The reverberations of the call by Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish student, for global climate strikes will be felt here on Sept. 20 in Pack Square at the Asheville Climate Justice Rally [avl.mx/6hv]. This is a pivotal moment to speak out about the climate crisis. Elected leaders need to understand there is a growing groundswell of support for climate solutions.
We are at a tipping point. The climate change debate in Congress is finally shifting from debates over “is it happening?” to solutions. I was one of around 1,300 volunteer lobbyists with Citizens’ Climate Lobby who conducted 529 meetings with members of Congress and their staff in one day. The good news from our collected reports is there are almost no climate deniers left on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Patrick McHenry wrote on his website, “We should focus on what Congress can actually do to address climate change. We should expand clean energy deployment to communities throughout the U.S. and pursue innovative, market-based solutions that help the environment.”
Congressman Mark Meadows, during a House oversight hearing, said there “is no doubt that human contributions have attributed to greenhouse gases.” He also mentioned that his staff was considering the merits of a carbon tax to address climate change.
I’m grateful our lawmakers are part of the consensus that climate change is real. But are they on board with solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough? While the Blue Ridge Mountains have been mostly blessed with a beautiful summer, the heat wave that blasted the East Coast this summer claimed at least six lives. According to NOAA, July was the hottest month ever on record for the globe. Hurricane Dorian was the fifth Category 5 storm in the last four years. Our climate is warming faster than it has in the last 2,000 years, and the question remains, what will we do about it?
Enter Asheville’s Drew Jones, co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, a think tank that gives policymakers a realistic view of what’s needed to contain global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (and hopefully below 1.5°C). Jones recently spoke to CCL members on an international video call (bit.ly/CCL-Jones), where he demonstrated Climate Interactive’s new tool, En-ROADS. This is a powerful climate solutions simulator that can run through 38,000 equations in less than a second using the best available science to determine how well climate solutions work.
Jones said he showed off En-ROADS in Washington, D.C., to 36 busy senators. A 20-minute meeting grew into an hour and a half. On our call, he simulated the impact of many solutions on greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures. We looked at responses like electric cars, new technologies (e.g., nuclear fusion), growing more trees and more wind and solar. None of these were enough by themselves to keep coal and oil in the ground over the next 20 years, which is what must happen to keep temperature growth below 2°C.
The lesson is that there are no silver bullets. But there is a possibility of silver buckshot. The most “silverish bullet” Jones could find was CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal to put a steadily rising price or tax on fossil fuels and return all the proceeds to household as a monthly dividend. But even this was not enough to solve climate change. However, when other solutions like energy efficiency, planting trees and methane reduction were added into the picture, the 2°C goal was met!
That’s where Meadows, McHenry and all of us come in. Our lawmakers can take advantage of the political space opening in Washington, D.C., around climate to champion solutions that work. They can use tools like En-ROADS to identify effective tactics and use their experience to see which “silver buckshot” is politically feasible. Climate must not be a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a bridge issue, a bridge we must have for a sustainable future.
Our job, wherever we stand on the political spectrum, is to use our passion, voices and energy to create the political will to ensure a livable world for our descendants. On Sept. 20, show up at Pack Square and connect with one of the 16 co-sponsoring organizations and choose how you will leave your kids a healthier and more just world.
— Don Kraus
Volunteer Field Development Coordinator
Citizens’ Climate Lobby