Umbrellas and rain coats replaced traditional red, white and blue attire as a steady rain fell during Houlton's 2021 Fourth of July parade. Credit: Joe Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

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Anna Siegel is a Core member of Maine Youth for Climate Justice and also works with the Sierra Club of Maine, 350 Maine and Maine Environmental Changemakers. She attends high school in Portland.

On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their first installment of their Sixth Assessment Report, titled “Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis.” Within the report’s 3,949 pages lies a simple, dire warning. The climate crisis is intensifying and has irreversibly impacted the planet.

The UN Secretary-General  António Guterres said the IPCC’s report was nothing less than “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable.” This means we need a revolutionary movement to fight for climate action. Those in power who work for the people must implement policies to drastically reduce carbon emissions, or else it will be impossible to limit further climate disaster.

In our state, we’re already experiencing increased precipitation, with July 2021 being the wettest on record in parts of Maine, and the New York Times noted in a recent article that “It’s almost as if the entire East Coast has shifted south,” with extreme summer temperatures in Maine and the rest of the nation.

Graphs of soaring temperatures, talk of a “code red for humanity,” and the seeming futility of it all can be disheartening. When I read about the IPCC report, I felt myself closing off. The anxiety churned deep in my gut and I wanted to shut my computer, walk away, and continue as if no paradigm had shifted.

To become the movement the climate crisis requires, we must first mourn our loss. I must face and grieve the reality that what I was shown in picture books as a child, coral reefs teeming with life and impenetrable ice caps, no longer exist in many places. I was promised a world with unbounded opportunity and limitless beauty. Instead, I’ve been consistently reminded throughout my 15 years that the world is broken.

One of these reminders was in October 2018, when the IPCC released what is known as the “10 years report,” as it called for massive reductions of carbon by 2030 at the latest to prevent crossing catastrophic climate thresholds. I dealt with my eco-anxiety and grief four years ago by becoming an advocate for climate justice. Today, I give myself space to mourn the thriving, intact Earth I may never experience while continuing activism work. Without activism, I would feel helpless in the face of the gathering storm clouds, looming calamity.

In the wake of the recent IPCC report, I needed something new to hold onto, to fight for. I found that in the budget reconciliation bill.

The current bipartisan infrastructure deal does not reflect the climate crisis we are in. Congress must use their power, a power and effect that ripples across the globe, to pass a robust $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that invests in climate solutions, sustainable economic growth and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the beautiful world I was promised as a child. Other key areas of investment for the bill are healthcare expansion and improving the pathway to citizenship for immigrants.

The reconciliation bill would also rectify some of the pitfalls of the current infrastructure deal.  The current deal contains $25 billion for potential new subsidies for fossil fuels. This means billions of dollars are earmarked to fund the climate crisis, while public transit, electrification, and improving water quality remain chronically underfunded.

This is a problem we had in Maine as well, with $1.3 billion of pensioners retirement money invested in fossil fuels, until myself and other activists from the Sierra Club of Maine and Maine Youth for Climate Justice worked to get a bill passed during the last legislative session to divest Maine’s state retirement system from fossil fuel assets.

We can make this kind of progress on the federal level if the members of Congress who represent Mainers, specifically Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden, understand the “code red” from the IPCC and vote for the reconciliation bill.