A recent United Nations climate change report stated that the irreversible effects of climate change will arrive much earlier than one might expect: as soon as 2040. For too long, the world has swept the issue under the rug. The ramifications of climate change are pressing — we are already seeing higher sea levels, stronger hurricanes and rising temperatures.

Climate scientists found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the global average temperature could rise by 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures by 2040, which would devastate coastlines, bring about food shortages and cause the demise of most of the world’s coral reefs.

The report was written by 91 scientists from 40 different countries after examining over 6,000 scientific studies. It states that the use of coal for energy would have to drop from the 40 percent of the total world energy usage that it is today to 1-7 percent by 2050. Renewable energy would also have to increase to 67 percent from today’s 6.3 percent to avoid the 2.7-degree rise.

The United States and China are ranked one and two, respectively, in global total coal consumption. If we want to delay the effects of climate change, the two countries must make drastic changes to their energy consumption, and soon. Aside from perhaps a nuclear war, climate change is the one issue that threatens our very existence more than any other, but it is taking a backseat to President Donald J. Trump’s Southern border wall. Despite this pressing issue, the discussion of climate change and how to reduce its impact has been largely neglected during midterm elections in favor of partisan issues.

We need to stop debating whether or not climate change is “real,” and focus on what we can do to slow it down. We face a future in which nature may be our biggest threat; we must start treating climate change as a serious problem and not as a hypothetical.

Scientists and politicians have been aware of the potential effects of climate change for decades, and very little has been done to slow down its effects — even the existing Paris agreement isn’t enough to slow down global warming. I have personally given up hope that our current leaders will fix this global issue. Besides some legislation here and there, a majority of our representatives have not treated climate change as an immediate threat. We, the young leaders of the world, need to take charge and we have to act. Fast. This can come in the form of petitions, peaceful protests and living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Without taking action to slow down climate change, we will be doomed to an unforgiving Earth of our making that will not play favorites. Regardless of socioeconomic status, political leanings or home country, people will experience the destructive impacts of climate change. Venice, Italy, is already experiencing frequent flooding from its world-famous canals. One-third of all agricultural land has become less fertile thanks to climate change. Three-fourths of the people living in poverty rely on agriculture to survive. For them, climate change is a matter of life and death. Massive wildfires and extreme droughts are and will continue to devastate the global economy in ways that affect us all. It may already be too late to switch to solar energy or start driving Teslas.

We must begin pressuring our leaders to do something — by any means necessary. Vote for candidates who will do something about climate change, like Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Bill Nelson in Florida and Ben Cardin in Maryland, because they support efforts to combat climate change. Vote people out who will not make this a priority. It’s our future that we’re facing; let’s begin taking control of it.

Ryan Callahan (22C) is from Richboro, Pa.