The terrifying global climate crisis

Washington has ignored climate change and we have to change that

More stories from Ryan Huling



Renewable Energy pioneer and former president Jimmy Carter

If I am being honest with myself, climate change has been on my list of worries for the past few years, but I have done little to nothing to lessen my own carbon emissions. I still use plenty of electricity, drive a car to work and don’t follow a sustainable diet.

But climate change scares me more than almost anything on this planet.

This past Monday, I had the privilege to hear UW-Madison Professor Jonathan Patz speak about climate change on campus, and the statistics he threw around were terrifying. Much of his information is located in this article, but I didn’t fit his whole presentation in there.

Statistics like the fact that heavy rainfall causes immense spikes in E. Coli and diarrhea. Or if we continue to burn fossil fuels the way we do now, the global temperature average will raise 7 degrees Celsius in less than a century.

In case Patz presentation wasn’t enough, Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” on Netflix has a whole episode dedicated to the threat of fossil fuels.

Scary, right? It makes me want to make changes in my everyday life, even if it will barely make an impact. I may be scratching at a concrete wall, but it’s the best I can do. Maybe I can start carpooling or biking to more places or using less electricity. Anything that reduces my carbon footprint.

My carbon footprint, however, isn’t the one causing the most damage. You, the reader, and I aren’t the reason the ice caps are melting — not individually, anyway. The climate’s biggest threat sits in Washington, D.C.

While the U.S. population dwarfs that of the world’s, we still emit almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide that is heating the world. The United States is the No. 1 oil producer in the world. Even with the amount of renewable energy the United States utilizes, the burning of fossil fuels makes it completely irrelevant.

In the 70s, President Jimmy Carter tried his hardest to make sure the United States would put itself on the pathway to a renewable future. He increased funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, established the Solar Energy Research Institute and put solar panels on the White House. In one term, the man took leaps to make the United States a country of clean energy.

Presidents after Carter, however, had other plans.

Reagan got rid of Carter’s solar panels, both the Bushes were men built on oil and now Trump’s administration is full of men happy to see the liquid gold flow.

I won’t detail all the names, but many of the men in the Department of the Interior — the department that is supposed to “protect, serve, and celebrate our nation’s great outdoors” — are oil promoters and funders. The Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is especially passionate about the drilling and burning of oil.

The real problem is in the administrations that have occupied Washington for decades. Their negligence to the global climate crisis could leave young people to deal with the destructive consequences. It will take protests, activism and personal drive to save what little wilderness we have left.

Huling can be reached at [email protected]