Commentary: Earth Day is also Protect Our Climate Day

Mother Nature has not been in a celebratory mood.

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Environmental activist demonstrators joyously ran across 4500S prior to blockading an Exxon station in Murray with red lines meant to symbolize Exxon's closure. Activists demand the closure as retribution for the company's alleged role in denying climate change, Saturday, December 12, 2015.

As we celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and Earth Week for the 48th time, we see that Mother Nature has not been in a celebratory mood.

Here in Utah, the climate has warmed 2 degrees, so heat waves are more common and snowpack is down. These changes are likely to decrease the flow of water into our rivers and reservoirs, increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, decrease the productivity of our farms and are already negatively impacting our health. In light of all of this, Earth Day is also a Protect our Climate Day.

In 1970, 20 million people celebrated Earth Day, the environmental movement that lead to passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created to protect and improve the health of our communities. American civic spirit helped win the legislative battles.

Today the well-being of our common home is being threatened again, this time by climate change. To reduce the risks posed by a damaged climate, we must reduce the carbon pollution that traps heat from our sun. What solution makes sense?

In 2013, Citizens’ Climate Lobby https://citizensclimatelobby.org asked Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) to study the effect of an increasing fee on the climate-warming carbon that comes from the use of fossil fuels. The analysis concluded that a revenue-neutral carbon price would have a strong and positive effect on the economics and health of our communities. Renewable energy would become cheaper, carbon emissions would decline, employment would go up, and 227,000 lives would be saved over 20 years, making for more life-sustaining communities.

Placing an increasing price on carbon at the site of extraction, with the dividends being returned to households (Carbon Fee and Dividend), is an effective way of limiting the impacts of damage to our climate. This Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal is strongly supported by scientists, economists and many ordinary citizens for its simplicity and fairness. This market-driven approach speeds the urgently needed transition to clean, renewable energy but requires legislative action.

The 72-member bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, of which Utah Rep. Mia Love is a member, is taking climate action. The caucus’ mission is “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Just last week, Love co-sponsored House Resolution 825, “Recognizing the effects of climate change on outdoor recreation and supporting policies that address the causes and effects of climate change.”

We have a nation rich in civic spirit. We can do our part by joining in the global collaboration campaign of the Earth Day Network. By 2020, in celebration of their 50th anniversary, the network wants to reach 3 billion “Acts of Green” of which 2,688,209,868 acts have already been accomplished. Let your personal “Act of Green” be asking your congressional members to support legislation on pricing carbon. Also, ask your representative to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. Then register your action with the Earth Day Network. https://www.earthday.org/create-your-own-act-of-green/

Let this Earth Day and Week be one of recommitment to healthy and safe communities. Let’s protect our climate!

Karen Jackson

Karen Jackson is a pediatric nurse practitioner concerned for the health of our communities and co-leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Salt Lake City.