Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Humans are responsible for climate change and must act

Our planet Earth, the only birthplace to any life we know of, is the central piece that all of human existence revolves around. All of the smallest pieces on our planet connect to complex systems, creating the perfect environment for us to live in. It’s one of a kind, and without it, humans are nothing. But now things are changing, and our planet is in danger. Our climate is rapidly growing more and more unstable without showing signs of slowing down. We are seeing the results of humans altering the systems too much, and now the stakes are high. As a whole, climate change is one thing that really could kill everyone if we don’t act now. It is an undeniable fact that Earth, a thing of the most vital importance, is facing grave danger from climate change, and it’s now humanity’s responsibility to wake up and address the potential disaster, one of apocalyptic proportions, of which we are guilty of causing.
We have known the facts and logic behind climate change for years, and we’re constantly learning more. Scientists agree across the board; this is real, and humans are doing it. We have to trust the science that we gather because it shows the definitive truth about the situation. For example, it tells us that the amount of carbon has been increasing ever since the industrial revolution (Yale). This is because of humans. The EPA says that, “the largest source of [emissions]… is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.” Any person can see that this is true. Science can also tell us that these gases trap heat in our atmosphere because of the greenhouse effect, and that this is causing temperatures to steadily rise (NASA). These are all widely accepted, solid facts that have been proven by multiple people.
The point of science is that it’s a methodical way of thinking to discover the truth. Science is a process that eliminates errors and guesswork. You answer a question through valid and repeatable experiments, and then you build on knowledge from there. Those qualities are what makes it definitive truth; you cannot choose whether to believe in it or not because there is proof that is reliable.
And for climate change, there is so much proof. We cannot afford to deny it. This path that we’re on is dangerous, and it’s worrying that people refuse to believe it. So all of us, as intelligent human beings, should look at the facts for what they are: the undeniable truth of the situation.
So now, with the knowledge that climate change is our fault, all of humankind has an obligation to make it right. It’s our responsibility, both as a generation and as individuals. Think about this; our generation is passing our Earth along to the next one. Just like any parent owes their children the best life that they can give them, we owe a clean planet to the people who come after us. Imagine that we fail, and they view us as being the last people who could have stopped this? We have a responsibility to them.
We also have a responsibility to the 8.7 million other species who we share Earth with (Science Daily). We forget that we share this planet, and that they are just as entitled to Earth as we are. So yes, we have an obligation as a species to fight climate change.
But the question often asked is this: What are our responsibilities as individuals? It’s true that big corporations contribute heavily to climate change, but it’s also individual efforts that count. All that one person can truly be responsible for is their own actions. Any difference that you make has an impact, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Change happens when many people come together and work towards a goal. Next time you travel, walk instead of drive. Pass on the plastic straw or bag. Support local businesses, and buy renewable. Remember to vote. Do not think, even for a second, that you are too small to make a difference. No one is.
Two of the most common rebuttals against climate change are that the Earth has changed naturally before and will correct itself, and that we have time. These statements do not show an accurate picture. The first one is based on a half-truth. It is true that the climate has changed before; we can see the ice ages and hot stretches of the past through relationships of shifting greenhouse contents in the atmosphere (ACS). But now it’s different. Human domination in the Anthropocene age has altered our planet in a never-before-seen way. This cycle is not natural; we are causing it. It is naive to think that the past means that everything will be OK this time. With the path we’re on, we will not get through this without things changing dramatically. Ecosystems need time to adjust, and there is not enough time for proper evolution to take place now. The World Wildlife Fund says that, “[Today’s loss of species] is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.” We are already causing irreparable damage. Now it is the question of how far we let it go, and that is for humans to decide.
We, as a human race, have to step up and right this terrible wrong. We have created this problem, and it’s our responsibility to fix it. It may seem scary, even terrifying, to think about, but we cannot shut down. We are all citizens of Earth, and we owe it to her, ourselves, and everyone who lives here to help. Just remember to do your part with the small things. If you want an impact on a larger scale, then fight for political and social change. Especially with the dawn of a new decade, as time becomes more critical, we must fight even harder. We have a lot to lose.
Ryley Olsen
Vergennes
Editor’s note: The writer is a sophomore at Vergennes Union High School.

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