Guest Columnists Madeleine Para and Linda Butler: Climate Change Is Too Costly To Ignore

From recovery costs after megastorms and wildfires to soaring prices for home and flood insurance, the climate crisis is putting more and...

From recovery costs after megastorms and wildfires to soaring prices for home and flood insurance, the climate crisis is putting more and more pressure on Americans.

We feel the pain of rising household costs caused by America’s dependence on carbon-emitting energy, oil producers’ stranglehold on electricity, and natural disasters compounded by climate change.

Meanwhile, the invasion of Ukraine has laid bare how reliance on fossil fuels allows autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin to fund war and destroy lives.

Extreme weather conditions, compounded by heat-trapping emissions that warm our planet, played a central role in the growth of inflation in 2021. Then came Putin’s brutal assault on Ukraine. Around the world, alarming events have impacted raw material supplies, driving up prices here in the Pioneer Valley. From milk and eggs to paint and gardening tools, everything seems to cost more.

If that’s not enough, the cost of rebuilding from weather-related storms, floods and wildfires is skyrocketing. Last August’s Hurricane Ida didn’t just take the lives of Americans. It also tops a list of the most expensive weather disasters of 2021, with a price tag of $65 billion. And in the months following Ida, the human and financial toll of climate change continued to grow.

In December, the Marshall Wildfire, fueled by hurricane-force winds, burned more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Colorado, with an expected cleanup cost of $52.6 million.

That same month, a tornado outbreak killed at least 90 people and devastated Kentucky. Cleanup costs could reach $3.7 billion. It is clear that the unprecedented winter tornado conditions have been enhanced by unusually high temperatures for the season, marked by climate change.

As climate change affects our quality of life, how bad are we going to let things get? Unless we quickly reduce the heat-trapping gases that warm the planet, climate disasters will soon overwhelm our ability to recover and adapt. And the financial costs? They will continue to rise.

Fossil fuel air pollution is linked to millions of deaths worldwide. But polluting industries continue to get a free pass to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, driving even more warming. This, in turn, exacerbates the extreme weather and climate disasters that are already harming us. It is a market failure that causes the true cost of carbon to be paid elsewhere, most often by those who can least afford it. Frontline communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the first and worst impacts of climate change; small towns are struggling to rebuild, and people are burdened with booming homeowners insurance and flood insurance in places once considered low-risk.

Americans are losers in a complicated and volatile global fossil fuel market, yet coal, oil and natural gas received $5.9 trillion in subsidies in 2020! Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine threatens European countries dependent on natural gas. Experts agree that a faster transition to clean energy would lead to more stable energy economies around the world.

Now for some encouraging news: A recent report from Stanford University shows that transitioning from the unpredictability of dirty fossil fuels to cleaner renewables would reduce annual household energy costs per capita by about 63%. It would also create millions of new jobs and save lives by reducing pollution.

It would also relieve struggling power grids. In February 2021, an unexpected winter storm left Texas less than five minutes from grid collapse. Although the worst was averted, the freezing temperatures resulted in massive power outages, hundreds of deaths and agricultural losses exceeding $600 million.

A federal carbon tax on polluting industries would accelerate this essential transition and let the market determine which clean technologies win out. Additionally, fee money could be returned as a “carbon cash back” check to US households, providing invaluable monthly support.

As both sides of the Congressional aisle discuss solutions to climate change and contemplate our energy future, volunteers from the Pioneer Valley chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby urge the senses. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to support a price on carbon with a dividend returned directly to households already impacted by rising costs.

The transition to green, reliable and cheap energy is already happening, but it needs to happen faster. We can no longer afford to drag our feet. Our elected leaders must make sound economic decisions to ensure a livable world and also leave Americans with more money in their pockets.

Madeleine Para is executive director of the Citizen Climate Lobby. Linda Butler is a volunteer with CCL’s Pioneer Valley Chapter. Here is where you can register for free:

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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest Columnists Madeleine Para and Linda Butler: Climate Change Is Too Costly To Ignore
Guest Columnists Madeleine Para and Linda Butler: Climate Change Is Too Costly To Ignore
Newsrust - US Top News
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