Teenagers Are More Aware of Climate Change Than People Expect

Audrey Feitl, Staff Writer

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According to Climate Chat, 70% of Americans realize that climate change is happening; however, 30% see climate change as a distant problem. Climate change has been a hot topic in the world of politics for many years, but recently it’s taken a turn. More people in the world are aware of climate change than ever and this creates an opportunity for discussion and change.  

Climate change is the overarching problem affecting the Earth’s health and is one contribution to global warming. Two thirds of the sun’s heat enters the atmosphere and then is absorbed by the planet. Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere naturally, a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. So when there is an increase of heat from inside the atmosphere, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and emissions from forms of transportation, then there are more gases to trap more heat (refer to figure 1). Out of over 50 surveyed at Wheaton Warrenville South, 85.5% of students said climate change is a huge deal and large-scale actions need to be taken. “I try not to use plastic bags,” said Carly Briggs, a senior at South. “I have my own metal straw, I recycle what I can” and “I try to take short showers.” 

Earth Journalism explained that human activities including “industry, transport, energy generation and deforestation all produce these greenhouse gases. The total concentration of these gases has risen greatly since the start of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the average global temperature has also risen over that time period.” As the Earth’s temperature increases, “sea levels will rise as water takes up more space as it heats up” and “dangerous disruptive effects on the Earth’s climate” will become apparent. Students at South have taken it upon themselves to aid at an individual level and a total of 44% report that, when given the chance, they always recycle. 

Frank Novakowski, AP Environmental Science teacher at South, comments that when students say “I’m only one person. I can’t create change” he says, “What if everyone said that? I believe anyone and everyone can make a difference. Think big! What kind of impact do you want to have? Environmental problems do seem insurmountable at times, I’m sure, but we can’t let that discourage us from producing change.” Despite the overwhelming amount of change one person would have to take on, it is still possible. A total of 51.8% of students surveyed at South try not to use straws and 17.9% use metal straws. This goes to show that students at WWS are individually supporting the movement. 

“I recycle and stopped using plastic water bottles and always recycle when possible,” said Erica Simmerman, a senior at South, “No one is taking global warming seriously! There are catastrophic effects around the globe and this all could be prevented if we take action.” 

Many students at south agree that climate change is an issue, but while “students are definitely more conscious of environmental issues due to social media,” says Novakowski, in reality the “increased awareness” has not had a “significant impact on taking action.” He says that students can get involved and help in many ways such as “[writing] to businesses, lawmakers, etc., and demand change.” The trend of environmental consciousness is growing among teenagers and will pave the way for more change in the future.