Our United States government first showed awareness of climate change in 1974 with the publication of its report, “A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems.” The authors were concerned about the collapse of governments due to worldwide failure in food production. Over the following 47 years, greenhouse gases have steadily increased, to a point that we are now seeing the predicted failures in food production.
Refugees, unable to provide for themselves, are crossing the U.S. southern border, and are migrating into Europe from Africa and southern Asia.
Governments have done little but talk about the problem, and the time to act has now run out. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warns that we need, “decisive action now to avert climate catastrophe.”
But world leaders haven’t yet risen to the challenge. Based on climate actions proposed by all 191 participants in the Paris Climate Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 16% from 2010 to 2030, and Earth’s temperature will rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius, well past the 1.5 degree safety threshold.
Beyond 3 degrees, the carbon cycle will reverse, plants and soils will release more carbon dioxide than they absorb, and Earth’s temperature will rise by yet another 1.5 degrees.
Runaway global warming from other positive feedbacks may push warming beyond our control. Think about what your power utilities and other greenhouse gas emitters are telling you about their efforts to mitigate climate change. Are they really just greenwashing? Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, not falling.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg was justified in her September speech mocking world leaders with their own words, saying “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net-zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah, … Climate neutral. Blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises.”
Queen Elizabeth II was more succinct, saying, “It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”
So, let’s do something.
Start by contacting your representatives in Congress and ask them to put a price on carbon, thus letting economic forces reduce CO2 emissions. One such proposal is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2021. If passed, this act would put a tax on carbon and return the money collected in monthly payments to all U.S. citizens.
Simply put, things like coal would cost more but bread and butter would cost less. The bill was first introduced in the House in 2018, again in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Government has talked, but hasn’t acted.
Let’s also start a local climate action plan, as have the citizens of Morris. Learn more at: www.morrismodel.org. It’s a coalition of city/county government, the University of Minnesota, businesses, and schools.
Together, they’ve set three main goals in the areas of energy, transportation, waste reduction/recycling, and education.
1. Produce 80% of the energy consumed in the county by 2030
2. Reduce energy consumption 30% by 2030
3. No land-filling of waste generated within the county by 2025
Within these areas, they’ve set sub-goals. For example, the city will add solar power to half of its buildings.
The county will have five new “Property Assessed Clean Energy” projects each year.
The University will reduce its energy consumption by 5% annually, and become carbon neutral.
They’ve followed up these words with action. Solar panels are going up on the city’s liquor store, library, community center, and city hall. They are one of 400 U.S. cities to have earned designation as a SolSmart Silver City.
They’ve reached Step 4 in Minnesota’s Green Step Cities sustainability and quality of life project. They’ve joined Climate-Smart Municipalities and partnered with the city of Saerbeck, Germany, sharing ways to transition to a climate-friendly future, and they’re sharing those ideas with neighboring communities.
This is exciting because instead of waiting for the federal government to act, we can do this ourselves.
Do you need a little more incentive to start?
Do it for your children and grandchildren. More than half of young people between ages 16 and 25, when surveyed about climate change, reported feeling, "afraid, sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and/or guilty," about the future, and that humanity is doomed.
We can pass on a better world if we try.
Steve Molenaar is a member of the Willmar Area Climate Action Group. The group's Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/WACAG.