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YOUTH ED: Climate Change - The Time To Fight Is Now


From the Alabama Youth Climate Strike in March of 2019

You may ask why? Why should we focus on this issue that is not currently affecting your life and may not seem to be affecting others? Why should we focus on something scientists say is happening years away from now? Why should we care about climate change?


We need to focus on climate change here in Alabama because the future of our state is at risk. Everyone in this state will be affected by this crisis and it will come to realization sooner than you may think. The temperatures in this state are rising, the extreme heat is becoming more tenacious; meanwhile, emissions are increasing and our environment is dying. There are  approximately 15 days a year in Alabama where the temperature rises above 95 degrees and by 2089, that number will multiply three to four times according to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report. We need to ask the real question here, “Are the people currently leading our communities acting in our best interest?” We, as students, have to stand up to these leaders and tell them what we want done. We as students have more power than you may think. As a whole, we are the next generation, but to them, we are the next “voting” generation. This is absolutely true. 


If these leaders do not start limiting emissions which are going to burn our state, we will vote them out of office. We have the power. We have the power as the next generation to tell our leaders to either begin caring about our futures, or we will find someone to replace them who has our state’s best interests at heart. Our leaders can use executive authority, or even legislative authority to cap emissions, but they have not, because some of these elected leaders will not even recognize that human activity causes climate change, or that climate change even exists for that matter. Any elected leader who denies the existence of this climate crisis, or argues that this is not a problem in need of resolution right now, needs to hear our voices loud and clear. If they do not listen, we will make sure they do not have a job.

 

Our leaders must understand that we cannot leave our children and grandchildren to solve this problem on their own. According to the EPA, the amount of groundwater will decrease by 2.5 to 5 percent in the next 40-50 years, and periods without rainfall will be longer, causing droughts to be more severe as well as more frequent. The rising temperature in Alabama is also playing a role in the agriculture industry. According to a 2016 report from Tuskegee University, we could see a 37% decrease in all corn growth in Alabama due to extreme heat under high emissions, while projected corn growth for 2060-2090 will see a 77.8% decrease. Corn is one of the most valuable products in our entire state, and the demise of corn, will cause the economy of this state to decline significantly.  Our local food supply is being ravaged by climate change, and if we continue with no changes, it will just progressively get worse. 


Another major effect of the climate crisis on our state would be the impact on our forests. According to Samford University, numbers of our already endangered species and plants will decline more with the extreme intense heat being caused by climate change, and our forests would become infested with pests and vines, causing it unsuitable to be a proper habitat for animals. This will cause many of Alabama’s endangered plant species to become scarce, or even disappear completely.


Human health in the state of Alabama will also be a big concern. According to the EPA report on climate change in Alabama, the rising temperatures will hit children, elderly, sick, and poor people the hardest. With the extreme heat, the risk for heart attacks and dehydration will rise. Warm air causes ground ozone to form. Ozone exposure can cause lung disease, heart disease, and a variety of health problems that can result in premature death. The health of Alabamians is at risk. We can stop this and save thousands of lives.


In 2016 under the leadership of Robert Bentley, Kay Ivey, and Luther Strange, our state joined a federal lawsuit to challenge the EPA’s decision to enact the Clean Power Plan, a federal law that aimed to reduce emissions from coal and oil powered plants (fossil fuels), as well as emissions from natural gas powered plants. The plan would cut our emissions by 32%, but our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General opposed it. This plan would have helped defeat climate change, but it never was enacted due to President Trump's executive order to kill the plan in March 2017. We have solutions that can slow climate change around the world, but our leaders in charge have rejected the science-based fact that climate change is real and caused by human activity. 


We must fight back. We need to make them enact reforms so we can fight climate change, save our future, and ensure the well-being of the state of Alabama. We will use our power. They may call us names or say we are too young to understand this issue, they are wrong. The issue is perfectly clear and we are going to fight it. 



Austen Wyche, 14, Madison, AL


Written by: Austen Wyche / @austen_wyche

Edited by: Isabel Hope / @isabamahope / @isabama

Olivia Blanton / @o.blanton

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