Clear and Present Danger: Youth Responds to Dr. Hansen’s Latest Paper

Written by iMatter Youth Council member Jenna Farineau, age 17
Louisville, KY

Stronger. Heavier. Increasing. These words might relate to how we feel after we’ve spent months and months working out or what a business might want to use in their marketing campaigns. However, these words are disappearing from instances like these and are being found in articles that talk about the effects of climate change and how it’s causing stronger storms, heavier rainfall and increasing climate extremes. Now I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d rather listen to the guy who has been working out for months instead of get slapped in the face with the unsettling reality of climate change. We are constantly told that our sea levels are rising and that “young people, future generations and nature [will be subjected to] to irreparable harm.” So what’s being done to stop this? After reading over Dr. Hansen’s just-released paper, Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature, we shouldn’t need any more convincing that there is a “clear and present danger” for my generation.

The fact that we “use evidence from the Earth’s climate history and measurements of Earth’s present energy imbalance as our principal tools for inferring climate sensitivity” should be enough to convince the people, the government and all of our world leaders. There has been a stable global temperature in the past 10,000 years called the Holocene epoch that promises safety for humanity. However, in the past 100 years, we have managed to raise the global temperature back to the Holocene maximum; partly because we are developing so fast through industry and technology but also because we are not as conscious in our every day lives as we should be. More specifically, we are not very conscious of our “human-made warming,” which includes the accumulation of the industrial era fossil fuel emissions as well as our everyday created emissions. We must take into account that what we are creating is being added to what is already created naturally, so you could say that we are doubling, perhaps tripling the emissions into the air; this could be easily reversible.

Some scientists have created this global warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius. This limit is what one might consider the “just enough” zone; and we’ve reached it. This means that we have left no room for mistake or fault, and at the rate at which we are emitting and consuming, this is terrifying. Climate warming isn’t simply the rising of temperatures within the atmosphere. It is the intense droughts, catastrophic tropical storms and extermination of close to all coastal cities; it’s something we cannot afford to have happen. We must recognize that the less attention we pay to a problem, the more it’s going to grow and in this case, if emissions continue to grow until 2020, we must reduce the emission rate by 15% each year to combat the growth. The longer we ignore this, the higher the percentage will rise and the more irreversible it will become.

As children, we are taught to take responsibility for our problems and our mistakes. It can be argued that our parents hope that we carry this trait with us as we grow older. However, when we talk about the growing danger of climate change, it’s safe to assume that almost no responsibility is being taken by those who have caused it. Global leaders are disregarding the facts and ignoring the scientists. To put it simply, they are approaching this problem with ignorance because it’s not “economical” or “important.” As put by James Hansen, “we are all in the same boat together and we will all sink together or sail together.” We have reached a point in our time on earth when we must all step down from our pedestals and realize that we are all of the same species. We breathe the same air, we walk on the same land and we all call this great big Earth our home. Despite coming from different backgrounds and understanding different mindsets, there are things that connect every single human being on this earth and those are the desire to love, to be happy, to live comfortably and so on. But we cannot achieve such things when our home is hurting. We have reached a point in our time on earth when we must forget about the divide that we have created against this human family that we are all part of and recognize that it’s all or nothing now.

I am almost eighteen years old and I am afraid for my future. I am afraid that the people leading this world, the people who I am supposed to put every ounce of my belief into, are going to fail me and my generation. Not to say that it is the duty of the generation before me alone to make sure my future is healthy and safe, but it is their duty to be mindful and compassionate of their actions and decisions that will have a lasting effect. Dr. Hansen’s (and colleagues) research is a call to action for everyone in my generation to realize that it’s okay to say NO; I do not want my future to be jeopardized by the status quo. It’s the government’s job to do what’s best for society as a whole, and last time I checked, my generation as well as the generations that will follow me fit under that category. It’s time that our voices are heard when we ask to have our rights as young people to be protected. It’s time to understand that a “rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies will improve economic efficiency.” It’s time to “support technology research, development and demonstration of carbon free energy.” It’s time for everyone to recognize we deserve a healthy future just as much as everyone else deserves a healthy present and it’s time that every single human being to abide by the ancient Indian proverb, “treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.”

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