What are the costs of our own national priorities?
In the United States, climate change ranked #5 on a Quinnipiac poll asking likely voters what their main national priorities were for the next election. Climate change sat behind the economy and jobs, healthcare, terrorism, foreign policy, and immigration with only 5% of voters seeing climate change prevention as a national priority for this election. On a global, national, and local level, climate change has wreaked havoc on our economy and environment, but per the Natural Resources Defense Council, on the path that we are on right now, things are only going to get worse and worse. By the year 2100, the NRDC estimates that the average global temperature increase would by a group devastating 13℉. This leads to the question; what are the costs of our national priorities?
Obviously, Democracy can fix it.
Wait. It isn’t that obvious.
Per the official United States Budget, our national attitudes towards energy and the Environment are totally reflected. It only accounts for 1% of our $3.8 trillion federal budget, in line with our voting priorities, explaining why the Military, the #1 priority for voters is the second largest expenditure. But by the year 2100, the costs of averting climate change damages on our country will be our largest expenditure, costing us an estimated $1.9 trillion annually. This estimate only scratches the surface and only accounts for the costs of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. But the United States and the developed world has the least to lose, but the most power in preventing environmental catastrophe.
Climate change is much more than an increased risk of natural disasters. Its impact on industry and the economy can affect much more than just our economy and where our tax dollars go. The non-monetary cost of climate change may even supersede the financial and economic consequences that come with it.
Priority Number One for the Developing world: Water
The increase risk and severity of natural disasters brought on by the consequences Climate Change means less money (of the already small amount of money) for water sanitation and public health in the developing world.
As land dwelling beings, humans underestimate the powers and of our planet’s great waters that cover 71% of our earth. All of Earth’s waters, from the ocean, to the fresh water we drink, give to our pets and crops have seemingly waged a war against humanities because of climate change. We can only win this war when all of humanity identifies the problem, and comes to a consensus to act on a solution. Here’s the problem, we face the challenge of both a shortage of fresh water, and an excess of ocean water. We rely on freshwater for all components of our modern civilization, hydration, agriculture, sanitation, and energy production, but for all the gifts water has granted us, the challenges may finish us.
Water challenges and their causes
- Rising sea levels from retreating glaciers, due to greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane heating our atmosphere
- Dwindling supply of fresh water from the irresponsible uses of water in both consumer and industrial use
- Increased demand for water, from Earth’s rising population and increased temperature
- The commodification of drinking water by the bottled water industry in the industrialized world
Although these challenges are rooted in deeply different and infinitely complex causes, all share one reason for human kind’s lack of action. It’s because all the political will by our global governments rely on the votes of citizens who simply have simply never been affected by the problems the developing world has been facing for the last century, and believe that there is an infinite supply of water, thanks to the commercialization of water. Longer typhoon seasons, oceans rising and intensifying damage caused by hurricanes, lack of clean water due to unpredictable weather patterns and severe droughts are manageable by most developed countries. Per a report by Peter Gleick from PACINST.org, by 2050, the amount of water related deaths, from increased natural disasters, and unsanitary drinking water will kill more people than every single war in recorded human history combined. Water has gone from being the source of life on earth to the greatest threat that faces humankind.
Global political gridlock preventing progress
- The developing world, which houses 5.9 out of the 7 billion people on our planet do not have the political power or money to vote in representatives to progress water.
- Citizens of the developing world rely on the voting patterns of people who most of which have never experienced water shortages
- Most the developing world and 84% of the entire world’s population have at one point dealt or are currently dealing with unpredictable weather patterns and shortages of fresh water.
We must respect water as the force that has allowed us life on earth, as well as a force that can end it all can make all the difference. Thinking globally and acting locally is a privilege citizens living in the developed world grossly neglect, per Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The developing world and the future of our environment relies on the global superpowers garnering the political will necessary produce legislation that can change the path of humanity, and the only way to do that is by voting in local legislators that support initiatives that prevent harmful practices by industry, and supporting initiatives that progress our work to prevent waterborne illnesses around the world. Voting for the highest-level leadership position, such as president may be important, but we must not neglect the importance of participating in local elections, as the leaders work themselves to higher levels of government, it creates this is a huge reason why action on climate change remains so stagnant in political gridlock around the world. Be a representative of the priorities 5.9 billion people around the world have, and vote for policy that can change their lives while protecting the environment.
Admittedly, in the process of researching, I found myself grossly underestimating my own power as a global citizen and the power of the world’s waters. Knowing that my vote can impact so many people motivates me to become more active in local campaigns. But in my research, I also felt a sense of hopelessness. If we haven’t solved this by now, when will it happen? Will it be too late? These feelings quickly vanished as I read about the amazing people who are utilizing the powers their entitled to in their democracies to change the world for those who will experience the bulk of the climate change damage. My hopelessness derived also from the fact that in the three presidential debates, climate change was Never. Brought. Up. Once. It is vital to make your voice heard on the local level for the domino effect to change our national and thus, global policies surrounding climate change. But first, we must enlighten all to the impending catastrophe 6/7 people on our planet have been and will be affected by.
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