Each Monday, the board of The Phillipian meets to discuss and decide a topic on which to write the week’s editorial. Nearly every meeting, climate change is broached as a possibility, and nearly every meeting, it is subsequently turned down. At the surface level, the issue of climate change is often dismissed as not relevant or timely enough. But underlying those assertions is an insidious complacency; at Andover, we can remain content with simply acknowledging climate change since we are not in a position where climate change personally impacts our lives. We shirk our individual responsibility in fighting climate change, relying instead on the actions of national- and international entities to be “enough.” This week, as President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to the fossil fuel industry at a global climate summit in Poland, we realized that our country cannot do “enough”— instead, we must continue to use our voice on this newspaper to urge action. As we near the end of 2018, there are only so many issues left until the climate change will be irreversible.
Although most students on this campus are in some way aware of the issue, the implications of climate change deserve restating. Sea levels are rising at their fastest rate in 2,000 years, threatening to displace nearly 2 billion people in coastal cities by the year 2100, according to Global Citizen. Nearly half of animal and plant species risk extinction by the end of the 21st century without a significant change in carbon emissions, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. Unless serious and enforceable policy change is enacted before the rise in global temperatures reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will reach a point of no return, after which there is nothing we can do to reverse the effects of climate change.
Now, scientists believe that the point of no return could arrive as soon as 2030, according to TIME. Though climate change has often been tabled for the future to handle, as if only the next generation will see its effects, it is clear now that this issue will be one we will face. By the time most of us high school students our nearing our 30s, if we do not each work to combat our own carbon footprints, the world will have begun its uncertain, tenuous future.
From a student perspective, it is easy to allow climate change to fall into the background. Global powers often seem to have adequately addressed each climate change “event” that springs up. In the wake of a UN report detailing the immediacy of the issue, the World Bank recently announced that it will dedicate 200 billion dollars towards climate-change resilience and adaptation ventures. That price tag alone is enough to convince many that “enough” is being done to combat climate change. But too often are these announcements seen as actions in themselves. Global initiatives such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement provided hope to many people that meaningful change would be enacted, but its lax enforcement policy has allowed many countries to simply ignore its provisions. And though some changes are being made, it is important to remember that many wealthy industrial companies have built their enterprise based on the exploitation of fossil fuels. These companies will continue to influence their legislatures to fall in line with their interests, ensuring that any progress made will be counteracted by an equal regression.
When discussion about climate change is centered on the actions of those who wield international power, it is easy for people to feel as though their actions are inconsequential. We cannot, however, overstate the importance of small-scale initiatives and actions. Although it may seem cliche to to discuss the significance of the individual, ultimately a solution to climate change is reliant on the collective efforts of the human population. Simple things, such as recycling, turning off lights, and conserving water, while seemingly trivial in themselves, are part of each person’s duty to ensuring that the environment in which we live in is preserved for the generation to come.
Many people put their hope in the future, expecting technological innovation to be enough to reverse the damage to our planet. Climate change, however, is a problem of the present. It is a reality we cannot afford to ignore especially at Andover, a place where we have access to innumerable resources such alumni networks and funds that enable us to enact change. We as students cannot continue to take a backseat on discussions regarding climate change while allowing larger political powers to control the narrative. We have to step into the discussion now and move towards bigger milestones by pushing for legislative changes.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.