Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why am I a climate activist? Because I love modern convenience and energy.

“U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry...blast[ed] the 2015 agreement to limit global warming. Perry said it was ‘immoral’ to say people should live without fossil fuels.”

Not quite.  It is immoral to deny people access to energy.  To modern medicine. To transport to their work. To jobs. To food. To water. 

I worry about my children's futures.  Will they have a warm home, with food, with light and heat?  Will they have jobs that give them fulfillment while putting food on the table?  Will they enjoy the traditions we share, like coffee and chocolate, with their children?  Will they have security, free of war and strife?

To do all of that, they need access to reliable energy.  And they need people across the globe to access reliable energy.

This past week, the kids and I experienced a week without energy.  Storm Riley cut us off from the grid.  No power, no heat, no WiFi, no lights, no computers, no running water.

We were lucky.  We have resources in a nation full of resources.  The roads were cleared by snow plows, our neighbors helped us clear our driveway, we made our way to the local gym for showers, and the local town for food.  We slept together in a warm bed, made warmer with our loving pets.  We melted snow with our gas stove and had water and food.

Everything I want for my kids, I can provide.  Here, in a nation dependent on fossil fuels.

But those very fossil fuels are driving that which we fear the most...the loss of the security and stability of the energy we currently enjoy.  We had no power.  We had no water.  We had no heat.  Because of extreme weather.  (The local measurements clocked wind speed at 109 mph amidst a snow storm made worse by a melting Arctic).  Our entire town closed down.  No school, no grocery store, no gas station.  We ground to a halt.  

Climate change denied us our energy.  

Image result for puerto rico hurricane maria
Utility Poles Destroyed by Hurricane Maria
We have already burned enough fossil fuels to make our week without energy much more likely.  Weeks without energy are going to get even more likely for us all as we burn even more fossil fuels.  And we are not alone.  People world round have been denied access to energy because of escalating climate impacts and our energy vulnerability increases.   Look no further than poor Puerto Rico, still struggling to get basic energy six months after Hurricane Maria.

Immoral?  Immoral is pretending that action on climate will deny people access to reliable energy.  Immoral is pretending that fossil fuels don't endanger access to reliable energy.

Misguided folks on left and right continue to frame the climate debate as "environment versus economy" or "climate action versus energy."  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Climate action is about ensuring energy reliability.  Climate action is about ensuring that we continue to have heat, water, food, security while transitioning our energy infrastructure from fossil fuels to carbon free sources.

As a climate activist, I have ZERO interest in halting all fossil fuels tomorrow.  They are what kept my children safe and warm this past week.  To do otherwise would be immoral.

As a climate activist, I know that we need to transition from fossil fuels to the energy sources that will not harm our children.  We need to do that in a predictable, sustainable way that ensures we all continue to have heat, lights, food, water, jobs and security, before climate change robs us of all that we have built for our children with all of our energy.

There are many ways we can transition from fossil fuels to carbon free energy and we can debate the best ways.  But it is immoral to insist that fossil fuels are necessary to modern convenience.  It is quite the opposite.

Rick Perry's words signal that the upcoming elections will likely reinstitute the old "Energy Voters" messaging that worked so successfully in the past.  It is high time that we make it plain that WE are the energy voters.  Demanding carbon free energy is the demand for access to reliable energy.  And it is the only moral stance.

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