Aryaman Shukla: It's youth's turn to save the environment | Columnists

Are we really working to reduce our ecological footprint as we use more and more fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources every day? The burning of these fossil fuels causes a release of carbon, adding to the greenhouse effect. Even though the greenhouse effect is essential to life, excessive greenhouse gases result in less heat loss and more heat trapped in the atmosphere, which causes global warming. No longer is global warming the responsibility of our parents’ generation, but now it is the responsibility of our generation. The consequences are for us to witness and solve ourselves.

In the U.S., heatwaves are affecting the Central and Eastern regions. China has hit temperatures matching all-time highs, even when these were set only five years ago. Data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) shows that June 2022 was the second-warmest June ever, and in mid-June, temperatures reached all-time highs, causing wildfires in Western Europe, which resulted in thousands evacuating. Europe is at the greatest risk because of the double jet streams that are becoming more common, resulting in long-lasting heat events in Western Europe. These are most likely caused by the atmosphere being altered.

These heat waves that have become so common recently have been attributed to greenhouse gas emissions. The electric grid at Duke Energy Carolinas is feeling the heat with record-high summer usage of electricity by homeowners to keep temperatures low. As more urban areas crop up replacing vegetation, urban heat islands grow, turning cities into hothouses, leading to increased illnesses and deaths.

Scientists warn that a few years from now these heat waves may seem comparatively mild. Hence the urgency to limit the rising global temperatures as frequency, intensity and duration of the heat waves become a concern.

Negotiations at COP26 last November — the United Nations climate change conference held in Glasgow, Scotland — which went well past the deadline, were less than perfect.

They were more of a compromise, an effort to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to prevent depletion of our natural resources and reduce global carbon emissions by 45% until 2030 to achieve the 1.5 Celsius commitment, a “well-below 2 degrees” goal. COP26 President Alok Sharma attempted to “consign coal power to history.” This will be a slow process, since coal-reliant countries will only be able to move on by the 2040s or later. The $356 million in support for developing nations remains too low to offer aid. As we strive to achieve the 1.5 Celsius goal, “its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” Sharma said. Vulnerable countries that suffer the impacts of climate change have yet to receive the $100 million a year pledged to mitigate the impact of climate breakdown. Agreement in one area affects agreement in others and a break in the chain will provide little benefit.

It is easier to speak of reducing carbon output than it is to do it.

Any serious attempt to combat climate change should go beyond vigorous enthusiasm that calls on everyone in the world to act decisively. Carbon trading, setting a price for carbon emissions and a carbon tax will become a process to hold nations accountable.

Nations will meet once more in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for COP27 in November in order to analyze progress from COP26’s agreement. This will help nations analyze how they can meet emission-reduction targets.

Because many women, native and youth activists are not represented fully, these under-represented activists can help keep the cause visible and push leaders to make changes in the system.

As a precursor to COP26, a Conference of Youth was held in October 2021 (COY16). This year, Egyptian Minister of Youth Ashraf Sobhy has invited youth to formally bring their voices through COY17, as COP27 meets.

At the microscopic level, the previous generation witnessed environmental damage and we can be the refreshing change. As nations gather to take the initiative, our generation can step forward to provide a giant push.

We need to recognize that climate change is real and become agents of change, entrepreneurs and innovators. We can do this through awareness, education and mobilizing our efforts in the right direction to accelerate climate action.

As U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged activists, governments and companies working against climate change, “Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward.”

Aryaman Shukla is a ninth grader at Atkins High School.

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