The Earth is dying; who’s saving it?

Joseph Langan

Last June, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would relinquish its commitment to the Paris Agreement, a 2015 international effort to invest in green technology and reduce carbon emissions. Last week, the president flirted with the idea that the U.S. “could conceivably” rejoin the Paris deal.  

We don’t have time to outline vague “maybe…maybe not” policies.

2017 was the third warmest year on record, and the most expensive year for natural disasters in the U.S.: $306 billion.

Climate change is playing a part.

The trio of major hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida was merely the most bombastic show of force. Extreme weather tattered any semblance of normalcy: from a freeze in the Southeast that hurt fruit crops, to deadly hail storms that battered Colorado; from aggressive tornadoes that terrorized the Midwest, to wildfires that seared beyond the usual season in Southern California.

The average temperature was 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. It may not seem like a lot, but think of that rise in temperature as the tip of the iceberg. If carbon emissions continue, global warming could transform our world and sabotage the planet’s potential to sustain a human civilization. This is a generational problem that requires extraordinary and consistent leadership.

With the U.S. backing down, who’s stepping up? Well, nearly everyone. China’s coal consumption has remained flat since 2013 and its solar and wind technology continue to grow at the fastest pace on the planet. India is on track to surpass its Paris climate targets after setting an inspiring goal to only sell electric vehicles by 2030. Mexico plans to produce 35% of its energy from clean sources by 2024.

Belgium is committed to the EU’s goal to cut carbon emission levels 20% by 2020 and is shutting down the last of its coal power plants. Sweden’s recycling system is so revolutionary the country imports trash from other nations to keep the plants running. After Portugal’s recession, the country enacted progressive policies to revitalize architecture and encourage local arts, putting investment in clean energy and green jobs at the heart of its initiative.

Even here, more than 80 mayors are vowing to put their people over the president’s blunders. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio leads the charge with a lawsuit against five big oil companies, including ExxonMobil, for contributing to the stark rise in greenhouse gases. If the lawsuit is successful, we could see BP and others forced to fork over billions of dollars in damages. But it’s not all geopolitical power plays and foreign solutions.

As a student, you can do your part to reduce your carbon footprint. You can switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off lights whenever they’re not being used, carpool, use public transport, eat less meat and waste less food. You can consider going vegetarian or vegan.

As a student, you can pay attention to company policies and vote with your wallet. At the end of the day, the needed changes can’t happen without robust national polices, so exercising your rights and speaking up is needed now more than ever.

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at  [email protected].