2020 marked 50 years of Earth Day celebrations. Where will we be by 2070?

by Morgan Spraker

In 2020, Earth Day celebrated its 50th anniversary. Established in 1970, the holiday has become synonymous with environmental protection and climate action, encouraging global action to preserve and protect the natural world. Now, on the 51st Earth Day, we should consider what the holiday’s 100th anniversary will look like in 2070. We have two causes for concern and three causes for hope: 

1) Sea level rise could be dramatic

It’s no secret -- the sea is rising, and Florida will suffer the consequences. Scientists expect about 2 to 7 more feet of sea-level rise during this century, a staggering number that would damage and decimate sensitive ecosystems. By 2070 alone, the sea is projected to rise 21 to 54 inches. If nothing is done, that means that Key West will likely go underwater. Beyond 2070, greenhouse gas emissions will dictate the future of sea-level rise, and thus, Florida. For that reason, legislation to reduce emissions and halt drilling is essential for the preservation of Florida coastlines.

2) Temperatures will rise, too

Like other species, humans have an environmental niche -- a certain range of temperatures that they can survive within. Even with technological advances, certain parts of the globe are reaching the maximum end of that range. According to a 2020 study, nearly a third of the global population could live in temperatures similar to those of the Sahara Desert. 

These changes would not only result in human adaptation or mass migration but would also affect ecosystems. The worst extinction in history occurred due to rapid temperature changes, and with numerous species threatened or endangered, more warming could be disastrous.

3) Renewable energy is on the come-up

There is good news, however. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020, solar energy is now cheaper than coal and gas in many countries. Additionally, analysis by the European Commission predicts that renewable sources, including solar, could produce more energy than needed by 2070

Renewable energy has a number of benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a diversified energy supply, and improved global health.

4) Environmental change is possible

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. Despite an influx of disposable products required for health and safety purposes, there have been positive short-term environmental changes in the last year. For example, air quality has improved in Florida when people stopped driving their cars to work every day. We should use this moment of recovery to reconsider our behavior and enact positive environmental change going forward.

5) Young activists are ready for action

In the next 50 years, teenagers and young adults will mature and bear the brunt of the climate crisis. Thankfully, a number of young activists are already pushing for change. So far, the FSU, UCF, USF, UWF, and UF student governments have passed resolutions demanding 100 percent renewable energy within the next decades. 

Furthermore, Earth Day 2021 began with a youth climate summit on April 20 that featured youth activists like Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor, and Licypriya Kangujam. Showcasing the youth at the climate movement’s forefront demonstrates a commitment to the future. 

Fifty years will pass more quickly than we think. If we use those years productively, we have the power to cultivate and create a healthier planet by the time Earth Day 2070 comes along.