Climate Corner: We are burning our grandkids’ future

Oct 8, 2022

Randi Pokladnik

“How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew what was happening to the world and did nothing?” This question, posed by Sir David Attenborough, should be one we all ask ourselves every single day. It is certainly a question I would ask local, state and federal politicians. To deny the major role mankind plays in the climate crisis, especially after the massive destruction of two back-to-back hurricanes, seems ridiculous. But I am sure people in our country will do just that; deny.

We now know that a warming planet increases the chances of catastrophic weather events. Wildfires and droughts in the western states are more severe and hurricanes have also intensified as they pass over warmer oceans. The storms that hit Ohio this past June 14t were the worst I have ever seen. Over 480 acres of forests at the Mohican-Memorial State Forest were severely damaged.

Billions of dollars of damage have occurred and many lives have been lost in these storms and wildfires, but still politicians refuse to take aggressive action to address the crisis. People in our country remain apathetic when it comes to taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

There are many places in our lives where simple changes would make an impact on carbon emissions. People could car pool, purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles or buy electric vehicles, eat less meat, turn down thermostats in the winter and turn them up in the summer. We could recycle, compost food scraps, buy less stuff (especially plastic stuff), garden, support local agriculture, turn off lights, insulate our homes, and donate used clothes and appliances. These are just a few simple, painless steps we all could take to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Yet how many of these changes are people willing to take? We cannot even commit to the very simplest acts to help save the planet.

What if your home were destroyed like so many homes have been destroyed by the recent hurricanes: Fiona and Ian? What if everything you loved and cared about were gone? What if there was no food, no water, no shelter, no job, no future? Sounds pretty drastic but sadly, by ignoring the climate crisis and refusing to do anything to curtail the worst effects, we are creating climate refugees all over the planet. Will our grandchildren become climate refugees?

Scientists are desperately trying to shock the world into action. “As time runs out for the planet to avert a future of climate chaos, scientists around the world are throwing down the gauntlet. Climate change science has been settled for decades, yet policymakers have yet to take sweeping action, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb to record highs.”

As a climate scientist I echo the fears expressed by my colleagues. The fossil fuel industry continues to manipulate laws and policies to continue the destruction of our only home while they increase their profits. We don’t have time to debate; we don’t have time for false solutions like carbon capture, or blue hydrogen; and we don’t have time to slowly transition away from carbon-based fuels. We are out of time.

It is painful for me to admit, as both a scientist and a grandparent, that I am no longer hopeful or optimistic. A recent poll published in Harper’s Magazine October issue stated, “just 1 percent of voters in a New York Times/Siena College poll named climate as the most important issue facing the country.”

Scientists are now putting their lives on the line as they engage in peaceful civil disobedience, hunger strikes, the bodily obstruction of investment banks enabling new fossil fuel exploration, and the pasting of scientific papers to government buildings.

Like the scientists around the world, we too should be throwing down the gauntlet. We should be in the streets demanding action because without a livable planet, nothing else really matters. How can we justify apathy and inaction? What will we tell our grandkids? We watched while their world burned.


Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She has a doctorate degree in Environmental Studies and is certified in Hazardous Materials Regulations.