OPINION: We are unprepared for climate change

Joshua Smith, Opinions Editor

Last week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin revealed that he would not, in fact, endorse a spending bill that included climate change, citing inflation concerns. The blow to the bill comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that limited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ability to regulate emissions from power plants. The dangerous combination of climate disasters with backward legislation from the American government leaves me wondering what can be done to slow the impending environmental catastrophe.

Encouraged by Democratic politicians to declare a climate emergency, President Joseph Biden instead opted to use his “executive powers” to enact funding for new infrastructure in preparation for a rapidly changing environment. Much of Biden’s multi-billion dollar plan focuses on clean energy. However, it is still but a small drop of water in a lake of much-needed climate action.

One of the major effects of climate change is the rising temperature of the earth. Places like the United Kingdom (U.K.) have faced sweltering temperatures they were completely unprepared for, causing many to suffer heat strokes, with some facing death.

While the U.K. braces itself for temperatures as high as 104 degrees, I begin to think about how the city of Jacksonville will fare in the heat. As it turns out, I was not alone in my inquiry.

Recently, the city of Jacksonville partnered with UNF biology professor Dr. Adam Rosenblatt to develop a heat map. The project consisted of Rosenblatt and volunteers driving through specific paths in Jacksonville while using a sensor to track the city’s heat.

The members of the heat map project emphasized that urban areas containing a high volume of buildings and roads “trap” more heat than areas and neighborhoods with large amounts of trees. Parking lots and a high concentration of buildings in one space can lead to what is known as an “urban heat island,” a descriptor that applies to many areas and locations, including college campuses.

In a previous article, I looked into what UNF could do to decrease its carbon footprint. Electric buses, solar panels and limiting plastic waste were all reasonable suggestions. However, there is still a part of me that wonders what can be truly done to slow the effects of climate change. I mean, with the recent pushback from the government, one can only wonder if it will be too late to do anything by the time we, as a country, decide to address climate change.

With that said, there is one thing that can be done. Voting. That isn’t to say that voting is the end all be all. Far from it! However, though limited in its capability, it is a way to hold politicians accountable. Many people are one-issue voters, primarily focusing on social issues. While social issues are important, I would argue that the effects of climate change are equally as important in some cases.

Voters must make sure that they know where their officials and future candidates stand on environmental issues. Moreover, it is important to make sure environmentally friendly candidates are put in office and that unsustainable politicians are voted out.

Politicians like Manchin won’t be able to disrupt climate legislation if they aren’t in office to do so.


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