In Phoenix, as people go about their business and make conversation, climate isn’t likely the top water cooler topic, much less that we are facing an existential climate crisis of our own making: drastically altered climates, extreme heat and weather, relentless and extreme loss of biodiversity, vanishing forests and catastrophic wildfire threats. And that’s just here in Arizona.
All this from our inability to curb carbon pollution and move to cleaner sources of energy; sources Arizona is uniquely positioned to dominate, including solar and wind.
Arizona also has an incentive to do so given the climate impacts we are already experiencing. We are in the midst of a 21-year drought. Phoenix ranks as the 7th dirtiest city in the US for air quality. Tucson and Phoenix took 3rd and 4th place for fastest warming cities in the US. In the future, perhaps as soon as 2050, Phoenix is projected to be unlivable for at least part of each year, due to extreme heat.
Anyone who thinks we are not being affected by climate change is not paying attention.
Our younger generations had little to do with creating this problem, but we are continuing to mortgage their future for our own comfort and excess. They will bear the brunt of the responsibility and risk, but none of the benefits. Many of them are not yet old enough to vote but we still continue to place most of the burden of solving the crisis on them.
They aren’t sitting idly by while we give their future away, though. They are increasingly raising their voices, a call to older generations and, in particular, our political leaders to end their silence and start leading.
The first, vital step is to enact policies that curb the unlimited release of carbon pollution into our air and communities. To do this, we need to transition the US to a 100% clean energy economy. In fact, nearly 42,000 Arizonans already work in energy efficiency jobs, and this number is growing.
However, if we want to make serious strides in combating climate change, everyone has a responsibility to act. We all must do our part to reduce carbon pollution.
Here in Arizona, we need our Senators to meet the urgent challenge posed by climate change. Unfortunately, in a recent vote in the United States Senate to block the implementation of the Trump administration’s toothless Dirty Power Scam – a do-nothing standard that puts no meaningful limits on carbon pollution from power plants – Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema sided with corporate polluters to prop up this dangerous plan. With Arizonans already experiencing the impacts of climate change in the form of increased heat waves, droughts, and wildfires, this failure to stand up to this administration’s relentless attacks on health and climate safeguards is not only irresponsible, but dangerous as well.
It is time for our leaders to step up and lead us through this crisis.
We have much work to do to reverse decades of damage to the climate and environment. It can seem so daunting, so unwieldy and, well, impossible. However, all we need to face the impossible is to look into our own children’s eyes and realize that giving up is not an option.
My son turned 6 this July. While we hosted a gaggle of screaming kindergartners for cake and pizza, Europe baked in record breaking temperatures, and the Amazonian and boreal forests burned at unprecedented rates. As we ran our AC through the extreme heat of the Phoenix summer day (this summer, Phoenix reached two daily record highs at 115 degrees), the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland melted at staggering rates.
He will graduate high school in 2032. What future can I possibly provide for him? What vision of hope can be possible? Certainly not the blind, irresponsible optimism of my own halcyon youth.
I imagine a future conversation with my son, all this weight and understanding finally clear to him, and he asks, “What were you doing while the Earth was choking?” How can I possibly say I did nothing?
So I act.
I speak up.
Claire Nickell is a writer and volunteer in the Phoenix area. She writes about climate change, fiction and non-fiction.