All of us must act to rescue Earth from worst effects of climate change

The range of options has become a lot narrower, and the job has become much harder. But the worst thing that people can do is throw up their hands and say all is lost.

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A police officer on Monday gives water to a British soldier wearing a traditional bearskin hat on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace during hot weather in London,

A police officer on Monday gives water to a British soldier wearing a traditional bearskin hat on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace during hot weather in London,

Matt Dunham/AP

History is full of examples of people who knew they should act to protect themselves and others, but who mistakenly thought they had plenty of time to get around to it.

Now, the world faces perhaps the biggest example of all: Climate change threatens to make the planet unlivable, but too many people won’t come together to preserve the Earth for future generations.

No one can afford to leave it to others to stop the globe from heating up and to avoid ever-stronger storms and bigger wildfires. All of us must act. If we don’t, the effects of climate change will just get worse.

We’re seeing signs of why in Europe and the United States. Britain is experiencing its highest temperatures on record. The temperatures may be the highest for Britain in the course of human history. Charbroiled France is battling wildfires and drought. Oven-like triple-digit temperatures in the United States are baking the southern Plains and parts of the Northeast.

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According to the Weather Prediction Center, more than 100 million people are under excessive heat warnings or heat advisories. Last month was tied for the warmest June on record, NASA said. People are dropping dead from the heat. Others are displaced.

Yet Congress refuses to enact even mild legislation to reduce the amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Not a single Republican in the Senate has backed President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, which is stalled. Nor has coal-waste-burning Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. A horror movie with this script would be tossed aside as too horribly unrealistic.

Out of options, Biden, who will speak about the climate on Wednesday in Massachusetts, is reportedly considering declaring a climate emergency, although the Associated Press has quoted a source saying he won’t. But even if he does, good luck getting much that is meaningful enacted after those who don’t care about burning up the planet go to court to stop him. The U.S. Supreme Court will be no help: Last month, it cut back the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

There is no doubt this has been a really bad summer for climate action. And it’s only half over.

Too many people are fiddling while our planetary home burns.

Elected officials who are willing to prevent strong action to save the planet think they can get away with it. It is up to their constituents — and everyone else — to let them know they can’t.

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Yes, the range of options has become a lot narrower, and the job has become much harder. But the worst thing that people can do is throw up their hands and say all is lost. People have to accomplish what they can for the generation that is growing up and expecting to live in the climate their forbears did.

Some things can be done or have been done. The Biden administration can use the power of federal contracts to discourage the burning of fossil fuels. Last year, Illinois enacted a strong climate change bill that other states can emulate. Although there is no silver bullet to keep the planet from overheating, there are a number of small actions that can help.

In November, the United Nations will hold a climate conference, which holds out hope for more action.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said humanity faces a choice between collective action or collective suicide.

Those who are choosing the latter should not be in positions of public power.

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