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Climate Crisis Hits Home: Amplifying Young Voices Worried About the Future by Kelsey Mackert

Climate change has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. Global temperatures are warming, causing vast effects on sea level rise, biodiversity, and human health. People are worried, and those concerns are exceedingly high among young people. A recent poll found that around 70% of people aged 16-to-25 consider themselves extremely worried or very worried about climate change. As a young college student, I resonate with my peer’s unease about the many effects human-caused climate change will have on our children’s future. I’m Kelsey Mackert, an American University student studying Environmental Studies and Sustainability.

I’m a native Northern Virginian who’s always held love and interest in the natural world around me. Still, now as a young adult, the climate crisis in Virginia and throughout the world brings me great concern.

The Impact on Northern Virginia's Climate

Climate projections predict that ‘very hot’ days at or above 95℉ will significantly rise from 7 days per year to close to 40 days per year by 2050 in Virginia, and the cause is clear – greenhouse gas emissions. We know that increases in carbon dioxide emissions directly correlate with increases in global temperatures. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat inside the atmosphere, leading to higher global temperatures. Those rising temperatures will affect us Virginians. Northern Virginia counties are expected to experience more intense precipitation events, amplifying flooding, which impacts public safety, property, and business. By 2085, Northern Virginians are expected to see an increase between 4.4℉ and 9℉ in annual temperatures. Hotter temperatures mean we will be cranking up those AC units (as we all know Virginia can rise to uncomfortable temperatures), increasing our energy demand, which is currently dominated by fossil fuels, a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

The effects of climate change are too often interpreted as the world’s problem, but we can clearly see and feel its effects right here in Northern Virginia. Virginians who love and enjoy nature have much to be concerned about.

Our water, native plants, animals, and beautiful forestry are all threatened by climate change. A recent study on climate change impacts in Virginia predicts that we are likely to lose many of our precious tree populations, such as the Red Spruce, Balsam Fir, Red Maple, and many more. But this crisis doesn’t stop at our leaves, it is attacking our lungs. Increased air pollution in a rapidly developing area and increased atmospheric ozone, a type of smog that can irritate the lungs, are predicted to exacerbate asthma, something I have struggled with since childhood. This may easily transform into a health crisis as air pollution aggravates lower respiratory tract diseases which is among the leading causes of death in Virginia.

Hope for the Future and Local Initiatives

While climate change is problematic and prevalent among the concerns for young Northern Virginians, I remain optimistic about the enthusiasm other young people have for combating it, and the numbers support me on this. In a poll among 13-to-19-year-olds, 58% said they think it is possible to prevent some long-term effects of climate change. All over the world, people are taking action to ensure that our planet’s future is bright.

The Role of NVCT in Climate Action

At NVCT, we are doing all we can to ensure that young people, their children, and grandchildren will have the futures they deserve. NVCT works to permanently protect water, forest cover, tree canopies, and more.

Tree protection remains the easiest way to curb greenhouse gases as they carry out natural carbon sequestration, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. It is necessary that we protect existing trees since they already have carbon stored in them, and if cut, they will release that carbon back into the atmosphere. NVCT-protected lands with flourishing tree canopies will continue to absorb and store carbon dioxide, reducing our carbon emissions.

Taking Action for a Brighter Future

As a young college student troubled about my future, I am optimistic that with local environmentalism, passion, and hard work, we can make a difference to prevent the most severe effects of climate change in the future.

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