Climate change will come. Not suddenly, not like an apocalypse, but gradually and deadly, like a slow growing cancer. Those of us who are older will not be affected, so why be concerned?

What about our grandchildren and great-grandchildren? When the Earth gets hotter and the seas rise dangerously, I will have become dust unto dust, but my grandchildren and their children will be here on this suffering Earth.

We live in the present. Even with our own lives it is difficult to think beyond the next week, month and year. How much more difficult is it, then, for us to think 10, 20, 50 years in the future. But we must if this world is to avoid terrible pain.

My grandchildren are young: 14, 10 and six. Their lives are just beginning. At their home in Rockport, just behind their backyard, is the Atlantic Ocean, a stunning view. I have sat on the rocks there, listening to the chanting of the waves. Their mother, my daughter, is an environmental engineer, who works for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, overseeing committees who study public water issues. She has told me that when they bought this house only a few years ago, she wondered if, with the rising seas, it would be there in 15 years. She says that she worries incessantly about climate change.

The Earth warming is a personal, not an abstract issue. My grandchildren will feel its devastating effects, as will their children, as will millions of children in countries that will have their coasts destroyed by floods and their agricultural lands and crops destroyed by drought. Displacement and starvation, disease and death, they are all coming if we do nothing.

We must do something. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and to those around the world. But what can we do? We can act publicly, politically and personally. Politically, we can join with others to urge, demand our local, state and national government to act to reduce carbon emissions, which are the major cause of global warming. For example, California has high emission standards for automobiles, which are opposed by the Trump administration, by a president who pulled us out of the Paris Agreement. We must speak up and oppose these misguided actions.

Personally, we can make changes in our daily lives to reduce greenhouse gasses. Drive less, use cars with low or no carbon emissions and install solar panels. Those are obvious. Less obvious are buying and discarding fewer clothes or eating less or no beef. The production of clothes and beef contribute significantly to climate change. We don’t think of these because society encourages us to wear the latest fashions and eat the biggest hamburgers.

The Earth is round, not flat, and climate change is true, not a myth. It is time for us to learn about it and to act, for our children, their children and all children.

Jack Hernandez is a retired director of the Norman Levan Center of the Humanities at Bakersfield College.