The time for bold climate action is now

We need a societywide mobilization with all hands on deck
The 2.5 megawatt Spa Solar Park in Saratoga Springs.
The 2.5 megawatt Spa Solar Park in Saratoga Springs.

Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Unfortunately, politicians in New York and the rest of the United States don’t act like it.

The strongest piece of climate legislation in the country just got stronger.

State legislation by state Assemblyman William Colton and Sen. BradHoylman (A5105/S5908) would require New York to move to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 while halting any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

It provides transitional help to workers and communities dependent upon fossil fuel power plants, while ensuring that the needs of disadvantaged populations are met.

The bill addresses all energy usages, including heating and cooling of buildings and transportation, both of which have much larger carbon footprints than electricity.

We need a societywide mobilization with all hands on deck.

The governor continues to support flooding the state by importing relatively cheap fracked gas – despite the fact that methane is 80 times more potent short-term as a greenhouse gas than carbon. The sad reality is New York only gets 4 percent of its electricity from wind and solar.

Climate scientists are increasingly afraid to tell the truth about climate change to the public, because the news is so bad they worry that people will just do nothing out of despair. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will soon – in a decade or two – pass the point of catastrophic climate change.

The hope is that scientists will figure out how to remove carbon from the atmosphere – a problem they are nowhere close to solving after spending tens of billions of dollars.

New Yorkers are taking climate change more seriously after witnessing three Category 5 hurricanes in one year and devastating wildfires on the West Coast. It took six months to restore electricity to Puerto Rico. Imagine living without power and water for that long. Heat waves will soar throughout New York in the next few decades. The migration of tropical diseases will accelerate.

Drought was the match that ignited the war in Syria and the resulting climate refugee crisis in Europe. The Pentagon believes that climate change and the resulting fights over land, food and water are our greatest security threat, not terrorism.

Some scientists say that there is a chance that human beings may go extinct – within this century. We are already in the midst of the sixth great extinction in the history of the planet – caused by human behavior like habitat destruction – with up to half of the species disappearing by mid-century. Humans may stand on top to the pyramid of species, but it is not good for our future when the pyramid collapses beneath us.

It makes a difference how far we blow past the tipping point. So the sooner we end greenhouse gas emissions, the better.

We are the one country where climate denial is openly promoted by elected officials and reported by the media. The same wealthy investors and fossil fuel companies that drove global warming are the ones driving climate denial. They appear to have no concern for the fate of future generations, but instead seek to extract every dollar of profit possible by burning the world’s remaining fossil fuels. And their campaign contributions own the Trump administration.

Moving to 100 percent clean renewable energy as rapidly as possible is a win-win situation for everyone but the owners of fossil fuels.

The technology already exists to do it (wind, solar, electric cars, energy efficiency, geothermal/heat pumps), we already employ far more people in renewable energy than fossil fuels, and halting the burning of fossil fuels will reduce tens of millions of excess deaths annually worldwide from cleaner air. It will lower our energy costs.

Rapid technological change is doable. It took us a decade to move from horses to cars a century ago. More recently, smart phones became essential for everyone on the planet within a decade.

What we have lacked is the political will to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and demand a better life for our children and their children.

Mark A. Dunlea is chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the green values of nonviolence, ecology, democracy and justice.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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