In a recent guest opinion (“Local climate activists’ rhetoric comes up short on action,” June 30), the Washington Policy Center complains about 350 Spokane’s efforts to make our city part of climate solutions. We want to make clear that we are very much in favor of hydro, wind, solar and geothermal – whatever it takes to quickly quit fossil fuels, as science says we must. We believe in listening to the warnings of experts and taking seriously the extreme changes we are already seeing in our climate.
Yet why didn’t the WPC mention its long, deep funding by the oil, gas and coal industry, including the Koch brothers and the American Petroleum Institute? As we saw in their article, that industry’s latest tactic is to try to divert attention from the need to phase out these fossil fuels by promoting “carbon offsets,” which are basically expensive licenses to pollute. Do we really want to license billionaires to fly climate-killing private jets between their mansions in Texas and Bali? Not when hundreds of millions of lives and the global economy are at stake. Purchasing carbon offsets simply allows rich people to pretend they are doing something about the crisis. It allows them to pay others to take action, thus giving them an excuse not to do anything.
Last October, the global climate science consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the climate crisis is far worse than we thought even four years ago. At that time, the whole world agreed in Paris to halt warming at 2 degrees Celsius above levels from 150 years ago. Now the world’s top climate scientists warn us to halt warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid many of the disasters we thought lay beyond 2 degrees. They also tell us that this means halving carbon emissions by 2030 and eliminating them by 2050.
That is why we now call this the climate crisis. Let’s deal with it before our kids call it the climate catastrophe.
We think Spokane has a vital role to play in this, which is why we helped the city commit to 100% clean electricity (and why we are now ashamed of Mayor Condon’s illegal obstruction of that important ordinance). Although we cannot stop the wildfires and choking smoke that climate change has already brought, we can still prevent much worse disasters ahead: miles-wide firestorms, submerged cities, spreading deserts, uninhabitable regions, crop collapses, mega-hurricanes, refugees destabilizing countries everywhere, and widespread warfare as a result of these horrific stresses.
There are many things we can and are working to do, individually and collectively, to help reduce the impacts of our climate crisis. Individually, we need to reduce our dependence on fossil-fuel-demanding transportation. The transportation sector is the largest single contributor to carbon emissions in the state of Washington. Commuting by bicycle, public transit, or purchasing a hybrid or electric car are good ways to reduce your carbon emissions. Collectively, we need to urge our state and national elected officials to pass legislation that will end our reliance on coal and methane to generate electricity. Joining a group, like 350 Spokane, which is working to reduce the impacts of the climate crisis, is another way to take collective action.
350 Spokane believes it is extremely important to couple climate action with spreading its costs to the rich who pollute the most, while providing jobs and financial assistance to the bottom half who face the hardest burdens in adjusting to a fossil-free world. But the rich are not going to get off the hook by simply purchasing carbon indulgences offsets.
Let’s prepare Spokane, our country and our world for a cleaner, more prosperous future. And let’s be unsurprised when oil company mouthpieces try to divert us from the need to leave their poisons in the ground.
David Camp and Larry Luton, Ph.D., board members, writing on behalf of the 350 Spokane board of directors.
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