Students are yelling in the streets. They’re sitting in the hallways of the Capitol and protesting outside town offices. They’re writing editorials, visiting statehouses and urging the adults around them to protect our futures and protect our planet, please. Is anyone listening?

Why is it that the people in power aren’t taking any real action to prevent the catastrophe on our doorstep? The science is there, the risks have been analyzed, the danger is clear and present. So why isn’t anyone doing anything? Are all adults secretly climate change deniers?

These were the questions bouncing around in my head as my friend Caleb Edwards and I prepared to speak to our town’s budget committee last week. By the end of the meeting, I had some answers, and they weren’t what I expected.

Caleb and I attended the meeting to remind the committee about the town’s commitment to carbon reduction. We’re both students at Watershed School, which played a pivotal role in Camden’s signing on to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy last year. The covenant outlines a three-year prep plan that would generate a carbon reduction roadmap. It’s basically the small town version of the Paris Climate Accord.

The covenant dictates that in Year One, Camden will complete an inventory of community-wide greenhouse gas emissions. This step was completed by Watershed students in 2018. In Year Two, Camden’s climate change vulnerability will be evaluated and greenhouse gas-reduction targets set. Watershed students completed an evaluation of the potential impacts of sea-level rise in 2017, and in 2019 we will evaluate other climate hazards and work with the town’s Energy Committee and others to set reduction targets. In Year Three, the town will prepare an Action Plan that specifies how it will reduce its emissions, as well as an Adaptation Plan that identifies measures the town can take to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This step will also be spearheaded by Watershed students in 2020.

You may ask – why are a bunch of high school students tackling this project? It’s not because we’ve been written into the covenant, and it’s not because we have any kind of deal with the town. It’s because we care, and we want to get it done.

Didn’t know your town signed on to the covenant? Well, neither did the Budget Committee. While Caleb and I were pleasantly surprised to receive the committee’s full support, it also became clear that the adults in power are not receiving the kind of practical information about climate change that students like us have the privilege to learn. That’s a shame. All across the country, curricula are adapting to the reality of a rapidly changing planet, and preparing students to take on the challenges that come with it.

Climate change is not a controversial topic in the academic world. Why? Because it’s just science. Not politics, not liberalism. Just science. My generation understands this because we grew up with it. My parents grew up in a time when climate change was regarded as a distant possibility, rather than an impending crisis. When my grandparents were my age, it wasn’t discussed at all. Older generations didn’t receive the information my fellow students and I absorb on a daily basis. I can see how it must be jarring.

So maybe there’s a more optimistic explanation for all this. Adults aren’t all climate deniers, they’re just not yet fully informed. Here in Camden, the students are the ones studying the problems and planning solutions. But until we can vote and take those positions of power ourselves, we’re going to need some adults to join our efforts. There’s an obvious disconnect, and it’s time for my generation to assume the responsibility of informing everyone around us about what we’ve been researching. So, here’s my contribution:

Unless we use the next 10 years to make the kinds of sweeping changes that will slow and eventually reverse the rate of global warming, catastrophic climate change is unavoidable. The scientific community agrees that we need to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, and ideally below a 1.5-degree increase. Average global temperature has already risen 0.8 degrees and the rate of change is increasing.

Scientists predict that temperatures above that 2-degree threshold will have devastating and irreversible consequences for the planet and its inhabitants. Consequences like increasingly severe weather patterns, permanent land and habitat loss, agriculture and aquaculture collapse, forest death, food and water shortages and mass migration. If you think reducing carbon emissions is too costly, just wait until you see how prohibitively expensive it is to do nothing.

What does “prohibitively expensive” mean? It means we’ll have to say goodbye to our commercial fishing industries. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans and becoming inhospitable to species that make up the heart of Maine’s fishing industry, like lobster and Atlantic cod. Maine’s landscape will also be affected – increased rainfall, severe storms and rising sea levels are causing coastal erosion, stronger storm surges and more flooding. Island and coastal communities like ours will be heavily impacted. Whole crop seasons could be lost to extended droughts or excessive rain. Oh, and no more moose creeping into your unsuspecting neighbor’s backyard. They’ll have moved up north.

To reduce those effects and stay below the 2-degree threshold, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that we reduce our carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050. That’s almost a 5 percent decrease every year – which is a lot. That means we must take big steps, not baby steps. We need to erect wind turbines, build solar farms and cut fuel budgets now. Otherwise, you’ll be leaving my generation with a Maine that will be largely unrecognizable from the one you know and love today.

I hope this gives you a little more insight into why we teens won’t shut up about this. I understand how adults might think of us as disruptive when they see us yelling in the streets. I can see how our signs depicting burning planets might come off as a little dramatic. Maybe our marching into town offices to demand climate action seems ineffective, or even obnoxious. But our protests are not the product of teenage angst or hippie propaganda. Our protests come from a real, sinister, existential fear that only we understand because only we have grown up with the knowledge that our entire planet is in peril and only we will be left to pay the price when no one takes the necessary steps to protect us.

We are standing in the middle of a global revolution. Things are changing rapidly. Countries are taking action to protect themselves from impending climate catastrophes. Germany has resolved to shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years. Belgium is well on its way to reducing its carbon emissions 20 percent by 2020 and the last of its coal-fired plants are being shut down. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

What about us? What about you? What commitment will you make to protect my future? What action are you willing to take right now? It’s time to stop complaining and get to work. On April 20 at 10 a.m. the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition will be hosting a march to press for faster action on climate change in downtown Camden. We will have teen speakers and youth organizations from across the state presenting their work towards carbon neutrality. Show up, get informed and then take some concrete action to protect our futures. We’ll have plenty of ideas for you.

Pearl Benjamin is an 11th-grade student at the Watershed School.