Opinion: We Must Win the Battle Against Climate Change

Truly, it is unbelievably unfortunate to conclude that safeguarding the environment has become a partisan issue on Capitol Hill - that in the year 2017, climate change and sustainability are considered "progressive" issues, instead of domestic-policy mainstays in the United States. One would think that preserving the environment around us for not only our generation, but future generations to come, would be a top priority. 

Industrial development in many respects has been a process defined by its slower pace. Even here at home and across the pond in Europe, the Industrial Revolution kickstarted the widespread use of fossil fuels for manufacturing. As automation reduced the cost of automobiles, vehicle ownership became affordable, and thus commonplace. 

Of course, as more people poured into cities to seek new industrial employment, others were crowded out (often times financially) and forced to the countryside. Rural areas evolved into modern-day suburbs, and lengthy commutes made car ownership a necessity. From there, human contributions to carbon emissions and overall climate change have been magnified into the present day. 

Here's something else to consider: even though we have entered an age of post-industrial growth in America, many other nations internationally are in the process of developing. In many places, it is accurate to expect that industry will become a socioeconomic building block, and serve as a stepping stone to national progress. Just as it was done here and abroad, nations in the third world or on the cusp of industrialization will make the leap as time passes. As a result, currently agrarian nations will become the next emissions contributors moving forward - as they progress. However, there is hope to curtail this trend, should governments see the value in investing in cleaner, renewable energy. 

According to a NASA scientific consensus report, four major, international science institutions - the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Hadley Center's Climatic Research Unit, the National Centers for Environmental Information, and the Japanese Meteorological Agency - have proven rapid warming in the past few decades. Furthermore, the "last decade has been the warmest on record."  Among other statements made from various scientific organizations, here is one pointed exclamation from the American Geophysical Union: 

Human‐induced climate change requires urgent action. Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes.

In short, the responsibility lies with changing our behaviors at home, piece by piece, to reinforce more positive behaviors until they are second nature. Accordingly, the government must act as a guiding body in terms of educating the public about carbon emissions. During the past 8 years the Obama Administration instituted many regulations and policies to combat American contributions to climate change. This week, President Trump announced plans to scrap a key piece of legislation enacted during Obama's tenure, the Clean Power Plan. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Plan - and the Paris Agreement signed alongside 194 other nations - would be abandoned in hopes of "putting an end to the war on coal." Electric companies would no longer be required to reduce their emissions. In the Trump Administration's view, deregulating the fossil fuel industry puts the country in an advantageous position. Fracking on federal lands would be legalized, and environment impact assessments preceding new developments would become a matter of whimsy. 

Trump also claims that pivoting back toward fossil fuel production would be a major boon for employment. However, it's not rocket science to suggest that investigation time and research into clean energy can create massive job growth. Turning to clean energy is not unprecedented internationally, either; we can turn to many examples in Europe where common sense policies have transformed the energy industry for the better. This is true in relation to both hydroelectric power, and in the production of wind farms. Given the relative lack of modern, renewable energy infrastructure domestically, there will be an overwhelming need for workers from coast to coast. 

Findings by Business Insider also counteract the White House's claims. In a report from January of this year, provided by the Environment Defense Fund's Climate Corps program, the sustainability sector of the economy accounts for more than 4 million American jobs - up from 3.6 million by the end of 2011. Given that we're only closing out the first quarter of 2017, that accounts for an average job growth of 80,000 jobs per year. 

In addition, 46% of large firms have hired more workers to address sustainability challenges, and the report estimates that solar and wind jobs are growing at a rate 12 times higher than that of the entire US economy. Sustainable energy has a future that is very bright, but bringing policy back into the middle of the 20th century has potential to damage this progress. 

Lastly, the report specified that the 28,000 new jobs created by the Dakota Access Pipeline project has been overestimated - by an alarming factor of seven. This executive order is not about creating new jobs, it merely is about lining the pockets of corrupt politicians. The disingenuous nature of this pursuit is insulting to the American people, and further demonstrates the infidelity of Republican congressmen regarding remaining faithful to the country's best interests. These impacts will also be felt globally. 

The repercussions of new policies are also being felt locally by myself and members of my home state of Michigan. A proposed $50 million dollar federal funding cut to Great Lakes maintenance efforts. This money originally was slated to contribute to watershed restoration, pollution cleanup, and removal of invasive species - all efforts to maintain stable ecosystems. According to local newspaper MLive, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the primary tool in combatting degradation to the Great Lakes system. 

By the EPA's accounts (another imminent casualty of the new Administration), the Great Lakes make up the largest freshwater system in the world, and account for 21% of the world's entire supply of fresh water. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. Apparently, neither is worthy of safeguarding. 

So the next time our policymakers convene on Capitol Hill, I would implore that they rely on scientific, practical thinking instead of chasing funding via special interests. Protecting the world around us, as humanity expands and converts more of the Earth into concrete jungles annually, is of the utmost importance. It does not only affect us, but impacts the lives of our children, grandchildren, and their children to come. Perhaps we should ponder the implications before we leave a mess behind for future generations.