Stop Denying Climate Change Exists
A year ago, the sky burned with yellow smoke. Today, it was blue—but something was still burning.
The shapes of our thighs drew stains of sweat in the sofa. It was the first day of the three-digit temperatures, the news said. We propped bags of frozen peas on our knees, we alternated the one fan in the house between each other, we drenched ourselves in cold showers at night.
Still, it wasn’t enough.
The heat grew excruciating. The peas would melt within ten minutes of being outside. The fan blew air that felt hot and dusty. The cold showers provided less and less relief as time went by.
When the heatwave finally subsided, I was left with a lingering sense of anger. For the second time, climate change had veritably impacted my own life, and still, conspiracy theories about the heatwaves being a hoax were circulating. It seems unreasonable that the existence of climate change is still in question, considering all that has happened, especially in 2020 and 2021.
Climate change is nothing new. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found in 2016 that Southern California had warmed about three degrees in the last century. Heatwaves were becoming more common, snow was melting earlier in spring, and less rain was falling. The report predicted that in the coming decades, the changing climate would further decrease the supply of water, increase the risk of wildfires, and threaten coastal development and ecosystems. The EPA report also found that in Washington, in the coming decades, coastal waters would become more acidic, streams would warm, populations of several fish species would decline, and wildfires would be more common.
Five years later, these projections have been eerily fulfilled. The yellow skies and heatwave of the consequences the report nearly prophesied. If we don’t stop producing greenhouse gases at the rate we are now, the Earth will burn—and not just occasionally, in random bursts along the Pacific Northwest, but indiscriminately and globally. We must curb the rate at which we burn fossil fuels. Ever since the industrial revolution, fossil fuel consumption has increased. Our economy depends on burning fossil fuels to power vehicle engines, heat homes, and produce electricity. As of today, coal, oil, and gas account for 80% of the U.S. energy demand. Millennium Alliance for Humanity finds that at the current rate of consumption, we will run out of fossil fuels as early as 2060.
The consequences of climate change, when read off an article or the Internet, seem impersonal and obscure compared to seeing it unfold in front of your eyes. At least, for me, I never felt strongly about climate change until I experienced it.
When I read up on the Washington heatwave, I found that August of 2020 was the third hottest summer in the entire history of the U.S, according to the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Larger, hotter wildfires that burn longer now ravage the Pacific Northwest. The effects of climate change are inevitable, and they are not stopping anytime soon.
However, current efforts to build a more sustainable path forward are commendable. Four city council members in Los Angeles, California, joined this week to introduce a motion instructing L.A.'s climate emergency office to develop recommendations for slashing emissions from gas appliances in homes, with a focus on affordability. The new initiative “will ensure that the people who are most impacted by climate change and housing insecurity are the ones leading the conversation, and that the solutions proposed lead to strong labor, housing, and health protections,” said Martha Dina Argüello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, in a written statement. Kelly Sanders, an energy and climate expert at USC, reports shifting from gas cooking to induction stoves is important because cooking with gas can lead to high levels of indoor air pollution. “We need to focus more on improving our homes and buildings to promote safe indoor air quality, as well as access to adequate air conditioning. People are spending a lot more time at home,” Sanders said. “Communities living closer to pollution sources like highways, wildfires, industrial centers, the ports—they’re really disproportionately impacted by this poor air quality.” Her words ring true, especially in light of the 2020 heatwave, which killed over 3,900 Californians who couldn’t make it to heat shelters and air-conditioned buildings in time. Before I experienced the heatwave in Washington, I would have felt a pang of sympathy, then move on with the rest of my day. But now, my heart aches for them—those Californians who would have been saved if we made a conscious, concentrated effort to mitigate the ramifications of climate change.
Similarly, in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee recently announced a $626 million budget for several climate change initiatives. Once implemented, Washingtonians will get thousands of dollars back when they buy electric vehicles and have an easier time switching from fossil fuels to electricity in their homes. The initiatives focus on reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the building and transportation sectors. They also invest in the state’s clean energy industry and provide funds to implement the Climate Commitment Act, a landmark emissions reduction law passed earlier in 2021.
As technology evolves, our mindsets must advance in tandem. Even the most revolutionary technology is useless in the face of ignorance—people determine the rate of progress. Societal attitudes determine which laws are passed, be it a corporate carbon tax or an ineffective policy that pretends global warming is a hoax. Refusing to acknowledge climate change at this point grows increasingly inadmissible. Since corporations will continue to exploit our Earth, every American will have to participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A politically and socially feasible green transition will drastically cut emissions and save our Earth.
Written by: Neha Kedarnath Dubhashi