Samantha Wong is a Junior at Binghamton University pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Science and minor in Geographic Information Systems. She is interested in the global impact of climate change, especially in urban areas. Additionally, she is excited to learn more about environmental policy and how students can advocate for change which led her to Our Climate. In her free time Samantha likes to swim, watch TV, and cook.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, other global issues have moved to the sidelines. One issue that is still very prevalent is climate change. Climate change is currently affecting, and will continue to affect our daily lives. The majority of scientists agree that climate change is caused by human impact. However, we are not entirely helpless to prepare for and mitigate it. It is imperative that we take action now; COVID-19 is a disaster we did not properly prepare for and the climate crisis will also have disastrous effects if we do not act quickly.
COVID-19 and climate change are more interconnected than we may realize. Currently, there are an estimated 70 million refugees and displaced people because of instability in their homeland; they are now stuck in foreign areas due to COVID-19. In Greece, there have been outbreaks in two refugee camps near Athens. There has also been rapid spread of the disease in makeshift camps in Northern France. The conditions in refugee camps lead to greater spread of the disease because of the large numbers of people, insufficient amounts of sanitary facilities, and the high amounts of stress that refugees face which makes them susceptible to sickness. As the climate crisis worsens there will be more refugees forced to flee their home countries due to increased temperatures and natural disasters, exacerbating the problem. Furthermore, higher global temperatures are ideal for diseases carried by mosquitoes such as malaria and West Nile Virus. In the Northeast, there has been a rise in Lyme disease since ticks have been able to survive longer due to earlier springs and longer falls because of climate change. COVID-19 may just be a preview of diseases that we may see in the future.
There is no miracle solution that we can implement to stop climate change. However, we need a suite of solutions including holding polluters accountable with a price on carbon. The US currently does not have a federal carbon tax, but a handful of states like New York are working hard to implement one. It is important that we don’t place the burden on the everyday consumer as prices of fuel increase; we need to ensure that the collected revenue from a price on pollution is distributed and invested equitably. New York, which recently passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) with the goal of reaching 100% net zero carbon emissions by 2050, is being urged to consider a polluter accountability mechanism.
As everyday citizens we are not helpless. We can continue to support climate policies like the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA). As its name suggests, the CCIA pushes for a more defined way to help communities transition from carbon based fuels to more environmentally friendly options with financial support. By pricing greenhouse gas emission and co-pollutants at the source, it raises revenue to establish a climate job and infrastructure program and invest in disadvantaged communities’ transition to a clean, green economy. A Climate justice working group, within the Climate Action Council, will be created to focus their efforts to ensure that no discrimination is created in the name of the environment. To enact change in our own communities, we can call our local New York representatives and tell them to support this policy. Like we have been with COVID-19, it is important that we come together to solve this issue with the urgency and mobilization that it requires.