“Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger ... . The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling ... delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. ... We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now.”
This quote isn’t from the White House’s National Climate Assessment Report, although it could be. These words are Winston Churchill’s on the eve of World War II as the reality of the desperate situation Europeans faced became understood, and the world’s responsibility to act became urgent.
The world again faces a historical moment that challenges us to face our reality and act accordingly. The National Climate Assessment Report confirms what scientists have been saying with ever-increasing certainty: Climate change, and the crisis it is causing, is all around us, and we are already feeling the impacts. The report states, “Climate change, once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”
To be clear, we are not talking about our children’s children. We are talking about you and me and all of the people we love being at great risk from the multiple outcomes of climate crisis. Rain patterns are changing, sea level is rising, the oceans are acidifying, extreme drought and catastrophic wild fires are more likely, and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather is increasing. To summarize the 800-page report, we are faced with drought, downpours, and disease. We see these effects here on the Central Coast, with our long-term drought, decreased agricultural yields, and the recent record-breaking heat. Vast amounts of independent evidence confirm these trends and demonstrate that they are the result of warming due largely to human activities.
Up to this moment, the climate change conversation has been framed by many as a political battle. There are those who suggest this as an issue of conservative vs. liberal ideas. But thermometers have no political party. Wildfires blaze their own trail. Sea level rise will sink all boats. At the most divisive time in recent political history, we stand against a common foe, the most universal foe in human history. Climate crisis has and will hit those communities hardest that have done the least to contribute to it and are the least able to combat it. For this reason alone we must take action as we have a moral obligation to do so. But climate has no borders and it is affecting everyone, regardless of economic standing or political allegiance. This challenge doesn’t have to be a burden, but can instead be an opportunity to bring us together to create the political will and technological opportunities to solve it. The time to act is now.
The United States, and California in particular, should be on the forefront of an energy policy supporting technologies to replace fossil fuels. We as citizens must demand that our leaders create the pathways to get us off the oil pipeline and on to the innovation pipeline. The cost of inaction is great. For every dollar we spend today on the mitigation of carbon and climate crisis adaptation strategies, we save ourselves at least three dollars just by 2020. We need polices, like a revenue-neutral carbon incentive that will put market pressure on fossil fuels to create the economically viable pathways to green energy. We need the creation of infrastructure that will support these new energies in addition to infrastructure support that will withstand the increased pressure put on existing systems. Climate change is the greatest threat to our national economy and our national security. Many businesses and universities are currently working on the solutions we need to move forward in a sustainable way. Dr. Mark Jacobson at Stanford University has a well-researched and understood plan called the Solutions Project. His plan clearly demonstrates how to get the United States on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. We can eliminate combustion as a source of energy by utilizing our natural renewable resources. The sun gives enough energy in one hour to power the earth for a year, and the technology needed for capturing and storing this energy is getting better and cheaper. We only need 2 percent of U.S. land mass to support all the wind, solar, and hydro power required to meet energy demand. It is possible now with existing technology; all we need now is the political will.
Innovation, hope, and imagination made this country what it is. The United States has stepped up to great challenges before, and we are capable of meeting the call today. It is time to demand that our leadership bring us into the green energy future that we require to survive. A total of $143 million has been spent in California alone by oil companies over the last 15 years supporting candidates and campaigns that support fossil fuels. This oil money has corrupted our leaders’ will and puts into question their allegiance to the people of this state. We need leadership with the vision, strategy, and most importantly the courage to no longer put the short-term economic gains of the carbon cartels over the long term viability of the people. We need system change to fight climate change. What we do in the next two years will decide the next 200. It’s time to vote like climate matters, because it does.
Heidi Harmon lives in San Luis Obispo and is a candidate for California’s 35th Assembly District. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.