Climate change is going to ruin your life.
Yes, you. Not your children or grandchildren, not other people living in a far away time and place — you. If you’re a student who’s planning to stick around on this planet for a few more decades, you should be worried about how the warming of the planet will directly affect your quality of life.
Where do you see yourself in 22 years? If your vision doesn’t account for the possibility of heat waves, droughts, flooding and food shortages, you may need to adjust your expectations. A major report released earlier this month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a crisis as early as 2040 if the world doesn’t take drastic steps to change the path we’re heading down.
Texas especially stands to suffer from a climate crisis. A study published in 2017 concluded that “Texas and other states in the South will bare the brunt of climate change” according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Researchers at UT-Arlington found that between 2041 and 2050, Dallas-Fort Worth could see high temperatures in excess of 120 degrees on a yearly basis. A study from 2015 concluded that by the 2050s, Texans would likely see the number of “extremely hot” days per year in the state double, with a corresponding increase of 4500 more heat-related deaths per year. The sea level in Galveston could rise by as much as two feet. And many counties in Texas could lose 10-20 percent of their GDP by the end of this century.
The impact of these conditions will not just be economic and environmental — it will be intimate. There is considerable research linking rising temperatures to a greater prevalence of mental health problems, including a study published earlier this month that produced “quantitative evidence” that “environmental stressors produced by climate change pose threats to human mental health.”
The UN report offers a grim forecast, but it stops short of fatalism. Preventing a 2.7 degree rise in temperatures is possible “within the laws of physics and chemistry,” as one of the scientists involved in the report told the Guardian. But for this to happen, greenhouse gas pollution must be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. In essence, this means everyone, including students, needs to severely cut down on fossil fuels.
Achieving this goal will require political mobilization on an unprecedented scale, especially in places like Austin, where many of our elected representatives don’t take climate change seriously. According to the website opensecrets.org, the reelection campaign of Rep. Roger Williams, who represents the 25th district, has taken more than $50,000 from the oil and gas industry. Chip Roy, the Republican candidate for representative in the 21st district, has taken over $100,000. Roy is running to replace retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, whose climate change denialism is well-documented.
For students, working to elect officials who will fight climate change instead of burying their heads in the sand is a matter of self-interest — and self-defense.
Beyond political activism, students can also fight climate change by remaining environmentally conscious and making eco-friendly lifestyle choices. “Students can find a segment of environmentalism or sustainability that they find really interesting and then find an organization that’s already doing something about it,” said Campus Environmental Center director Anthony Rivera. “I think people should take ownership of where they live.”
Most of the discourse about climate change is conducted by people who, frankly, won’t live to see its worst effects. But at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, most UT students will be in their forties when the warming of the planet reaches catastrophic levels. If we don’t speak out now, we’ll be sold out by people who don’t have a real stake in this issue.
Groves is a philosophy senior from Dallas.