A modest proposal
Six hundred twenty-six environmental groups have signed a letter calling on the US House of Representatives to "Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change." It is a radical proposal. As one signatory noted:
“As the world teeters on the brink of climate catastrophe, we’re calling on Congress to take large-scale action,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Americans want a livable future for their children, and that requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground while greening the economy on a wartime footing.”
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we are writing today to urge you to consider the following principles as the 116th Congress debates climate change legislation and momentum around the country builds for a Green New Deal. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned, if we are to keep global warming below 1.5°C, we must act aggressively and quickly.
Halt all fossil fuel leasing, phase out all fossil fuel extraction, and end fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies.
It starts with a call for phasing out all fossil fuel extraction and keeping them in the ground, and stopping all fossil fuel power plants and infrastructure projects. "Further, the federal government must immediately end the massive, irrational subsidies and other financial support that fossil fuel, and other dirty energy companies (such as nuclear, waste incineration and biomass energy) continue to receive both domestically and overseas."
Transition power generation to 100% renewable energy.
As the United States shifts away from fossil fuels, we must simultaneously ramp up energy efficiency and transition to clean, renewable energy to power the nation’s economy where, in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies.
As someone who lives with almost carbon-free power thanks to nukes and Niagara, I do think it is crazy to object to carbon-free sources of power, even if they are not perfect. I am not alone in this:
The ludicrous insistence on excluding (in advance!) everything but renewables is going to overshadow everything else in this letter -- as it should, because it's f'ing ludicrous. https://t.co/E8PtFHo9SR— David Roberts (@drvox) January 10, 2019
Expand public transportation and phase out fossil fuel vehicles.
As the transition away from fossil fuels occurs, our transportation system must also undergo 100 percent decarbonization. To accomplish a fossil-fuel-free reality, Congress must require and fund greater investment in renewable-energy-powered public transportation that serves the people who need it most. The United States must also phase out the sale of automobiles and trucks with internal fossil fuel combustion engines as quickly as possible and phase out all existing fossil fuel mobile sources by 2040 or earlier. Federal credits for electric vehicles must be expanded.
That sounds very much like a driver talking. Public transport isn't for "people who need it most". It is for everyone. And no federal credits for electric vehicles – this is an opportunity to rethink the entire dumb system that we have now. And where are walkable communities, bikes and other forms of transport besides cars and transit for the poor?
As Angie notes:
We could lower total transportation costs a lot by making smart targeted investments in transit.— Angie Schmitt (@schmangee) January 10, 2019
The everyone-buy-a-car-and-then-build-gazillion-dollar-interchanges-everywhere-and-10-million-parking-spaces is a very expensive way to transport people.
There is more:
Harness the full power of the Clean Air Act.
Congress should harness the full power of the statute by setting strict deadlines and providing adequate funding for EPA to carry out all its duties under all applicable sections of the Act, including implementing greenhouse pollution reduction requirements for cars, trucks, aircraft, ships, smokestacks and other sources, as well as a science-based national pollution cap.
Ensure a Just Transition led by impacted communities and workers.
We support a comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers. Building new energy, waste, transportation and housing infrastructure, designed to serve climate resilience and human needs; retrofitting millions of buildings to conserve energy and other resources; and, actively restoring natural ecosystems to protect communities from climate change, are but a few ways to build a sustainable, low carbon economy where no one is left behind during this change.
It is a grand agenda, perhaps a bit of an over-reach, but a great place to start. One can be picky about the details (more bikes! more hydro!) or one can face the facts: This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, it's life during wartime and we have to make some serious changes.