Climate Change Uncovered at Senator Markey’s Summit

Jiyu Shin, NECIR Summer Journalism Student, Student at Yongsan International School of Seoul

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Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey called climate change a “test of us a society” at his action summit on Thursday evening.

Speaking to the mostly elderly crowd in the packed auditorium, the Senator and the panel he called the “all-time climate dream team” reinforced the importance of scientific facts and unity against climate change.

“Science is something that we revere,” said Markey to resounding cheers.

Panel member and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy highlighted the importance of local actions against climate change as she said, “everything good starts at the grassroots level.”

The audience clearly believed in the power of communities, as local Santiago Gomez thought the climate change movement would now be “led by states and by cities,” and Assistant Director of the MIT Sea Grant College Program Rob Vincent believed environmental sustainability in the United States was “still very strong” despite the federal government’s policies because “states rallied together” and “came to the forefront.”

Joining McCarthy on the panel were former U.S. Chief Negotiator at the Paris Climate Accord Todd Stern and former Chief Science and Technology Advisor to President Obama John Holden.

While McCarthy described the “fundamental challenge” posed by climate change “to each and every family” and Holden discussed the multiplication of adverse effects “year by year and decade by decade,” Stern helped a current of hope run through the crowd as he spoke about his experiences with the “breakthrough” Paris Agreement.

Pointing out the difficulty of working out climate agreements when multiple “fault lines run through negotiations,” Stern explained that the Paris Agreement had been about finding a “sweet spot between what was necessary and what was possible.” He emphasized the necessity of a non-legally binding agreement that would allow countries to set higher targets for lower carbon emissions without feeling scared of possible penalties.

Sen. Markey applauded the past successes of the climate change movement as he said that “the rocket science is human beings” and labelled the widespread move towards renewable energy a “blue-collar job-creating revolution.”

Markey’s comments likely reassured many who attended the event and said they feared the impending consequences of climate change and were furious with the Trump administration’s environmental policies.

“I’ve been anxious about climate change for many, many years… and lately I’ve been looking for a place to get more engaged than I am already,” said Carol Chapman, who has been active in the climate change community for many years.

“I feel discouraged and horrified and scared, but I haven’t lost hope by any means,” she said, referring to Trump’s climate change stance. “Being with people like this who care and want to do something gives me a lot of hope.”

Adding to Chapman’s frustration with the current administration, Gomez said “this current is leasing away our public lands to pump and extract oil,” which has led the nation on a collision [course] to self-destruction.” He believed it’s now a necessity that the U.S. works with other countries to stop climate change.

As the evening wound down, McCarthy ensured the destructive consequences of climate change wouldn’t be forgotten by the audience as she explained that many don’t realize climate change is an ongoing crisis because it’s communicated as a “polar bear problem” rather than a “kid’s problem.”

“You can’t see it, feel it, touch it, and taste it until it hits you,” she said, ending the night with a powerful realization, “and most people don’t recognize when they get hit unless it’s hitting them right over the head by a wave or a fire.”