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The Climate Connection

The Climate Connection: Moving beyond the partisan divide

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Scientists agree: “Climate change is an existential threat.” We’ve heard these words so often in recent years that it’s easy to become almost numb to the meaning. UN Secretary General António Guterres’ put it another way, calling the 2021 consensus report of the world’s climate scientists a “Code Red for Humanity.” That report was issued almost exactly a year ago.

On this anniversary, it’s important to reflect on the deep political divide that hampers this country’s role in tackling climate change.

Meaningful climate legislation has been pondered repeatedly by Congress during successive Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, from carbon cap-and-trade, to a Green New Deal, to Build Back Better, to the current Inflation Reduction Act.

Only by the barest of margins — a 50-50 split in the Senate with the tie-breaking vote cast by the vice president — will any movement forward be possible this time around. And even now, this can only happen with considerable concessions that cater to continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Why? We have to do better than this. Climate change is not a partisan issue, yet it has been senselessly politicized. And to what end?

Last I checked, Americans of every political persuasion, or with no political preferences, were being impacted by the increasing impacts of drought, firestorms, floods, mudslides, and violent storm activity. Climate-related disasters continue to strike with ferocity, such as the torrential rains that caused massive flooding in Kentucky, and the latest fast-moving wildfires in Yosemite and near Yreka. Nor does wealth protect a person from climate change, though vulnerable front-line communities are clearly feeling the effects hardest. Health, housing, jobs, immigration — you name it — are all being affected.

A U.S. Office of Management and Budget analysis in April estimated that climate change-related costs could reach $2 trillion dollars per year by 2100. And even that analysis is suspect because we are now in unchartered territory, crossing climate system thresholds that are setting off dangerous feedback loops, from changes in our jet stream to rising seas to mass extinctions. And how does one put a cost on human lives that will be upended or lost?

Saying that politics should not trump facts sounds naïve in this highly polarized time. But it needs to be said anyway. It’s time for our elected leaders — all of them — to wake up to reality. We owe it to our ancestors, each other, and our children, who deserve better. I am grateful every day for Congressman Mike Thompson, who does get it, and so many others.

Staying engaged

Grassroots efforts around the country are leading an increasing number of cities and counties to declare climate emergencies and to take unprecedented local action.

The Sierra Club’s Climate Emergency Mobilization Grassroots Team, a national group focused on spurring local climate action, has compiled a handy website, localclimateactions.org, where local elected officials, city and county planners, and citizens can find examples of ordinances, codes, regulations and programs that are already working and can be adapted.

Regular readers of this column know that all five cities and towns in Napa County, and the county itself, have passed climate emergency resolutions. Every one of these resolutions dares to say what our national elected officials have not yet acknowledged: that we need to set our sights on 2030, not 2040 or 2050, aiming for zero net climate pollution, and commit to doing no further harm.

By acting now, we can move the dial. Let’s be the leaders we need to be.

Actions you can take

— Subscribe to the Napa Climate NOW! newsletter, napaclimatenow.org, and to our regional umbrella affiliate, 350 Bay Area https://350bayarea.org/, and volunteer for any of our campaigns!

— Express your views during city council and county supervisor meetings.

— Learn more. Check out the IPCC Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policy Makers, at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area. Visit napa.350bayarea.org for more information.

Writer Linda Brown is co-founder of Napa Climate NOW!, and co-founder and senior vice president of SCS Global Solutions.

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