Salvador Oregon Torres: We acted quickly on coronavirus. Now face climate change.

A tree art installation made up of individual trees and Hydrangeas is seen in front of the U.S. Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, April 22, 2018, to celebrate Earth Day and promote the planting of trees in an effort to combat climate change. The event was produced by Woodchuck USA and the plants came from Bailey Nurseries, a Minnesota-based company. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

If everything went according to plan, I would have been in Washington, D.C., this week, lobbying my lawmakers to take action on a global crisis. Unfortunately for me and hundreds of others with the same plan, our lawmakers had to act on another global crisis — the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus has shuttered small businesses, upended the medical community and ended the school year for millions without an end in sight. In this sense, it is not unlike climate change, though the latter has impacted us for decades and therefore feels less acute.

In reality, we’ve all witnessed the huge challenges brought about by climate change. Flooding in places where rain or sea water levels were not previously a problem, droughts in others. Here in Utah, it used to only snow from January to about April. Now, it snows through June.

Then there are food prices. What may translate in retail stores as incremental increases in produce prices actually has resounding impacts for those working and processing the foods. With climate change comes reduction in the quality of produce, the flooding of farms, an increase in pest infestations and, in some cases, job loss. The supply becomes unable to keep up with the global demand.

Some of this sounds eerily familiar right about now.

Fortunately, there is growing bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that would place a price on carbon — a step many economists consider to be the most cost-effective solution to reducing carbon emissions at the scale and speed necessary for positive change.

Now Congress needs to hear from us. Our lawmakers need to know how important this legislation is and be encouraged to pass it swiftly.

Being undocumented, I am unable to vote in the U.S., but my status does not preclude me from participating in the political process entirely. Making lasting change requires us to lift our voices on behalf of marginalized communities.

Having migrated to Salt Lake City at just 2 years old, I understand the plight of low-income individuals in my immigrant community. Climate change directly impacts members of this community in both subtle and colossal ways.

I was looking forward to telling this story in D.C. this month, along with hundreds of students, recent grads, Quakers and young adults at the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s (FCNL) annual Spring Lobby Weekend. Coronavirus shifted this year’s event from an in-person conference with lobby visits to a virtual experience, but we remain committed.

Through virtual lobby visits, we urged members of Congress to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the damage already being done by climate change, and protect vulnerable communities.

Participating virtually was the responsible thing to do during a pandemic. While it was not the intended plan for the event, the shift dramatically reduced our carbon footprint, therefore minimizing distractions from our message.

Congress moved quickly to address coronavirus this month, showing it can take action. It also has a moral obligation to address climate change, but lawmakers mustn’t do so on the backs of individuals already struggling financially. In addressing climate change by implementing carbon pricing, lawmakers must ensure that low-income, marginalized and communities of color do not bear the burden of increased energy costs.

It’s exciting to be a part of this effort. If I can remain committed despite coronavirus, I hope my lawmakers will also demonstrate their commitment, understand the urgency and take action.

Salvador Oregon Torres

Salvador Oregon Torres in a freshman political science major and American Sign Language minor at Utah Valley University. He served as an Advocacy Corps organizer with the Friends Committee on National Legislation for three years.