Issue: After several centuries of burning coal, emitting fossil fuel fumes, mining limited minerals, and permanently polluting the water and air of our Earth, we are beginning to feel the effects of the climate change that we have brought upon ourselves. Deadly hurricanes that strike land, destroy communities, and take lives have historically been fewer and farther between compared to recent storms, which have killed scores of Americans in 2017 alone.
Wildfires have burned out of control around the world from California to Italy, and historic droughts have left tens of millions starving in East Africa. We are currently confronting the brutal reality of the ways in which our unsustainable industrialization has permanently altered our biosphere. According to new research, we are living in the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the planet. Species that have lived on this Earth far longer than humans are going extinct at alarming rates, and if we are going to survive we will have to learn to live in a world without many of the resources or much of the stability we take for granted.
Thanks to a coordinated, well-funded misinformation campaign that persists to this day in the form of a president who undermined the only meaningful international effort to reduce global emissions, the United States has failed to take leadership on the single most important issue for the future of humanity. Climate change and mass extinction pose nothing short of an existential threat to humanity, and unless we can work together to build a future of sustainable development, we may not survive the consequences of our actions.
Proposal: If we want to minimize the harm climate change has already done to humanity, we need to invest in local food and water sustainability, flood and fire protection, and seawalls to protect low lying population centers from rising seas. Though it will be a difficult undertaking, we are also long overdue for an underground electrical grid that will be safer and more resistant to the elements. As one of the first nations to benefit from the power of coal and fossil fuels and one of the world’s leading carbon emitters, we have a moral obligation to lead the charge to save our planet.
By investing in an entirely renewable national energy infrastructure, we will create green jobs and revitalize American manufacturing. It’s time to return to the table and lead the international community by example, reducing emissions domestically via a national carbon tax and incentivizing other nations to reduce their emissions. The national carbon tax will fund job training programs that prioritize Americans working in the non-renewable energy sector by helping develop new skills to gain employment in the renewable energy sector.
It’s time to have another great international race with China, Russia, India, the E.U., and every other nation: a race to zero net carbon emissions.
Ceballos, Gerardo, et al. “Accelerated Modern Human–Induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth
Mass Extinction.” Science Advances, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1 June 2015.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History. Bloomsbury, 2015.