Sept. 20 was Climate Strike Day. Millions of people around the globe walked out of schools, universities and businesses to cast a spotlight on the impending climate crisis.
It was young people who called for the strike, led by the straight-talking Swedish 16-year old, Greta Thunberg.
So far, Arizona's state government has been slow to address the problems keeping our kids awake at night.
If we want to preserve their future, that can and must change. By taking action now, students will not need to strike to get our attention.
The goal of the Legislature’s newly-established sustainability workgroup is no less than what our children deserve – a resilient, sustainable and healthy Arizona.
Our first priority in achieving that goal is to address five problem areas defined by the Arizona Science Policy Network: clean air, adequate water, proper waste management, extreme heat, and wildlife diversity.
Our group includes state legislators, stakeholder organizations, and a team of more than 70 scientists to provide facts and figures for sound policy choices.
We seek to address climate change by promoting policies vetted to provide benefits that exceed their costs, from energy conservation and the employment of renewable energy resources to the adoption of electric vehicles and other clean technologies.
From majestic river canyons and ponderosa forests to desert Saguaros that can be found nowhere else on Earth, tourists come to Arizona for the same reasons we love to live here. The quality of our lives and that of our kids relies upon the health of these beautiful places.
It’s easy to see why young people are upset. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we have just 11 more years to prevent global average temperature increases from reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), a level which would magnify what we’re already seeing, from devastating hurricanes to raging fires in the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic.
Here in the Southwest, our kids will have to face declines in our most precious resource: water, and all that depends upon it.
Water is required for our way of life, from an economy with plentiful jobs to a healthy ecosystem inhabited by mountain lions and Gila monsters.
Without action now, more days of extreme heat become more likely. Currently, we count the number of days above 100 degrees. If we hit 1.5 C increase, we could find ourselves counting the number of days above 120 degrees.
Netflix gets old really fast when it’s too hot to play outside and your mom takes a second job to pay the escalating utility bill.
We can prevent that over-heated future. Our work already suggests there are hundreds of common-sense actions we can take at the state level that will create jobs, reduce health-harming pollution and shrink our carbon footprint.
These range from simple measures like replacing incandescent light bulbs in state facilities with LED bulbs that use 85 percent less electricity and last twenty-five times longer, to more complex measures such as incentivizing renewable energy and electrifying our transportation sector.
Information will be key: How effective is the policy in reducing carbon and other pollutants? What will it cost? What are the alternatives?
A prominent climate scientist, Jonathan Overpeck, called Arizona the canary in the climate mineshaft.
The threats posed by climbing temperatures and prolonged drought to our fragile desert ecosystems and booming cities are real. But it is future generations that will pay the highest price. That’s what the kids talked about on Friday. Let’s listen to them.
Mitzi Epstein is a member of the state House of Representatives from LD 18, which includes Ahwatukee. Kirsten Engel represents LD10 in the Tucson area.