Opinion: Climate change needs to change

When I visited India two years ago, I was overjoyed to see my family members across the ocean, eat delicious food and see the country’s natural wonders. However, the nation’s mystique and glittering cities did not hide the pollution, crowded streets and smoke. 

Unlike the United States, there was no garbage truck that came on Tuesdays. Instead, I saw people taking their trash and burning it, despite the fact that it was illegal to do so. In the capital, New Delhi, people were wearing masks even before the COVID-19 pandemic because the air quality was that harmful. In fact, New Delhi has been coined  the “most polluted city in the world” due to crop stubble burning, factory emissions and a congested transportation network. India ranks third on the global stage in carbon emissions at about 2.46 billion metric tonnes. Seeing my motherland destroy itself was heartbreaking.

India is not the only place burdened with climate change. On Oct. 8, about 25,000 barrels of crude oil spilled onto the shores of Southern California. In July, California was met with blazing wildfires that burned for over three months and wiped out a town. Wildfires in California aren’t new, but they are getting worse due to climate change. Higher temperatures, drier conditions and increased fuel availability are increasing wildfire activity in America’s forested land. In the winter of 2020, Chicago’s water levels increased to record levels. Some buildings were flooded up to the third floor. Even worse, the Appalachian Mountains are methodically pulled apart layer by layer just for some coal.

In a way, the Earth is starting to respond to humanity’s continual apathy toward climate change and pollution. More specifically, the heavy reliance on nonrenewable resources and unsustainable practices has resulted in an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and this small molecule has been dangerously warming the planet. Meanwhile, sea levels are constantly trying to adjust. Currently, the atmospheric CO2 is situated at  410 parts per million — higher than it has  been in three million years. A small variation in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere has made the difference for rampant forest fires, coastal floodings and beastly hurricanes. 

As a teenager with absolutely no financial or political power, I nor my peers can change environmental policy. However, the people who can fix the climate are hindered by lobbyists and powerful corporations. Moreover, our current politicians will be long gone once climate change goes into full effect. It is my generation that will be affected the most. We are the ones who will be left with the scraps from the people today. I don’t want to live in a world covered with trash, with scorching heat and with no fuel or prospects. I am tired of climate policy being met with “what will happen to the economy.” In actuality, some people will lose their jobs, but more sustainable jobs will be created. New industries will arise, and the world will be able to breathe again. Standing idle will only prolong the inevitable. 

Clearly, recycling can only take us so far. Corporations and governments must switch to renewable resources to mitigate the effects of the industrial sphere. Moreover, people, especially the youth, have to finally start standing up for the very home they live in. People must vote and hold policy makers accountable. The rivers are poisoned due to coal mining, glaciers are melting and wild animals are going extinct. If the population stands by, the Earth will look much different than the world that nursed humanity.