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The change we seek

| Thursday, January 23, 2020

When I think of climate change, I remember the life of Dr. Piers Sellers. Dr. Sellers was an astronaut, the former director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a climate change leader. His life was devoted to climate science. However, in 2016, he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. With only a year to live, he did not have to worry about climate change’s effect on his life. He could have retired, sat on a beach and blissfully ignored the rising global temperature. But he valued creation and was motivated to preserve the Earth for his children and grandchildren. So, he fought to end climate change until his death on Dec. 23, 2016.

Dr. Sellers embodies the leadership and values our country currently lacks. To avert the most serious consequences of climate change, we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yet, at this critical moment in history, we have abdicated our responsibility to the world and our local communities. On Nov. 4, the United States began the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, and we have done so even as fires are raging in California, hurricanes are devastating the Gulf Coast, and floods are hampering farming throughout the Midwest. These extreme weather events will only get worse if we do not act. We are leaving our most vulnerable communities to fend for themselves, and we are conscripting our future generations — our children and grandchildren — to deal with the fallout.

In order to save our planet, we must act. It is time for the United States to reclaim its position as a world leader. Our country’s history is one of great achievements. Over the last century, we have won World War II, put a man on the moon and split the atom. We have led the world in the fight for freedom and for discovery, and we have the resources, the knowledge and the willpower to overcome any obstacle which stands in our path. But today, as we face this new test, we need a national commitment equal to this challenge.

Fortunately, our country is now ready for the fight. Today, nearly eight in 10 Americans — Democrats and Republicans — believe that human activity is fueling our changing climate. Despite the political rancor and polarization our country faces, climate change has emerged as a bipartisan issue, a human issue. Our political leaders must now recognize and honor the will of the people, but the impetus is not only on them.

We must be the change we seek in the world. We must call on Congress and the president to rejoin the 197 countries who signed the Paris Agreement, and we must demand policy to stave off the harmful effects of climate change. Dr. Sellers gave what Abraham Lincoln would call “the last full measure of devotion” in his fight against climate change. We owe it to him, to our children and to our grandchildren to fight for the preservation of our planet. We must not go quietly into the night. We ought to be leaders in our world.

Steven Higgins


Jan. 22

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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