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The future you're leaving us

Published July 1, 2011 3:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Next Wednesday, the state Air Quality Board will decide whether to grant a request filed by me and 19 other Utah citizens to adopt a greenhouse gas-reduction plan. To put it simply, we urge the board to start thinking about the future — our future, my future.

Four months from my 17th birthday I have not once touched a steering wheel and, frankly, I don't plan to in the near future because of the damage I know it causes.

Since my birth in 1994, Utah has created two greenhouse gas-reduction strategies (one in 1996 and the other in 2009) and failed to implement either of them. With this continuing inaction, I feel the pressing issue of climate change has been placed on my shoulders. Political slogans like "global warming is a hoax," or "the climate is always changing," ring hollow to me because it's my future that's at stake.

Climate change is a global problem that everyone says is too big to handle. However, even big problems can be solved by implementing lots of little solutions. If every state reduced its GHG emissions, our national carbon footprint would shrink.

But Utah isn't taking climate change seriously. Our GHG emissions are increasing faster than the rest of the nation. Statewide, emissions rose by 40 percent from 1990 to 2005. Nationally, emissions grew by only 16 percent during the same period. By 2020, Utah's emissions are projected to be 95 percent above 1990 levels.

Our leaders must take responsibility now. We have already delayed for too long as glaciers melt and coral reefs decay. Everyone is aware of these changes but no one is actually doing anything to stop them.

That is why the 20 of us petitioned Utah state agencies to adopt a rule for creating a greenhouse gas-reduction plan. Our request was based on the latest science, which says that if my generation is going to have a livable future, we need to begin reducing our GHG emissions by 6 percent per year in order to bring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere down to the safe upper limit of 350 parts per million by the end of the century.

Hopefully, that will keep our climate stable. My parents constantly fuss over saving money for my education, but honestly, the best thing my parents can do for my future is to help me push state leaders to adopt a plan to reduce GHG emissions.

Everyone recognizes that we have but one body to feed, nourish and enjoy. We dedicate our minds to ensuring that this body stays safe and healthy. So, what difference is there between our body and our climate? We only have one atmosphere, but we aren't dedicating our minds to ensuring the health of the atmosphere.

Just like we take responsibility for our bodies, we need to take responsibility for our atmosphere by reducing GHG emissions. If the state doesn't start to help stabilize our atmosphere now, there may not be a livable future for me and future generations — and yes, I am also talking about your children, your grandchildren, and (if we're lucky) your great grandchildren.

That is why I hope that on Wednesday the Air Quality Board doesn't shirk its responsibility.

Sara Ma will be a junior at West High School.