By: Sebastian Picht
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, we are reminded of the dire situation our planet is in, and the importance of bold action that could give humanity a chance to reverse the course of climate change. 115 dead, 54 in the Northeast United States. Tens of thousands of people were displaced. Millions of people are without power. These are just some of the statistics from Hurricane Ida, which lasted for no more than a week but continues to impact people all across the US.
The extreme nature of this hurricane prompts the question: Why are hurricanes affecting the world more and more? According to NASA, the burning of fossil fuels, which are mainly used for electricity, transportation, and other industry, have “fundamentally increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” Higher amounts of greenhouse gases create a warmer atmosphere, one that holds more water vapor. Music teacher Mr. Blazer, living in Fort Washington, said that the hurricane “changed the entire landscape of the area.” Central student Mia Jeftic (282) had worried family calling from the other side of the globe that night. “This has become reality,” she said. Philadelphia is never on global news, but it was on the night of Ida. Outside of Central, family friend and music teacher Donna Bostock, in Huntingdon Valley, had to move in with her brother as Pennypack Creek flooded her house, making it unlivable. And she was lucky. “I was thinking about the people who didn’t have someone to count on,” she said. “We need serious changes,” said Mr. Blazer.
The U.S. Senate has been debating one bill that could bring those changes, priced at $3.5 trillion over ten years. It promises to “transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” meaning energy that can be reused. There is a finite number of fossil fuels on the earth, so they are not only unhealthy for the environment, we are running out of them. The bill would award companies that begin using renewable energy and penalize companies that don’t. Despite substantial popular support and Presidential approval, two individuals stand in the bill’s way, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). To pass, the bill needs all fifty Senate Democrats to vote “yes,” but only forty-eight have promised to. The small minority has declared the bill “fiscal insanity,” Just one week after Ida, Manchin said that there was “no urgency” for a $3.5 trillion bill. But there couldn’t be more urgency. The only fiscal insanity would be to neglect the desperate needs of the American people and the world. Congress, including Manchin and Sinema, just overwhelmingly approved a defense budget of $7.8 trillion over the same period. We didn’t hear anything about “fiscal insanity” then. One need not look far to see that they have been heeding their donors, not their voters. Their hypocrisy and corruption have so far gone unnoticed, and it seems likely that many of the bill’s climate provisions will be shrunk. This kind of neglect is unacceptable in a time of crisis.
Central student Jordan Rosh (281) says “we have a responsibility, not as a moral thing but to each other.” She is right. The people who have been the most affected by climate change so far have been Indigenous communities, Black communities, immigrant communities, and low-income people across the country. This is exactly about helping people who lack the material conditions to defend themselves against these disasters. This is about humanity. This is our life. This is our future. Given the opportunity to endorse lasting change, Congress has a responsibility to do so, for the good of humankind.
Update: On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.