Five things you need to know about climate change

(Originally published on The Gateway.)

The U.S. Youth Climate Strike saw a massive turnout two weeks ago and will see it again May 3. Students across the United States joined students around the globe in a day of protest, leaving their classrooms to demand action from lawmakers. They warned inaction will doom their generation to inheriting an uninhabitable planet.

Lawmakers and leaders worldwide have been slow to implement legislation that would fast-track the transition to renewable energy and put a stop to deforestation. The Senate voted Tuesday against a motion to consider the Green New Deal, a multifaceted piece of legislation which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned.

Closer to home, after a balmy, 70-degree Wednesday, snow was in the forecast Friday for parts of Nebraska. Dr. Elizabeth Chalecki, a Political Science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an expert in Environmental Studies, says extreme weather changes like this—and the historic flooding we’ve experienced– are “absolutely” because of climate change.

The first step to healing the Earth is realizing there is a problem. To shift the trajectory of the planet, read up on the most important takeaways from Dr. Chalecki on climate change:

1. Climate change is REAL. While talking heads and President Donald Trump might say otherwise, the science is well-documented. In the not-so-distant future, we will have to face the harsh realities of rising sea levels and depleting natural resources. “We need to figure out how we’re going to deal with this without resorting to partisan name-calling and denial of reality,” Chalecki said.

2. You are making it worse. “Most scientists” would agree humans are responsible for expediting global warming. Although the greenhouse effect happens naturally, humans make it worse by depleting forests and using fossil fuels, which emit more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. “Pretending it’s natural,” Chalecki said, “that’s a bit disingenuous.”

3. We need to work together. Climate change is not a partisan issue, nor is it a problem that China or the U.S. could fix by themselves. “Although states and the international system are sovereign, they have to work together to solve a problem that crosses borders like this,” Chalecki said. The Paris Climate Accord could help the global community work together if all countries were on board.

4. The United States needs to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Historically, the U.S. has been a leader in environmental matters, but in the last 20 years, we have not claimed responsibility for contributing to global warming. “We are part of the problem,” Chalecki said. “Every country is part of the problem, so every country needs to be part of the solution.” House Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that would force Trump to honor the Paris Climate Accord, so we may see this happen.

5. It’s not hopeless. “This is something we can absolutely turn around,” Chalecki said. “We can help turn this problem around by the choices we make.” Start at the individual level: carpool, eat less meat, fly less, commute by bike.

The most important way to change the trajectory of climate change is to register to vote and vote; not for candidates along your party line, but for the candidates that engage with the climate change issue. Vote in the small elections and the big ones. Demand action from elected officials at all levels and hold your representatives accountable.

“We need to start with the sustainability issue,” Chalecki said. “All the other issues– taxes, jobs, security– everything else is going to be useless if the planet is not inhabitable.”


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