Addressing climate change is critical

12/3/2021, 12:57 p.m.
I am a 16-year-old sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Henrico High School. Within the past few months, I ...

I am a 16-year-old sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Henrico High School. Within the past few months, I have become more aware of the climate change crisis and the important global summit, COP26, held recently in Glasgow, Scotland, on the issue.

The effects of climate change are serious and far-reaching, including health concerns, natural disasters and effects on minorities and marginalized people. These are reasons why climate change needs to be addressed immediately.

One aspect of the problem that is very important to me personally is some of the related health conditions, such as asthma. Both my older brother and I have asthma. His asthma is more severe than mine. It is so severe that if he has an asthma attack, it could kill him. Therefore, when I learned about all of the things that pollution and climate change do to air quality, I became very concerned.

Any drastic changes in air quality could be disastrous not only for my brother or me, but for anyone on the planet who has a respiratory condition. During the next half-century if we humans don’t change our ways, then just breathing will become an even worse challenge for people such as my brother, me and many, many other people. The World Health Organization estimates that already roughly 6 million to 7 million people die annually from air pollution.

Natural disasters are another of the most impactful consequences of climate change worldwide. One of the many natural disasters caused by climate change is extreme wildfires, the devastation of which could easily be seen in California earlier this year.

Every year, natural disasters get worse. Within the past few months alone, there have been a series of natural disasters linked to climate change. In mid-September, flash floods even disrupted Richmond.

We also have seen an increase in other disasters such as hurricanes, which also get more and more deadly every year because greenhouse gases speed up the impacts of climate change tremendously. If we don’t urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically, these disasters will only become increasingly devastating, and more and more innocent lives around the world will be lost.

Another severe result of climate change are its effects on marginalized people. More specifically, minorities such as black people are more affected by climate change than their white counterparts. Black people and minorities who generally have fewer financial resources will have a much harder time dealing with the cost of disaster recovery from hurricanes and flash floods due to climate change. These groups are less likely to be able to afford the cost of fixing their homes or the cost of moving a family into a hotel or completely relocating, which sometimes is necessary.

This fact makes it all the more important that people of color exercise their vote and elect officials who will take the necessary steps toward addressing climate change and incorporating environmental justice in disaster response and throughout state policy.

It is crucial that climate change be addressed immediately. The health concerns, natural disasters and effects on marginalized people simply can’t be ignored. Climate change should have been addressed years before I was born, but it is not too late to correct the mistakes of previous generations. It is now up to the people we elect to not only serve us but also to ensure a healthy, thriving future of the world.

It is my hope that Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, keeps Virginia moving forward on this vital issue.