Climate solutions in the era of consequences
We aim to cross a new threshold, bringing a new level of urgency and imperative to the campaign. We’ll be demonstrating that solutions are not just practical and economical, but right and necessary.
By Gregg Small
To the ears of a climate hawk, there is no sweeter music than the sound of leaders leading. And Inauguration 2013 was a symphony, or at least one hell of a duet:
President Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. …The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”
Governor Inslee: “As a parent and grandparent, I cannot consciously accept the dangers of climate change for my family or yours. We don’t deny science in Washington; we embrace it. We do not follow technological innovation; we lead it.”
I know, these were just speeches. But it’s more than that. You can feel the shift. Superstorm Sandy flooded the backyards of Wall Street brokers and the front doors of major news outlets; historic droughts left the middle of the country beyond parched, while wildfires torched the West. 2012 was the warmest year in American history. Around the world, climate disruption is taking a terrible toll, from flooding in Asia to “tornadoes of fire” in Australia.
As World War II became inevitable, Winston Churchill signaled the end of “the era of procrastination” and the beginning of a new “period of consequences.” It’s time to mark that same transition for climate solutions. We are in a new “Era of Consequences” when it comes to experiencing global warming.
Looking at the pictures of the devastation, you might be tempted to conclude “it’s too late.” Those who hope to squeeze a few more years’ worth of record profits from fossil fuels hope you do. But they are dead wrong. Today’s climate disruption is enough to give us a taste of the devastation that would result from business as usual–the devastation we can and must prevent. And it’s the jolt that should launch us–confidently and enthusiastically–on the journey to solutions.We need to:
- Launch a multi-year campaign for strong climate policy in WA and OR, focusing on aggressive carbon reduction and supercharging energy efficiency and renewable resource development. While the Northwest states have long been leaders in a range of clean energy policies, we are falling behind the leaders on climate policy. It’s not that complicated: a market-based economy just can’t deliver climate solutions at scale as long as polluters can dump their carbon into the atmosphere for free. It is far past time for our region to join others in pricing carbon.
- Power Past Coal. For the past two years, Climate Solutions has been a central player in the broad coalition campaign to prevent the export of over 140 million tons of coal from the Powder River Basin through Washington and Oregon ports to Asian markets. These exports would lock-in dangerous climate change by accelerating global investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, while committing our region to a dead end, high impact, low-value economic strategy. I have never seen anything like the people power mobilized by this campaign. We have momentum on our side, and we are going to keep pressing this issue until all the proposals have been turned away.
- Make it Real. We need to continue the ground-breaking work to make the clean energy economy real in the region. We’ll be pressing our regional advantage in Sustainable Aviation Fuels. We’ll be taking the local energy revolution to the next level in our New Energy Cities program. We’ll be advancing the Northwest Biocarbon Initiative designed to establish the Northwest as a global leader in implementing innovative programs to store carbon in our forests, farms, and urban areas.
And as always, we won’t be content to just execute our priorities. We’ll be driving change, seizing opportunities, pushing beyond the region’s comfort zone and even our own. Because the truth is, as proud as we are of all we’ve accomplished, we’ve only done enough to show that solutions are possible. We aim to cross a new threshold, bringing a new level of urgency and imperative to the campaign. We’ll be demonstrating that solutions are not just practical and economical, but right and necessary.
The need–and the opportunities–have never been greater. Now’s our time.