COP26 summit: too little, too late

Photo courtesy of Tuna Ergan, Student Publications

As images of Biden nodding off at the COP26 show up on my feed, I cannot help but be infuriated about the disdain for the climate crisis.

The crisis is not a future problem. It is quickly passing the point of being a current problem as continued lack of action leads to irreversible damage.

It is a problem that can no longer be ignored, a problem that has long been critical and one that is apparently not worth the attention of the president of the world’s second largest polluter.

Biden’s climate summit nap is the perfect symbolism for his treatment of the issue. The spending bill currently working its way through Congress has been cut in half, with more cuts possibly to come, and devotes barely half a trillion dollars to combating climate change over the next decade.

According to the NOAA, climate events over just the past five years have caused around $640 billion of damage.

Events in 2017 alone caused over $300 billion in damages.

These figures are for the United States alone.

Damages around the world total far higher, and the United States’ role in the problem is outsized, as we produce nearly one-seventh of the world’s emissions.

Can the wealthiest country in the world not put more into solving the problem it helped cause?

Can it not see the value of spending more now to mitigate costs later on, not just for itself but for the rest of the world?

By no metric should the fight against climate change be anything but a top priority.

Scientists are more unified over the dangers than almost every other issue.

Economic analysis of climate policy shows unequivocal benefit before even factoring the human toll of inaction.

Still, many world leaders refuse to give the issue the attention it so desperately needs.

Changes, incremental changes, have been made, which I can admit is a start.

However, current policy puts the world on pace to warm around three degrees Celsius, double the maximum number before potentially irreversible climate effects take place.

All current future pledges and goals for carbon reduction put together still pace the world for a two-degree increase over pre-industrial levels, meaning that all promises made, fulfilled or otherwise, would still not be enough to reach the 1.5 degree threshold.

Despite the shortcomings, leaders, especially in America, refuse to acknowledge the gravity of the issue.

Republicans by and large refuse to even consider climate policy, but their partners on the other side of the aisle often fall well short as well.

Even with Democrats supposedly being a party of progress and science, many prominent ones stall or oppose progress.

From Biden’s confusing endorsement of fracking during the 2020 election to Joe Manchin’s refusal to cooperate to pass a bill with any significant climate package to Nancy Pelosi’s “green dream or whatever they call it” comments in 2019 to Diane Feinstein’s dismissal of youth activists to so many other examples, a bipartisan effort to slow meaningful climate policy stifles my faith in the vast majority of the American political scene.

While the problem is global, it can begin to be addressed at lower-scale levels.

Divestment from fossil fuels is a growing campaign that has moved amounts of money estimated to be up to $40 trillion away from that industry.

College campuses have faced divestment campaigns and cut ties to research and industries that contribute heavily to climate change.

Tech has an active campaign, known as ASI Georgia Tech, that focuses on divestment alongside sustainable investment, a movement that I heartily endorse.

Tech should divest, and the sooner campus leaders embrace ASI, the better the world will be.

One more campus divesting, while good, is only one more small step in the fight.

National and international movements like the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and other organizations are good places to get involved.

My anger is shared by many, but until leaders take notice, the issue will continue to worsen.

I do not want to be angry. I do not want to worry about my future and the future of the planet.

I want those with the authority to make change at Tech, in the United States and around the world to take climate change as seriously as it deserves.

I hope for a carbon neutral future and that COP26 is not truly too little, too late.