North Carolina must act now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. Experts agree that climate change is happening. They agree it is caused by humans. They even agree that we have a choice to make: By reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, we could still hold warming in check. Yet the United States remains the only country not committed to addressing climate change through the Paris climate accord, supporting dirty energy industries instead of embracing clean power.
With our federal government unwilling to act, it is more important than ever for state and local leaders to step up. This is why we, three North Carolina high school students, have recently filed a petition requesting North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission to adopt a rule to reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
Our state is sensitive to disruptions of natural systems that result from climate change. Already, sea level rise is threatening communities along our coast. Drought is reducing yields in agriculture. Hurricanes and tropical storms are destroying lives and property. Low-income neighborhoods, such as those around our schools, often face the brunt of flooding and other weather calamities, making this a social justice issue as well.
Even in our daily lives, we see the impacts of climate change. During the summer, more and more people in our community suffer from asthma and difficulty breathing. More frequent severe weather events affect our school schedule, disrupting our learning. For us, witnessing the receding glaciers at Glacier National Park in Montana or our eroding North Carolina beaches is a reminder that climate change is ceaseless.
As the next generation to “inherit” the earth, we think it is our duty to protect our planet. Each of us has engaged in climate activism, from organizing events to writing articles to encouraging leaders to act. We have raised awareness through school clubs and projects, and encouraged friends to participate too.
We dedicate ourselves to this cause because we know there is still hope if we curb CO2 emissions. The benefits far outweigh the costs of inaction. It will not be cheap or easy initially, but scientists and economists predict tremendous environmental, health and economic gains from moving to a clean energy system. That is the legacy we want to leave for future generations.
NC can do it
Fortunately, North Carolina is well-suited to tackle the climate challenge. Our renewable energy sector is one of the strongest in the country. We are ready to transition away from fossil fuels. With a commitment of priorities and resources, North Carolina can be a leader in the global effort to combat climate change.
In light of our federal government’s failure to act, it is up to us to do our share. Together, we are capable of effecting change. Together, we can work with our elected leaders and the Environmental Management Commission to achieve zero CO2 emissions in North Carolina by 2050. Together, we can save lives and preserve the planet we call home.
Arya is a senior at Enloe High School in Raleigh. Hallie is a sophomore at Enloe. Emily is a junior at East Chapel Hill High.