Climate change is the defining issue of our time

Last month was the 13th consecutive month to break all-time temperature records. The 13th consecutive month. Think about that. This May was so hot that it beat out the previous hottest May on record, which just so happened to be last May.

After the 13th consecutive month of record-breaking temperatures, shouldn’t it be obvious that this isn’t a coincidence? Shouldn’t it be obvious that we have a legitimate problem? How fanciful must one’s imagination be to believe that this is all an orchestrated hoax?

According to a study published in the Institute of Physics Science Journal in 2016, 90-100 percent of climate scientists believe in man-made climate change. The range depends “on the exact question, timing and sampling methodology,” but let us not mince words. It is a consensus.

What is tragic is the fact that the U.S. government is barely doing anything to address this issue. For over 20 years, our legislators have known about climate change and its numerous negative consequences and have chosen to do nothing for decades, because they were blinded by ignorance of science or by money from carbon-polluting corporations.

Luckily, last fall, President Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan, which hopefully would cut carbon emissions by 32 percent from their 2005 level by the year 2030. It would be a great first step, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Supreme Court paused its implementation earlier this spring.

Eventually, the Clean Power Plan will be resumed, and things will get better. But don’t be too happy, because we are still nowhere close to done. You see, in my opinion, climate change is the most important issue facing the world today. I hate to say it, but carbon pollution and climate change are more important than homicide, suicide and war combined.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2.3 million violent deaths occur a year. Inside that number are some of our most contentious political issues, including terrorism, mass shootings, and civil wars. However, this number, while being incredibly powerful in itself, is trumped by the pain and suffering caused by our non-violent actions.

After being commissioned by twenty different governments, DARA International released an independent report in 2012 finding that our changing climate is causing over 400,000 thousand deaths a year, mostly due to declining nutrition, food security, and water safety. Add in 4.5 million deaths per year caused by air pollution and indoor smoke from burning fossil fuels, and we now have one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

In the face of this on-going catastrophe, we cannot continue to sit on the sidelines. We not only have a responsibility, but we have a moral obligation to change our actions. It will not be easy, but it must get done.

We need new policy. As a country, this includes taxing carbon emissions, instituting a system of cap and trade, creating a national smart electric grid, and transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Now, while we can do as much as want, it is necessary to recognize that a worldwide issue like this requires international action. We cannot act alone. Luckily, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was a solid stepping stone, but the next five years require drastic measures to ensure that we do not pass 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

Sometimes, the US is going to have to swallow its pride and take demands from the international community. National sovereignty only matters as long as a nation exists.

I don’t want you finishing this article with the idea that this is simply a national political issue, or even just a political issue. This is a personal issue. Your sovereignty in yourself is the agency you have to make a difference.

You have the ability to cut back. On water, on air conditioning, on waste. Some of the more privileged among us have the ability to buy electric cars, install solar panels, and invest in clean businesses. Utilize your privilege for the benefit of everyone and do it.

For far too long, environmentalism and recognizing the importance of climate change has been viewed as this hippy movement, when it is deep down an empirically driven crusade. This isn’t about saving the polar bears, or hugging trees, or even caring about the planet. This is bare bones self-interest. If we choose not to act, your life, and everyone around you, will be made much worse. Make your choice.

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