As A Mom And A Scientist, I’m Standing Up Against Climate Change
Inaction on climate change will affect everyone’s health and safety.
January 29, 2021 at 5:02 pm
As a kid, I used to travel to the beaches of North Carolina and Maryland with my family every year. Now, our coastlines are particularly at risk from climate change. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion mean that the beaches I love may not be the same the next time I take my four-year-old daughter, Mia, to visit when it is safe to travel again. In a few decades, they could be gone forever, if we don’t act.
I’m a climate scientist and a mom. As I wade deeper into my research on the Arctic, and deeper into the role of motherhood that I so cherish, I am increasingly concerned with the risk climate change poses to our futures.
Climate change is irrefutable: Scientists agree that it’s real, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, it’s happening today and it’s an urgent threat to our communities — particularly Black, brown and Indigenous people, low-income communities, and most of all, our children. The only way we can hope to solve this challenge is by working together and demanding immediate action from our government. We can no longer wait.
If we continue on our current path of inaction, the costs are simply far too high. We will guarantee ourselves not only eroding beaches in North Carolina, we will guarantee a hotter earth, more dangerous wildfires in California and even stronger hurricanes in Florida and Texas. We risk an unlivable climate for my daughter and kindergarteners her age, everywhere. Right now, we are bearing the brunt of inadequate action on COVID-19 around the world. Inaction on climate change, too, will impact everyone.
While thinking about the task ahead of us is daunting, I’m not ready to accept an uncertain future for my daughter. I’d rather use my voice to raise the alarm and push for change. That’s why I’m helping to launch a new initiative called Science Moms with other climate scientists across the country.
Together, we’re sharing accurate, trusted, science-based information and resources so we can all understand climate change better. We’re sharing these tools through empathy, connection, and humor. More than anything, we want to help spark a conversation.
The good news is that solutions to climate change do exist. From clean energy that comes from nature itself, like solar and wind, to new technologies like electric cars and heat pumps, our societies are transforming to become greener and more sustainable. But this change is not happening fast enough. We need to demand urgent government action and innovation. Our leaders can take action against climate change, and we can make it clear it's our top priority by talking to our elected officials. We can write letters, attend events and educate ourselves, and simply start a conversation with a fellow mom.
In my school district here in Colorado, we’re having these critical conversations. I’ve enjoyed working with kids, parents and K-12 teachers in my community as many of them are finding new ways to bring accurate information into their classrooms.
Here’s what I know: parents are extraordinarily powerful advocates. We’ve helped to lobby for global vaccine access and stood on the frontlines of campaigns against tobacco and drunk driving. Through our involvement in PTAs across the country, we’ve made our schools better places for our children’s development. We are motivated by their bright futures.
In pursuit of these bright futures, we should be worried about climate change. It is happening now. It’s happening in the places that we love and want to visit with our kids and grand-kids someday.
As I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my daughter, and dream of taking her to the beach post-quarantine, I’ll keep worrying about how climate change will impact her life. It’s time we stand up and take action on this existential threat that affects every corner of our world — our futures, and the futures of all little ones, depend on it.
Dr. Melissa Burt is a Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.