Creating the Future Today: 15 Year Old Responds to James Hansen’s Climate Report

Written by iMatter Youth Council leader Rebecca Chung, age 15
Buena Park, CA

We talk about climate change and global warming with the same tone we use when talking about laundry. Passive and apathetic. Ask any stranger on the street about their opinion on climate change and more often than not, the response will agree with the fact that the planet is changing and becoming warmer in a dangerous way. Yet, apathy still dominates our society; we seem to be willingly accepting our inevitable doom.

A report by climatologist, James Hansen, indicates that we’ve released over 370 GtC (gigaton of carbon/1 billion metric tons) into the atmosphere and increase this amount each year. According to the WWF, we lose 10,000 species each year – over 1000% times higher than the natural rate. NASA has found an insurmountable amount of ice all over the world has melted since just a decade ago.

The destruction of the environment and the climate’s instability is almost impossible to believe; the problem looks out of reach and some people have responded by giving up. James Hansen’s report indicates that a stable climate is possible for future generations, though it would entail “radical” changes. Many countries, corporations, and people dismiss the problem of climate change saying that its solutions are too drastic and too radical. Though the question begs, is demanding an end to environmental destruction and unstable climates radical?

The report offers solutions of storing carbon back into the biosphere through reforestation and slowing carbon emissions. Reforestation and stopping deforestation is key to saving Earth’s biodiversity and the climate, but illegal loggers and oil companies blatantly ignore its importance. My heart broke when I learned the Ecuadorian government opened up parts of Yasuni National Park to oil companies in China. It broke my heart to imagine the hundreds of indigenous people in Yasuni forced to make way for the oil drilling. It broke my heart to try to count how many species would either die or be forced to relocate. And it breaks my heart to know that a company is willingly destroying a beautiful rainforest while releasing millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Stopping deforestation and initiating reforestation requires taking steps away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy.

Just as important as reforestation is improving the technology for alternatives from fossil fuels. I refuse to believe that coal, oil, and other fossil fuels are the best source of energy that we, as humans, can come up with. It has, however, become the most convenient one, though not necessarily the cheapest and most definitely not the cleanest. Whether you support solar, nuclear, wind, or any other renewable energy source, there is one thing we can all agree on: the current energy source from fossil fuels is both unsustainable and destructive, which is why an alternative is necessary.

Maybe it’s only my young and optimistic age of 15 that makes me believe this, but I have a strong belief that in this time of crisis, the nations of the world can truly cooperate in working to find real solutions and new technology. I am not blind. I see the divided political parties, the extreme difference in ideologies, and the tense relationships that make a clean and global future seem unattainable. However, we cannot continue to push aside the matter of climate change as something to be dealt with in better circumstances. The world will go through its hardships and challenges, but unless climate change is dealt with right now through cooperative measures from different countries and sectors, the future, or lack thereof, is a dark and alarming place.

On a smaller scale, the solution is simple and lies in each individual recognizing his or her impact on the world and environment. A crucial action is in breaking through our apathy and awakening those who are clueless about what is happening. We each have our own story of awakening. My story involved really seeing firsthand how beautiful the Earth is – its rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, and so much more. Seeing a rainforest for the first time stole my breath, and looking at farmland where there used to be rainforests horrified me. I dream of a future where I can take my future kids to the rainforests and show them where I fell in love with the animals, plants, and people. A future of passion and dedication for the environment and the climate. A future that can only be created today.

Hansen, J, P Kharecha, M Sato, V Masson-Delmotte, F. Ackerman, DJ Beerling, PJ Hearty, O Hoegh-Guldberg, S-L Hsu, C Parmesan, L Van Susteren, K von Schuckmann, JC Zachos (2013) Climate change and intergenerational justice: rapid reduction of carbon emissions required to protect young people, future generations and nature. Plos One, 3 December 2013 (in press).

How many species are we losing?. (n.d.).WWF. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from