We, Minnesota youth, are terrified for our future. By our middle-aged years, extreme weather events will be commonplace, intense drought and heat waves could occur regularly, major coastline areas could be submerged, millions will live with the threat of frequent storm surges and the incidence of certain illnesses may be substantially higher — all because of climate change.
Societal inequities will be exacerbated as climate impacts fall disproportionately on some. Costs of repairing climate-related infrastructure damage will be unsupportable.
We ask Minnesota leaders and policymakers: Can you envision such a future through our eyes?
A new report released this week by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that countries will need to dramatically and urgently decarbonize their economies and lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius — the target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Accords and the likely tipping point for the worst possible scenarios. This requires major changes during the next 10 years.
The science is unequivocal; the costs of delay will far outweigh the investment and sacrifices needed to make this transition.
Scientists and political leaders have understood for decades that the climate is changing unnaturally and that human activities are the cause. This was well described in the recent New York Times article “Losing Earth: the decade we almost stopped climate change,” detailing the climate change knowledge of scientists and policymakers starting in the 1970s. Yet our current federal government continues to make decisions that exacerbate climate change and have dire implications for our futures.
In the absence of federal leadership, we need our state and local governments to take bold actions to decarbonize our economies and our way of living. Minnesota’s leaders should focus not only on achieving the bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 that calls for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but also act even more aggressively toward decarbonization. We cannot simply do what most deem politically possible; we have to do what is necessary — and young people are already leading in many ways.
We are presenting a “Youth Climate Inheritance Resolution” to the state Legislature to aim for net zero greenhouse gas emissions within a decade because Minnesota can’t wait. Already we have presented this resolution to numerous legislators and gubernatorial candidates Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson to ask for bipartisan support because climate change doesn’t discriminate based on political affiliation.
Several of us are part of a group of 11 youths from across our state asking Minnesota to join 10 other states and several Canadian provinces in creating an enforceable greenhouse gas emission limit to support transition to a prosperous clean economy. We are calling on the next governor to take executive action directing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to create stronger rules to limit greenhouse gas pollution.
Finally, we are demanding that the Line 3 tar sands pipeline project be stopped. Line 3 exemplifies backward-looking fossil fuel infrastructure that ensures continued fossil fuel extraction for decades and forestalls the essential transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy. We represent the Youth Climate Intervenors who are sharing leadership in opposing this short-sighted and dangerous proposal.
In addition to urgently demanding those actions, we declare our solidarity with the 21 young people who have initiated a lawsuit — Juliana vs. United States — which begins on Oct. 29 in Oregon. These youths are suing the federal government on the basis that — despite its ever-increasing body of knowledge about the causes and likely trajectory of climate change — federal leaders have not done enough to limit and reduce carbon emissions, thereby failing to protect the constitutional right of today’s youth to life, liberty and happiness.
We need everyone’s support in telling our leaders that they are not holding up their responsibility of representing us and protecting our future. We are rallying in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals on the afternoon of Oct. 28, and we need loud public support. We must increase pressure on our leaders because their decisions now will shape our futures. We must act now; we must make change. For if we don’t, it will be too late.
Learn more about youth action and join us at www.mncantwait.com.
Sophia Manolis (Minneapolis South), Lia Harel (Hopkins), Marco Hunt (Breck), Shaza Hussein (Rosemount), Katie Christiansen (St. Louis Park) and Sofia Valdes (St. Anthony) are seniors at Twin Cities high schools. Gabriel Kaplan is a sophomore at St. Louis Park High School.