HomeOpinionsClimate Change Stakes Are Enormous For Generation Z

Climate Change Stakes Are Enormous For Generation Z

Our fight to combat climate change reminds me of a game of Chutes and Ladders made up of individual steps, occasional climbs and much too frequent slides back down.

The next few years will determine its outcome. And we need Congress to play.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will require global greenhouse gas emissions to reach a peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report. This limit would help us avoid climate change’s most dire consequences.

But we are not on track to meet this goal due to our continued reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, current trends predict a warming of more than twice the 1.5° limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Everyone has a stake in the game. We will all end up as losers if climate change persists unchecked. Yet most of us, including the gamemasters, behave like idle spectators.

The lack of climate action is understandable: It’s easier to backslide than to climb. It’s easier to debate responsibility and point blame rather than bring about a climate revolution that will transform the way we lead our lives.

But the questions remain: Who is responsible for sparking this revolution? Who has the power?

As a 20-year-old college student, I find it hard to discern what role my generation can play.

Generation Z grew up hearing doomist climate narratives — countless stories of catastrophic consequences and countless backward steps in our fight to limit them.

According to a survey of thousands of 16- to 25-year-olds, almost 75% of respondents my age are worried about climate change, and 45% reported that feelings of climate anxiety impact their daily lives. Perhaps this fear has led Gen Zers and Millennials to have higher rates of climate activism compared to older generations.

While I’m encouraged by the individual steps young people are taking to raise awareness of climate change’s threats, our actions are insignificant if governments and corporations fail to reach emission targets.

We have a clear, actionable solution backed by scientists and economists: Reduce fossil fuel burning and transition to renewable energy sources. What we need is political will and cooperation, specifically by Congress.

President Biden’s allocation of $2.3 billion to increase resilient infrastructure will help prepare communities for climate change impacts such as extreme heat and flooding. But his executive order doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels.

Congress has this authority. Thus, it is up to Congress to enact an economy-wide shift toward clean energy. Two-thirds of Americans want the government to do more to combat climate change, but political divides and special interests have led to a messy spectacle of debating the rules rather than actually playing by them.

The recent news regarding Sen. Joe Manchin agreeing to historic climate provisions in the reconciliation package, called the Inflation Reduction Act, is promising. It appears the Senate has successfully reached the top of the tallest ladder in the game. But this is not a done deal. With the details still being worked out, there are senators who could send us sliding back down a giant chute.

Leaders have a responsibility to their constituents to preserve a livable planet for future generations. And we constituents have a responsibility to let our representatives know that climate change must be the number one priority.

If Congress doesn’t take action now, we might find ourselves playing a different game — one called “Sorry.”

Anna Novoselov is an Environmental Science Student at UCLA and will begin her junior year this fall. She is also a volunteer member of the grassroots organization, Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Novoselov is a Saratoga resident.

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