The climate is changing, now it's our turn

The news these past few weeks has been hard to miss. The day after Thanksgiving, the National Climate Assessment was released showing that, if we don’t act boldly and quickly to address climate change, our future will consist of mass deaths due to heat, global food shortages and economic disaster. On Dec. 5th, the New York Times reported that if no significant changes are made by 2040, we will see food shortages, wildfires, coastal flooding and population displacement. That same day, CNN reported that by 2050, more than 1 million lives each year will be lost just due to air pollution.

Climate change is not a niche issue. It’s not something that we can wait to act on or that won’t affect our lives. It will hurt all living things on this planet within most of our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes. And, in fact, people are already dying from natural disasters made more likely by the changing climate. In the Northeast we're already seeing the start of these changes, with shorter winters and more coastal floods, as well as heavier rains that we know are threatening and deadly, as seen in Ellicott City these past two years. The Trump administration’s own climate report predicts that Maryland will continue to see increased flooding, extreme heat, poor air quality and waterborne illnesses.

The scale of the problem of climate change cannot be overstated, and the stakes are high. The scale of our solution also has to be huge, and we have to push for it tirelessly.

U.S. Rep.-elect for New York’s 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has proposed a Green New Deal, a stimulus package that will create jobs in clean energy industries, addressing both climate change and the lack of well-paying jobs. It is the only solution that addresses the crisis at the scale necessary to avoid the consequences we could suffer. Any other efforts that are not a comprehensive overhaul of our economy will not be enough. Piecemeal solutions will not be enough.

On Dec. 10th I joined almost 1,000 other young people organized by Sunrise Movement, many of them high school and college students, in Washington D.C. to demand that our representatives support a select committee for the Green New Deal. I’m inspired by my fellow advocates’ bravery and activism — taking time to travel from all over the country to make their representatives feel the urgency that they feel to protect their futures.

Before the visit to D.C., 22 Congress members had signed on to support a select committee for the Green New Deal, which would be made up of only those representatives who don't receive contributions from the fossil fuel industry. As of this writing, 35 members have signed on — a direct result of pressure from their constituents.

Of our Maryland representatives, only Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland’s eighth district has signed on to support this bold plan to address climate change. Many of our Congress members in Maryland, particularly Democrats, say that they want to protect our environment, but they still haven’t signed on in support of a select committee on the Green New Deal. We have work to do here in Maryland and nationally to leverage this moment and turn it into action. That’s why I’ll be continuing to apply pressure to my representative, and am starting a Baltimore hub for Sunrise Movement to continue to connect young people and others with ways they can advocate.

The time to act is now.

Amy Tarleton (aetarleton@gmail.com) is the organizer of the local chapter of Sunrise Movement in Baltimore.

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