We all probably know by now (at least, I hope that we do) that we are going through climate change — that the world is warming, and that this will have serious negative effects for our planet. Will. But actually, it already is.
It’s also having serious negative effects on the economy, and on many aspects of our day-to-day lives. But there’s something else we might not realize too, particularly as teens — there are things, very real things, that we can do about it.
Last month, Mary Barker, one of my fellow FlipSiders, wrote an article about climate change, and if you want to understand more about what climate change is, and its environmental and biological effects, read it on paper in the last issue, or online at wvflipside.com. But here, I want to talk about other effects, particularly socioeconomic ones, and its effects on things that you might be more familiar with.
Climate change is causing abnormal wildfire and hurricane patterns that are shattering the lives of families from California, to North Carolina. According to Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a San Francisco native, a series of wildfires late last year gave Northern California the worst global air quality in the world for several days. There weren’t many who went outside, and those who did had to wear pollutant-filtering gas masks. It disrupted the entire daily life of the town.
The massive 2016 floods in West Virginia were another effect, during which over two dozen deaths occurred, and caused severe property damage.
These types of disasters have consequences that range from canceled baseball games, to the destruction of homes. And they are happening now.
The last several years have shown record-breaking rainfall, high temperatures and sea levels, Dahl said. Climate change can also have serious negative effects on tourism and recreation, things that West Virginia’s economy is increasingly built upon, and which may decide our future as a state.
Skiing has taken some of the hardest hits from climate change. It is the foundation of the economy in rural mountain communities across the globe, and according to a 2017 article from Penn State University, the activity accounts for $12.2 billion of the American economy. But, as you can probably guess, less snow means fewer skiers, which means a significant downturn in economies of mountain areas, which can be largely based on winter sports.
Tourism and vacationing have taken a serious hit in general. Damage to attractions, a loss of biodiversity and massive insurance costs have all taken their toll. Of course, like a lot of things, tourism in itself is partially responsible for climate disruption — one of its necessities, transportation, is causing roughly 75 percent of all carbon emissions. But, there are things we can do — and not just the things that you usually hear, like conserving energy and cutting down on fossil fuels.
In 2015, a group of children and young adults in Oregon filed a constitutional lawsuit against the U.S. government. They said that its actions toward, or rather its failure to act against climate change, had violated the next generation’s rights to life, liberty and property, and to a future clean environment.
Representatives of the Trump administration and fossil fuel companies repeatedly tried to have the case dismissed — through numerous mischaracterizations of the case later pointed out, it might also be said. As of now, the case is ongoing, but the young plaintiffs, and District Judge Ann Aiken have been adamant in keeping up the fight.
This isn’t the only example of youth fighting back. The Green New Deal resolution is a program created by the Sunrise Movement to force action against climate change. Jeremy Richardson, a senior energy analyst of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a West Virginian, said that, “Young people everywhere are demanding that leaders step up and address the urgent threat of climate change.” There are numerous cases, from people of all ages, trying to do just that.
We are going to inherit the world when our parents are gone, and it will ultimately fall to us to try to fix it. There are ways we can start — by conserving resources, by standing up for our rights and by accepting that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that it is having all manner of effects on us and our planet.
We need to be prepared to act like grown-ups, not just with climate change, but with all manner of issues, so that our children can have a better future than our parents are leaving us with.