Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Our environment calls for a change in political climate


We have seen too many headlines announcing record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events. Yet, here is another, because we believe the worst thing we can do is to give up the fight.

This year alone, we saw expansive wildfires all across North America, from Canada to Hawaii, resulting in thousands of lives and acres of trees lost and the poorest air quality New York has ever seen. Floods have devastated the globe, from China to Libya, to Nevada’s Black Rock desert. The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the storm and hurricane activity this August was above normal. A major hurricane occurs in August once every two years, but this year, that month brought two. Heavy rainfall has started to turn the Saudi Arabian desert green — a sign that Islamic scripture interprets as the approaching end times.

With presidential elections on the horizon, the New York Times has begun compiling and presenting Republican candidates’ views on issues we currently concern ourselves with — one of them being climate change. A couple have identified climate change as a serious threat and taken measures to address it in their municipalities. Some choose to focus on adapting to consequences of climate change instead of preventing it, others denounce government initiatives to cut down on carbon emissions. There are also a few who choose not to adopt a particular stance on climate change or will not act to address the issue despite acknowledging it. Former President Donald Trump is the only candidate to outright mock and deny climate science. 

Democrats are not off the hook, either. President Joe Biden has been vocal about fighting climate change, but it is not lost on us that he approved an oil-drilling project in Alaska, known as the Willow Project.

No one is equal in the face of climate change — it is disadvantaged communities who are and will continue to be affected by climate change the most. The audacity of these politicians to accept and recognize climate change and continue to disregard any action is a personal insult to not only everyone living in this country, but the rest of the world as well. They have no right to fuel the acceleration of climate change with more carbon emissions, oil spills and drilling projects, forcing millions of people away from their homes, and then to complain about immigration. The so-called “American Dream” needs to include climate justice for all, too.

According to NASA, the global temperature is expected to rise by 4.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, if nothing changes. The consequences of climate change extend far beyond summers that will keep breaking records. New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation describes heavy rainfalls pushing the Great Lakes beyond their banks, dairy prices going up because heatwaves put immense stress on livestock, bugs and other pests sticking around during warmer winters and extreme storms cutting off New York City’s electricity. No skiing, no Stewart’s scoops and no “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”

This fight is exhausting because there isn’t one candidate we can fully trust with the future of our planet. There are some successful climate lawsuits, such as Held v. Montana, which this August ruled that plaintiffs have a “fundamental right to a clean and healthful environment,” as per the state’s constitution. The problem is that the federal constitution lacks a clause that might guarantee such a thing — that is, we are at the mercy of old men in power.

Will a change in the attitudes of this country’s political actors save the world? No, but we at least deserve the comfort of knowing our leaders are doing everything in their power. Until we get action, we will not stop speaking out. The fight for climate justice can only continue as long as our hope does.

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