By Joey Jung
March 13 was not much different from March 12. In fact, it wasn’t much different from March 11 either — or the thousand days before.
For the past 12 years, my life cycled between school and break, school and break; disruptions were rare. But nearing the end of my senior year, the world has flipped upside down.
On Friday the 13th, COVID-19 seemed distant and benign. It was inconceivable that within a week, school and anything remotely social would most likely be canceled for good. We are just now grasping its true implications.
No sports. No prom. No graduation ceremonies. COVID-19 has pulled up the plug, and we can only watch our hopes and expectations for the end of our senior year swirl down the drain.
But outside of my adolescent, privileged, and self-centered world, society is carrying on fine, right? You adults, I’m sure, have always been well prepared to fight a small nuisance like this. Just the other day, Fox News told me we should be no more concerned about coronavirus than the flu.
OK — you can stop laughing now.
COVID-19, while an unprecedented threat to our health and our economy, is not an existential threat to our way of life (fingers crossed). But man-made climate is, and we will soon be facing the consequences if we don’t act now.
The science is relatively simple: over the past century, we have poured greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which traps more heat on the planet and causes global temperatures to rise. Yes, climate changes naturally, but not at the speed and scale that is observed today. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest point (by far) from the past 800,000 years.
The consequences, too, are equally simple and logical. Higher temperatures melt ice, causing sea levels to rise, endangering coastal communities; extreme weather conditions will increase, including heat waves and stronger hurricanes; water will grow scarcer; and economies will tumble from increasing business costs and an at-risk labor force.
We are already feeling the effects of a warming world, but it will be my generation’s children who will face the consequences of the challenges we failed to address.
So, what can we do? Here are some of my thoughts as an agitated and perhaps overly idealistic 18-year-old looking to save our world.
We need to be aggressive yet realistic in changing our habits and priorities today to save our tomorrows. If you don’t like excessive regulation, what about pricing carbon?
I often think of how Elon Musk described why it makes sense to a skeptical, libertarian-leaning audience: “If you accept the scientific consensus… [and] there is a value to the CO2 capacity of the atmosphere and oceans and that CO2 capacity is not being paid for by the price at the gas pump… then every single fossil fuel burning activity is massively subsidized. All we are doing [with a carbon tax] is trying to match the inherent subsidy for fossil fuels.”
This an elegant idea that even Republicans are warming up to; one of many with potential for wide support and real results.
Framing the issue is key. Preparing for our future shouldn’t be a partisan, hot-button issue; whether it’s breaking down the logic of environmental stewardship (climate change hurts business!) or making electric cars cool (thanks, Tesla), there is a case for everyone to support forward-thinking solutions to the biggest problems we face.
While I may not have a senior prom or graduation, I hope we can use our sacrifice and hardship during this time to wake up and use these lessons to solve the biggest problems of our generation, whether it be pandemic preparation, climate change, or another monster lurking in the shadows.
Joey Jung is a Senior at Lincoln High School from Tallahassee, Florida. He is a County Youth Chair for RepublicEN.org, an organization engaging conservatives on climate change. He is attending the University of Pennsylvania next fall.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.