Young people get it. Climate change is real. It’s happening fast. Consequences are dire. Humans are responsible. Unfortunately, it’ll take years for many of those youngsters to be able to vote, let alone set policy. By then, it could be too late. Government officials must take action now to give younger generations a chance. Climate won’t wait for political chair-warmers.
Teenage activist Greta Thunberg told The Guardian that politicians are glad to set emissions reduction targets for the distant future, but reluctant when immediate action is required. Political systems favor procrastination: Challenges are immense. Solutions are controversial. Election cycles are short. Climate is perpetual. It’s tempting to put things off.
According to Blue Shield’s NextGen Climate Survey, 62 percent of respondents aged 14-24 believe their generation takes climate change seriously. Only 34 percent believe their parents’ generation does. Seventy-one percent want the federal government to do more to protect them from climate change, and 51 percent expect local and state governments to do the same.
In a letter to the editor for Moscow High School Environmental Club (“Expect more from the city,” May 6), Ilan Carter wrote that, despite posturing to the contrary, Moscow City Council was unpersuaded that global emissions must reach zero before 2045 to avoid disaster. “Use your voice to save our future,” he implored. “It is time to demand more action from our councilors.” I agree.
Moscow officials recently approved huge developments and construction projects without enacting a new climate action plan, water budget, or policies that account for emerging environmental realities. Instead, they chose the business-as-usual approach, as though Moscow is exempt from climate action. The new police facility could have modeled commitments to energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. Repair and remediation at the water department and renovation of the publicly-owned Haddock building represent similar missed opportunities. Maybe, it’s not too late to improve outcomes through retrofits, and for developers of private-sector projects to step up. Maybe, the federal infrastructure bill will include funding to enable it.
Kudos to local government for meeting its internal goal of reducing GHG emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. A Climate Action Working Group is developing recommendations for targets and strategies to further reduce Moscow’s emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. Government can’t do it alone. It will take all of us. Moscow’s deputy supervisor for public works told the Daily News (“More carbon, more problems,” April 27) that with anticipated growth, even if local government completed all of its planned projects to lessen GHG contributions by its facilities and operations, it would only reduce emissions 6 percent between now and 2032.
That sobering statistic is a kick in the pants to:
n Set ambitious climate goals, and advocate for local, state and national legislation to achieve them.
n Realize that the whole community — not just government — needs to get on-board with energy-efficient retrofits, conversions away from fossil fuels, driving less and driving smarter.
n Respect the community vision articulated in Moscow’s Comprehensive Plan. Section 1.3.3 says “Mitigation measures such as combatting urban sprawl and, in turn, fewer vehicle-miles traveled can result in fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Whether you’re skeptical about climate change or full-blown terrified, it makes sense to take action. Doing so will preserve livability, protect property, and invite entrepreneurial innovation. The climate crisis presents economic opportunities around energy, agriculture, transportation, construction, manufacturing and more. It makes fiscal sense. Seventy-three percent of University of Idaho students support raising fees to install solar panels on campus. A solar array on the Integrated Research and Innovation Center was projected to save $19,000 in energy costs the first year, with greater savings ahead. The city found similar savings through LED retrofits on traffic signals and streetlights.
In the midst of unprecedented global climate change, the Palouse has mostly avoided extreme weather. We saw tree damage from early snow on fully-canopied trees last fall, property damage from high winds this winter, and an unseasonably warm, dry spring, but catastrophic fallout from climate change still seems geographically and temporally distant. Most of us haven’t been directly affected by sea level rise, widespread flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, wildfires, water-borne illnesses or protracted power outages.
It can be easy to ignore the climate crisis as an existential threat. Without immediate action — including here — parts of the planet will become uninhabitable. Social conflicts will escalate. People will die. We’re running out of time to slow — and hopefully reverse — the trajectory of climate change. Political chair-warmers take note: Young people are counting on you.
Chaney is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Idaho. She was Moscow’s mayor from 2006-2014.