To all the global warming naysayers: book a ticket to Cusco, Peru.
Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco now claims a less desirable title: land of the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation on Earth.
Resting 2.7 km above the sea level, the higher altitude of Cusco means there are fewer ozone molecules between the Earth and the sun. As a result, UV readings are more elevated in mountainous regions near the equator. While levels of UV over 10 are considered dangerous to even somewhat prolonged exposure, Cuzco has a measured index of 25. To contend with the extreme health risks, including skin cancer and permanent eye damage, residents of Cusco rely on umbrellas, layers of sunblock, long-sleeves, and sunglasses.
Cusco is just one example of the hazardous effects of climate change. From California's drought, to the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, climate change is a crucial problem that cannot be ignored. As we face more extreme weather, rising sea levels, food shortages, and increased violent conflicts, climate change is one of the most important issues of this year's election. The fate of planet Earth relies on those in power to endorse environmental legislation and convey the changes needed to adequately address its force.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he does not believe climate change exists. In fact, last week he promised to undo climate change policies enacted under the Obama administration, including canceling the Paris climate agreement, endorsing drilling off the Atlantic coast, and allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to be built.
He is not alone in his views. In 2015, 59 percent of House Republicans and 70 percent of Senate Republicans denied the reality of human-caused climate change. These climate deniers have received $73, 294, 380 from energy companies of coal, oil, and gas industries, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Turns out, it simply isn't good business to confirm that humans are the main cause of climate change--or that climate change is even happening.
With the increasing risks of climate change around the world, such declarations by a presidential candidate--that are in turn supported by those of the Republican party--are terrifying. It works to completely disregard the very real dangers faced by the inhabitants of this planet. As a leading nation, the United States has a responsibility to the rest of the world to address climate change through legislation and policies, and then actually follow through with such procedures. Yet despite the continuing effects of a dying planet, there are some who instead turn a blind eye and advocate for policies that work to only do incredible damage, as if we have an extra ten Earths to spare.
When U.S. politicians deny climate change, they work to tarnish America's image as a global leader, as well as inspire doubt among international countries looking to America to take on responsibility. The only way to face climate change is by focusing on our relationship to the planet, as our behavior has led to the crisis we now live in. By reassessing our models of health and education, for instance, to include a curriculum of how to restore the Earth and rectify our levels of consumption, we will be better equipped to take on climate change and prove to the rest of the world that we take it seriously. Then again, if all else fails, perhaps Mr. Trump could take a weekend trip to Cusco, Peru to better understand the gravity of the situation.