With Earth Day right around the corner, now seems like as good a time as any to reflect on the current state of our planet. To put it bluntly: climate change is upon us. And no matter how much our president, or anyone for that matter, tries to dispute this fact, we cannot ignore the consequences of our actions for any longer. Luckily for us, the majority of Americans believe that global climate change is having an impact on the world. Unfortunately for us, to make a change we need everyone to care, and it just does not seem like that is going to happen.
Last month, President Trump released his proposed budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as his plans to reverse former President Obama’s policies on climate change. As he did so, the ice caps continued to melt, coral reefs continued to bleach and die off and increasingly extreme storms continued to brew. Trump’s sense of urgency regarding the issue is clearly not present, in fact he seems to see climate change as more of a non-issue and a nuisance. However, that does not mean we all have to think of it that way.
While the President may not believe in the cause of climate change, a study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that around 70 percent of Americans believe in the reality and legitimacy of the problem. While this may seem like a rather low number considering the scientific evidence there is to support the phenomenon, the percentage of people who believe in climate change has been steadily growing over the years as more and more of its effects begin to rear their ugly heads. Of course, while we aim to ultimately eliminate the negative effects of climate change altogether, it is somewhat encouraging that while they are dangerous, they are also making people notice the problem we have.
While Yale’s study is promising in that it shows an increase in awareness and support for the climate change movement, it also reveals a more disheartening truth. While more people may be recognizing the reality of climate change every day, they are still reluctant or unwilling to take action in the fight against it. Of the people surveyed in this study, only 58 percent of them stated that they were concerned about global warming and that they felt it would harm people in the United States at some point. Of this group, an even smaller portion still believed that climate change was already affecting the country.
For the people who do not believe that climate change is affecting the country I have one question: What’s your explanation? How can you explain the consistently rising temperatures each year? Why do we continue to experience extreme weather, such as hurricanes, in areas that have never been at risk for this weather before? Why do we observe the sea levels rising every year? If the majority of Americans have already accepted the fact that climate change exists, it is time to recognize that it does not just exist somewhere in the future, but it is already here. We cannot keep avoiding the problem by denying what is right in front of us.
While accepting the reality of climate change was the first part of the battle, there is still a lack of concern over the topic. Yale’s study has showed that only about one third of Americans discuss climate change, even just occasionally. How can we hope to fix this problem if the majority of people won’t even talk about it? We need to push for climate change to get the attention it needs, in order to instill the sense of urgency in Americans that is necessary to work towards a solution.
While people can attempt to justify not caring about certain causes because they do not feel the personally affected, global climate change is an issue that will affect every single person on this planet. While expecting our lawmakers to work towards a solution is not unreasonable, it does not currently seem to be working in our favor. If we ever hope to reverse the damage we have done to our planet, we have to stop thinking of our environment as an issue for someone else to fix, and start taking action ourselves, before it is too late.
Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.