By Susan Atkinson
If you are looking for reasons to be depressed about our warming planet, there is no shortage of concerns. We are inundated with new findings on a daily basis about the breaking of yet another arctic shelf, acidification of our oceans, drought-fueled wildfires, and methane leaks compounding the greenhouse gas effect. Are there any signs of hope? These are mine:
- The Kids Federal Constitutional Climate Lawsuit against the U.S. government. Plaintiffs include world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen serving as a guardian for future generations. Their complaint asserts that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources. Trial date Feb 5, 2018. Stay tuned.
- Renewable energy is replacing coal and nuclear energy generation as the most economical choice. As the price of wind and solar continue to drop, the demand goes up, which in turn draws the cost down even more.
- A growing number of citizens are building coalitions aimed at educating the public about climate change and applying pressure on our elected officials from national, state, and local levels of government to act on climate change solutions. They are a force to be reckoned with.
- The Climate Solutions Caucus formed in the House of Representatives has quickly climbed to 48 members. They are a bipartisan group (equal number of Republicans and Democrats) serving as an organization to educate members on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply and public safety. Republicans in Congress recently made a move to influence climate policy — in the right direction — dozens of House Republicans joined Democrats to vote down an anti-climate amendment and sent a strong message that the military should prepare for and fight climate change.
- Following Trump’s announcement regarding withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, three states — California, New York and Washington — launched the United States Climate Alliance. Fourteen states (including Colorado) have now joined. Two hundred cities and 1400 companies and institutions have committed to “WE Are Still In” meeting the Paris targets. “As the federal government turns its back on the environment, New York and states across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating goodpaying careers,” said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
- China, the world’s largest carbon polluter, has reduced its coal consumption. The Chinese government has been urgently pushing toward cleaner energy to alleviate air pollution and other environmental damage. They are the world’s top producer of solar panels and are the poster child of how to transition toward a robust renewable energy economy. Many Chinese cities have a carbon price that’s helping drive the transition of China away from coal.
- The divestment movement in colleges and university campuses across the country has successfully moved away from fossil-fuel investments, responding to pressure from students. Fewer investment dollars in fossil fuel translates to impeded growth of a high-carbon economy.
- The Climate Leadership Council, recently founded by former conservative statesmen James Baker, George Schultz, and others is promoting a market-friendly carbon-dividends framework as the most cost-effective, equitable, and politically viable climate solution. Their four-part carbon-dividends plan would strengthen our economy, help working class Americans and protect our shared environment, while bridging the partisan divide. (See https://www.clcouncil.org/)
“Optimism is a political act. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics. Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.” — Excerpts from Alex Steffen, “The Politics of Optimism”
Susan Atkinson is a climate-change volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby, living in Durango, Colo.