I’ll be blunt. My first response to the new climate report from the world’s top climate scientists was to climb into bed and pull the covers up over my head. Which I did.
While I was there I thought things over, knowing I would have to get out of bed soon enough. It was hard to breathe, anyway. The certainty in the scientific community made me ill: we are on the way to catastrophic warming—and human-made pollution is speeding us there. This is way beyond nature’s eternal cycles of warming and cooling. Climate scientists can read the chemical fingerprints of the carbon we are emitting. Then the good news struck me. This isn’t God, changing our climate. This is us. And that is good news—because it means we can do something about our climate changing. Forty years ago we didn’t know the damage that carbon and methane pollution could cause. But now we do. We can stop that pollution.
There is no magic bullet. No one pipeline, no one windmill will do the trick. It will take hard work on many fronts. But there is a path forward to cleaner air and a stable climate. Here are some key steps:
1. Cut emissions from fossil fuels. It is fine to talk about banning fossil fuels, but who is willing to give up their computers and turn off the lights, right now? Wind and solar technologies are not yet able to power all of our lives—but they are ramping up quickly. Until they get there, we must be sure that the oil, gas and coal we are using does the least possible harm. Technology to cut emissions must be used—and utilities must be forced to use it. National emissions controls for coal, oil and gas are a necessity. Our carbon emissions from coal are falling right now because we are using more natural gas. But carbon pollution hasn’t fallen far enough. And methane emissions are rising. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas too. We are not off the hook. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has proposed cutting carbon emissions from power plants.
2. Cut fossil fuel subsidies. Oil and gas giants don’t need millions of dollars in taxpayer support—which they’ve been getting for a century. Time to get rid of those subsidies. They give fossil fuels an unfair advantage in the market place. So does the fact that they are not paying the price for the damage that carbon and methane pollution cause. We are. Ask your Senators to propose tax reform that ends fossil fuel subsidies. You will hear that your bills will go up because of new regulations. These are scare tactics. Want to scare your power providers back? Ask them: As gas is so much cheaper than coal, and as they are all using so much more gas these days, why haven’t your bills gone way down? Who exactly is keeping those savings? Be a demanding consumer. Know your power. And use it.
3. Ramp up renewable energy research and development as if our lives depended on it. Which they do. Put pressure on your governor for more wind and sun power in your energy mix.
4. Become as efficient as possible with the precious resources we have. Don’t waste energy. Don’t let heat leak out doors and walls and windows. Use efficient appliances. Buy smart. Live respectfully. And pay lower bills. Don’t give your hard-earned money to your power companies. Pay lower bills. There is one goal: cut fossil fuel emissions, those greenhouse gas emissions that are causing our climate to change and accelerating extreme weather events. No. Actually, this is the goal: be good stewards of our gorgeous Earth; make sure it is livable for our children. That makes cutting pollution sound kind of easy, doesn’t it? So let’s all do our parts. It is the only way to be able to get out of bed, and breathe easier. It is the only way to feel hope.