Climate news in 2019 is starting off where 2018 left off. Just this past week we learned that our oceans are warming faster than expected and that US carbon emissions rose 3.2% in 2018. This rise ends three years of declining emissions and is the largest increase since 2010. In November, the Black Friday Report showed how the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the US, including in Virginia. And, in October, we learned that aggressive reductions in carbon emissions are our only chance to avoid catastrophic temperature rise.
There is no doubt, climate change is a serious issue. Yet, as scientists sound these alarms, we are busy debating a border wall, who should run for president in 2020, troop withdrawals from Syria, and how much the Russians are influencing our elections. It is as if we are driving along a challenging roadway but cannot take our eyes off our mobile phones long enough to see the cliff that we are about to drive over.
Just like the way we deal with distracted driving, the solution to avoiding catastrophic climate change is focusing on what lies in front of us and what that demands for us to get safely to our destination. In addition, when we weigh the consequences of failing to act and the magnitude of what must be done, cutting carbon emissions to near zero by mid-century, climate change is not a problem for tomorrow; it is firmly rooted in the present and requires immediate action.
We must get serious about de-carbonization and we must not underestimate what this requires. To succeed, we must define specific goals, establish clarity on the status quo, and map out actionable, robust pathways to reducing carbon emissions to near zero by mid-century. These pathways must cut across all sectors – power, transportation, industry, buildings, agriculture, government, etc. – and, this work must be done at every level, including the state and local levels.
For Virginia, the path to a zero carbon future runs through the General Assembly because in order to succeed, we need more intentional, specific, and aggressive laws that move us to a carbon free economy. As it turns out, Virginia’s General Assembly kicked off its 2019 legislative session, which runs through February 23. This means the time for Virginians to get serious about climate change action is now.
Every Virginian has a role to play; every conversion about climate change counts; and every voice asking for a carbon-free future matters. So, I encourage you to engage with your legislators on the topic of climate change and Virginia energy policy. Call, write, or visit your state delegate and senator to ask them support clean energy legislation like the Renewables First Act, HB 1686/ SB 1648 and the Solar Freedom bill, HB 2329/ SB 1456; or, just ask them what are they doing about climate change. This is how democracy works. Together, with every voice raised, we can get serious about climate change.
The bottom line is there is no other choice. We must act. The significance of what we do now cannot be underestimated; the impacts of our actions or non-actions will be measured in human lives, and not merely lives in a far off country but lives here in the US and in Virginia.