Welcome to the United States of America, a first world country. We Americans are proud of our country. We are ranked number one in mass shootings, sixth in economic inequality, and we host numerous states that debate the rights of women and support white supremacy. However, what we are most proud of is our stance on the environment. We are currently ranked number two in carbon emissions, releasing 4833.1 million metric tons in 2016 and with our recent withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, we are excited to release even more.
In all seriousness, the United States of America is one of the worst countries when it comes to enforcing regulations to mitigate climate change. A recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the impact of a global warming of 1.5 °C above pre industrial levels. The consequences include the loss of ecosystems, ocean acidification, extinction, water scarcity, food shortages, loss of fisheries, and high mortality. In other words, we will have the same fate as the dinosaurs, except our fate is self inflicted. It is ironic that the world’s smartest species is on the brink of disaster, but I am sure our billionaire, tax-evading president will come to our rescue. Despite the abundant evidence on climate change, the United States has no regulation whatsoever on the amount of released emissions. We seem to only care about the health effects of cholesterol free vegan burgers and the lives of immigrant families, while every other country is taking appropriate measures.
India, a third world country that is home to more than one billion people, is taking steps to promise a cleaner sustainable environment. Recently, according to the New York Times, Indians planted 220 million trees in a single day in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Narender Modi, the Prime Minister, promised to abolish single-use plastic by 2022. In London, Goldsmiths University and the University of Cambridge banned beef and have claimed that this regulation has cut their carbon emissions by one third for food related items. In Denmark, the new Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen promised to reduce emissions by 70% below the 1990 level by 2030.
The United States is definitely not acting like the first world country it is. It is time for the government to take action on climate change instead of forcing us youth to take to the streets to demand a healthy sustainable future for our generation.
A few solutions would be to place higher taxes on dairy and meat and specifically ban beef. Livestock agriculture is responsible for 44% of methane emissions which is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide in a span of 100 years. Not just that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions which is more than all of transportation combined and uses 83 percent of farmland, an area equivalent to US, China, Europe Union, and Australia combined through which massive deforestation has occurred. Not just that, beef has been found to be the most environmentally impacting food since it produces five times more CO2 emissions than chicken or turkey and has been the leading cause for the destruction of the amazon rainforest. By placing high taxes on dairy and meat, the government can encourage citizens to adopt a plant based diet which has been claimed as the “singlest biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth” by Joseph Phoore, researcher at the University of Oxford.
Other solutions would be to plant trees, place regulations on emissions, and provide funding for solar energy and public transportation to minimize transportation emissions.
Needless to say, for this upcoming presidential election, please vote for a candidate who has climate change on the top of their agenda. There is no planet B.
This reporter graduated in 2020.
Lavanya Jain is a senior at Washington High School. She grew up in Fremont, CA for most of her life after moving from Delhi, India. As a first year in the WHS Hatchet, she has written multiple articles for opinions, health, and news. In her free time, she loves to paint, workout, and spend time with her family. After high school, she will be majoring in both business and bioengineering as part of the Management Entrepreneurship Technology (MET) program at UC Berkeley.