A global climate treaty starts with us

Adam Hasz

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Sens. John Kerry and Barbara Boxer released the first draft of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Senate equivalent to the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House in June. Although the issue of climate change has been dwarfed recently by the health-care debate, we can no longer afford to wait for comprehensive clean-energy legislation.

This December, the world will meet in Copenhagen to negotiate a new binding climate treaty. Although the United States cannot unilaterally solve the climate crisis, U.S. leadership is absolutely essential to convince other nations to commit to meaningful greenhouse gas reductions. For Copenhagen to be truly successful, the Senate must pass the Kerry-Boxer Bill before the U.N. negotiations begin on Dec. 7. As the legislation’s supporters will need 60 votes to override a filibuster, this will by no means be an easy task.

The Copenhagen conference may very well hold the most important negotiations in human history. Many climatologists have predicted that the Earth’s atmosphere will soon reach a “tipping point,” a scenario in which excess accumulation of greenhouse gas swings the planet’s atmospheric energy equilibrium out of balance and sends us through a dangerous and irreversible spiral into a completely new climate era.

Even if we do not reach the atmosphere’s tipping point in the immediate future, climate change will still cause severe consequences, particularly for our generation and the generations that follow. If we do not act now and curb our addiction to fossil fuels, we will be forced to witness the horrors of rising seas, severe droughts, massive extinctions and the chaos that accompanies these events. Our generation deserves better; the stakes are simply too high for us to sit on the sidelines and let the powers that be decide our future.

With such a complex and intimidating issue as climate change, it is easy to feel apathetic. After all, even if you fully understood the problem, what can one small college student accomplish? How can one insignificant voice, even shouting with all its might, change the world?

Alone, it may be almost impossible to make a difference, but collectively, we have incredible power. If we work together—if we stand up as a generation—we can push climate change legislation through the Senate, ensure successful negotiations at Copenhagen and eventually enjoy a prosperous and peaceful future free of the worst effects of climate change. But to do it, we need a movement. We need a Power Shift.

The Power Shift already does exist, and it’s growing every day. Power Shift is a national campaign that is mobilizing massive youth support for a climate bill. This fall, the campaign will bring together thousands of students for regional Power Shift Summits, conferences devoted to the youth climate movement. Missouri was chosen to host such a Summit because our senator, Claire McCaskill, has not yet decided if she will vote for the Kerry-Boxer Bill. The Missouri Power Shift 2009 Summit will allow our generation to rise up and demand immediate climate action from Senator McCaskill and our other elected officials.

Luckily for us, the MOPS ’09 Summit will take place right across town at Saint Louis University. On Oct. 16-18, hundreds of students from across Missouri will converge to make a stand for bold, effective climate change legislation. The weekend will feature keynote addresses from prominent climate leaders and politicians, dozens of workshops related to many different aspects of environmentalism and countless opportunities to meet other passionate students from all across Missouri. The Summit will conclude with a “March to the Arch,” a large-scale climate march that will move through St. Louis and culminate with a rally under the famous monument.

Although I realize that the summit is during Wash. U.’s fall break, I urge you to take part in this historic movement. You can learn more and register for the summit at missouri.powershift09.org. If you have any other questions about the summit or the campaign, please e-mail [email protected].

A huge youth movement during the next few months will be our best shot to ensure that the world agrees to a just and effective global climate treaty at Copenhagen. I hope that you will stand with me and demand strong climate action. Our future is at stake, and we cannot afford to accept any compromise.

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