During the summer build-up to the Paris climate change conference, the Stanley Foundation hosted a seminar on major climate issues for high school students attending the Global Scholar Program in Washington, DC, conducted by AMP Global Youth. Afterward, these outstanding students and future leaders provided their perspectives on critical climate change issues—viewpoints that mix simple basic realism with broad vision and are worth noting for all of us, now and going forward.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
By Veronica, High School Student in California
Almost everyone can agree that at one time or another, they heard the age-old mantra, “You never know what you have until it’s gone.” The same can be said today for Californians such as myself. And yet, many of those within and outside of my community fail to come to terms with the severity of our recent drought.
The fault that these people have is that they don’t realize it is simply not enough to reduce the number of times they water their grass or how much they reduce the duration of their showers. In order to get rid of a weed, one does not mindlessly clip off its leaves but must attack the plant at its roots.
What is this weed’s roots? Climate change. Global warming and climate change due to an accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants does not just mean hotter summers, rising sea levels, or pictures of sad polar bears. On the contrary, society has only hit the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. One of the very real, very dangerous side effects of climate change is extreme weather conditions. While for some that means raging winds, record-breaking hurricanes and tsunamis, or frozen winters, for Californians it means enduring some of the hottest and driest years on record. The alarming mindset of too many individuals seems to be that as long as there is water running out of their hoses, sinks, and showers, there is no problem. However, they could not be more wrong.
We cannot afford to wait until my town and so many like it become the next Porterville, California, with historically low rainfall and high pollution, before the decision is made to take action and make a difference. And just the same, there is no simple solution to such a complex issue. It will take a collectivized effort from all parts of California’s population: from the everyday consumer to the agricultural sector to large corporations and privatized businesses, as well as government and the officials at its core. This means taking measures such as cutting back on excess food, water, and resource consumption, as well as switching to cleaner, more-renewable energy sources.
In addition, reducing the amount of crops that require exorbitant amounts of water (such as avocados and almonds), as well as transforming lawns by replacing them with ground cover and drought-resistant plants, would mean more water for necessities. Opting to ride a bike or carpool to work, as well as reducing red meat consumption, would lead to a decrease in detrimental greenhouse gas emissions. However, as important as any environmental conservation effort is, we must also remember to spread the word to those around us, keeping in mind people like me. As a senior in high school, I should be worrying about college applications and prom, not if water will come out of the tap or shower head. No one should need to worry about a future in which they will have to choose between living where they call home or having access to water.
Climate and Treasures on the Sea
By Katie, High School Student in Florida
For most of my life I’ve lived in the city of Port Orange, Florida. I grew up going to the beach, playing in the sand, and trying to catch tadpoles with my bare hands. I loved it when my family and I were able to go out on our boat and into the water. We would go out and anchor ourselves to a small island, and the first thing I would do is jump off of the front of the boat into the salt water.
However, the water may no longer be a source of recreational fun, but a source of disaster.
Just imagine: you and your family go out on your boat to a small island that previously appeared only at low tide, and when you arrive, the island is no longer there. It is low tide, but the water level is so high that it doesn’t matter; the island is gone forever. Within the next fifty or so years, it is predicted that the water levels will rise high enough that entire islands (some of which are countries) will be completely submerged. If rising sea levels can do this to a country, then why couldn’t it happen to Florida?
The rising sea level is already affecting Florida, as it did during the flooding of Miami in 2014. Every year Miami faces the King Tide, the highest annual tide. In 2014, the predicted crest of the tide was over one meter. In order to prepare for this, the city of Miami created pumps that would divert the flood water. Even with the pumps, however, the roads of Miami were partially flooded, causing many citizens to question what may happen in the future if the tide level continues to rise.
One simple thing you can do to reduce greenhouse gases is use solar panels. Getting and using renewable energy is quickly becoming as cheap as, and may become cheaper than, using fossil fuels. The average person in Florida can actually save over $700 per year by using solar energy. In Orlando, the Orlando Utilities Commission will credit you five cents per kilowatt hour for your use of solar energy. This means you could build up enough credit to cut your bill in half or eliminate it. It’s incredible to think that doing something as simple as changing your energy source can keep you and your family from swimming with the fish.
Small Steps Add Up to Big Change
By Nami, High School Student in Texas
I am writing to express my concern about my state’s lack of attention to global warming, which is affecting our lives. Living in one of the hottest states, Texas, Texans hardly notice the effects of global warming because every day feels like summer. However, we would not appreciate this if we knew the temperature was rising because of climate change. We know how fast ice melts in the heat; similarly, the glaciers in the north will melt faster from the effects of global warming.
You can’t enjoy an ice cream because it melts too fast. The burning sun makes me not want to go outside. As Texans, who experience weather over 100° F, we should not allow this rise in temperature to harm other states or countries. We should try to stop this climate change before we get all get burned—literally.
First, people need to become aware of what global warming really is. Withering droughts, rising sea levels, and soaring temperatures are all identified consequences of climate change that force people to find ways to cope. More heat leads to evaporation, removing water supplies and making irrigation less effective—therefore, water prices will go up. The usage of air conditioning is also a cause of global warming. People need to turn off their air conditioners when they are not in the room. There are several other ways to cool yourself down while producing and emitting fewer greenhouse gases. We could encourage people to have a cold food or drinks. In ancient times, when people didn’t have air conditioning, they were drinking plenty of water, staying in the shade, and avoiding extraneous time outside during the day. Taking a shower is also an effective way to cool down your body. In Texas, we could organize an event, provide cold food such as watermelon or cold drinks, and invite climate-change experts to raise public awareness.
Climate change is not a dismissible future issue. I don’t want Texas to become a desert area, and neither should you. As the nation’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, we need to work together to cut back.