Opinion: Why I’ll be protesting for climate reform
For a few days, I have been walking between classes with a sign draped around my neck with the words “9/20, 1PM. CLIMATE STRIKE! → CENTRAL GREEN” to promote the climate protest event that will be happening on The Green on Friday, Sep. 20 as part of the global climate action strike.
Yes, I did get a few curious looks and long glances — which was reassuring — but walking between classes with a sign is the least I could do. While the Amazon burns and more greenhouse gases are being relentlessly pumped into the atmosphere, global temperatures continue to rise and kids from all around the world are striking every Friday for climate, I too, a college student, am compelled to do something.
Some say we’ll be fine because of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius and further to 1.5 degrees Celsius (we’ve already warmed about one degree Celsius). Those increases might not seem like a lot, but with last year’s United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report describing the effects of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (including increased heat waves, water scarcity, loss of species range, massive loss of coral reefs, sea level rise, and lower crop yields), even 1.5 degrees is moderately catastrophic, and those effects will only be higher at two degrees of warming.
For the record, I am not an environmental science major. A few years ago, I cared less about extinctions, deforestation and plastic pollution, yet was more vehement towards global warming as I felt it would affect humans relatively more. However, lately I have realized that these topics are related to climate. A changing climate drives extinctions, affecting the food web and, ultimately, humans. Deforestation releases climate-warming greenhouse gases. Plastic production could make up 13 % of the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, meanwhile endangering wildlife which, again, affects humans.
There are solutions available for a safer climate on both an individual and social level. The UN IPCC report laid out pathways for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which indicate decreasing emissions from 2010 levels by about half by 2030 and to net-zero by around 2050, though some say the report was too conservative by including future carbon capture technology, for example — the Green New Deal resolution includes shifting to 100% zero-emission sources for power in 10 years.
These timelines suggest broad change, but does not mean everyone has to stop using electricity, become a vegetarian or walk instead of driving because there are in fact alternatives.
For one, switching to clean energy would help. A local Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) group in Newark is working toward a national revenue-neutral carbon fee, which would incentivize utilities to use more clean energy sources, and the revenue generated would be distributed back to households. Individuals can look to installing solar panels — which also makes financial sense with the current 30 percent federal tax credit and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) generated that could be sold. Companies such as Impossible Foods have developed almost indistinguishable plant-based substitutes for meat, and with the federal tax credit, Delaware state rebate, lower fueling and maintenance costs, electric cars can be cheaper than their gas counterparts.
Locally, the university can further efforts to reduce its emissions and carbon footprint, whether it be using more renewable energy or sourcing food more locally. As The Review reported last year, the university had decreased its emissions 5.9%, which is about 70% below its reduction goal by 2020, and about half of the IPCC goal for global emissions reduction by 2030.
Still, some say we are not the problem, and that the U.S. is only the second most polluting country at 15% of annual global emissions; yet cumulatively since the industrial revolution, the U.S. has had by far more emissions than any other country. Yes, we owe our current way of life somewhat to fossil fuels, but there are now alternatives to switch to and promote to developing countries. As a relatively technologically advanced country, the U.S. should be a leader in furthering global efforts in fighting climate change.
There’s a point in climate activism where individual actions are not enough, op-eds are not enough and where word of mouth is not enough. What we do now in the next few decades will affect the climate for generations to come, which is why on Friday, Sep. 20 — days before the UN Climate Action Summit in New York — I and millions of young people and adults will be joining strikes from all over the world to call for climate action from our leaders.
As some say, we have the solutions, but need the political will and support. As a university with tens of thousands of students, let us show our support this Friday.
Anthony Chan is a sophomore at the university. He works as an intern for UD Sustainability, and also serves as the treasurer of Students for the Environment. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.