NJ's youth want politicians to tackle climate change today — our future depends on it

Younger generations will bear the brunt of the disastrous effects of climate change. From sea level rise to extreme heat to higher annual rainfall, Gen Z must live through the consequences of the inaction of today’s decision-makers. Transitioning our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables is fundamental to fighting the climate crisis.

Offshore wind development is a clean energy source that offers the opportunity for New Jersey to harness the power of our coastline to curb emissions.

During a recent rally in Wildwood, former president — and current New York criminal court defendant — Donald Trump announced, “We will make sure that that ends on day one, I’m going to write it out in an executive order. It’s going to end on day one.”

Trump and similar opponents of offshore wind fail to recognize the environmental damage that will inevitably wreak havoc upon shoreline communities and marine life in the coming decades if we fail to take immediate and decisive action against climate change.

WATERS OFF MARHTA'S VINEYARD 04/29/24 The offshore supply boat Cade Candies sits off one of the Vineyard Wind turbines now being installed 12 miles south of Marth's Vineyard. 
Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times
WATERS OFF MARHTA'S VINEYARD 04/29/24 The offshore supply boat Cade Candies sits off one of the Vineyard Wind turbines now being installed 12 miles south of Marth's Vineyard. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

Each day that we do not take steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, we are doing irreversible damage to the environment. Ocean temperatures around the globe have consistently hit record-breaking highs daily for over a year, suffocating marine life and altering migration patterns.

In New Jersey, rising sea levels and a longer, more severe hurricane season place our shoreline communities on the frontlines against the effects of climate change.  Not to mention New Jersey is suffering from the highest rate of warming in the country, with average temperatures rising by 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. As a result, average precipitation has been hitting record highs, putting New Jersey’s infrastructure at risk and placing added financial burden on municipalities that are susceptible to coastal or inland flooding. If we are to have any chance at mitigating the ongoing effects of climate change, our state must take proactive measures to modernize our energy infrastructure and reach the target of net-zero carbon emissions.

Average temperatures in New Jersey have risen by 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.
Average temperatures in New Jersey have risen by 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.

While global temperatures are rising, so are U.S. fossil fuel subsidies.  Every year, billions of dollars in taxpayer money are spent on subsidizing oil, gas and even coal through tax breaks, direct payments, loans and low interest rates.

Yet, Trump proclaimed to his Wildwood audience, “[Offshore wind] is the most expensive form of energy there is.”

Make no mistake, clean energy is only as expensive as the federal government allows it to be. If the U.S. is to take the climate crisis seriously, fossil fuel subsidies need to be scaled back and redistributed into renewable energy industries like offshore wind and solar. With large-scale investment into renewable energies, we can enhance the innovation process and allow for renewables to become more efficient and cost-effective, similar to innovations that have made solar cheaper than oil and wind turbines more recyclable.

Opinion: New Jersey residents can save money — and help our climate — at once. Here's how

New Jersey must also take immediate action to divest from fossil fuels, starting with the pension fund for state employees.

Global average surface temperatures are on the rise, that much is indisputable. While many of our policy-makers are on the wrong side of 40 to have the displeasure of experiencing the full extent of future climate impacts, this also means that they will evade accountability for their inaction while their children and grandchildren will be forced to endure frequent flooding, unbearably hot days and the loss of our beaches.

Politicians cannot continue subsidizing the destruction of our generation’s future. The U.S. desperately needs a paradigm shift in the ways that we generate energy and, by placing meaningful investments into renewables, New Jersey has the potential to become a national leader in offshore wind and pave the way for our neighbors to transition away from fossil fuels.

Ben Dziobek is the executive director and Chris Sotiro is the education and policy lead of Climate Revolution Action Network, a GEN-Z-led, New Jersey climate organization.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ climate change: Policy action must come faster