Science for Your Senator

Hello! With the upcoming American election that is so much more than just a presidency (although it is immensely important for being one of those), I felt that it might be helpful to offer a template that others can use to send to their respective legislative representative(s) that warns of the dangers of what should be the most important and pressing bipartisan issue: global climate change.

Back during my junior year of undergraduate studies I took a class called Global Climate Change that focused on just that. We spent most of our time studying the science of the past and present to gauge the frightening future, but that is not all we did. Our professor, and essentially the rest of our Biology department instructors of all specialties, showed us some of the reasons why people ignore the science, and how it gets lost in the political shuffle of Washington D.C. or pushed to the back at best. One of our assignments was to compose a letter to our senator or congressman that contained a plea for supporting this scientific research and listening to it by making changes to curb our greenhouse gas emissions ASAP and facilitate generally greener lifestyles in America. The following is an updated version of the letter I wrote that I encourage you to use as either a template to base your own personal letter to your political representatives off of, or as a carbon copy (teehee, science joke) that you can fill in your appropriate information to.

Firstname Lastname

5555 Somewhere Street

City, OH 55555

Aug 22, 2016

 

Senator Sherrod Brown

1301 East Ninth St., Suite 1710

Cleveland, OH 44114

 

Dear Senator Brown,

 

My name is Firstname Lastname. I am a ?? year old from City, OH and a student in my current year at Local State University studying Biology / an employee at [Local Non-profit Org.]; [the law firm of Local and Legal]; [etc.]. Currently, I am taking a Global Climate Change class / independently researching global climate change and I have been learning about the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the global environment. I have learned a lot from the class / my research, however, most of what I have learned is extremely disconcerting. Based upon current projections put forth by scientists in peer-reviewed journals it will be a much warmer and far different world for my grandchildren. This is because GHGs raise the global temperature by thickening the atmosphere. And at the rate we are releasing GHGs, the temperature by the end of the century could increase to over 3°C higher than it is now, at the very least.

The most well known greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). Since 1896, humans have been aware that CO2 affects the climate by raising the global temperature. The current level of CO2 is over 400 parts per million (ppm) the highest it has ever been since humans have lived on the Earth, and it is getting higher each day. Therefore, we have to do all that we can to reduce our CO2 emissions and the emissions of other GHGs. Easier said than done, I know, but it is more feasible than most in your position seem to assume. I feel that tax incentives and rewards to companies that do their part to reduce GHGs, as well as increased taxes on those that produce too much without making any effort to reduce, are necessary to ensure that companies conduct themselves in the most fuel efficient manner. The average American should also be encouraged to live a greener lifestyle, as well. Providing nationwide carpool lanes and switching the lights in government run buildings to florescent light bulbs offer the everyday citizen greener alternatives and show that their government can practice what it preaches. Nonetheless, none of it will matter if the government allows companies (especially oil and coal companies) to freely fill the atmosphere with GHGs. If things stay as they are now, then the temperature will continue to rise, and American apathy regarding global climate change will rise with it.

15 of the hottest years on record (on a global scale) have occurred in the last 16 years, and as a result the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets have lost more ice than ever; 30,000 people died from extreme heat in Europe in the summer of 2003; and, most painfully in our memory, Hurricane Katrina and other massive tropical storms battered the United States. As ocean temperatures rise, these storms will become more intense and the polar ice caps will continue to melt at increased rates. And as the ice caps shrink, the ocean level rises, putting people who live beside coastlines and large river deltas at great risk for flooding. The oceans are rising now and will continue to rise unless we greatly reduce our GHG emissions very soon. The best estimate we have now is for a 1-1.5 meter rise by 2100 from melting ice in just Antarctica. However a 2 meter (>6 feet) global rise is possible by the same date, depending on how quickly and effectively we cut our GHG emissions. This should not be taken lightly in a country that stretches from sea to shining sea. And we have already seen the water-related damage that can be done to the Mississippi River delta because of hurricanes like Katrina and Rita. Even disregarding the fiercer storms, the sea level rise that will come as a result of the melting ice caps will flood low-lying cities and towns all over the world unless something is done to protect them. Coastal cities like New York and Miami will need a sea-lock system like those in the Netherlands and on the River Thames in England. And even though they have come a long way from the devastation of 2005’s storms, New Orleans is even less protected from flooding and severe weather now than they were before Katrina struck. It amazes me that a progressive country like America would just clean up the mess in one of its most important cities rather than take the necessary steps to protect it so that nothing like the Katrina/Rita disaster could ever happen again.

Being a senator / congressman / congresswoman / etc., I am sure you are aware of various climate change legislation currently being put forth, as well as other legislation pertaining to topics such as energy, environment, and funding for organizations that study American and global interest in these.. While we may not be able to solve all of the problems associated with global climate change with one such law, we can certainly help to bring about greater activity towards reducing American GHG emissions. America is certainly not the only country producing GHGs, but we are easily one of the largest contributors in the world. Furthermore, America has always been a worldwide leader who sets the global example, so if we can reduce our GHG output significantly then the rest of the world can follow suit. This being said, I feel that it is important that you stand up with your fellow senators to bring about pertinent legislation in the hope that it brings about an end to putting the problem of climate change off. It is not a question of science, but a question of ethics. The scientific data we have regarding Global Climate Change has been obtained and presented in fair accordance with the Scientific Method. Now it is up to politicians like you to urge on climate change legislation to bring about a reduction in GHGs. While we can never completely know what the future holds for our world, we can be sure from the evidence we have now from scientific data of the past and present that the consequences of continuing to ignore global climate change or to do little to counteract it will be extremely severe and far too harsh on the lives of our children and generations to come, for if we do not face this problem now, our children will have to face a bigger one.

 

Sincerely,

 

Firstname Lastname

 

Firstname Lastname

Here are some easy-to-read sources of the information presented in this letter:

Earth’s CO2 Home Page

NASA, NOAA Yearly Temperature Analyses

Washington Post Articles in Response to New Data published in Nature earlier this year:

“Scientists nearly double sea level rise projections for 2100, because of Antarctica”

“The alarming science driving much higher sea level projections for this century”

You’ll notice that there are options in the letter for whether you are a student or professional, as well as options for whomever you are sending this letter to. Feel free to add your own bits and pieces in, as long as they are accurate in accordance with current research, and I would encourage offering your sources.

Despite the fact that it would save trees to email, sending a traditional letter often conveys a more personal and important message, sentiment that is helpful when urging action on such an imperative issue.

Even if you do not live in the United States, I would still encourage you to send something along the lines of this to your respective legislative representative(s), especially considering this is a global issue.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for passing on your concerns to your local politician! While this was originally intended to be presented to someone at a more local level, you can certainly also send a letter to higher government officials as well, and not simply in regards to this (although I stand by my statement that global climate change is the most important global issue), but for any issue you feel strongly about. Your legislative representatives exist to represent your legislative interests, so what you want addressed is what they should address, and the best way to let them know what you want addressed is to tell them! So let your voice be heard, and in the meantime make sure to stop back here next week for more science and an occasional attempt at humor.

Melt hearts, not ice,

Alex

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