Opinion: ‘The coldest summer of the rest of our lives’

Alasdair Coyne

By Alasdair Coyne

The words in the headline were written by an L.A. Times writer recently, referring to 2021. As a longtime climate activist, I still managed to be shocked by them.


2021’s summer of global fires and floods is managing to focus attention on our changing climate as perhaps nothing else so far has managed to do. The average person cannot help but become more aware of the climate threat — weather disasters are all over the news. (Though U.S. news organizations are somehow still way too slow to mention the fossil fuel connection.)

With severe fires and weather worsening year on year — as we now know will be the new normal — voters will grow angry and demand that more be done toward a stable climate down the road.

Smooth and well-planned transitions are preferable to desperate and rushed ones, and our progress to move away from all fossil fuels must speed up promptly and continuously.

What may we see ahead if, as a nation, we continue to yawn and procrastinate? Well, worse weather may be the least of it, as oceans rise and hundreds of millions globally have to relocate — to where, to what empty farmland and to what unused housing? At some point, there may need to be rationing of fossil fuels; think about that for a minute.

In India, solar power has dropped in cost so much that it is now considerably cheaper than fossil fuels. India stands to save $240 billion a year by gradually eliminating its fossil-fuel imports.

In the United States, new gas peaker plants, designed to be used when energy use surges, are being canceled around the country, since solar power costs half as much.

In Saticoy, local activists opposed a new gas peaker plant, and a new 100-megawatt Tesla battery energy system was built instead. An even larger such plant is proposed for Morro Bay, which, at 600 megawatts, would be the world’s largest.

Since 2013, more than 100 major banks worldwide have lessened or even quit their financial support for coal.

Climate campaigner Bill McKibben and other divestment leaders have managed to persuade major insurance companies (for whom weather disasters are more and more expensive) and sovereign wealth funds to divest $8 trillion from fossil-fuel investments.

The Lancet, the UK’s leading medical journal, has called, along with the editors of other medical journals worldwide, for “urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.” It’s not just Greenpeace any more.

Calls are coming from America’s youth, who are more climateconscious than their elders, for our government to buy out fossil-fuel corporations, so as to gradually close them down.

As climate conditions continue to worsen, which is now expected for at least 30 years, the first target must be the industry that has successfully lobbied for decades to stall the move to green energy — the fossil-fuel industry. All government subsidies to this industry must end, immediately, including subsidies for new infrastructure. We simply cannot allow more oil and gas wells to be drilled. Those subsidies must be redirected to renewable energy development.

These three opportunities come to you from an article by CNBC:

Talk about climate change with your friends and family members. “Each one teach one,” said climate activist and business owner, Jerome Ringo. “I call them kitchen conversations.”

“The most important thing that individuals can do is vote, and vote on the climate,” said Michael E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State.

“Do anything — anything at all,” Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, said. “Students, study. Teachers, teach. Writers, write. Entrepreneurs, invent, build, ship! Whatever it is you do best, consider how climate change figures into it, and do that.”

Then, of course, the simple things at home: Use a laundry line, turn off lights where you don’t need them, get the best light bulbs, reset your thermostat a few degrees to use less energy, eat less beef, drive and fly less.

Basically, treat energy as a precious resource, and use it as sparingly as you can. These are immediately necessary good habits for today and for the rest of our lives.

— Alasdair Coyne of Upper Ojai leads Keep Sespe Wild.


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