Letter: Stopping climate change must not be a mirage
In response to Milt Eaton's letter to the editor of March 23, "Stopping climate change is a mirage," I am glad he has laid out for us the hard realities getting in the way of making progress. I am sorry, however, that he has short-changed so greatly the need to still do so. Yes, it is helpful to be reminded of the enormity of the challenge, including as he notes population growth itself plus having the world moving toward a higher standard of living. No, however, we cannot back away from doing all we can to reduce green house gases if we care about future generations. Or if we care about current populations in already affected areas of the world, including, at times, our own corner.
I also agree with some of the points of the "things we can do" list that Milt lays out, including conservation, prioritizing via approaches like Net Present Value, and encouraging investment in research. Businesses that work on climate change are also great drivers of economic development.
I vigorously disagree with Milt, however, in that I believe there is a need to go beyond business as usual approaches. The steps Milt lays out will help make progress but not nearly quickly enough. We cannot expect to make substantial inroads toward Vermont's Comprehensive Energy Plan (which continues to be the state's plan under our Republican governor) or to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Accord (which all countries in the world except the U.S. have signed on to) by just letting normal market forces work.
Because of the enormity of the problem, we need to take additional, not-business-as-usual steps. These can be a continuation of subsidies for energy efficiency, tax breaks for renewables, and even mandates (especially when tied to reducing the other forms of pollution from fossil fuels). These steps admittedly can affect normal free market mechanisms, but if that is what is needed to incentivize renewables when starting out, then that is what we must do. At the same time we need to phase out the tax breaks which the oil and gas industries have enjoyed since the early 1900s. And clear thinkers, including a group of conservatives who worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations, advocate for a tax on carbon, especially if done fairly (as the proposed Vermont ESSEX Plan is structured to do).
Yes, the challenge is daunting. No, however, business as usual will not be enough. If we care about the future of all of us, we need to think and act differently, improve our policies, and give priority to the substantial resources to make the needed change happen.
Brattleboro, April 7
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