As we have seen in this election cycle, our political system is extremely divided. Raise any issue, and you’ll find politicians on all sides of it. There is one issue, however, that simply is not up for debate, and that is the existence of climate change. We have leaders in Washington who do not believe that our climate is changing, yet science has shown time and time again that it is happening, and that it is an immediate threat to our survival. If we do not work to solve this problem soon, we may not have a world to fix.

Image courtesy of RatPac Documentary Films

A few weeks ago, I travelled to the United Nations headquarters for the premiere of Before the Flood, a documentary produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the UN’s Messenger of Peace for climate change. This shocking and incredibly powerful film depicts the severity of the damage that we have done and continue to do to our planet as we neglect to take care of the environment. In one of the film’s most shocking scenes, we see the immediate effects of rising sea levels as water rushes up through storm drains in Miami Beach and floods the streets. As someone who lives on the West Coast, seeing this terrifies me. I worry that, with the damage we are doing, it is possible that one day our coasts as we know them will become entirely submerged.

Image courtesy of RatPac Documentary Films

However, as much as Before the Flood instills fear in us about what is to come if we do not protect our environment, the ending brings us hope that we can fix this problem if we start now. The film concludes with Dr. Piers Sellers, director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, explaining that we have not passed the point of no return, and if we act now to stop burning fossil fuels, the earth will eventually cool again, and the ice that has melted will re-form. This optimistic view gives us hope for the future, but also serves to tell us that we must act now. We may not be past the point of no return yet, but we certainly are approaching it. We have to change our ways now so that we do not damage the planet beyond repair.

After the film, the UN held a panel that included Secretary of State John Kerry, who pointed out that solutions lie in policy. He said that “The solutions are here now. Every single one of them is staring us in the face. We know what we have to do. The solution to climate change is energy policy.” The way we source our energy continues to damage our environment, and although it may cost more, we must transition to cleaner forms of energy to power our lives. We’ve ignored the consequences of our energy sources for too long, but we can fix this. We must not only make our own lifestyles environmentally sustainable, but we must also pressure our politicians to sponsor clean energy programs. The world’s survival is something that every politician should be able to get on board with, and we must push them to do so.

Climate change is an imminent threat to our very existence, but it is not too late to act. However, if we continue to stand idly by and drag our heels on fixing our environment, we will lose our window of opportunity. We cannot continue to debate whether or not climate change exists. It is happening now, just look at Miami Beach. Many people may have economic interests that rely on the continued burning of fossil fuels, and this may keep them from doing what’s best for the world. However, I would argue that saving the human race is in all of our best interest. The survival of our planet cannot continue to be a partisan issue. This is a matter of life and death, and we must unite and act now to end climate change while we still have time.