By Huck Fairman
Many, if not most, in our region have been aware of the climate crisis. Many, but far from most, have turned to electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.
While emissions in the United States and Europe have been declining, this summer’s extreme heat and weather events warn that we are not doing enough. Average temperatures across the country over the last 50 years are up noticeably.
Fires, fed by dry forests and grasslands, have burned not only in California, but in Oregon, Washington, Canada and Siberia – where forests and tundra the size of Florida were scorched. Elsewhere, in Bangladesh, crops have been devastated by heat and weather, as has been the case in Honduras, sending populations seeking new places to live. Extreme storms have flooded islands in the Philippines and parts of China, while rising sea levels threaten other island nations, along with Miami and parts of Louisiana.
Summers in Washington, D.C. are hotter than those used to be in Tampa, Florida. In Europe, the warmer atmosphere produced rain storms which flooded parts of Germany and Belgium, killing residents and destroying homes and businesses.
For some time before these recent disasters, NASA has been recording the rising global temperatures. Scientists studying the data have been warning of the very changes we are now witnessing.
Among the recent, and more cognizant, responses has been the European Commission’s proposal to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2035.
Gov. Phil Murphy has announced a number of responses to our changing climate, including a $100 million investment in clean and fair transportation projects, an off-shore wind farm, and other steps to move the state to clean energy by 2050.
Additionally, the state has renewed its program of rebates for those who purchase or lease electric cars. This, in addition to EVs lower maintenance costs should make them more widely attractive – not to mention their environmental benefits of lower emissions.
So the question, nationally and globally, remains: Will people do, and demand of their representatives, what is necessary to preserve the world we have known?
In November, in Glasgow, the United Nations will lead negotiations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. There remain, however, different views and interests that need to find compromise while adopting sufficient change. The events worldwide should awaken nations, regions and companies to take the necessary steps in order to avoid a continuation, and likely expansion, of the recent devastation experienced pretty much globally.
One solution, proposed in different forms and long urged by organizations such as The Citizens Climate Lobby, is a carbon tax. Its purpose is to reduce the use of carbon by increasing its cost. Part of the collected taxes could be reallocated to financing other, cleaner systems or returned to taxpaying citizens, thereby helping them turn to cleaner energy.
But several prominent observers have pointed out that the changes in our energy and technology systems that we need to make are pervasive and profound enough that only governments, and international associations of them, have the scope and capability to make those changes. What citizens can do, in addition to individually turning to cleaner energy, is urge their representatives to act, comprehensively and soon.