We must all acknowledge the reality of climate change and do our part to stop detrimental practices (Open Letter)

Aerie Bare (‘23) wrote an open letter in their Honors English course addressing the worldwide issue and response to climate change

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Aerie Bare, Guest Writer

Dear American public,

In the current day, it is fair to say that humans are an advanced species; yet, it is undeniable that they still react off of primal instincts. Things that are very likely to exist may be denied purely because the denier cannot see the thing right in front of them. It is not easy to identify an individual cancer cell existing in a host, but several external aspects such as respiratory difficulties, muscular atrophy, and observable lumps underneath the skin show that the person with cancer is unwell; so although one cannot obviously identify the existence of a cancer cell, that does not warrant the dismissal of the person’s state, and with that, the possibility that cancer exists within them.

It is a similar case with the phenomenon of climate change. Climate change can be described as the drastic environmental changes due to excess carbon emissions into the atmosphere, most commonly caused by human industry. “Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas. The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to 379 ppm3 in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores.” (Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, 2007) Through concrete data, plastered into graphs and compared side by side, scientific studies have been published more and more frequently since the beginning of the 21st century identifying the stark correlation between excessive carbon emissions and drastic environmental shifts, such as the deterioration of the polar ice caps, and record high temperatures in locations all over the world.

Just as this may mean longer growing seasons for farmers and shorter winters, it also means extremely detrimental ecological changes, like the loss of the arctic and species of whom reside in the area. Droughts are also expected to hit locations like the United States of America harder than ever before. “Summer temperatures are projected to continue rising, and a reduction of soil moisture, which exacerbates heat waves, is projected for much of the western and central U.S. in summer. By the end of this century, what have been once-in-20-year extreme heat days (one-day events) are projected to occur every two or three years over most of the nation.” (NASA on Global Climate Change) Over time, these byproducts of climate change will prove to be ecologically and agriculturally catastrophic on a wide scale. NASA also presses that these changes will affect humans just as much, with sea levels rising, putting coast locations at risk of flooding. Other related problems include destruction of fisheries, worsening of air quality, increasing ocean acidity (which will make drinkable water increasingly difficult to obtain, tallied with the melting of glaciers, both vital sources), insect outbreaks, landscapes will become more vulnerable to wildfires, and forests will be further damaged by invasive species of beetles, causing wide spread die-off.

With all this approaching destruction proven by easily accessible data, which has been clarified by scientists in order for more people to understand regardless of academic vocabulary, the climate crisis is still ignored, and even strongly denied by government officials and citizens in countries such as the U.S., China, India, and Russia—countries of which are the biggest carbon emitters as of 2020, according to the UCSUSA.

So why are people dismissing such an important issue?

It all has to do with short term benefits versus long term benefits, as explained by The Harvard Business Review. “Ignoring climate change in the short term has benefits both to individuals and to organizations. Individuals do not have to make changes in the cars they drive, the products they buy, or the homes they live in if they ignore the influence their carbon footprint has on the world. Companies can keep manufacturing cheaper if they don’t have to develop new processes to limit carbon emissions. Governments can save money today by relying on methods for generating power that involve combustion rather than developing and improving sources of green energy, even those that are more cost-effective in the long run.” (Art Markman, HBR, 2018) Humans are scientifically much more aware of the future and past than animals, even primates which we share many traits with. Human thought extends to the future, past, and present, much more than say, a golden retriever; but when it comes to comfort, humans think in the present, and how their practices benefit them in the moment as opposed to the next 50 years.

An oil company, a gas company, or a company who provides energy created by combustion may suffer financially making the move to green energy, but in the long run, continuing the practice of emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere knowing that it is detrimental is an extremely selfish act. 54 year old John may refuse to cease his practices of burning coal for energy because it makes him more money, but while he lives in the comforts of financial gain for the rest of his life, his great granddaughter, Anna, has to live in a world where she can’t walk outside without wearing a mask because the poor air quality could invite fine dust into her lungs. The existence of the polar bear and snow leopard will be a mere legend to her; as will California, the land now sunken under the ocean. She will know no green fields and snow capped mountains because the grass will be unhealthy, maybe even burnt by wildfires.

Even the mountains won’t know what snow feels like anymore.

The unfortunate fact of all this is that turning to green energy won’t even cause the economy to suffer. The workers who previously worked at coal burning factories can now be maintenance workers for solar panels and their clients, the people who invested in installing solar panels, will gain their investment back in 10 years time, and even save money afterwards that paying for combustion energy would have cost them. Additionally, the cost of going solar has dropped 70% since 1998, shown in a statistical graph the Solar Nation Organization created. If solar isn’t the route you’d want to go, other renewable energy sources such as hydro, nuclear, and wind produced energy also offer significant ethical and financial benefits.

When people hear about a concept that puts their ultimate in comfort, only if it’s for a little bit of time, in jeopardy, they see it as a threat. They dismiss the concept, they deny the concept, they ignore the concept, they even outright insist such a concept doesn’t exist, even with blatant data to prove otherwise in front of them. This often starts with a myth deliberately being created that this concept is a myth, which gives the people who feel threatened to the point of denial a reason for denying it. “A small but vocal group has aggressively spread misinformation about the science, aiming to cast doubt on well-established findings and conclusions. Their goal is to create confusion and uncertainty, thereby preventing meaningful action to remedy the problem. The same strategy was used cynically for decades by the tobacco industry after research showed that cigarettes cause cancer. In fact, some of the same individuals who have spoken out against climate science also claimed that cigarettes were safe. The term ‘denialism’ has been coined to describe them.” (California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, 2019)

So with an issue so demanding of attention, many people decide to ignore it and continue contributing to it, because they refuse to cease business as usual.

In order for future generations to have air to breathe and green grass to walk on, the American public and general worldwide population have to consider this: does changing your way of life prove to be more threatening than an all-out decay of planet Earth?

The answer is an outstanding no. The feeling of loss is just an illusion here. All of the work has already been done, green energy has already been introduced into most if not all of the systems that previously required fossil fuels to function.

This crisis does not ask for the disposal of automobiles, but simply the purchase of a different kind.

This crisis does not ask for energy companies to abandon their work, but simply replace coal furnaces with wind turbines.

This crisis does not ask for a world war, but simply a world effort.