You’ve likely heard the gist of climate change’s menace. You almost certainly are disturbed. If I were you, I might’ve even swiped away, under the impression that this is another climate horror story. So politicians, you’re my main target. Unless, of course, the rest of you are courageous enough to digest a mouthful of the future and spread my message.
Thankfully, we aren’t in the inescapable stage of such “horror.” Think of climate change like cancer: it becomes untreatable after a particular stage. We are currently in stage three — on the brink of inevitable disaster. Unlike cancer, however, we diagnosed climate change a much earlier century ago. And yet, we knowingly let it plague our green globe.
During my US History class, I couldn’t help but think about this issue. Each day we are taught to draw parallels and continuities throughout history. After all, the ultimate goal is for history to inform our modern decisions. So I thought of two very different eras: the gilded age and its succeeding progressive era.
The gilded age was marked by political inaction, lacking legislation and measures against excessive corporate power. The government was riddled with corruption, lobbying, and greedy interest. Criticism predictably followed. Henry Adams’ Democracy denounced the government’s lack of involvement and inefficiency. Worse, this passive government has gone down in history as an abomination.
Unfortunately, we may be in global warming’s gilded age. Today’s conservative politicians refuse to help our climate. Their corruption, fueled by lobbying and refusal to rescue a dying climate, could not be more similar to gilded age politics. In 2009, congress dismally failed efforts to reduce emissions. In 2015, Trump withdrew from the Paris Accords, an essential token of global cooperation. And the prospects of the sweeping climate reform in Biden’s Build Back Better Act being passed look bleak. This is looking more and more like the 19th century Congress which couldn’t get anything done.
Conservatives aren’t only at fault — liberals lack the tenacity that climate change begs for. Democrat, Joe Manchin, has consistently weakened the Build Back Better Act provisions, taking the place of his conservative counterparts. Meanwhile, other Democrats have misconstrued The Green New Deal, allowing critics to characterize it as a “socialist” agenda that eliminates America’s adored beef. But broadly, state climate plans have been squeezed by moderation.
Politicians, you have a choice: act now or be remembered as those who passively killed the country. Later will be too late.
No, the “preserving economy” justification will later be laughable when there is barely an economy. Climate change requires trade-offs for the sake of the long-run. Already, wildfires cost North America $415 billion. The future holds temperature extremes that could cost $160 billion in lost wages. Over 7,000 companies could be suffocated by the climate’s consequences. The alternative is subsidizing renewable energy, which itself will prevent such economic damage and generate over $2 trillion in business projects.
Like I said before, an optimistic, green future would remind me of the progressive era. This juncture, praised by historians and politicians alike, fixed a failing society. Tools included reform, regulation, and repair. Progressivism set the stage for the new deal, the economic plan to revive the strangled economy, championed by FDR. Such unprecedented legislation gave FDR and his congress a legendary status. Legislators dream of achieving such a reputation. Some believe it’s impossible, but it’s not.
The comprehensive Green New Deal could gradually halt the pace of warming. From carbon taxes to grants to energy equality, it will transition our country to be a climate leader. Like the New Deal, its green counterpart would be the first of its kind and a clear-cut opportunity for lawmakers.
Republicans, if not for saving our planet, honor history and cement your legacies by affirming the Green New Deal. After all, corrupt lobbying money can never buy an eternal legacy.
Solving this crisis should be a no-brainer. We only have three to five years until the window to save humanity shuts. The most proactive model is Denmark, where legislation deployed green technologies and invested in its green workers. It is expected to have zero carbon emissions by 2050. Denmark’s politicians are high-fiving each other knowing that they’ve secured a heroic legacy. They will be the saviors that lifted their country out of the warming crisis.
Every era in American history has a name: the gilded age, reconstruction era, and turbulent sixties. Perhaps the next few years will be known as the climate era. One where law-makers either take initiative or lay afloat while watching the meltdown unfold. This era, though, will be one unlike any other. It defines implications for massive populations, reaching centuries later. Congress’s decisions now could directly impact people two hundred years into the future.
If you made it to this end, you’re a real trooper. Global warming is difficult to think about, nonetheless, read about. But to politicians: you took an oath to address every difficult problem — don’t break it. The reason to cool an overheating world should be self-evident and moral. Many of you clearly don’t understand this. So instead, you must understand that you will go down in history books, cited as the cause of catastrophe. That is, of course, assuming that there are any people left to read them.
Ashwin Telang is a junior in West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, and writing intern for the Borgen Project. He is passionate about politics, and hopes to spread change across different communities.
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