Study reinforces need for climate change education

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Study reinforces need for climate change education

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

Zoe Haworth

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

Zoe Haworth

Zoe Haworth

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

By Eric Bradach

Climate change has been heavily featured in news headlines in light of the string of hurricanes around the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have ravaged coastal states and islands like Puerto Rico. While Americans in the heart of the nation feel safe from these environmental hazards, a new study acknowledges that the Midwest is at risk.

The study, released Oct. 10 by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, concludes that the region’s infrastructure—roads, bridges, railways and energy systems—all face potentially devastating damages because of climate change. Despite some state governments addressing the threat on their infrastructures, the study says that more is needed and no one policy will halt the inevitable peril. It also poses a risk to the region’s transportation network that generates $2.6 trillion in gross domestic product. 

Unfortunately, the White House administration and too much of Congress deny climate change exists or that it’s man-made. History and expert opinion beg to differ. Sixteen of the 17 warmest years in the 136 years recorded occurred in the 21st century. Meanwhile, peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made, according to NASA. 

On the day before this study was released, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency will withdraw from the Clean Power Plan, which was devised by the Obama administration to regulate and lower greenhouse gases. This is no surprise given Pruitt’s financial backers. He has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from oil companies, according to a Jan. 6 POLITICO article. 

Although hope seems lost at the federal level, local officials’ actions suggest they’re undeterred and will serve their constituents. Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed a June 7 executive order committing Chicago to adopt guidelines from the Paris Climate Accord after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 196-nation agreement. He was also one of 13 mayors to publish EPA climate change research June 11 after the Trump administration deleted it from federal websites. 

As the study notes, more is needed. If Emanuel and other Midwest elected officials truly care about their community’s wellbeing, they should encourage climate change education.

 

Chicago Public Schools recently laid out details on its revised budget. Not only does it contain an 8.3 percent property tax hike, but also $37 million more for city charter schools, which are allowed to create their own curriculum.

Even if charter schools weren’t expanding in the city, non-charter CPS and other Illinois high school students are not required to take an environmental science course to graduate. It’s an option, but it’s come to a point when students need to be required to learn about climate change, its bruising impacts and what can be done to lessen the burden that has been placed on their laps.

 

Too often when discussing climate change, coastal cities and states are the focus because of rising sea levels. While those issues must be addressed, climate change hurts everyone, and this study should be a wake-up call for Chicagoans and Midwesterners. 

It’s imperative for lawmakers to understand the costs and consequences of climate change and for community leaders, activists and academics to push for policies and projects to combat this threat. 

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