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Editorial: No time to waste on climate inaction

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Posted on April 8, 2019 |
By Angelo Lynn



As 120 hearty souls make their way from Middlebury to Montpelier for the five-day Next Steps climate walk, the purpose will come into focus on the steps of the state capital this Tuesday: There’s no more time to waste on political inaction.

“Climate delayers aren’t much better than climate deniers,” Tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, a few weeks ago. “With either one if they get their way, we’re toast.”

It’s an argument those at the forefront of the movement are hammering home — and students are among those most attuned.

Vermont students picked up on the theme last month as they staged a statewide protest on March 15 with more than 200 students from half a dozen high schools, including Mount Abraham middle and high school as well as Middlebury College students, marching to the state capitol. At the press conference held that Friday afternoon, students expressed frustration with the lack of action taken on the issue.

According to a report in the Montpelier-Barre Times Argus, Gabe Groveman, a student at Montpelier High School, “described hurricanes in the Caribbean, droughts and wildfires in California and increased ticks in Vermont as impacts of climate change already being felt,” and then asked the question: “How much longer will the list have to get for us to finally take action and do something?”

It’s a question those same students put to Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, which elicited an answer befit of her climate-delayer status. According to the Times Argus, she told the students one of the “hurdles” in “enacting climate change legislation is that there are many issues — such as child care, clean water, and the mental health crisis — competing for limited state dollars.” Later, she told the students the state would not have time to pursue significant legislation this year to curb the state’s carbon footprint.

Students were not impressed. Noting that noted that House Speaker Johnson said the House “doesn’t have time for a carbon tax,” Montpelier High School sophomore Maple Perchlik countered: “What do they have time for, then? We, the youth, are ready to see the solution for this climate crisis, because doing nothing is not an option.”

According to the same report, Max Sabo, a U-32 senior, also noted that “the top five priorities of House Democrats this session did not include any proposed action on climate change.”

Even in progressive Vermont. Even with a Democratic majority in the Legislature that is veto proof. And still almost no meaningful action will be taken.

What needs to happen? We need a tax on carbon that has a dual purpose: to tax a substance harmful to our environment that subsequently raises funds to promote programs that reduce our carbon footprint: developing renewable energy programs, promoting weatherization and other programs to make where we live and work more energy-efficient, and to devise programs that will reduce carbon emissions in our automobiles or reduce our use of the same. Less won’t move the needle.

There was such a bill making the rounds in Montpelier earlier this year.

Rep. Diana Gonzalez, P/D-Winooski, has said the state needs to redirect money going out of state to pay for fossil fuels for heating and transportation, which account for over 70 percent of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions. She said a carbon tax and reinvest bill, H.477, she sponsored would redirect $1.6 billion to the state’s economy.

That’s the type of bold action that’s needed in Vermont, in the nation, and throughout the world, if we are to have any hope of avoiding worst case scenarios — which are becoming daily realities right before our eyes: Wild fires every year, some of which ravage towns and trap people in their homes and cars, or at dead-ends without an escape route; melting ice caps, floods in the Midwest, island nations becoming engulfed in rising seas.

It’s difficult to put aside the pressing issues of the day — affordable housing, childcare, education, health care, etc., — to focus on an issue that still seems decades away. But that time has come: It’s too late to keep delaying; too late for inaction; too late for more excuses.

What can you do? Listen to what these climate marchers say in Montpelier this Tuesday. Become attuned to the issue as if it’s the most important issue of your time, because it is. And start pressing for action. The only hope is people becoming involved and forcing the issue, because, as we’ve seen, politicians are beholden to other issues with much stronger lobbyists — the Earth only has the citizenry, and it’s up against tough odds.

Angelo Lynn

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