Despite America’s general unwillingness to take action in advance, we must in order to prevent the worst effects of global warming
Ever-rising temperatures. Mass flooding and heatwaves. These are just some of the effects that climate change will have on the world, as hypothesized by NASA. Given this, it is easy to say that something has to be done about climate change. Most reasonable people would agree with this, but they are vague on the details. With the numerous current problems, the comparatively distant threat of global warming doesn’t seem too bad. While waiting might seem like an option, the fact of the matter is that when the effects of global warming become too much to ignore, it will be too late to take any meaningful action.
Historically, America doesn’t have the best track record for dealing with crises, and its strategy seems to be to wait until the problem cannot be ignored, and then finally take action. While part of this is human nature, as it is naturally easier to accept a problem when directly faced with it, the American government in particular has followed this trend. This tendency to only act at the last second often has consequences and, almost always, dealing with the problem earlier would have saved a lot of the trouble. As an example of this pattern, we can look at how the coronavirus crisis has played out.
Back in January, coronavirus cases were just beginning to appear in China, according to ABC News, and by the end of January, Wuhan was in lockdown. Despite drastic measures like putting cities in lockdown and canceling most social events, deaths did occur, but many were prevented due to the swift actions of the government. The same article shows that the first coronavirus case in America appeared just days after China’s, but although the WHO (World Health Organization) declared a global health emergency in February, President Trump did nothing until the middle of March, when he finally declared a national emergency. This happened partly because Americans didn’t want to accept that there was a problem, and partly because of the politicization of a health crisis that affected everyone, threatened the livelihoods of millions, and had no reason to be made political, much like global warming. As a result, cases in America are still extremely high, the economy is in shambles with an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent as of July. People are wondering, “could this have been better?”
The answer is, quite possibly. Looking at China’s response, it is likely that a quicker response to the crisis before it became too pressing an issue to ignore could have helped America contain the coronavirus more easily, and possibly allowed us to be in a period of recovery right now, instead of a rapid downward spiral. The general lesson that could be taken away from the coronavirus crisis is that decisive action before the problem gets too big to control is necessary in most cases. So why aren’t we doing anything about climate change?
With everything going on in the world right now, climate change seems like the least of our problems. This is how people have viewed climate change for decades, but due to this approach, many disasters are nearer than most people realize. According to an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report from 2018, the global temperature is expected to rise a minimum of 1.5° Celsius (34.7° Fahrenheit) as soon as 2033. At this point, there is no way we can stop climate change. The world failed to take any meaningful measures decades ago, and now the crisis is very nearly here. However, there are ways that the world could limit the rise to 1.5° Celsius, instead of doing very nearly nothing and letting temperatures climb even higher.
Doing nothing seems to be the American government's main goal. For years, climate change was ignored, and Trump has appeared to make it his priority to go back on as many climate protections as humanly possible. This includes leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, an international agreement for countries to limit carbon output and try their best to stop irreversibly ruining the earth. Unfortunately, despite coming closer than ever to the world as we know it being changed by global warming, it is still not the most “important” topic at any given time. People now more than ever are concerned about the impending climate catastrophe, but very little mainstream attention is focused on it.
This is not to say that no one is trying. The Green New Deal, a bill cosponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), introduces a program that would drastically reduce emissions, shift America towards using more renewable energy, and try to mitigate the effects of global warming. This bill, however, is held back by the fact that climate change has become concerningly politicized. Instead of an issue that everyone should agree on due to the threat it poses to animals, human life and property, climate change has become the left versus the right. In this case, the left believes that we should try to prevent this disaster, while many on the right either don’t believe in climate change or think that making changes wouldn’t be worth the economic risk.
For these reasons, climate change is an extremely important topic, and one that should be brought up much more often by politicians. America’s tendency to delay action until the last moment meant disaster for the coronavirus outbreak, and it may very well mean disaster for the entire planet if we continue like this. While this is mainly the fault of politicians caring more for short-term profits than long-term goals like keeping humanity alive, it can also be traced to the fact that we as citizens don’t bring it up as often as we should. So we need to change this. Bring up climate change more, ask politicians to act, anything that can help. Yes, there will always be other problems that seem more “immediate,” more “pressing,” but if we fail to act until climate change is the “immediate” problem, we know from history that it won’t end well.
Rina Haimson. Hi! My name is Rina, and I'm a junior staff writer. I am a theater kid, and also like listening to music, reading, and playing video games when I'm not writing articles. More »