A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has left many with renewed hope that the effects of climate change can be mitigated, despite the fossil fuel industry’s chokehold on legislators around the world.
In the past few years, the United States has experienced wildfires, flooding and record-high temperatures. All the while, lawmakers continue to call climate change a hoax. The Paris Climate Accords aim to stabilize rising temperatures before the end of the 21st century.
Scientists say that at this rate, it will take eleven years to reduce emissions by half, and 20 years after that to cut them to zero.
There is no time to waste; now is the time to act, and the first step is to dethrone the fossil fuel industry. Big oil has hijacked our political system; too many of our elected representatives are beholden to their interests. We have the ability to adequately address climate change, including the technology to replace fossil fuels and the policy needed to get things in motion; the fossil fuel industry is the only real obstacle.
In the last election, oil and gas companies spent almost $90 million on political candidates. The vast majority of this has gone to Republican candidates, and Democrats have received hefty donations as well. Fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell spent upwards of $300 million on lobbying. Because of the amount of money they donate, big oil holds many of our politicians in its pocket, and these politicians consistently vote against climate change initiatives, disavowing science and making a climate disaster inevitable.
The IPCC said in its report earlier this month that immediate action is needed to mitigate climate change. According to the report, the safe level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. As of April 2022, atmospheric carbon dioxide measures 420 parts per million. That is up 100 parts per million in the past 60 years, and up 25 parts per million in the past decade.
The IPCC has said that with effort, it is possible to reduce emissions below the critical level before the end of the century; many countries around the world have claimed to be working toward that goal, but their actions tell a different story. With the war in Ukraine causing energy prices to skyrocket, several countries, including the United States, are considering increasing fossil fuels, which would push the goal out of reach.
Specifically, the IPCC found that to keep emissions below the critical level, and to keep the global average temperature from rising even more than it already has, coal must be completely phased out and methane emissions must be reduced by a third. We must do more to facilitate forest growth and preserve soils, and we need to invest more in the shift to a low-carbon world. Most importantly, all sectors of the global economy must evolve to incorporate renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels.
No matter how impossible it may seem, we can accomplish these goals. We can start by voting out politicians who receive financial support from big oil. Once the fossil fuel industry’s policy influence is diminished, the United States will be able to begin working on reducing emissions, and the rest of the world will follow suit.
We are the last generation that can prevent a global climate catastrophe. Now is the time for us all to step up to the plate to protect our planet and build a better future.
Kate Morano is a graduate of Morris Central School and a freshman at American University in Washington D.C. Readers can contact her at email@example.com.