Millennials are the first generation to grow up in a world where global climate change is recognized as a very real phenomenon that threatens the world, but when it comes to taking action they are met with confusion.
In the past two decades politicians, scientists and every day folk wrangled over several important questions: Is the climate changing? Is the change caused by humans? Will the change have a significant impact on human existence as we know it?
“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists” believe that global climate change is occurring and that it is caused by human activity, according to NASA.
Despite the global consensus on this problem only 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, only 53 percent think humans are causing it and only 58 percent are worried, according to a 2016 Yale University study.
What makes matters worse is that the U.S. is backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which is the largest and most ambitious international agreement to tackle climate change to date. With Syria and Nicaragua joining the agreement in the past month, the U.S. is now the only nation on Earth to not participate in it.
By not pursuing more regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and participating in the climate deal, Americans get the perception that climate change is not as big a problem as it actually is. This could explain why Yale researchers found such low percentages of people who find it to be a concern.
Millennials should not be confused about the importance of tackling climate change. They cannot afford to be confused. Whether climate change is happening is not open for debate. Just because political leaders like U.S. Rep. James Inhofe, who brought a snowball to the House floor to prove climate change was a hoax, tout their disbelief or wariness in science does not mean millennials should follow suit.
Climate change has somehow turned into another political topic to debate like gun control or healthcare. But even as more and more American political leaders are agreeing with the vast majority of scientists, the debate rages on. Instead of debating the existence of climate change, they are debating whether anything should be done about it.
That is what is important to understand about President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement. It was not done because Trump thinks it is a hoax, but because he thinks being a part of the agreement will put too high of an economic strain on the American economy.
The final failure of American leadership lies with media outlets. Editors and producers are the gatekeepers to information and every time they shift focus away from the science and onto climate change as a political issue they are doing a great disservice to the American people.
Let there be no confusion. Climate change is a scientifically recognized problem that will haunt millennials for decades.