My Generation Can't Afford Climate Denial
For most of my young life, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to work in wildlife biology and conservation. It’s hard not to be passionate about these issues living in a state like Arizona, where the impacts of climate change are being felt through more extreme temperatures and longer droughts. While many elected leaders deny the existence of climate change, my peers understand that it is real, that human activity plays a major factor, and that if immediate action is not taken, our generation will face its most destructive effects.
Arizona is a desert state; high temperatures are a part of our daily lives. But our reality is quickly becoming more deadly. Last year, Arizona had the second hottest year on record, surpassed only by 2017. Unsurprisingly, 2017 also saw the highest number of heat-related deaths the state has ever experienced, with 155 such fatalities occurring — five more than the previous record in 2016. In addition to rising temperatures, Arizona — where water is a vital and scarce resource — is experiencing a 19-year drought with no end in sight. Last year alone, such droughts helped fuel destructive wildfires that burned through more than three million acres of forests in states like California and Colorado.
Climate change is undoubtedly resulting in very real effects both here in the United States and around the world. But faced with extreme weather and calamity, many of our elected leaders are choosing to side with special interests instead of the lives of people and our environment. It’s a cynical and short-sighted approach to one of the largest crises facing our generation.
I see climate change as an opportunity — the kind that past generations have seized upon to mobilize, demand action, and turn the tide of destruction. Right now, our country has an opportunity to do the same by transitioning our energy sector from fossil fuels to renewable sources like wind and solar. Right here in Arizona, these types of energy sources are transforming our state by diversifying the energy grid. In Tucson alone, wind and solar energy projects will soon generate enough clean energy to power more than two thirds of the city’s homes. In neighboring Nevada, clean energy job growth surged 9.5 percent, drastically outpacing overall job growth of three percent. These jobs are not only diversifying energy sources in the state, but are also employing diverse professions, including construction workers, engineers, and software developers.
Because we have the solutions to help tackle the climate crisis, I’m encouraged by lawmakers pushing for a Green New Deal. Incremental approaches to climate change won’t solve the problem alone: we need bold solutions that address the root causes and work to transform our society into one where our lives, our environment and our future trump corporate greed and special interests.
For those who think that the Green New Deal is unreasonable, I invite them to offer their own solutions. Whether it’s a Green New Deal, or some other proposal, action is needed and it’s needed now. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats are voting this week on legislation to prevent the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and in the Senate, Democrats are moving forward with a Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. While these are positive and hopeful signs, no solutions will ever be implemented without bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, there are some Republican lawmakers engaging in climate denialism instead of legislating based on science and our environmental reality. Senator Martha McSally has refused to offer Arizonans any solutions, while my representative, Andy Biggs, not only refuses to act on the issue, but also blatantly denies the scientific consensus on the very existence of climate change.
We already have many of the solutions needed to prevent environmental disasters that my state, and my generation, are set to inherit. And as recent rallies and marches around the world demonstrate, young people have the passion and desire to act. But with little time to waste, we desperately need our elected leaders to open their eyes, put people and the environment first, and get to work on creating a future that we all can live and thrive in.
Morgan Vellone is a student and aspiring wildlife biologist from Arizona.