We cannot afford to ignore the realities of climate change a moment longer. From record-breaking temperatures to devastating extreme weather around the globe, the effects are undeniable - and only growing more intense, frequent and severe. Action is an absolute imperative for which we, as citizens, must hold local leaders, business and industry, and government officials accountable. Diverse stakeholders need to step up to the plate to draft, support, implement and defend sound climate policy to chart a course toward a safer, more sustainable future.
We must not only aim to mitigate further environmental degradation, but also prepare for a changing climate AND reverse the damage that has been done wherever and however possible. These were key policy pillars of our campaign, when I ran for US Congress earlier this year.
To date, the political response in relation to climate change has been lacking, to say the very least. Take our recent presidential election as an example. During the primary debates, only 1.5% of the nearly 1,500 questions asked of candidates concerned climate change. This is indicative of the way the topic is handled (or not, as the case may be) when it comes to all-important policy making; the environment has never been treated as the nuanced, highly-interrelated, consequential priority which it is. During the 2012 debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the topic was not even raised once.
A significant number of elected officials in the United States refuse to accept that climate change is real, in clear opposition to the overwhelming majority of non-partisan research. The government desperately needs more climate champions, to build coalitions of leaders who will force the topic in forums, committees, hearings and debates.
A livable, resilient climate is critical for the nation's most pressing issues - from national security to economic prosperity to social justice - yet it remains relegated to the back burner. We must ignite a bipartisan movement to take clear, multifaceted action that will ensure the planet is able to provide for future generations. We, as citizens and especially as the emerging Millennial voting bloc, must vote with climate change in mind and hold elected officials accountable to hold true to campaign promises and a pro-environment agenda.
The decisions being made today will disproportionately affect US, the youth of this county, and there is no place where that is more obvious than with the effects of climate change. Yet we have zero place at the decision making table; this is one of the driving factors that led me to run for US Congress in the California coastal district I have called home for decades.
May we unite as citizens, join forces with elected officials at all levels, and inspire concrete action to protect and defend the one place we all call home - and with necessary urgency!
Erin Schrode is a One Young World Ambassador social entrepreneur, former congressional candidate in California's District 2, and environmental activist who works to redefine civic engagement for a generation and nation.
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