Climate change is here. What are we going to do about it?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Climate action at every level is critical to creating an environmental culture shift

Illustration of 5 people working together to chip away the red sky in a photo, revealing a blue sky unaffected by climate change beneath.
Genesis Cruz/Staff

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Nothing is as it should be. The sky is red, 53,000 lightning strikes have hit California in 3.5 days and almost 600 fires rage on. While efforts to treat these real-life nightmares are numerous, few are tending to the underlying disease: climate change.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that climate change exists and that it exists because of us. As our environmental crisis nears the point of no return, concern about the fate of our planet has crept into the general population. We’ve begun to realize that we are jeopardizing our own futures. 

When the facts are as obvious and devastating as they are, we have an obligation to reach across every aisle to shift our nation’s mentality about the environment. What are we going to do about it? 

We must combat climate change through corporations. Big businesses have overwhelming financial and political influence, and it’s time for them to evolve. Making their supply chains more sustainable, using recycled or biodegradable materials and contributing to green political campaigns would begin to prove to consumers that corporations care about the planet beyond a “sustainability” tab on a website. 

We must combat climate change within our communities. An environmental K-12 education would instill early appreciation for Mother Earth so that every American can understand climate science and its social ramifications. Our towns must be planned in sustainable ways, both to decrease local environmental footprints and to brace cities for climate change.

We must combat climate change through our government. At all levels, our elected officials need to act on our behalf and heed science. Policy reflecting the environmental urgency of constituents must be shaped to breeze past bumbling bureaucracy. Officials must publicize progress on clear action items — we are past the point of simply setting goals.

We must combat climate change within our own lives. It’s true that in comparison to the 100 companies responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, individual actions feel fruitless. But if we expect large corporations to be green, we must expect the same from ourselves. We can live our climate commitments by steering away from single-use plastics, pushing for and utilizing renewable energy and encouraging those around us to make climate-conscious choices.

This is just a summary of climate action. We must all begin to think about and confront climate change within our society and within ourselves. Climate change is complex and confusing, yes, but it’s already here. In Berkeley, ash dusts every surface and red skies loom — it’s terrifying. The world must undergo a culture shift if we want our children to breathe clean air, if we want our grandchildren to experience livable temperatures and if we want future generations to even have a chance at life on Earth.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.