‘There’s no choice’: Teens call on Environmental Stewardship Commission to zero carbon emissions

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Arya Pontula, 17, attends Enloe High School in Raleigh. She became involved in climate change activism in her second year through the Alliance for Climate Education Action Fellowship. She helps Enloe switch to 100% renewable energy. (Photos: Lisa Sorg)

Although the eastern half of the United States is in the grip of a record cold snap, the freezing weather – contrary to Tweets from @realdonaldtrump – does not indicate that climate change is abating. In fact, much of the rest of the globe is warmer than average, up to 6 degrees above normal in the Arctic.

A relatively mild Arctic is thought to be responsible for our freezing weather. Climate change in the form of melting sea ice is allowing the polar vortex to venture further south instead of staying near its natural home, the North Pole.

Rapidly changing climate and its consequences for future generations have caused three teenagers to petition the state’s Environmental Management Commission to pass a rule committing the state to eliminate its carbon dioxide emissions from ‘by 2050. Along with methane, carbon dioxide emissions are potent greenhouse gases and key drivers. of climate change.

The young women – Emily Liu, Arya Pontula and Hallie Turner – are represented by Ryke Longest and Michelle Nowlin of Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

Most of the CO2 would be reduced through a full shift from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, even the state’s burgeoning wood pellet industry) to renewables and energy efficiency.

Longest and Nowlin estimate the cost of eliminating CO2 emissions over the next 32 years to be around $327 billion. However, they wrote in the petition, this amount would be “offset by the economic and social benefits that come with reducing CO2 emissions and transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy. The costs of inaction include severe negative impacts on infrastructure, agriculture, and human health in North Carolina.

Liu, Pontula and Turner met with Policy Watch while on vacation at Duke University School of Law. Over hot tea and coffee, the three discussed their hopes for a carbon-free future – and their concerns for future generations if we cannot achieve these reductions. The interview (4:45) has been edited for length and clarity.


Emily Liu, 16, is a student at East Chapel Hill Secondary School. For the past three years, she has been engaged in research and awareness raising on climate change. His passion for environmental science grew through his participation in Climate Leadership and
Energy Awareness Program and Alliance for Climate Education Action Fellowship Program.

Hallie Turner is 15 years old. She attends Enloe High School. As an avid runner who loves North Carolina’s natural wonders, she fears the state’s forests, beaches and mountain ecosystems will be irreparably impacted by further delay.
climate action. “The Environmental Management Commission is constitutionally obligated to protect our state’s natural resources for future generations,” she said.

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