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Citizens’ Climate Lobby: Climate change action can’t wait – HollandSentinel.com

The science is clear enough. The planet is warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays that all out in their reporting. Their work presents a framework for understanding the data. You’ll encounter benchmarks like 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees. Those are thresholds at which global warming turns a corner and human flourishing will be challenged. The current global average warming is calculated at 1.1 degrees.

Implicit in the data is a sense of urgency. Global warming is driven by the greenhouse gasses which originate with the use of fossil fuels. Some fifty percent of the current gasses were emitted in just the last thirty years. At this rate it won’t take long to hit those worrisome benchmarks.

Peter Boogaart

The early indicators of change are heard daily on the evening news: displacement and migration; wildfires (like the one that burned ironically named Paradise, California, to the ground); intensified hurricanes, heavy rain and flooding; and episodes of drought and desertification (Great Salt Lake disappearing, for example.) At risk is the subtle networking of economic and social structures which hold human life together.

No place in the Americas is free from these climate changes. In the U.S., the western states are experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years. The cascading impacts are leading to conflict, like Nebraska’s feud with Colorado over water rights.

So why aren’t we taking more direct action to stem the tide? Michael E. Mann’s latest book “The New Climate War” advances the premise that fossil fuel interests have sabotaged the effort. Policy change is bad for their bottom line, so they’re using the confuse-deflect-deny strategy that was perfected by the tobacco industry to stifle any action.

Mann may be correct, but I suspect that there’s something deeper at play — human nature. The human body has an autonomic nervous system. We have the luxury of navigating daily life without being required to think about our life support systems. Breathing, digestion, and pumping blood — the body just takes care of that without any thoughtful input from us.

In like manor, psychologists note that our lived experience accumulates to build a mental autonomic system. So-called common sense is a distillation of experience. That’s a good thing. Nobody could survive needing to figure out every situation every single day.

There is nothing, however, in our lived experience which prepares us to grasp the dynamics of changing climate. The scale is too big. Nobody is in a position to say, “Oh yeah, I remember when that meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. Here’s what you do if …”

Changing climate requires that we turn off the automatic pilot and make those daily conscious decisions which maintain our life support systems. A new system will emerge and in time become the new autonomic system. But we’re going to have to summon the courage to deal with the anxiety that comes with living through the transition.

The good news is that we have all the necessary tools at our disposal already and a good map to follow. We know what to do: minimize the use of fossil fuels, double-down on the deployment of energy efficiency measures, electrify everything and accelerate the integration of alternative energy sources onto the electric grid.

We’re already on the way. The sale of electric vehicles just hit the 5 percent mark; that’s the point at which new markets take off. Battery storage research is advancing quickly. Lenders are demanding climate impact statements as a component of assessing investment risk. And construction of new alternative energy power plants is cheaper even than the operating cost for most existing fossil fuel plants.

Humanity can meet this challenge and it’s to our advantage to do so. Economist calculate that the benefit of action exceeds the cost of mitigation by trillions of dollars. Lacking at the moment is the political will to do so. The U.S. desperately needs a comprehensive energy plan. No one of us alone, no matter how environmentally virtuous, is adequate to the task. This is an E Pluribus Unum moment.

At Citizens’ Climate Lobby we like to say that our task is to build the political will for a livable world. This is the time to speak up. Tell your representatives in Congress that you take climate change seriously and that you’re expecting a comprehensive, bipartisan, plan to deal with it. You have political power; but only if you use it.

— Peter Boogaart is a founding member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Holland Area Chapter. Contact him at nrgefficiencymatters@gmail.com.

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