Mark Reynolds and Jim Wightman: Entering a period of consequences

(Seth Perlman | AP file photo) In this July 11, 2012, photo, a farmer holds a piece of his drought- and heat-stricken corn while chopping it down for feed in Nashville, Ill. Scientists have connected man-made climate change to extreme weather, including deadly heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours.

At the onset of the rise of Nazi Germany, before Hitler’s blitzkrieg incursions into the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia and France, Winston Churchill issued a sober warning: “Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger. ... The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

The “period of consequences” was the outbreak of World War II and its unprecedented destruction of lives across the globe.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty was everywhere. Would the virus spread, and where? What did this mean for day-to-day life? Pretty quickly the consequences of that uncertainty showed up at the grocery store, at the unemployment lines, at the overcrowded emergency rooms and at government councils in cities, counties, states and on the president’s Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

Today, we face a new period of consequences brought on “by decades of procrastination, half-measures, soothing and baffling expedients, and delays.” In 2020, the consequences are manifesting in stark relief: a unique worldwide viral pandemic; an insidious warming of global temperature; the frequency and intensity of weather events; and human migration to escape drought and pestilence.

Fortunately for us, our grocery store shelves are full again. America’s food supply chain has proven strong, thanks to essential farm and ranch workers whose efforts stock the shelves, including those who package and distribute these essentials. We are grateful for the work they’ve done to keep us fed during these tumultuous times. And we note that many of our farm and ranch workers, especially those in meat packing plants, have suffered disproportionately from front line exposure to this virus.

COVID-19 is not the only challenge of consequence facing our country. Climate change, with its unpredictable precipitation, rising heat, and stronger extreme weather events, brings another level of uncertainty to America’s agriculture sector. It’s time for Congress to enact legislation that will combat climate change and give farmers more support to meet this challenge.

Encouragingly, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives has introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This legislation provides the incentive for farmers and foresters to engage in sustainable practices by providing a pathway to gain access to the potentially lucrative carbon credit markets. Under the bill’s provisions, farmers will get paid for reducing CO2 emissions by “sequestering” carbon produced by from their farming activities.

The bill also provides farmers with technical assistance to develop sequestration practices eligible for carbon credits, along with a process for measuring and certifying the value of those credits for trading on the market. This is good news for all producers and consumers of these essential products, as agriculture and forestry contribute an estimated 10.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Utah farmers understand how climate change is affecting them through higher daytime and nighttime temperatures during the growing season and Utah’s well documented protracted drought. This has extended our wildfire season and has charred our watersheds that farmers, ranchers and foresters depend on.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help farmers combat these trends and provide a financial incentive to do so.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, is a co-sponsor of this bill in the House of Representatives. He makes the important distinction that, “The real villain is carbon in the air, not carbon itself.” Carbon sequestration addresses this distinction.

We couldn’t agree more. Congress should continue to work together to pass bipartisan legislation that values farmers’ contributions to feeding America while helping address the challenge of climate change.

Mark Reynolds | Executive Director Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and is a graduate of the University of Utah and East High School.

| Courtesy Jim Wightman, op-ed mug.

Jim Wightman, CPA, MBA, served as director of internal audit in the Salt Lake County Auditor’s Office from 2000 to 2012, lives in Bountiful and is a member of the Salt Lake City chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.