FOCUS: Who is responsible for climate change?

Day by day, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent and irreversible. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2020, two-thirds of Americans believe that the federal government is not doing enough about climate change. Members of the SCHS community agree, with many hoping to see immediate changes from the government and large corporations. 

Although climate change has become a bigger issue in recent years, oil companies, like Exxon and Shell, were aware of the harmful impacts fossil fuels would have on the environment in 1982. According to The Guardian, Exxon predicted that carbon dioxide levels would significantly increase by 2060 due to fossil fuels. Later in 1988, Shell’s study affirmed this, but predicted that it could potentially happen as early as 2030 and forecasted that sea levels would rise significantly due to warming. 

“Shell and Chevron had this information in the ‘80s, and they are evil for not doing anything about it,” science student-teacher Arielle Martinka said. “Especially in the U.S., there’s not really an incentive for companies to make their products more environmentally friendly because we are still working on regulations that would encourage that.”

Despite environmental dangers, both companies kept this information private, hiding connections between their products and climate change until Exxon’s reports were released in 2015. According to the LA Times, these oil companies not only hid such information but also misled the public about climate science for the interest of their companies.

According to an article from The Mercury News titled “Why so Much Stuff Placed in California Recycling Bins Ends Up in the Landfill” by Rachel Uranga, a quarter of the items for recycling are not actually recycled but sent to other places due to recycling becoming a business for profit. Martinka believes this negatively harms each individuals’ efforts for sustainability.

“I think a lot of people learned in school ‘recycle, reuse, reduce’ and it makes it seem that a lot of responsibility for climate change and sustainability is put on an individual level like, ‘It’s your fault you are not recycling enough,’ but we are not in a society where responsibility is shared like big corporations,” Martinka said.

One government initiative implemented by California is the California Environmental Quality Act.  In efforts to reduce damage to the environment, the CEQA requires state and local government agencies to inform others about the environmental impacts government projects may have. Science teacher Eric Wozadlo believes the CEQA is vital in order to ensure the government is minimizing the effects of climate change.

“It (CEQA) creates a lot of red tape and I know that a lot of developers are frustrated with it at times, but it’s definitely necessary,” Wozadlo said. “Ensuring that things are being done as well as (they) can be done to protect the environment is definitely a good thing.”

Wozadlo appreciates the administration’s efforts to combat climate change, but he believes it will take more governmental action to create change, suggesting the use of geoengineering, or climate intervention, for carbon dioxide removal.

“It is going to take a lot more, but I would like to see more on not just mitigation but carbon dioxide removal,” Wozadlo said. “There is a lot of science and engineering going into that. Even if we stopped all of our emissions, it is not enough because there is too much in there, so we have to focus on getting it out, or geoengineering.”

Freshman Diya Desai believes that government policies and laws are vital in order to tackle climate change and its effects to reverse the actions of former administrations to protect future generations.

“In just a few years, we will come close to abrupt and irreversible changes. Regardless of your age, gender, political affiliation, climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” Desai said. “We will be stuck with the policies past generations put into action, so we really need to start instituting change and bringing unity into this country.”