Tucson Opinion: This Earth Day, educate kids about climate change

Every parent knows that protecting their child’s future is important. But unfortunately, our kids’ and grandkids’ futures are under threat, and not just from the pandemic but something that is equally frightening — climate change.

Last summer, Arizona experienced one of its hottest and driest summers ever, with record numbers of 100-degree days in both Phoenix and Tucson. Furthermore, low-income communities and communities of color face the brunt of Phoenix’s extreme heat, which has become even worse due to water access and affordability.

I couldn’t take my kids outside, except in the early, early morning because the concrete was too hot to walk on and we had to pay huge air-conditioning bills. These daily life changes are ones that Arizonans, and everyone else, will, unfortunately, have to get used to.

Why? Because climate change is real and will only get worse if we don’t become educated about it.

Over 50 years ago, scientists started to sound the alarm and explained how man-made CO2 would cause global warming, and alter our climate. We knew then that if we were to increase our global temperatures by even 1.5 or 2°C, the earth’s climate would look drastically different. Today, the scientific community has fully demonstrated that human activity is causing our planet to warm rapidly.

It’s time that we break the silence on this issue and start talking about it with our kids. In 2019, a poll by NPR found that many teachers do not teach their students about climate change, but 4 in 5 parents wish they did.

Now, many of us who study climate are seeing those predictions unfold in real-time. In my work as an oceanographer, this includes deploying robot floats and launching satellites to observe and try to predict the big changes happening in our ocean.

And when my future grandkids ask me, “Grandma, why didn’t you do more to stop climate change when it would have made a difference?”, I need to be able to tell them honestly that I did everything I could. If we start talking to our kids about climate change now, we can be part of the solution to help safeguard our kids’ and grandkids’ futures for generations to come. That’s why I joined a group of amazing climate scientist moms from around the country to form Science Moms, a campaign dedicated to educating moms about climate change and encouraging them to use their Outside Voice on this issue.

Across the country and right here in Arizona, the impacts are real. Arizona is going to experience hotter and more extreme weather with foreseeable impacts on our water supply and, more importantly, our children’s physical and mental health. We need to come together and find solutions quickly — our children’s futures depend on it.

Around the dinner table this Earth Day, it’s critical that we all start talking to our kids about climate change and let them know that we are working to solve it. The longer we wait to act, the worse it will be. Later is too late. We need to take action now.

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