We Want Clean Power — Fight for It (Op-Ed)

Robert Young, energy, climate change
Robert Young, the author, testifying at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public hearings in November 2013. (Image credit: Alliance for Climate Education)

Robert Young is a rising freshman at Stanford University. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is gathering public input on a groundbreaking rule for climate protection, and Americans should celebrate — and weigh-in on the proposal. 

The EPA's Clean Power Plan is a landmark rule that, if implemented, will cut the United States' carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to thirty percent over the next sixteen years. This plan allows the EPA to — finally — take aim at the root cause of climate change by directly reducing the nation's COemissions, recently upheld as within the agency's authority by the Supreme Court. The proposed rule would set target CO2 amounts for each state based on the state's current energy portfolio, with a national goal of a roughly 30 percent reduction by 2030. States would then have the flexibility to create a plan to meet those goals through investments in renewable and low-emissions energy sources, improving fossil-fuel-plant efficiency, and creating energy efficiency programs. [EPA's Carbon Emissions Crackdown: 5 Important Facts ]

Alliance for Climate Education youth leader Afsana Akter speaks to youth, City Councilman Costa Constantinides and the press calling for climate action in New York City. (Image credit: Alliance for Climate Education)

If such efforts are to succeed, then my generation will have to act. As a young person not yet able to vote, it often seems there's little incentive to get involved with the political process. Yet when it comes to the issue of climate change, the reality is precisely the opposite. We are the generation that will have to deal with the catastrophic impacts of society's negligence up to this point. Without a care, people have been dumping fossil fuels and their greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for more then a century, and the planet can no longer tolerate our abuse. Well within my lifetime, by 2050, I could see sea levels rise more than a foot, global temperatures increase upwards of 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Celsius), massive droughts, species extinctions and stronger hurricanes. And this is why it is so critical that those in my generation speak out to stop it.

The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that humanity will need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent to 70 percent by 2050 in order to limit a global mean-temperature-rise of 3.6 F (2 C), the maximum increase that won't lead to catastrophic climatic events. Although it may be initially difficult to transition to cleaner power sources, this is absolutely the right path for America and the only responsible decision — climate change is the single greatest challenge of this century, and we are running out of time to overcome it. 

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I'm a rising freshman heading to college, and over the past several years, I've been working as a youth leader with Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), a community of students fighting for a better future for our climate and our world. I may not gain the right to vote until my eighteenth birthday in a few weeks, but that doesn't restrict my moral obligation to speak out on behalf of my future. 

Like many youth across the country, I dedicate my time and effort to such grassroots initiatives to take climate action, and with the help of ACE and NRDC, I'm proud to speak on behalf of my generation by testifying at EPA headquarters in Washington DC on July 29th in support of the Clean Power Plan proposed rule. 

If you agree that it is time to invest in a sustainable future, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and combat climate change, then please take action by writing to the EPA and your state legislators — and getting involved with local grassroots activism. The future is counting on you.

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.