Environment

“There is no choice”: Teens petition Environmental Management Commission to reduce carbon emissions to zero

 

Arya Pontula, 17, attends Enloe High School in Raleigh. She became involved with climate change activism as a sophomore through the Alliance for Climate Education’s Action Fellowship. She is helping Enloe transition to 100 percent renewable energy. (Photos: Lisa Sorg)

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.

 

 

 

Emily Liu, 16, is a student at East Chapel Hill High School. For the last three years, she has been engaged in research and outreach involving climate change. Her passion for environmental science developed through her participation in the University of North Carolina’s Climate Leadership and
Energy Awareness program and the Alliance for Climate Education’s Action Fellowship program.

Hallie Turner is 15. She attends Enloe High School. As an avid runner who loves the natural wonders of North Carolina, she is concerned that the state’s forests, beaches, and mountain ecosystems will be irreparably impacted by further delaying
climate action. “The Environmental Management Commission is constitutionally obligated to protect our state’s natural resources for future generations,” she said.

 

 

 

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