Op Ed on Climate Crisis

(This Op Ed was published in the Bergen Record and the Newark Star Ledger in April of 2007.)

Global Warming: All of Us Will Be Affected

By Ted Glick

Last Friday, Good Friday for Christians, scientists from throughout the world released the second of four reports this year on the issue of global warming. 2500 scientists from over 130 countries, organized since 1989 as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are reporting on the latest worldwide consensus of scientists and governments on this urgent issue.

“Increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts” are some of the expected impacts. “Coasts are very likely to be exposed to increasing risks due to climate change and sea level rise. . . Many of the world’s regions that are already vulnerable to climate and coastal hazards are likely to see the biggest effects from additional changes driven by the buildup of greenhouse gases.”

But all is not negative. The good news, the Easter news, is that all over the United States, including here in New Jersey, people and institutions are coming alive, speaking up and taking action.

In New Jersey State Assemblywoman Linda Stender and State Senator Barbara Buono took the initiative earlier this year to introduce the Global Warming Response Act. So far, 35 co-sponsors in the Assembly and nine co-sponsors in the Senate have signed on. This legislation would mandate that New Jersey reduce its heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020. This is similar to legislation passed several months ago in California and under consideration in a number of other state legislatures.

Legislators, business leaders, university officials, students and other citizens are getting active on this issue for many reasons.

We know that global warming is dangerous. We were blessed with a good earth that supports us well. But the scientific consensus, reflected in one report after another, is clear: more heat will mean more evaporation and hence more drought; it will mean more melt, and hence higher seas; it will mean warmer oceans and hence bigger storms.

We know that causing global warming–and the four percent of us who are Americans produce a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide–endangers first and foremost the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. The UN predicts the possibility of hundreds of millions of environmental refugees–that’s one reason that religious Americans, increasingly led by evangelical congregations, are rising up to demand change.

We know that individual action only goes so far. When you’re screwing in that new compact fluorescent light bulb, it’s hard not to feel a mixture of hope and despair–it’s hard to believe that such acts alone can stop the momentum of global warming. And they can’t. We should all screw in new light bulbs, but we really need to screw in new state and federal policies.

We know that Congress needs pressure if it’s going to act. So far, there’s been a successful, 20-year bipartisan effort to do nothing. John McCain explained why several years ago. It was simple, he said: every day his colleagues heard from the fossil fuel lobbyists, and they almost never heard from their constituents on this issue. “Until enough citizens who are voters care, then these special interests will be able to block any meaningful policy change. It’s as simple as that.”

We know that we have an obligation to the future. Anyone who’s got kids, and anyone who loves kids, feels shame at the thought that we might leave them a world far more dangerous than the one our parents left us. Our parents and grandparents fought Hitler and they fought for civil rights. If we’re going to make this world safe for our children, then we need to fight global warming now.

We know the rest of the world can’t be expected to act until we do. China and India, and the rest of the planet behind them, are watching to see if the USA can come up, as it has so often, with a new direction to lead the world. If we can’t, then they’ll just follow our old example and burn fossil fuels till the planet overheats. If we can, then at least we can join in conversation with the rest of the world. We can be a source of hope.

We know that it’s fun, and satisfying, and even joyful to take a stand with your neighbors for something you believe in. That is why on April 14th, as part of an amazing “Step It Up” campaign, in every single state and in over 1200 localities, tens of thousands of citizens will be gathering at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. People will be hiking, biking, climbing, walking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rallying, sitting or standing with banners that declare, “Step It Up Congress! Cut carbon 80% by 2050.”

In New Jersey, on April 14th, as well as on the 13th, 15th and 16th, many hundreds if not thousands of New Jersey citizens will be participating in all or one part of the New Jersey Climate March. This march will be the largest and most ambitious climate action ever in the state. It will begin with a noontime rally Friday at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, and it will conclude with a noontime rally Monday in front of the State House in Trenton. In between we’ll be at Princeton on Saturday and The College of New Jersey on Sunday.

Will the Step It Up actions on the 14th and the NJ Climate March be “political?” Yes, they will be, because Trenton and Washington are where some of the necessary decisions must be made. But they won’t be partisan. There’s no liberal atmosphere and conservative atmosphere, no Democratic or Republican climate, no Independent weather.

We’re all in this together, and it’s past time for action.

More information on the NJ Climate March can be found at http://www.njclimatemarch.org.

Ted Glick is a founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition, coordinator of the Essex Greens Clean Energy Campaign and a primary organizer of the N.J. Climate March.