I am not going to talk to you as though you cannot understand the real issues facing our society and our planet. I won’t talk down to you, or demean your intelligence. I will not hold back from giving you the truth, as brutal as it might be. I do not believe your age should exclude you from conversations and issues that will affect your future. I do not think you should be exempt from taking action, even if you were not a significant contributor to the problem. I do not believe your interests are limited to swift punchlines and shallow memes. I believe you are more than capable of reading, understanding and acting on my challenge.
Before I challenge you, let’s discuss some facts:
Climate Change Is Real
Global temperatures are increasing. Sea levels are rising. Heat waves are increasing in intensity. Droughts are becoming more common and severe. Wildfires are raging in areas impacted by drought and record heat. Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic. Extreme weather events are causing flooding, mudslides and destruction. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting. The evidence of climate change is irrefutable.
Climate Change Is Driven by Human Actions
There are many factors that lead to changes in our planet’s climate. However the rapid changes we have seen over the past few decades can be directly attributed to human actions. This is known as anthropogenic climate change. This is largely due to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from industrial animal agriculture. Deforestation significantly compounds the effects, as the forests of the world act as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide. Deforestation hurts the ability of the planet to absorb carbon dioxide and heal the damage that we have done.
Climate Change Is Happening Now
2014 was the hottest year on record. 2015 will smash that record. Droughts in places like California, Brazil and North Africa are becoming more severe. Heat waves are killing thousands of people around the globe. Sea level rising is causing coastal flooding events. Historically high wildfires ravaged Alaska, California and the Pacific Northwest in 2015. Fish and marine life populations are plummeting, with increasing risks of collapse. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are bleaching coral reefs, putting the ocean food chain at extreme risk.
We Have a Moral Responsibility to Act on Climate Change
Climate change will impact nearly everyone on the planet, but it will disproportionately impact those who are least able to manage the effects. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change. Undeveloped countries will struggle the most. Not only will these people bear the brunt of climate change, they contributed the least to anthropogenic climate change. We have a moral responsibility to protect the poor and the weak, the young and the old, from the brutal impacts of climate change.
The Solutions to Address Climate Change Exist Now, and They Are Technologically and Economically Viable
When it comes to energy, the costs of alternative renewable energies have plummeted, while the costs of fossil fuels have slowly increased. Yes, there have been recent fluctuations in costs of resources like natural gas and oil, but the long term cost trend for fossil fuels is up. Fossil fuel costs do not take into account all of the negative impacts of their use, known as negative externalities. Instead, the entire ecosystem absorbs those costs, as does all of life on the planet. Climate change, pollution, resource depletion and other negative externalities are not included at the gas pump, or in your electricity bill. When you take into account the dramatic decrease in the cost of solar and wind power, you will realize that these clean and renewable sources of energy are significantly cheaper than fossil fuels. The technology is here, and the economics support it. Now we just need the social and political will to push the solutions forward.
A Challenge to the Youth
The youth of this planet have contributed significantly less to the climate change problem than older generations, due to your age and lesser responsibility for the political and economic systems we work within. Fair or not, you are the generation that will live through the worst effects of climate change. You are the generation that has the most to lose.
You are also the generation that has the most to gain by forcing world leaders to take action now. We cannot fully reverse the damage that we have done, but if we take bold and immediate action, there is hope that we can slow and eventually reverse the negative effects of climate change. The earth has an incredible ability to heal and rebalance itself. All we have to do is give it a chance.
I challenge every young person in every country to think about the possibilities of the future. There are dark and dangerous paths, and there are bright and prosperous ones. You have the ability to effect change. You can force world leaders down the virtuous path.
I challenge the youth of this planet to stand up, use your voice, and take action to fight climate change. I challenge you to take responsibility for your future, and the future of this planet. I challenge you to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Fight for the citizens of this planet. Fight for the animals. Fight for the forests. Fight for the oceans. Fight for the land. Fight for the air. Fight for the future.
Rise and be heard.
Join the Earth Guardians and help change the world.
(This article originally appeared on Fight Climate Denial.)