Growing up in a world in which scientists predict we only have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe is understandably unnerving for an 18-year old. And the most worrisome concern is that we are doing almost nothing about what is looming over the horizon.
For decades, our planet has experienced consistent increases in temperature, changing rainfall patterns, increasing frequency of floods, droughts, melting of glaciers and more. While cutting back greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming is the only way forward, limited progress has been made on this front. Coal and oil continue to dominate as major energy sources despite the availability of relatively cheap and abundant solar and wind energy. What then are realistic and sustainable solutions that we should pursue in order to leave a thriving planet for our children and grandchildren?
According to the Fourth National Assessment Report, the impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future. But the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur. This report draws a direct connection between the warming atmosphere and the resulting changes that affect Americans’ lives, communities, and livelihoods, now and in the future. Multiple studies have now projected that the climate of our region will turn more southern over the coming decades. The unusually warm winter of this year may not be an exception but a norm for coming years. That means, less need for jackets, gloves, hats, scarves etc.
Many communities are attempting to answer this question in different ways. And it’s been fascinating to see how some are gearing up to cope with immediate problems through advocacy and the support of local governments. It’s obvious that communities need to adapt to a changing climate irrespective of what happens globally to reduce greenhouse gases.
There is, however, a ray of hope. The Virginia lawmakers passed an unprecedented climate legislation last week that will significantly alter use of clean energy in our power generation. The measure, called the Clean Economy Act, lays out a plan to get Virginia to 100 percent renewable generation by 2050. The legislation will significantly alter our generation energy capacity with solar and offshore wind taking the lead. That will not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-based energy generation but will put Virginia among the top US states in terms of dealing with climate change.
Climate change has the potential to significantly transform every aspect of our lives, ranging from where we live to what we eat and the stories we tell. It is an existential crisis for our generation and generations to come. I believe this is the time to act now to save the planet and it begins at our doorstep. We can do our own bit by driving less, switching to cleaner energy sources, using energy efficient appliances and reducing usage of water. As activist Greta Thunberg put it aptly, “the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”
Rohan Mani is a Senior and a student journalist at McLean Highlander.