In the State of the Union address, though mentioning some of the costly climate-related disasters that struck last year, the president failed to acknowledge the growing conditions that lead to stronger storms and wildfires.
Granted: It’s hard to “wrap your head around the scale of action needed to avoid catastrophic changes in the climate” (David Roberts writing in Vox on Jan. 27). Nevertheless, it’s a critical failure on the part of the leaders of our country to ignore even the possibility of climate catastrophe and the subsequent socioeconomic and political upheavals that we will face.
We — individuals, cities, states, other countries — are doing lots of things despite our own government’s inaction: from research and innovation in many fields and endeavors, to changing our daily activities in order to reduce our carbon footprints, which is often the best we feel we can do. And Western North Carolina is home to many who love and work to protect and support our environment.
It’s all important.
But right now, it isn’t enough, not nearly enough. I’m afraid that it could be too late. My grandchildren and certainly their children are going to find themselves in a very different world than we experience now, with reduced possibilities and increasing challenges to daily life. They live in Florida, where already they encounter increasing heat, rising seas and sinking land, saltwater incursion into freshwater aquifers, new disease vectors, more powerful storms and challenges to agriculture.
I live in the mountains and wonder when droughts and infestations caused by increasing heat and reduced winters will bring down our beloved forests, reduce our clear rivers and streams, challenge our wonderful local farms. Will we be able to plant enough trees to make up for the losses here? Can we manage our local agriculture within changing environment and more days above 95 degree temps?
And don’t forget that our local socioeconomic systems are wholly interconnected with other areas of the country and the world also confronting a changing climate and degraded ecosystems. Human-caused climate change is not only remaking our environment; it has also begun to exacerbate other issues of concern, such as political and socioeconomic inequality, public health, national and international tensions.
So, on balance, we in the U.S. are not prioritizing the climate, not doing the big things that need to happen now to stop CO2 emissions and bring down current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
As Asheville’s Drew Jones (co-founder of Climate Interactive, avl.mx/4mn) has stated, two things critical for promoting large-scale and rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are citizen engagement and putting a price on carbon. Carbon fee and dividend legislation would put a fee on fossil fuels used and shipped into the U.S., make clean energy cheaper and more attractive than polluting energy sources, and in 20 years would reduce our CO2 emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels (avl.mx/4mo). The money raised would be returned to Americans in the form of a monthly rebate, and implementing clean energy would drive innovation and new jobs.
The House bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus now has 70 members who are committed to addressing the growing environmental and geopolitical threat of climate change. It’s urgent that our own representatives, Mark Meadows and Patrick McHenry, join with others to provide leadership and action that has nothing to do with partisanship and everything to do with addressing serious threats to our county.
Let’s take action ourselves. Let our elected representatives know that this is a priority for all of us, they should join the House CSC, and pass carbon fee and dividend legislation.
— Dale Stratford