I spent this weekend skiing in northern Michigan while basking in the warm weather. Skiing with the sun beating down on my face as the temperature hit the 50s would have been perfect if it hadn’t been February. It was still an enjoyable experience, don’t get me wrong, but the looming threat of global warming intruded on my happiness. I grew up in northern Michigan and spent my childhood exploring the slopes. I started skiing around the age of 3 and started snowboarding and ski-racing around the age of 12. These hills defined my youth, and I couldn’t help but fear my kids would never be able to have that experience.                                                      

This might seem overly dramatic or, if you don’t believe in climate change, absolutely ridiculous. Publications like Breitbart, after all, will have you believe that the warming of the earth’s climate can be disproved by lower temperatures in parts of the world. Breitbart also claims that climate change is a hoax against taxpayers. These views aren’t exclusive to far-right publications, however. A study published in the journal, Public Understanding of Science, shows that the more Americans use conservative media, like Fox News, the less they trust scientists and the less certain they are that global warming is happening. Our very own president once tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Well, if China fabricated climate change, it sure is putting its money where its mouth is. China’s National Energy Administration announced plans to spend $361 billion on renewable power sources through 2020. China is also halfway through a plan to spend $88 billion on ultra-high-voltage direct-current connectors to stabilize their energy supply and better supply renewable energy to cities and industrial centers. Wow, they sure fell for that one!

China, though, isn’t the only country that has picked on the scientific consensus. The European Union aims to spend at least 20 percent of its budget through 2020 on protecting the climate. Additionally, the EU, along with 192 states, signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to lowering global CO2 emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Those schmucks! Oh, wait, no, the United States is one of the signatories. Mr. Trump has said he would cancel the climate deal, a commitment that brought him sharp criticism from 375 scientists, including 30 Nobel Prize winners. Those hacks?

But even when not considered to be a conspiratorial hoax, climate change is often considered an issue at odds with U.S. economic interests. The narrative goes that, yes, climate change is happening, but fighting climate change would put the United States at an economic disadvantage, so the environment must be put on the back burner for now. But with so many other countries making substantial investments in sustainable energy, is refusing to address the need for renewable resources really the best course of action for our country? Is Trump’s promise to “put the coal country back to work” a practical economic strategy?

If I had to guess, clinging to the past and burying our heads in the sand probably isn’t the best way to promote economic growth and stay economically competitive as a country. It’s time to embrace that economic growth and environmental sustainability are not diametrically opposed. Sustainable energy is the future, and pretending otherwise might be profitable in the short term. In the long run, though, failing to invest in sustainable energy and fight against climate change will bring about self-inflicted economic hardship. Instead of maintaining an oil pipeline that is corrodinglosing coating and putting Michigan’s water and shorelines in danger, Michigan should invest in energy sources that don’t threaten our tourism industry and natural beauty. This shouldn’t be controversial or partisan: it’s common sense and it’s in all of our best interests.

So, if melting snow and childhoods without skiing don’t tug on your heartstrings enough, consider the economic argument for embracing the industries of the future. And if that’s not enough for you, consider the rising sea levels due to ice melting. Florida might be one of the more bizarre states, but it would be a bit of a bummer if it was entirely submerged in water.

With all this pressing need for progress, though, our country seems to be moving backward. Last Friday, Scott Pruitt was confirmed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite the fact that he has built a career of suing the EPA to block its environmental regulations. Pruitt has acknowledged the existence of human-caused climate change, but his past suggests that he would do little to prevent the consequences of climate change. He claims his fights against the EPA are merely against government overreach. But if the head of the EPA doesn’t think the government should fight climate change, who will be able to take up the fight to preserve our country and our prosperity?

We might be about to find out. The day after Pruitt’s confirmation, hundreds gathered in Ann Arbor to march for climate change action in the Citizens’ Climate Rally. On April 29, the People’s Climate Movement will bring people to march for the cause in Washington D.C. and around the country. These marchers aren’t just tree-hugging hippies whom we can afford to ignore — they are scientists, advocates and, ultimately, people who care about our Earth, our economy and our future. We ignore them at our own peril.

Mary Kate Winn can be reached at winnm@umich.edu.

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