Brace yourselves: winter is not coming

Photo credit: Rob Oo via Flickr CC BY 2.0

With the anxiously awaited return of Game of Thrones, fans from across the realm were eager to see the return of the much-overlooked threat of the White Walkers upon Westeros.

But there is an even more sinister machination on the horizon that threatens our land: global warming. Since 2000, we have experienced 16 of the 17 warmest years on record, with 2016 the hottest year ever recorded.

As the oceans warm, critical ice sheets melt and pose threats to our planet that not even Jon Snow or Daenerys with her trio of dragons could save us from. Breaks in ice shelves have been on the rise in recent years, and scientists around the world are pointing fingers at the increased global temperatures resulting from climate change.

But warmer global temperatures threaten more than just our winters. As our atmosphere heats, our health is put at risk. Hotter days mean an increase in incidences of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and severe dehydration. These conditions are particularly threatening to infants, children and the elderly.

While most fans of Game of Thrones are focused on the immediate threat of war in Westeros, warmer global temperatures are already leading to unhealthy air. In 2015, 49 states and the District of Columbia experienced at least one day of elevated air pollution levels. In the same year, residents of 34 metropolitan areas experienced more than 100 days with elevated air pollution. Breathing this air can cause a wide range of health problems, from asthma attacks to respiratory illness — again affecting the most vulnerable in our society.

With a new leader in the White House, it is crucial that we make sure the Trump administration is doing everything in their power to safeguard our environment and our health from the winds of winter — or rather the heat of global warming. Unfortunately, the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, and Congress’s failure to safeguard the progress we have made to improve our energy and emission standards further jeopardizes our climate.

We are quickly reaching a point where global warming could move us to catastrophe. Forget Jon Snow on the Wall, we need our leaders to commit to fighting the greatest threat we’re facing now. That means shifting away from dirty fossil fuels and towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. That means a fully funded EPA, protecting the clean car standards, stronger environmental protections across the board, and protection for our public lands. That is how we halt climate change, and the white walkers, in their tracks.