On July 15, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin pulled out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders over the Democrats’ climate and social spending bill, effectively killing any hope of passing federal climate legislation for at least the next two years, if not longer. (I would love to be wrong about this, but the U.S. House electoral map for Democrats does not look good, and the idea that a Republican House will do anything about climate change is, to me, laughable.)

APTOPIX Spain Wildfire

A firefighter cries near a wildfire in the Losacio area in northwestern Spain on July 17. In Washington, Sen. Joe Manchin’s July 15 withdrawal from talks over a Democratic climate and social spending bill effectively scuttled chances of passing federal climate legislation for at least the next two years. Emilio Fraile/Europa Press via AP

I am 24 years old and this feels like a slap in the face to my generation. Perhaps it was naïve of me to think that there was ever a chance that this legislation would be passed, given that Manchin made his millions in the coal industry, reportedly meets weekly with Exxon Mobil lobbyists, and has taken more money in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry than any other member of Congress. But I really did believe that this legislation might get passed, and I’m not over the fact that it failed.

I’m worried that we’ll all look back on this moment in 10 years and realize that, damn, we missed a big opportunity.

I’m sick and tired of Republicans and “centrist Democrats” double-crossing my generation. We have known about climate change since the 1980s and, to this day, as record heat spreads across the globe, extreme weather becomes more frequent and intense and crops start to fail, Congress still has never passed any legislation on climate change. Republicans, in the palm of the fossil fuel industry, spent decades denying climate change, and centrist Democrats like Manchin have enabled them, claiming they want bipartisanship, and that “it just wouldn’t be right” to do away with the filibuster and pass partisan legislation.

As the impacts of climate change have gotten ever more real, they have switched tactics, saying that it is too expensive to address climate change, and using abstract economic concepts like inflation (which is caused by supply chain issues and global reliance on fossil fuels) or the national deficit to justify inaction. It’s too expensive, they say, to prevent trillions of dollars in economic damages from extreme weather; save millions of lives that will be lost in wildfires and hurricanes, and give my generation a shot at a future where we feel safe to raise kids and enjoy our lives.

Adults wonder why there is a youth mental health crisis, and why young people don’t have much faith in government or the political process. As a young person, I can say that it’s because of stuff like this. It’s because, despite indisputable evidence and information about the dangers of the climate crisis, politicians like Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins sit around and do nothing. It’s because after countless school shootings, Congress still won’t ban assault rifles, and people like Manchin, who may agree with an assault rifle ban, would rather protect the filibuster than protect us.

So what now? I see environmental leaders who I look up to telling us that it’s time to switch gears and double down on executive actions and local- and state-level actions. And of course these are important, and Maine is doing a decent job in taking action on climate change (though our targets could be bolder, in my unresearched opinion). But these actions can’t make up for $300 billion in tax credits and subsidies for renewable energy and electric cars.

I am not ready to accept defeat on this. Sen. Collins needs to take a stand, put the interests of Maine kids and every living creature on this planet over the interests of the Republican Party, and get this legislation over the finish line. And if I were still in school, I would refuse to attend until this legislation is passed. After all, it’s not like Maine’s classrooms will be air-conditioned in what will likely be the hottest September ever.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.