Ken Plum: Responding to climate change warnings
Last week I wrote about the dire warning of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the more immediate consequences of climate change than had originally been predicted. Avoiding the damages to our planet and to our way of life would require “transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has no documented precedent,” according to the report.
The greatest economies in the world must lead the changes necessary to preserve our planet and the quality of life for our families rather than dismissing or debating its findings. The time for action is now with the report describing a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, a little more than two decades away.
What we have instead are politicians at the highest level of the federal government making promises at political rallies in West Virginia to bring back coal, the greatest offender of climate change, and in Iowa to increase corn production for ethanol that when added to gasoline may release more carbon from the lands than it saves. Scores of regulations intended to reduce climate change have been rescinded to gain favor of those who see them as interference in their quest to make more bucks or to gain more votes from a political constituency.
Absent little or no help on this concern at the federal level for the next couple of years, what can be done in the meantime? At the state level I will be pushing for a strengthening of a commitment by state government to increase its efforts at energy conservation, eliminating any subsidies for coal production, intensive economic development in green jobs for areas previously dependent on coal, a tax on carbon, accelerating the use of renewable energy, and establishing Virginia as a green state in its policies as well as reforestation. There are many reasons to take this immediate action in Virginia if for no other motive than that we stand to be among the first state to lose a significant chunk of our land mass with climate change and sea level rise.
I am pleased that Fairfax County has made a nod in the direction of concern about sea level rise, but there is reason to believe that one of the wealthiest counties in the country can find the will and the resources to do even more. We have been planting trees, but we need to plant many more. We have been working to get people out of their individual cars, and we must incentivize more people to use cleaner transit. Thanks to School Board Member Pat Hynes for her resolution calling for state and federal action on climate change. It is a beginning, but the locality must budget as a social cost for the county and not for the school district the addition of solar panels on the millions of square feet of roof space on our schools. Also, our school lots should be forested and not lawns.
Small actions taken by many can produce significant results. We have our warning. No time for hand wringing. We need to get to work.