Solving the Climate Challenge
On April 11 Bill Barron and Tom Moyer, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Leaders in Utah, spoke with the Humanists of Utah on “Solving the Climate Challenge.” Here is some background information on the challenge of climate change and some key points from their talk.
Skiers and water managers loved our 2018-2019 winter. According to hydrologists quoted in a recent Salt Lake Tribune article, “It’s official: Utah’s snowpack is fantastic this year!” Does this mean we can ignore the longer-term trends of warming temperatures and less snowfall?
The answer is a resounding NO! We easily forget that 2018 was the driest year ever recorded in Utah and wildfires burned a near-record number of acres in the West. Lake Powell sits at 37% of capacity. Globally the last four years were the warmest in human history. Add to this the extensive lag between the time we stop adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere and the time that global warming diminishes, and you see the scope of the problem.
Why is there such inertia in our climate system? At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ll highlight two processes. The first concerns the ocean, which absorbs 93% of excess heat trapped from human-derived greenhouse gasses. It takes years or even decades for this heat to equilibrate with the atmosphere. The second is feedback loops, which play out over decades or centuries. For instance, bright white arctic sea ice reflects energy back into space, but as our climate warms and sea ice melts, the dark ocean water absorbs heat and adds to the warming caused by greenhouse gasses.
Unfortunately, there is also a stubborn lag in the political process that will bring about energy transition; this lag is much more obvious. Beyond the time needed to create the political will for a policy, it takes time for a new law to take effect, for it to stimulate innovations, and for our behavior to change. Also, an enormous infrastructure is already in place to support the use of fossil fuel energy.
So what can one do? Action must occur at all levels of society. As President Obama’s Science Advisor John Holdren has said, “There is no silver bullet. We need silver buckshot-we need to do a lot of thins at once.” On an individual basis, perhaps no clearer direction exists than that given in the Provo Clean Air Toolkit, created under the direction of Representative John Curtis when he was mayor. Check out https://provocleanair.org to learn what individuals, business, and cities can do. From walking or riding a bike for short trips to adopting “Meatless Mondays”, many personal actions will be healthier for you and for the air we breathe.
While we must all take personal responsibility, the scale of this problem demands federal and international action. This is where citizen advocacy like Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) comes in. CCL is a non-partisan, non-profit, volunteer-based group that supports individual actions. As they describe, “we exist to create the political will for climate solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in personal and political power.” CCL accomplishes this through the volunteer work of over 124,000 U.S. supporters in 449 local chapters (543 worldwide), including seven in Utah. (St. George, Utah Valley, Moab, Salt Lake City, Park City-Wasatch Back, Ogden, and Logan). This is a values-driven organization whose members whose members flourish through Focus, Optimism, Relationships, Integrity, Personal Power, and Being Nonpartisan.
For nine of the ten years that CCL has been in existence, they have sought passage of a carbon fee and dividend policy in Congress. We are convinced that for such a policy to endure, it must be bipartisan, so we welcome members throughout the political spectrum. CCL members have exerted their political power by developing relationships with members of Congress and stakeholders in their communities, and educating the public. They call, write to, and meet with members of Congress and their staff, speak to community groups, table at various events, seek endorsements from community leaders, write letters-to-the editor and op-eds, meet with editorial boards, and travel to Washington DC to lobby. 23 Utah members including 14 students will travel to the nation’s capitol to lobby this June. They will meet with all six Utah members of Congress or their aides.
CCL members are fond of saying “we bet the farm on relationships.” CCL assigns a Liaison to each member of Congress. He or she gets to know the Congressmen and women and their staff and find common ground to start discussions. Tom Moyer, former Liaison to Mia Love, tells of a town hall where almost all of the constituents had gone home and the staff was left to put the chairs away. Tom joined them in this task and connected in a personal way that couldn’t have happened in the formal meeting.
These energetic efforts have born fruit. With an issue that is among the most politically divisive of any, we have brought Republicans and Democrats together. In the 115th Congress Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutsch formed the Climate Solutions Caucus with the support of CCL. The rule for admission to the caucus was that members had to join with someone from the opposite party. By the end of the Congressional session 45 Democrats and 45 Republicans were meeting together to explore climate policy. Members of this caucus had a significant role is voting down some bad climate policy and introducing good climate legislation.
In the 116th Congress CCL’s bipartisan work bore fruit with introduction of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This legislation will put a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. It will return the proceeds equally to Americans with a monthly dividend to spend as they see fit. The Republican cosponsor, Francis Rooney affirmed “When you think about a carbon tax, that’s the most free-market, least intrusive way to price carbon.
This policy will be effective, reducing greenhouse gas production by 40% over the first 12 years. It will be good for people, as it improves health by reducing air pollution. It will protect those with lower incomes, as most will receive more in the dividend than they pay from increased costs. It will be good for the economy by creating 2.1 million jobs, thanks to economic growth in local communities across America. It will be revenue neutral, meaning the government will not keep any of the fees collected, so the size of government won’t grow.
Here’s where we all have an opportunity for Responsible Behavior. Our elected officials work for us. Call and/or write to you members of Congress. Ask Senators Lee and Romney, and your Representative, Bishop, Steward, Curtis, or McAdams, to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act now. Only by responding to the challenge of climate change, can we create healthier and more resilient communities.
For further information contact:
David Folland, CCL-SLC co-leader email@example.com, 801-891-7152
Tom Moyer, Utah State Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 801-573-5863
Bill Barron, Regional Director, email@example.com, 801-699-5705
Citizens’ Climate Lobby, www.citizensclimatelobby.org
Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, www.energyinnovationact.org
—David Folland, MD
Greetings freethinkers, it has been several months since I last submitted a President’s Message to the newsletter. As I am no longer President, I have decided to start a column that will focus on science. Wayne Wilson suggested that we call it “The Soap Box,” and ask that other members and readers get involved and make contributions. I think that’s a good idea. I plan to make submissions bimonthly for the most part. So, I hope you will all consider submitting your ideas to help make this new science column informative and interesting.
But first I want to recognize the good work being done by the Board of Directors. Our new President, Jeff Curtis, along with new board members Melanie Curtis, Lisa Miller, and Brian Trick have brought new energy and ideas to the chapter. Their efforts and dedication along with the continuing work of long-standing board members, Leona Blackbird, Dr. Craig Wilkinson, Dr. Lauren Florence, Wayne Wilson and myself, make me confident in the future of our chapter. This confidence was reinforced with the success of our Darwin Day celebration. Dr. Wilkinson’s presentation was excellent, and the board did a great job promoting and running the event. Special thanks to the Atheists of Utah for partnering with us and providing the birthday cake.
Focusing on science makes for a wide variety of subjects. I have some insight on some disciplines such as climate change and issues concerning the state of Utah’s water resources. Other subjects such as medical science, astronomy, and a wide variety of scientific inquiry are all worthy of discussion.
So where do we begin? In the medical science area, I would like to discuss the ethics of growing tobacco. Tobacco is a plant that is basically a poison, grown and manufactured into addictive products which kill approximately 480,000 people per year in the U.S. Also, for me, issues concerning the environment are at the top of the list. And the list for the environment is huge on its own.
I think a good place to start is climate change. We got a good start with last month’s presentation by the Utah Citizen’s Climate Lobby, where they advocated fighting climate change with democracy.
Many of my subjects will be about the environment, from my perspective as a Geomorphologist and as a citizen and inhabitant of this planet. For example, my studies took me to the High Uinta Mountains where I studied the Alpine and Periglacial environments. These are areas where the transition between the two approximates the edge of the cryosphere or the continuous frozen areas of the planet.
I’m excited to do this and I hope some of you will also participate with your own submissions, suggestions, links, etc.
P.S. Speaking of links, you should look at this web site; nsidc.org (national snow and ice data center), they have a huge data center for research but also a lot of things for the average person to check out.
1928 ~ 2019
Irene Fryer died March 22, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was born December 8, 1928 in Tremonton, Utah to Ira and Doris Merrell Fridal, the youngest of their 5 children. She grew up alongside her sister Mary and brothers Ed, Dave, Jim. She attended schools in Tremonton and graduated from Bear River High School in 1947. Irene met and married Don Fryer in 1947. Together they began married life on their farm in Riverside, later moving their young family to Salt Lake City. Irene graduated from Stevens-Henager Business College and began working for the state of Utah in the Purchasing Department. She retired from the Department of Transportation.
Over the years, Irene enjoyed traveling, hiking, skiing, golfing, reading, and sewing. Being a remarkable seamstress, she found great joy in tying quilts for family, friends, and those in need. Irene was a true humanitarian, joining and participating in organizations that focused on human rights for all. She was a member of the First Unitarian Church which provided opportunities to exercise her commitment to making the world a better place. Irene was a founding member of Humanists of Utah and served as Treasurer for several years. In keeping with her commitment to others, Irene donated her body to the University of Utah School of Medicine.
A celebration of Irene’s life will be held on Friday, May 24 at the First Unitarian Church, 569 South 1300 East Salt Lake City Utah from 5 to 8 in the evening.
—Salt Lake Tribune