying the better part of a MILLION acres of land (roughly the size of Rhode Island), the Dixie Fire has not even reached a point of 50 percent containment.
Ensuing a similar amount of chaos, flooding in the Deep South as a result of Hurricane Ida has left over one million Americans without power, which has proved to be especially dangerous for Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) in states like Louisiana and Mississippi that were already dealing with a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. According to a recent AccuWeather study, the total damage and economic loss caused as a result of Hurricane Ida could very well reach numbers near $80 billion.
Now, it is safe to assume that those not necessarily engaged by the effects that climate change is having on the Earth’s health are not going to change their views anytime soon. Yet, when your backyard is on fire or there is water in your living room, it becomes a little bit easier to feel some sort of call to action. The only problem is, how many times does this need to keep happening? How many fire seasons do we need to endure? How many people need to be evacuated from the coast? Sooner or later, drastic government intervention will not only need to be put into place but enforced for good measure.
To start, let us take a look at one of the largest and most publicized government-organized efforts to combat climate change: the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. And yes, I know what you may be asking. 2015 was over five years ago, surely the light at the end of the tunnel is shining at least a little bit brighter than it was way back then? The answer: no. The tunnel flooded. Just two years after the agreement took place, former US President Donald Trump announced that the US would be cutting all ties to the Paris Agreement, determining that it would undermine the US economy, putting the US ,“at a permanent disadvantage.” Three painstakingly long years later, the Trump administration followed through with their ill-advised promise. And although the Biden administration would soon thereafter oversee the rejoining of the United States to the agreement, scientists agree that its ambitions are not nearly enough.
According to National Geographic, a panel of world-class climate scientists came to the conclusion in their 2019 report, “The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges,” that “by 2030, the failure to reduce emissions will cost the world a minimum of $2 billion per day in economic losses from weather events made worse by human-induced climate change.” The report then eventually comes to the conclusion that countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments. Of course, since this report’s release, there has been a plethora of new legislation passed targeting climate control in the US. Although, this is always the case. For example, just a few weeks ago, President Biden signed an executive order to develop stricter emission standards for vehicles in the United States in hopes of cutting car emissions in half by the end of the decade. In addition, the recent infrastructure bill that passed before Congress includes funding for not only cleaner electricity but also for public transit and electric vehicles.
If this can be achieved, then it would not only signify a massive step in the right direction for fighting climate change, but it would also serve as the United States righting our own pollution-based wrongs, acting as a beacon for the rest of the world to follow in the footsteps of. The keyword, however, is if. Time and time again, efforts to fight climate change have fallen well below expectations, but now more critical than ever is the time to hold ourselves and everyone around us accountable.