Climate change will have incredibly damaging effects if we don’t take action against it, and soon. A new federal report released last week contradicts President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on climate change and emphasizes the economic downfalls it will cause our country in the near future. A focus on Trump’s denial, while important, ultimately distracts from the urgency of the issue, irresponsibly turning an effort to highlight the truth into political ammunition that fuels partisanship.

Climate change, like many other policy points, has unnecessarily become a partisan issue. The national assessment was released just one month after a report requested by the United Nations, both of which explain how a likely temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years will result in severe damage to coastal livelihoods, industries and ecosystems. Global warming, an issue that concerns more than one political party and more than one country, poses a vital question: How do we protect scientific data from political influence?

The National Climate Assessment fulfills a 1990 congressional mandate that promoted research toward our understanding and inevitable response to climate change. The assessment warns that as a country, we’ll need to either mitigate or adapt to environmental changes, as rising temperatures will impede economic growth and extensively harm American infrastructure, agriculture and energy production.

Money seemingly goes where policy tells it to, and policy does what the administration says. Trump reportedly does not call himself a believer of climate change, which, politically speaking, means it deserves no place in his national budget. If money isn’t going toward cleaning up the environment, then it goes other places, like the $210 million already spent sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the U.N., if the same emphasis were placed on efforts toward reducing carbon emissions, further warming in the next few decades would likely be less than 0.5 degrees Celsius. Trump’s lack of policy implementation does not interfere with individual actions recommended by the U.S. and U.N. reports.

As long as climate change is a partisan issue, the future of our planet will remain in the hands of whoever is elected president. Yet, our climate belongs to each of us individually and does not discriminate on partisanship. The New York Times reports the most recent election obstructs efforts toward carbon taxes and national budget proposals, but recognizes the divisive nature of climate partisanship is faltering. In southern Florida, where rising sea levels are causing considerable damage, a Republican lost his seat to a Democrat for not going far enough on environmental issues. 

Both policy-based and individual actions are necessary to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. Just as we should take steps to promote sustainability and environmental health in our everyday lives, we should also advocate for policy measures and representatives that prioritize comprehensive climate policy grounded in science, evidence and facts.  

It is clear the effects of climate change are here. While hurricanes and forest fires are natural phenomena, Camp Fire and Hurricanes Maria, Michael and Florence were so destructive because of climate change. The ways in which climate change and sustainably-oriented climate policy have been co-opted by partisan groups minimizes the gravity of the crisis we face. Climate change should not be a partisan issue; its effects surely won’t be. At the end of the day, worsening natural disasters will uproot, displace, and harm Republicans and Democrats alike.

In the face of ignorance and apathy from the Oval Office and other offices, we must continue to act. There are plenty of individual ways to make a difference: take advantage of public transportation, eat less meat compose, and of course reduce, reuse, recycle.  Identify those politicians who deny climate change, reject science-based fact and sell out to corporate interest groups. Hold accountable all those who continue to mortgage the future of our planet and our health in favor of quarterly reports and bottom lines. In name and action, be an environmentalist! It is in your best interest and in the best interest of those you love.

It is easy to listen to today’s environmental discourse and become disheartened and discouraged; there is still so much to be done. Climate change will affect all of us — it is time we start acting like it.

Being an environmentalist can no longer be a choice. If we want to ensure a safe future everyone must fully embrace what it means to be an environmentalist and realize that identity through our actions. We’re a nascent population that is going to have to deal with the real-world consequences of climate change, so be cognizant when making real world decisions. But this isn’t just about recycling boxes. Soon, we’ll all earn salaries as we go out into the workforce and we’ll be faced with many important decisions like what car to buy, where to work and what companies to invest in. The point is, the choices you make are important, and should be made with environmental protection in mind.

Climate change is a monumental challenge, it may not seem like one individual can create change, but if every individual promoted environmentalist ideals in their actions, we would soon see a ripple effect of change. Your contribution isn’t futile; coupled with thousands, even millions of other individuals, your everyday contributions will make a difference. Despite an administration that readily rejects climate change and obstructs climate policy, it is our duty, as environmentalists, and it all starts with your decisions. So what will you do tomorrow?

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