It is Time to Stop Digging

Below is a transcript of my comments from the Virginia Environmental Justice Rally on October 28, 2018. The rally was held in support of Juliana vs US, the case where 22 youth are suing the federal government for causing climate change. (Photo credit Chris Tandy)

The law of holes says… when you find yourself in a hole, step one to get out…  is to stop digging. Climate change is a hole dug by burning fossil fuels for decades. The hole is deep, getting deeper, and its ill effects are being felt now. It is time to stop digging.

We have the ideas, technology, and financial resources to get out of this hole. What is missing are will and initiative from our leaders to take action. So, we are here today to demand that our leaders follow the science and do what is right… to stop digging.

Those who oppose us still say that climate change is not real; or that we do not cause it; or they say it will not be so bad. Besides, they argue, the solutions will cost too much; damage our economy; and kill jobs. But, science and experience tell us these are all false.

The hottest eight years on record occurred in the past 10 and there is no doubt that rising temperatures are driven by more than a century of burning carbon emitting fossil fuels. President Barack Obama said that he took action on climate change because the science tells us that “if we do not get this one issue (Climate Change) right, then just about every other issue will be adversely affected.” And, in the last decade, as we doubled the amount of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, and cut emissions from our power plants, our economy grew and we experienced the longest period of job creation in American history.

On top of this, despite our country’s recent change in policy, the world is moving forward with creating a low carbon future. For America to thrive in that future, we must be a part of those efforts… in fact, we should be leading those efforts.

So, it is right for you, our youth, to demand that our government follow the science and do the right thing. And, when we follow the science we know that we must drastically cut our carbon emissions in the next 30 to 40 years. We must get to zero carbon. To get to zero carbon we must do three things:

  • First, we must get 100% of our electricity from zero carbon resources like solar and wind.
  • Second, we must electrify everything – our cars,  our buses, our trucks, our homes, and our industry… so that they are powered by that zero-carbon electricity.
  • And third, we must make our energy use as efficient as possible and not waste one single watt-hour.

The challenge before us is huge and the climb steep, but we can succeed. We can succeed if we get to work now and we get to work everywhere, including right here in Virginia.

Unfortunately, in Virginia, less one percent of our power comes from solar and we have virtually no power from wind energy. So, how do we get Virginia on track? We get our legislators to draft and pass laws that recognize the true costs of fossil fuels, laws that amplify the social and economic benefits of a clean energy economy, and laws that prioritize getting us to zero carbon by 2050.

You can help make this change happen. You can

  • Write or call your state delegate and senator to tell them that you demand action on climate change; that you want Virginia to get to zero carbon.
  • Ask elected leaders at public events, what are they doing about climate change? What are they doing to get us to zero carbon?
  • And, advocate for clean energy legislation in Richmond.

On this last point, you can start by lending your support to Delegate David Reid’s Renewables First Act. The Renewables First Act  tells our electric utilities that they must invest in renewable generation from wind and solar before they invest more in fossil-fuel power plants. It tells them that they must stop digging.

As you stand here to fight for this case,  you take up the mantle of American greatness. This is a greatness that has advanced the cause of humankind, it has stood for what is right, and it has made amazing technical and scientific advances.

You represent the best of what and who we are – unity in the face of a challenge, the power of the people, and the pursuit of solutions through knowledge.  Keep up the good work. Your cause is urgent and your demands are right. Now go out there and tell our elected leaders that it is… time to stop digging!

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