Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, has skipped school to strike on the steps of Stockholm’s Parliament building each Friday since August 2018 to demand government action on climate change. Students around the world have joined her campaign to spotlight the problems of global warming and government gridlock.
“Our future civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people who want to continue making enormous amounts of money at our expense,” Thunberg said.
The action is intended to put the spotlight on an issue that impacts all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. They will join some 700 similar actions across 71 countries to protest the failure of world leaders to address climate change.
“The youth of our world are calling for our politicians, parents, family, the older generations to stand with us,” Baines said. “We want a future, we want to have children. And what is the point of education if there’s not going to be a livable Earth?”
Baines pointed to the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that leaders have just 11 years to take action to avoid catastrophic climate change, including the reduction of global carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Industry groups in Colorado have said recent moves to limit oil and gas production, a major contributor to climate pollution, would cost the state millions in tax revenues and jobs.
According to the report, most land regions are experiencing greater warming than the global average, while most ocean regions are warming at a slower rate. Depending on the temperature dataset considered, 20–40 percent of the global human population live in regions that have already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Human influence on global warming and climate change has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.
Even the U.S. Department of Defense considers climate change as a significant security threat. Climate impacts, including chronic flooding, drought and wildfires, will require increased maintenance and repair at U.S. military sites now and over the next 20 years. The DoD report also clearly recognizes the global nature of the challenges, including growing risks of climate-related humanitarian crises and the need for disaster relief.
So, why do we have such a leadership vacuum on Capitol Hill?
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, policies incentivizing investment in renewables would create three times as many jobs as industries producing electricity from fossil fuels, while boosting local tax revenues. Baines said renewables are a small portion of the overall energy sector in the U.S. today. But clean-energy jobs already outnumber fossil-fuel jobs.
“Think about how many more long-term net jobs will be created by transitioning to a 100 percent renewable economy,” she said. “Cutting air pollution can promote a healthier economy and healthier citizens.”
Of course, those concerned with the impacts of climate change also must keep deforestation in the spotlight. Deforestation contributes to global warming, while reducing the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Urban forests make our cities more resilient.
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