Although the eastern half of the United States is gripped by a record-setting cold snap, the frigid weather — contrary to Tweets from @realdonaldtrump — doesn’t indicate that climate change is waning. In fact, much of the rest of the globe is warmer than average, as much as 6 degrees above normal in the Arctic.
A comparatively balmy Arctic is thought to be responsible for our bone-chilling weather. Climate change in the form of melting sea ice allows the polar vortex to venture farther south instead of sticking close to its natural home — the North Pole.
The rapidly changing climate and its consequences for future generations compelled three teenagers to petition the state’s Environmental Management Commission to pass a rule committing the state to eliminate its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Along with methane, carbon dioxide emissions are potent greenhouse gases and primary drivers of climate change.
The young women — Emily Liu, Arya Pontula and Hallie Turner — are represented by Ryke Longest and Michelle Nowlin of Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.
Most of the CO2 would be reduced via a complete changeover from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, even the state’s burgeoning wood pellet industry) to renewables and energy efficiency.
Longest and Nowlin estimate the cost of eliminating CO2 emissions over the next 32 years would total about $327 billion. However, they wrote in the petition, that amount would be “outweighed by the economic and social benefits that accompany reductions in CO2 emissions and the transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy. The costs of inaction include severe negative impacts on infrastructure, agriculture, and human health in North Carolina.”
Liu, Pontula and Turner met Policy Watch over the holiday break at Duke University School of Law. Over hot tea and coffee, the three discussed their hopes about a carbon-free future — and their concerns for future generations if we can’t achieve those reductions.. The interview (4:45) has been edited for length and clarity.