Last week, the U.S. government released its most detailed report to date about the impacts that climate change is already visiting on American territory, citizens, and infrastructure. Originally commissioned by President Ronald Reagan and codified into law by Congress in 1990, the National Climate Assessment contains input from no fewer than 13 federal agencies. The 4th National Climate Assessment released last week is the product of the work of 300 scientists who conducted 40 regional workshops in 10 regions across the country with over 1,000 people.
In response to the release, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action’s (Y.E.C.A.) national organizer and spokesperson Kyle Meyaard-Schaap released the following statement:
“The newest National Climate Assessment, released last week, is full of detailed information about the impacts climate change already having on Americans: agriculture is being strained by rising temperatures and less predictable rainfall, rising sea levels are threatening coastal real estate, vulnerable populations (i.e. the elderly, the very young, people of color) are impacted most by deteriorating air quality and advancing diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus, the economic costs are already in the tens of billions and could rise to the hundreds of billions of dollars every year if nothing is done.
There are many more.
Perhaps more important than these myriad risks, however, is the repetition of a common phrase throughout the report in some form or another: “mitigation and adaptation policies will reduce these risks.”
In other words, there is a way forward that results in less destruction and fewer deaths. Most of us know the basics of that way forward: rapidly and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in frontline communities to build resiliency to climate impacts. It isn’t rocket science, and if done thoughtfully, it can lead to both cleaner air and purer water as well as more American jobs and a stronger economy.
The irony of this report being released by the Trump Administration is not lost on anyone paying attention. Look no further than the Administration’s decision to move the release date of the report from December to the day after Thanksgiving. Given its dangerously aggressive deregulatory efforts and its clear preference for privileging the fossil fuel industry over the American people, it appears this Administration cannot grasp the win-win of smart climate action staring it in the face.
In the face of this complete abdication of leadership, progress then falls to us. All Americans of goodwill committed to the common good must do the work of moving our country forward on the path that leads to less destruction and fewer deaths. We must talk about it with our friends and family in order to build grassroots understanding and support for action. We must build relationships with our local leaders. We must submit opinion pieces and letters to the editor to our local papers. We must make sure our national leaders understand that from now on, it’s either real climate action or a lost election.
As young evangelicals, we will continue to do everything we can to build the political will we need to do what has to be done. The stakes for our neighbors—image bearers of the Creator each—are too high. The consequences of the status quo borne by God’s good creation are too severe. The costs of inertia and apathy to our generation’s future are too steep.
Much of climate change’s effects are already baked into the system, but there is still hope. Less destruction and fewer deaths are possible. We must do everything we can to make this possibility a reality.”