This is the text of a speech I delivered today at a rally in Portland, Oregon, highlighting today’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s synthesis report and to urge our elected officials – our U.S. Senators – to step it up and become leaders in the fight for a brighter tomorrow:
My name is Jesse Jenkins, and I’m a member of the Cascade Climate Network, the first-ever effort by youth in the Pacific Northwest to launch a coordinated, region-wide campaign to address the climate crisis. Students across Oregon and Washington are coming together to fight for climate solutions because we clearly understand that our futures are at stake.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued today sends a clear message to all who will head it: we stand at a key turning point in human history.
The decisions we make today, both as individuals, and collectively as a society, will have profound impacts not only on our lives and the lives of our children, but indeed for all future inhabitants of this planet.
The IPCC report paints a picture of the future that we should expect if we fail to solve the climate crisis we currently face.
It is a dark and downright frightening future indeed.
The report describes a future plagued by fire, flood and famine – stuff of biblical proportions. It describes a future where one of out every three species on this planet lies on the brink of extinction, a future where billions of humans lack adequate supplies of safe drinking water.
This is truly a nightmarish scenario.
Yet many of us today have a vision of another future.
You see, the climate crisis we currently face clearly presents a tremendous and pressing challenge. But we are also at a unique moment of urgent opportunity, a chance to build a brighter tomorrow.
We envision a future were we have broken our addiction to oil and shattered our dependence on dirty and depleting fossil fuels.
We envision a future with a vibrant and prosperous economy, recharged by investments in energy efficiency, and clean, homegrown renewable energy.
We envision a future where a new generation of Americans have found pathways into the middle class through good green collar jobs in an economy that is prosperous and sustainable, both ecologically and economically.
We envision a future where parents can watch their children grow and thrive in a healthy environment, free of asthma, toxic pollution and smog.
And we envision a just future where the burdens of our energy generation and use no longer fall on the poor or disadvantaged, at home or abroad, nor on future generations.
We can make this future a reality, if we act today to begin a rapid and equitable transition to clean, renewable and local energy sources. This is our urgent opportunity, one that we have the ingenuity, hope and determination to seize.
Many of us have begun to rise to the climate challenge and begin this transition to a sustainable energy future – in our cities, our communities of faith, on or campuses and in our homes.
That is why, today, we come here to call on our elected officials to join with us to be leaders in the fight for a brighter tomorrow. Today we call on Senator Wyden and Senator Smith to help us launch the institutional and policy changes that we have already begun to make, as individuals and communities.
I am 23 years old. In the year 2030, I will be 46. What that future will look like hinges upon our ability to rise to the climate challenge – to both avoid the nightmare future described by the IPCC and to seize the opportunity to forge a brighter future: a sustainable, just, and prosperous future for all.
That’s why I’m counting on Senators Smith and Wyden. Help us Senators. Help us to end the climate crisis today and make our vision of a brighter tomorrow a reality.