Summarizing the 4,000-page study, carefully assembled by teams of climate scientists around the world, the UN released a statement that simply said, “This assessment of the latest science is a severe warning regarding the well-being of human society and all life on Earth. It is testimony to the fact that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades have been wholly insufficient.”
For over a century researchers have suspected that we are warming our atmosphere, and for the past 50 years evidence has mounted that the culprit was increased burning of fossil fuels. Since 1965, every U.S. president (with one notable exception) has warned that global warming was a threat to national security, and pledged to curb emissions. But in all these decades no broad-based, systematic action was designed to address this looming crisis.
No surprise that for decades comprehensive federal efforts to reduce carbon consumption have been stymied by fossil fuel companies. Borrowing the playbook from the tobacco industry, they spent millions on propaganda designed to cast doubt on the role of carbon emissions. When, despite their hand waving, further studies showed greenhouse gases to be the cause—and a carbon tax was proposed as the cure—they switched tactics to suggest that individual consumers could restore the climate simply by changing light bulbs and planting trees.
But as the UN report demonstrates, those actions, while helpful, do not come close to addressing the crisis. We need national and global leadership to create systemic, societal change. Now.
Here in this country, we need a bold, comprehensive national effort to set climate priorities. The Biden infrastructure plan is the most ambitious agenda of any U.S. administration to date to address the climate crisis, but the bipartisan bill recently approved by the Senate, focused mainly on highways and bridges, dropped the most far-reaching proposals in Biden’s climate agenda.
However, the president says that he will not abandon his commitment to large-scale climate solutions, and House and Senate Democrats promise to include major climate initiatives in the budget reconciliation bill. This plan includes:
- Creation of a clean electricity standard that modernizes our power grid and cuts pollution
- Clean energy tax incentives and fees placed on carbon pollution
- Funding for a Civilian Climate Corps that puts people to work strengthening the country’s natural defenses against the climate crisis and maintaining our ailing public lands
- Sustainable agriculture programs
- Investments in energy-efficient buildings and green materials
- Environmental justice initiatives to ensure access to clean water and solar technology for low-income communities
- The end of fossil fuel subsidies
These investments will spur job creation and innovation even as they slow the pace of global warming and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Though the price tag for these plans is high, the cost of inaction is incalculable.
On Aug. 11, the Senate took its first step toward crafting a budget reconciliation bill that could make real progress with a simple majority vote. Senate committees have begun meeting to craft the language that will detail the policies and programs and allocate funding to bring these proposals to life. We must continue to provide them with the political backbone to act for us and for the planet. Federal action is critical: there is no room for apathy or denial, and there’s no time left to wait and debate. We need to raise our voices now.
To that end, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, a group of interfaith leaders and concerned citizens from around the South Bay will rally at the San Jose City Hall to make our voices heard. Spurred by the sound of the shofar, the conch shell, timbrels and drums we will march to the Federal Building where we will call on Sen. Diane Feinstein and Sen. Alex Padilla to fight for maximum funding for the climate provisions in the budget reconciliation bill. All are welcome.
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has offered a three-step plan to address climate change:
- Accept that climate change is real and a danger to life on earth
- Recognize that it affects us
- Do something about it
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report proves once and for all that the planet is warming and the crisis is real. California’s repeated heat waves and perpetual wildfires have taught us that it affects us all. Not someday—now.
And we can do something about it. Join us on Aug. 25 and “Make a Holy Noise for Climate Action” to give our members of Congress the courage and moral clarity to go big on climate, with maximum funding for carbon reduction, alternative energy jobs and a livable future for the next generation.
Alissa Klar is with the Dayenu Circle of Jewish Silicon Valley.