What will it take to stir public to drive change?
Re “The climate crisis still needs Congress”: Your Feb. 8 editorial appropriately targets Congress creating legislation as a critical element to boldly address the impacts of climate change. While some reference is made to the public at large, it’s crucial that this body be activated in sufficient numbers that rise to the critical mass necessary to push Congress to action.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.” This major question remains: How do we energize the pubic at large both to prod Congress to follow President Biden’s lead and to address climate change through individual behavior patterns? This involvement needs to go beyond the voting cycle and reflect the immediacy of the challenge.
The fossil fuel industry has us playing catch-up
Both the fossil fuel industry (ExxonMobil) and our government (as detailed by James Hansen, who directed NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies) quite accurately predicted in the 1980s the realities of climate change. But instead of responding to the challenge, Exxon engaged in a disinformation campaign, while taking actions to protect its profits and interests. Now, after decades of government inaction, the Biden administration is launching an all-out effort to protect us all from the devastating consequences of our gross inaction.
Your editorial says that “the American public should be aware that while a climate president is a good thing, a Congress that cares enough about protecting American communities to finally act would be far better.” That’s true, but it’s a huge understatement. We have been duped for more than three decades and are in a crisis. We must stop pandering to the fossil fuel industry, since it only legitimizes their deceit.
Bipartisan compromise will have to be part of the deal
The legacy of the Biden administration will hinge on passing ambitious climate legislation. Unfortunately, that achievement requires compromising with Republicans who refuse to accept the need to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The reality of climate change collides with the reality of there being 50 Republicans in the Senate, including many from states where gas, oil, and coal reign supreme. To overcome a filibuster, the Democrats will need to accept something that will appease the fossil fuel lobby.
That something is likely to include carbon capture and sequestration, a technology that will allow drilling and mining to continue but will ostensibly limit carbon emissions. It is like methadone for the fossil fuel industry — it will limit the withdrawal effects as the world kicks the oil and gas habit.
Carbon capture does nothing to limit all the other kinds of injustice and environmental damage the addiction to fossil fuels entails. But if it would get 10 red-state senators to vote for a strong climate bill, one that includes a national clean energy standard and massive investment in renewable infrastructure, then it may open the door to transformative change.
Keep highlighting efforts to place fee on carbon
Thank you to David Abel (“Fossil fuels tied to 9m deaths”) and Gal Tziperman Lotan (“Threat to seafood industry growing”) for reporting, in the Feb. 9 Metro section, on yet more ways in which human-caused climate change is undermining our health, wealth, and ways of life.
We’ve known for decades that pumping greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere would incur future costs, yet our politicians chose to do nothing. The inevitability of future costs was more palatable to them than discomforting constituents and corporate donors by requiring them to pursue energy conservation measures or transition to clean energy. Now those future costs are here, and politicians continue to evade the issue, propose half measures, or use the issue to raise campaign contributions.
But not all politicians have stood back. In the last Congress, representatives from both parties supported the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This bill would ignite a clean energy revolution in the free market at no cost to the government. A recent study of a similar bill concluded that it would generate $1.5 trillion in private investment in clean energy. Revenue raised by a fee on polluters would be returned to all consumers equally, guaranteeing that all households would be able to afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy economy.
Please continue reporting on the growing dire effects of climate change. But please also increase your coverage of this common-sense measure that would help our children avoid its worst effects.
The writer is coleader of the Boston chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
Practical, cost-effective approaches are way forward
Re Peter Belmont’s Feb. 4 letter, “Mere carbon pricing will do little to prevent climate catastrophe,” which was in response to Meg Haight’s Jan. 26 letter, “Instead of untried interventions, simply put a price on carbon”: Belmont’s critique of carbon pricing as insufficient to solve the carbon problem projects on to Haight a simplistic position that she did not espouse. Further, Belmont cites an impractical solution by prescribing refreezing the Arctic with a fleet of submarines.
What we need is a full-court press on practical, cost-effective approaches. We need carbon pricing and electric vehicle and other incentives. We need low-carbon electricity so that we can electrify our vehicles and our home heating with heat pumps. Because the Sterling Municipal Light Department, the power utility that serves our town, is about 72 percent carbon-free, my car gets the carbon equivalent of 400 miles per gallon.
Reducing emissions will require many compromises of our cherished dogmas. High-voltage DC power lines, and their ugly rights of way, can transmit energy over long distances in order to back-fill the slack times of wind and solar with hydro, renewable, and nuclear from far away.
We need to preserve forests and plant new ones. Preserving means, among other things, cutting firebreaks, or cleared spaces in forests, that, again, are ugly but are better than conflagrations. Firebreaks were common in California 70 years ago.
While we wait for silver bullets, we have to slow emissions
In Peter Belmont’s response to Meg Haight’s letter about pricing carbon, he offers a good point that reducing carbon emissions alone is not enough. However, he misses the main thrust of her letter, which is that carbon pricing would have a greater immediate impact on reducing carbon emissions than any other single policy.
We need many so-called silver bullets to reach zero emissions, and we need to remove carbon already in the atmosphere. Technology companies are exploring methods to remove carbon. However, the cost, energy required, and scalability do not make them practical yet. It would be misguided not to slow and then stop new emissions.
Governor lagging on climate bill
Re “Climate change bill sent back” (Metro, Feb. 8): Governor Baker explains his weakening of the Legislature’s climate change bill by citing concern for “those who can least afford” the cost of reducing our carbon footprint.
The governor should tell us who he’s talking about. The people at the bottom of the wealth and income pyramid don’t have Jacuzzis or HVAC systems heating and cooling their homes. Many low-income families live in multifamily homes that are far more energy efficient than the one-family homes of the suburbs.
If Baker were genuinely concerned about those who can least afford higher energy prices, he would propose an offsetting tax break for people at the bottom of the pyramid.